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Will Jared Cook see a decline in 2021?

Not so fast.

Los Angeles Chargers Mandatory Minicamp Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

From the moment he was signed, we all knew what Jared Cook was going to be for this team.

After losing Henry in free agency, Cook was signed as a high-upside, low-floor veteran stop gap that allows the position to not become a massive need while the team continues to develop guys like Donald Parham and rookie Tre’ McKitty. And while his advanced NFL age may cause some concern for fans, it should be known that he’s played his best ball and produced his best receiving totals ever since turning 30.

Still, this could all just be an anomaly with a massive regression coming on the horizon, but we just won’t know the answer to that until it happens. But with recent history pointing to the positive versus the negative, I think it’s safe to have some decent expectations for Cook this season.

It’s with all the context above that Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox believes Cook could be one of the higher chances of being a disappointment for the Chargers in 2021. Here’s what he had to say on the matter in his latest article:

“The Los Angeles Chargers lost tight end Hunter Henry in free agency, which could negatively impact second-year quarterback Justin Herbert. While Henry has a long history of injury issues and has never been a truly elite tight end, he was mostly healthy and dependable during Herbert’s rookie season.”

“To help replace Henry, Los Angeles added veteran tight end Jared Cook, and they may be disappointed with the results.”

“While Cook is still a reliable receiving tight end—he provided a rating of 120.4 when targeted last year—he’s also 34 years old and likely nearing the end of his career. He’s also likely to see competition from rookie third-round pick Tre McKitty.”

“This isn’t to say that Cook will be a flat-out free-agent bust, but he isn’t a long-term answer, and the Chargers may miss the connection Herbert and Henry developed in 2020.”

ESPN senior fantasy analyst Matthew Berry was discussed how recent history can be used to make more-informed decisions when it comes drafting players for fantasy football. Using Cook as an example, the 34-year old has averaged 698 yards and six touchdowns over the past four seasons. Three of those four seasons he reached at least 688 yards with his lowest total being 504 this past year. In 2017, he scored just two touchdowns but has hit six, nine, and seven during the following campaigns, respectively.

What does history say will probably happen with Cook in 2021? According to this logic, he’s bound for similar numbers more so than he is for a major regression. Heck, even if it’s a minor regression, he’ll still likely see 450-500 yards and four to five scores, which isn’t far off from what Henry did in his final two seasons with the Chargers.

It’s with all of this that I say Cook is probably going to be a notable contributor for this offense where it matters most. If he loses a step with his speed up the seam, then Joe Lombardi likely focuses more on his ability in the red zone. If not, then Cook will help stretch the field and clear out space for Keenan Allen and Mike Williams to work over the middle. I add Williams in here due to the notes by Lombardi on him taking over the “Michael Thomas”-role in the offense.

At any rate, these are my thoughts on the matter and I’m curious to hear all of yours. Will Cook experience an expected regression or will he have a impactful season during his first year in L.A.? Let me know what you think.