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HAMMOCK: North's Cook cashes in on vast talent

Tennessee Titans' Jared Cook (89) runs for a touchdown after a catch against the Carolina Panthers in the fourth quarter of the Panthers' 15-7 win in a preseason NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2010. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Tennessee Titans' Jared Cook (89) runs for a touchdown after a catch against the Carolina Panthers in the fourth quarter of the Panthers' 15-7 win in a preseason NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2010. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

One way or another, this was going to be an eventful offseason for Jared Cook.

The North Gwinnett grad dealt with some uncertainty since the NFL season ended, but the end result worked out great Tuesday evening when he signed a free-agent deal with the St. Louis Rams that made him one of the highest-paid tight ends in football.

According to The Tennesseean, Cook's five-year contract is for $35.1 million, with the potential to reach $38.5 million based on incentives. More than half of the contract, $19 million, is reportedly guaranteed.

Doesn't sound like he will have any trouble funding the annual Jared Cook Classic at his old high school, right?

Cook's new payday is substantially more than the $615,000 he made in 2012, the last season of his rookie deal. While he ultimately went the free-agent route, there was a chance that Cook's former team, the Tennessee Titans, would place the franchise tag on him.

That would retain his services for this season, though the two sides were likely headed for haggling over whether the franchise fee was for a tight end (Cook's listed position and the team's preference) or for a wide receiver (the preference of Cook and his agent). There's a more than $4 million difference between the franchise tags for a tight end and wide receiver.

Cook had a pretty good case --more than 85 percent of his catches last season came when he lined up as a slot receiver --so he went to the open market.

The 6-foot-5, 248-pounder, an athletic target whose 41-inch vertical leap and 4.49-second 40-yard dash time turned heads at the 2009 NFL Combine, was coveted by several teams in free agency. The Rams reported that they won an intense battle with the Miami Dolphins for Cook, who is still just 25.

It will be fun to see how Cook, a former South Carolina Gamecock, develops this season under Jeff Fisher, the former Titans head coach who initially drafted him. He will pair up with a promising 25-year-old quarterback in former Oklahoma star Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Expect to see St. Louis use Cook more heavily than Tennessee, which didn't feature him as prominently as he would have liked. He made just 11 starts in his four seasons with the Titans, but had 131 catches for 1,717 yards and eight touchdowns, including 80- and 61-yarders.

The Rams aren't going to pay Cook $35 million without going to him often, so plan on taking him early in your fantasy football drafts. He could be the next high-scoring tight end in the league.

He's already high on my fantasy football list and I'm hopeful his season will be just as eventful, in a good way, as his offseason.

Will Hammock can be reached via email at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.