Patriots Talk: Trade for Saints WR Brandin Cooks worth it?
by Stephen Hilton
It was reported over the weekend by multiple media sources that there has been talks with the New England Patriots trading their 32nd pick in the 2017 NFL draft for New Orleans Saints wide receiver, Brandin Cooks. According to the latest report, the Saints turned down the trade because they felt they could gain at least a mid 1st round pick in this year’s draft. There are still talks currently going on between the two teams.
This comes as a surprise as the Patriots have many issues more so on the defense then offense. It seems fairly odd to the average fan that the Patriots would risk losing their only pick in the 1st round to acquire a wide receiver, when it is one of the least spots in need of any depth. But let’s remember that Bill Belicheck thinks multiple steps ahead of everyone else when it comes to long-term planning. He didn’t just want to give this pick away for any average player.
So the first thing that most want to know is who exactly is Brandon Cooks? Cooks was drafted by the New Orleans Saints with the 20th pick in the 2014 NFL draft. He was recruited out of Lincoln High School in Stockton, CA to Oregon State University, and is a dynamic wide receiver that in only 3 seasons, has already recorded:
- 215 total receptions
- 2861 total receiving yards
- average 13.3 yards per reception
- 20 total touchdowns
Now, for those who are wondering if those stats are actually good, I think Bill Belicheck stating how dangerous Brandin Cooks is would make things easier to say yes. This was a quote taken after the 2015 pre-season game against New Orleans by Belicheck when he discussed with NOLA.com writer Evan Woodberry about Bradin Cooks:
“I’m glad we don’t have to play him twice a year and he’s not in our division,” Belichick went a little further and added “He’s a really good player.”
Although hearing Belicheck praise an opponent is nothing really special or new, there is actually a lot of sense to this deal in a way. Let’s start out with Brandin Cooks age. He is only 23 years right now and his rookie contract will not expire until 2019, where he will be an unrestricted free agent. Cooks being traded now means that teams will only have to pay him for what his rookie contract is worth, which this season will be $2,667,462 according to spotrac.com. For a team like the Patriots, that is peanut money.
Cooks is still in his prime, he is easy to afford and he has been one of the most dynamic play makers on the Saints’ offense. Brandin has already had back-to-back 1000+ yard seasons and is likely only to get better if he is brought into the right system (Sean Payton‘s West Coast offense is obviously different from the Patriots’ Erhardt-Perkins offense). Not only that, if Belicheck is willing to part with a 1st round pick for Cooks, he has trust that he can be successful here.
However, the main factor that I feel is the reason for why this trade has been brought up is due to our wide receiving core. First, Julian Edelman is our number 1 receiver, but he is already pushing 31 alongside teammate Danny Amendola. Michael Floyd will be under punishment for his extreme DUI in Arizona and Chris Hogan is the only pick up that we have that is staying beyond the 2017 season alongside rookie Malcolm Mitchell. When you add it all together, there is a good chance that most of our playmakers will likely be gone by the end of next season.
This deal isn’t so much that Belicheck is caring about the present but the value it will have for the future. The reality is, Belicheck wants to invest into young talent and Cooks is both young and has plenty left to prove to the NFL. Despite the fact the deal is still in the process right now, many fans are feeling conflicted about this deal.
On one hand, we are risking our only pick in the 1st round, we also fail to forget that Chad ‘Ochocinco’ Johnson among notable names were brought here and grasp the system. The reality is that we don’t know if Cooks could actually work out in New England. Sadly, teams are willing to bet on him being worth a first round and more. This includes the Philadelphia Eagles and Tennessee Titans who are also in talks right now with the Saints.
The New Orleans Saints originally acquired the 20th pick to get Cooks by giving away their 2014 first and 2018 third round picks. The Saints organization will want to make a deal to gain all that back which is asking for a first and possible third pick as a fair trade. The Patriots are likely going to ‘up the price’ to see if either the Titans or the Eagles will part with more of their draft capital for Cooks.
But this begs the question that has been bugging me: how much more valuable is a wide receiver of Brandin Cooks’ caliber compared, to say, Jimmy Garoppolo? I know I hate bringing Garoppolo back into these discussions (trust me, I am) but teams feel confident that Cooks can succeed, if given the right opportunity on offense. Whereas teams that desperately need a quarterback will look at Garoppolo with caution. The reasoning for why Jimmy G is not being given up for a 1st rounder like Cooks because:
- The Saints used the 20th pick (1st round) on Cooks and Garoppolo was taken with the 62nd pick (2nd round) in the 2014 draft. (The return on investment is more justified in Cooks’ case)
- Jimmy has limited play tape and teams feel he is still a prospect that is still questionable because of the success of the Patriots system. (see Matt Cassel in 2008) Whereas with Cooks who has been catching throws from future hall-of-fame quarterback Drew Brees has already had 3 full seasons to get an idea on his overall skill-set.
- Garoppolo only has one more year on his contract and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2018. Cook will be an unrestricted free agent in 2019. Cooks contract is cheap (similar to Garoppolo’s) but longer, so therefore easier to pay as Garoppolo will be paid much for being a quarterback.
- More importantly, this is about knowing who your enemies are. The Patriots just won the Super Bowl this year, any teams are likely going to stone wall any trades with the Patriots to avoid giving them any form of edge to repeat again.
- The Saints’ need picks to get more talent on the defensive side of the ball and this year’s draft class has plenty of that. (similar case with the Patriots)
Overall, its sadly understandable to see why teams are hesitating with Jimmy G then Brandin Cooks, who is likely going to one of the these teams by the end of the off-season.