Cooley said he believes he still can be a productive NFL player but it would be difficult for him to play for another team.
“I’ll take some time and make sure what I do in the future is exactly what I want to do,” Cooley said.
“It’s been awesome,” he added.
Cooley said he leaves with no hard feelings toward the organization.
Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said: “We know how much Chris has meant to this organization and this community.”
Cooley wants to be a starter, Shanahan said, and the coach told him that Fred Davis is the Redskins’ starter at tight end. The team is giving Cooley an opportunity to seek a starting job elsewhere, Shanahan said.
“I think he’s earned that right,” Shanahan said.
Shanahan said the two sides did not discuss Cooley’s contract. The tight end, who has filled in at fullback with starter Darrel Young injured, would have counted more than $6 million against the salary cap this season if he had remained with the team.
Shanahan did not rule out the possibility of the Redskins re-signing Cooley if he is unable to find a starting job elsewhere.
“There’s a lot of scenarios that could still occur,” Shanahan said. “... Chris wants to be a starter in the National Football League.”
Cooley had said during training camp that he was willing to fill any role to remain with the team. He played regularly at fullback during the Redskins’ three preseason games.
Shanahan said he wishes Cooley well and the team thought it did what is right for itself and Cooley.
Cooley turned 30 last month. He played eight seasons for the Redskins and had 428 catches, a franchise record for a tight end, for 4,703 yards and 33 touchdowns. He had only eight catches in five games last season before he was placed on the season-ending injured reserve list because of a broken finger and an ailing knee.
Cooley declared his knee sound during training camp. But the Redskins have Davis, who was en route to a big season last year before he was suspended for the final four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. The team also moved Niles Paul, a wide receiver last season as a rookie, to tight end.
“He helped me get comfortable with this team [and] this offense,” Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III wrote on Twitter. “He is a legend in my mind and will be missed.”
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