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Saints release tight ends Jared Cook and Josh Hill with Cook primed for free agency

While Cook’s release is a formality, Hill’s was a bit more unexpected

NFL: NFC Divisional Round-Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints officially terminated the contracts of tight ends Jared Cook and Josh Hill on Wednesday, leaving Adam Trautman as the clear next man up in New Orleans. Trautman was quiet in 2020, but Sean Payton is reportedly extremely high on the second-year player, per The Athletic’s Jeff Duncan.

Cook’s legacy with the Saints will, unfortunately, be the coughed up fumble in the NFC Divisional Round that led to an avalanche against the Buccaneers. He was a steady receiving target for the Saints, catching 80 passes for 1,209 yards and 16 touchdowns in two seasons for the Saints. However, that lapse came at the worst possible time for the Saints, and it was a catalyst for what would amount to another playoff disappointment.

Hill’s legacy, meanwhile, will be far more extensive — albeit only to fans following the team closely. A Saint since 2013, Hill has had 116 catches for 1,071 yards (not to mention two ill-fated carries for -16 yards), but it is his willingness to do the dirty work for the Saints that has always set him apart. A tenacious run blocker, Hill is a strong player who will likely get a shot on another team (or perhaps will even be re-signed by the Saints come the new league year). A stalwart in big sets, Payton always has had strong positive feelings about Hill and his versatility in the offense.

While the move doesn’t do much for the cap situation of the Saints — Spotrac still lists them at about $65.2 million over the cap — it does open up some roster flexibility.

Despite the apparent necessity of these moves, they leave some questions at the tight end position. Trautman is a relative unknown, and while Taysom Hill has gotten regular reps at TE in the past few seasons, it would be nice to have someone who is regularly comfortable catching the ball for whoever is quarterback for the Saints next year. There are a plethora of free agent tight ends this year, so the Saints could look in that direction, but it’s equally likely they turn to the draft.

Tight end has long been an important part of the Saints passing game, so they’ll want the position shored up. In the meantime, expect a lot of updates on Trautman’s progress throughout the 2021 offseason. For now, it looks like he’s a key piece of the Saints future as they try to navigate their tricky roster situation.

But without additional commentary:

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