A Brandin Cooks trade to the New England Patriots has been put on the table, with the New Orleans Saints receiving a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft as compensation. There had been prior NFL trade rumors about the Saints looking to deal Cooks, but it may come as a surprise to some fans that Bill Belichick has already made an official offer to give Tom Brady another weapon.
A report by ESPN confirms that the trade offer has been made, with the New England Patriots trying hard to acquire Brandin Cooks before the 2017 NFL Draft takes place. The New Orleans Saints have reportedly already turned down the deal, hoping, instead, to find another team willing to give up a better first-round selection. Another detail in the potential Saints trade with the Patriots would be sending back a later-round pick to complete the deal. That secondary pick might have been what caused this initial deal to fall through.
While a Brandin Cooks-Patriots trade could still take place if Belichick increases his offer, it appears more likely that the star receiver of the Saints is going to get shopped to other teams. Mentioned in Philadelphia Eagles trades, Brandin Cooks could certainly give that team a boost and add another weapon for young quarterback Carson Wentz. Another team rumored in conjunction with a Saints trade is the Tennessee Titans, as quarterback Marcus Mariota could also use some help from the receiver position.
Brandin Cooks’ 2016 stats were quite good, as the 23-year-old receiver caught 78 passes for 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns for the New Orleans Saints. Cooks averaged 15.0 yards per catch and served as an important weapon for veteran quarterback Drew Brees. Cooks’ 2015 NFL stats included 84 catches for 1,138 yards and nine touchdowns, showing how consistent he has become since turning into one of the main targets in New Orleans.
Saints head coach Sean Payton spoke briefly on the Brandin Cooks trade rumors, further confirming that there have been discussions already taking place with several teams. This could be bad news for Saints fans who have enjoyed watching the Brees-Cooks connection during his first three NFL seasons. It could further underscore that this is all a business, though and that sometimes favorite players get dealt as a franchise starts rebuilding.
“I’ve said this before: Brandin is someone we value tremendously in our system. He’s been extremely productive. He’s everything we were wanting when we drafted him. Now, that being said, these news items come up, and there are a lot of meetings that take place here. I wouldn’t say he’s on the trade block. But certainly when a team calls, a team that’s looking for a receiver, and we’re looking to improve our defense, we’re always listening.”
Brandin Cooks’ contract makes him a very affordable option, for at least the 2017 NFL season. He is in the final year of his rookie deal with the Saints, earning just about $1.6 million in base salary with the team. This is why the New England Patriots trade offer has already surfaced because acquiring a receiver who has put up consecutive 1,000-yard seasons for that price would be a steal in the current market. One more season like that, though, and Cooks’ salary is going to be in the eight-figure range.
So why would the New Orleans Saints trade Brandin Cooks? It may simply come down to Drew Brees aging too quickly and the franchise preparing to go after a lot of key players this offseason. In the latest 2017 NFL mock draft from NFL.com, the four analysts have the Saints targeting defense with the No. 11 pick. They feel the team will select UCLA defensive end Takkarist McKinley, Florida cornerback Quincy Wilson, or Washington cornerback Sidney Jones. After giving up an NFL-worst 454 points last season, fixing the defense has become a priority.
Within Brandin Cooks’ contract, he has a team option worth roughly $8.5 million for the 2018 NFL season. That might be too expensive for a Saints franchise that has to address its deficiencies on defense if the team wants to make it back to the NFL Playoffs in Drew Brees’ final seasons. In an offense that is still packed with weapons, it might simply mean that despite Cooks’ 2016 stats, he becomes the odd man out. It isn’t a case where the Saints don’t need Cooks, but rather a confidence that Brees could elevate another receiver after a deal was made.
If the New England Patriots trade for Cooks, it could put the team right on track for competing in back-to-back Super Bowls. It is also the type of move that Bill Belichick has become known for over the years. For other NFL teams looking to acquire a really good receiver, though, this might be the perfect opportunity to get one without sacrificing too much. While New Orleans Saints fans wouldn’t want to lose Cooks for just a role player, expect the Philadelphia Eagles and Tennessee Titans to improve their trade offers soon.
In the 2017 NFL Draft order, the Eagles are at No. 14 and the Titans are at No. 18. The most recent 2017 NFL mock drafts have also placed good defensive players on the board in both slots, ranging from Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey to Washington safety Budda Baker. Could the Saints pull off a Brandin Cooks trade and select two elite defensive players with first-round picks? That might immediately change the fortunes of the franchise.
[Featured Image by Norm Hall/Getty Images]