The seven-year veteran center had his contract terminated on Tuesday in a move that was unexpected but now opens the door for youngsters Trevor Robinson and T.J. Johnson as well as veteran Mike Pollak to compete for the position. Cook signed a five-year extension through the 2015 in September 2011 and started 50 of the last 52 games he played in for Cincinnati plus four playoff games.
The Bengals acquired Cook on waivers from Minnesota in 2007, signing him to their practice squad that season. He played in five games in 2008 before earning the starting center job in 2009. The only games he missed were during the 2012 season when he suffered a severe ankle injury in the preseason. He returned for the final four games of the season. He was plagued by foot injuries late last season, including having to miss practice time leading up to the playoff loss against San Diego.
The loss will be felt in the locker room where Cook was one of most respected players and leaders.
"Kyle has been a great Bengal, a tough guy and an excellent leader," said offensive line coach Paul Alexander. "In addition to being a good player, he showed great ability to coordinate things at the line of scrimmage. He has been a big help to Andy Dalton as Andy has developed into a veteran player.
"So we don’t want to see Kyle go without commending him for his service to the team. But we have some other options available, involving other veterans and some younger guys, and we decided this is the best direction to go."
Alexander said the job is wide open.
"I couldn’t tell you right now who our No. 1 center will be, but that’s because we believe we do have a few different options that we’re confident will improve us in the end," said Alexander. "That’s what the offseason programs and training camp are for, to evaluate those possibilities and come up with the best one."
Pollak, who will be entering his eighth season in 2014, was re-signed to a three-year deal this past Saturday. Robinson will be a third-year player. He started seven games in 2012 while Cook was injured. Johnson was a seventh-round pick in last year’s draft. He spent all of 2013 on the practice squad.