(updated: 2:40 p.m.)
The Washington Redskins have left open the possibility of re-signing veteran tight end Chris Cooley and plan to meet with him next week, General Manager Bruce Allen said Friday.
Allen made those comments during an appearance at the National Press Club.
“Yes, absolutely that door is still open,” Allen said, according to the team. “We have a meeting next week.”
The Redskins released Cooley on Aug. 28. He is the franchise’s career leader in catches by a tight end. He is coming off a 2011 season in which he had just eight catches and was placed on the injured reserve list after five games because of a broken finger and an ailing knee, but he said during training camp he felt healthy and believed his knee was sound.
Coach Mike Shanahan said when the Redskins released Cooley that Cooley wanted to seek a starting job with another NFL team. Shanahan did not rule out the possibility of the Redskins re-signing Cooley at some point if circumstances dictated that. Cooley, 30, said then he would take some time to figure out what he wanted to do next.
Cooley said when reached early Friday afternoon that he was unaware a meeting with the Redskins had been set for next week, but he would be receptive to discussing a possible return with the team.
“I don’t know,” Cooley said. “I can’t guarantee what will happen. But this is where I want to live and play, so I’d definitely be open to talk.”
Cooley said he’s not planning to retire.
“I guess it’d be like going back to an ex-girlfriend that you never got over,” Cooley said. “But this is where I want to be. It’s where I want to live. It’s where I want to play, and I still want to play.”
Shanahan confirmed the meeting but said he didn’t know on which day next week it will occur.
“I’m not sure when that is, to be honest with you,” Shanahan said following the Redskins’ practice Friday. “I’ve been pretty busy this week, getting ready for a game. But we’ve always left the door open for Chris.”
The Redskins kept three tight ends on their season-opening roster, with converted wide receiver Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen backing up starter Fred Davis. They have only one fullback, Darrel Young. Cooley lined up at fullback with some regularity during the preseason.
“We have three tight ends,” Shanahan said, “so it’s not like we’re very deep at the position… . With one fullback, that’s not very deep. So there’s a lot of possibilities. I can’t tell you for sure what’s going to happen at this time. But we’d like to have as many options as possible and … we’ll get a chance to talk next week.”
The Redskins could re-sign Cooley for a lower salary than the $3.8 million he was to make this season before he was released. That contract no longer is in effect, and the Redskins would have to sign him to a new deal to bring him back.
By re-signing Cooley after their opening game, the Redskins also would avoid having to guarantee Cooley’s salary for the entire season. Under the terms of the sport’s collective bargaining agreement, if a vested veteran such as Cooley is on a team’s roster for its opening game, his salary is essentially guaranteed for the entire season even if he doesn’t remain with that club all season (although a player is eligible to exercise that right only once in his career). If such a player is signed after the first game, his salary is not guaranteed in that way.
That also could be a consideration for any other NFL teams potentially weighing the possibility of trying to sign Cooley.
“We gave him an opportunity to see if there’s anything out there where he’s got a chance to start,” Shanahan said. “I think that’s the main thing. And he’s going to weigh his options. I’m sure he’s looking at his options with different teams right now—you know, who needs a tight end, what’s going to happen maybe after this week. [He’ll] probably weigh all his options and then, obviously, we’re going to look at our options as well.”
The Redskins said when they released Cooley that, at that point, they hadn’t discussed a reworked contract with him.
No NFL team moved quickly to sign Cooley after he was released by the Redskins. A person with knowledge of the situation said in recent days it didn’t appear any other team had demonstrated serious enough interest in Cooley to believe a signing was imminent.