Titans G.M. Ruston Webster thinks that, if push comes to shove as to the designation of tight end Jared Cook for franchise-tag purposes, Cook will be regarded as a tight end.
The facts suggest otherwise.
As recently explained by Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean, the operative language of the labor deal favors Cook. “[T]he tender will apply to the position in which the player participated in the most plays,” declares Article 9, Section 2 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Per Wyatt (via Pro Football Focus), Cook lined up in the slot 56 percent of the time in 2012.
It’s the same argument Jermichael Finley advanced in 2012, after the Packers applied to tag to him as a tight end. The case was never resolved because the two sides worked out a two-year contract.
Eventually, an arbitrator will be forced to apply the plain language of Article 9, Section 2 to the question of whether a tight end who lines up in the slot more than half the time is still a tight end. But as more and more tight ends line up in the slot on a regular basis, some team eventually will dig in its heels and argue that lining up in the slot is part of the position.
Indeed, the franchise tender for tight ends is determined at least in part based on the salaries of players who take more snaps in the slot than as true “tight” ends. With each passing year, that argument will become stronger.
The sooner a player forces the issue, the sooner the issue can be resolved in a way that benefits the tight ends who are being used not as tight ends but as wide receivers. With more tight ends being paid as tight ends but playing like receivers, it could at some point become harder to win what otherwise should be an easy fight.