Tight end Chris Cooley is a perfect example: Washington had four picks in 2004, and after taking safety Sean Taylor fifth overall, the club grabbed Cooley two rounds later. At the time, nobody knew much about him, but he's become an integral part of Washington's offense, and one of Mark Brunell's favorite targets (presumably because Brunell can't throw the ball more than 25 yards down the field).
Cooley's now in the final year of his rookie deal, and although he hasn't put up Tony Gonzalez numbers (who has?), the Washington Times compares him to Todd Heap and Dallas Clark (Football Outsiders' tight end stats agree). Whatever, he's gonna get paid:
Gonzalez is the NFL's highest paid tight end (his new contract includes $17.75 million in guaranteed salary). But Cooley could be in line for the kind of deals signed by Franks (seven years, $28 million) or Gates (six years, $24 million) before the 2005 season. If he's lucky, Cooley will get a deal like Denver gave blocking tight end Daniel Graham this offseason -- five years, $30 million ($15 million guaranteed).Interestingly, Washington has a (recent) history of letting its players sign elsewhere (Antonio Pierce, Cap'n Smoot, Derrick Dockery), and pursing high-priced free agents. I can't imagine the team would do much better than Cooley via free agency, which leads you to think they'll make a legit effort to re-sign him. Of course, I thought the same thing about Pierce, so who knows.
Oh, one more thing: the FanHouse's Michael David Smith wrote earlier about Cooley sportin' the nut-huggers at practice as a backhanded homage to Old School Joe. MDS was kind enough to spare you the visual proof but, well, you know you wanna see it. I think Brandon Lloyd's (at least I think that's Lloyd) expression says it all in that first pic. Thank you, Hogs Haven ... I think.