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Jared Cook can provide large presence for New Orleans Saints offense

'Any time you have a target like that, you feel like that's a good matchup'

Literally, you can't miss him.

Jared Cook almost towers above his teammates; the 6-foot-5, 254-pound tight end seemingly has been shorted an inch or two on his official bio.

Whether the free agent signee will make an equally impressive presence on the New Orleans Saints offense remains to be seen, but the feeling is that he'll provide an element to the Saints that has been missing for a few seasons.

"It's always been a very tight end-friendly offense," Cook said Thursday, May 23, "and I just thought this was a great place for me to come and extend my career and come and shine for a little bit."

New Orleans is eager to learn just how much shine the 11-year veteran has remaining. His previous two seasons with the Raiders – 68 catches for 896 yards and six touchdowns in 2018, and 54 catches for 688 yards and two scores in '17 – have been the best combined two-year stretch of his career in catches and yards, and the second-best in touchdowns.

The last time the Saints had similar production from the position, Benjamin Watson caught 74 passes for 825 yards and six touchdowns in '15.

"Another piece in the middle of the field," Cook said of his presence. "A big target and a person that can get down the field to where (quarterback) Drew (Brees) can find me."

After the first three days of OTAs, Brees sounded like the connection will be a very workable one. Cook could help form a potent mix with All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas (a franchise-record 125 catches for a franchise-record 1,405 yards and nine touchdowns last season) and running back Alvin Kamara (81 receptions for 709 yards and four touchdowns, plus 194 rushes for 883 yards and 14 touchdowns).

"Really impressed," Brees said. "He comes across as a real savvy veteran, a real pro. I've heard a lot of good things about him before he got here, but he's certainly impressed his first couple of days. He's got a great feel for the game and I think he's going to fit very well into our offense and what we do.

"We're only three days into it, but he's certainly a guy who can run, he's got great length. So he's got a big catch radius, so you feel confident with those 50-50 balls. You feel like there's a lot of places where you can throw it where he can get it and the other guy can't. Any time you have a target like that, you feel like that's a good matchup.

"Obviously, a lot of attention goes to Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, so having a weapon like that in addition to the other pieces that we have as well, I think they complement each other really well."

The presence of Thomas and Kamara was a selling point to Cook in free agency. Thomas, especially, could help influence the coverage Cook sees; Cook led the Raiders in receiving last year en route to earning spot in the Pro Bowl.

"Having Mike and Alvin as pretty much the one-two combo last year, I felt that I could come in and kind of help Mike and at the same time, him help me," he said. "We can relieve some pressure off of each other and make this a high-powered offense once again this year. Having Mike on the other side of the field, I think is going to help open things for us."

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