According to NOLA.com’s Josh Katzenstein, the Patriots recently offered their 32nd overall pick in the upcoming draft in a package deal with assets for New Orleans wideout Brandin Cooks, but the Saints rejected it. The Saints are reportedly aiming for a higher, middle round pick instead, and this would have been a done deal if New England had a better first round selection. Ian Rapoport soon followed up by saying that it would be a swap of picks, and the Patriots needed to have a ‘true first rounder’ which they don’t have, ‘yet’ (eyes emoji). Other teams that have inquired about the 23-year-old receiver include the Eagles and Titans.
Cooks played a full 16-game season in 2016 with eight touchdowns, 78 receptions and 1,173 yards, notching the 1,000 yard mark for the second consecutive season. The 5’10’’, 190 pound Cooks has averaged 1,166 yards, 8.5 touchdowns and 81 receptions per season over the course of his two year professional career. He also averages 14.27 yards per catch. For the sake of mentioning, Cooks ran a 4.30 40-yard dash at the 2014 combine.
The catch is (pun very much intended), Cooks is currently on his rookie contract that ends after the upcoming 2017 season. His specific contract has a fifth year option, being a first round pick three years ago. He’ll probably request a max contract after 2017, barring injury, underperformance, etc. If the Patriots really like and want this guy, they have to be 110% committed, which isn’t something that the Patriots ever do with a wide receiver. That’s the main reason why this seems rather unlikely. Literally, though, the Bill Belichick-coached Patriots have never spent a first round pick on a WR. If the Patriots have done anything since 2000, it’s show the league that they don’t need a big name, top-level receiver to win football games.
All three teams in on Cooks make sense, but the Patriots really stick out here. In recent months, New England has quietly been searching for a true, number one receiver for Tom Brady. When you really think about it, it’s necessary; Julian Edelman is injury-prone, slowly aging and his contract is up after the 2017 season, Rob Gronkowski just underwent his third back surgery, Malcolm Mitchell is still very young, Danny Amendola has yet to have his contact restructured, Chris Hogan still has an unnamed role in the McOffense, etc., etc. The Pats have knowingly talked to teams about DeAndre Hopkins, Brandon Marshall, and now Brandin Cooks. Plus, they recently acquired Michael Floyd. The Patriots want to take things to another, otherworldly level, and they want to surround Brady with as much talent as possible as he inevitably ages. They want a current number one receiver right now, not one later.
Cooks sticks out mainly as a deep, downfield threat. The Patriots recently found a man like that in Chris Hogan in last year’s Super Bowl winning season, but Cooks is a younger, more explosive and faster pass catcher compared to the 28-year-old Hogan. Not to mention, Brady notably improved his deep ball last season, possessing a 124.4 passer rating on balls thrown 20+ yards downfield, so it wouldn’t hurt to have a proven, legitimate threat to put Brady’s deep ball to use while he still can.
The single current Patriots receiver you can compare Cooks to would be Edelman, though, Cooks, of course, specializes downfield rather than in the slot. You could also compare Cooks to former Patriot Deion Branch, from a physical standpoint. Branch weighed in at 195 pounds and stands at 5’9”. Cooks is also just three months younger than Malcolm Mitchell.
Take a minute to imagine what this already incredible Patriots offense would look like if they added Cooks. Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback of all-time; a healthy Rob Gronkowski, arguably the greatest tight end ever; Julian Edelman, a sneaky, reliable, underneath receiver; the ever-developing Malcolm Mitchell; the shifty, quick Dion Lewis, you get the point. The Patriots are looking to defy the odds, again, and be even better than last year. As Belichick would say, they’re just trying to do what’s best for the football team.
Cooks is reportedly upset with his current role with the Saints, and rightfully so, as he was underutilized at times last season, and was often used to create space and open up lanes for other players. If he were to be traded to New England, he could fit comfortably in the system, as there are pretty much only five wide receiver locks for the upcoming season; Edelman, Mitchell, Hogan, and Amendola (if the team restructures his contract) make up four of those five right now. Who knows who the fifth could or will be, whether it’s Cooks or whoever. Until they have to make those decisions, expect to hear more about Belichick picking up the phone, asking about more and more elite, young receivers. Talks between New England and New Orleans are apparently still ongoing, for example. It will be interesting to see whether or not the Patriots can pull a deal off in the coming months for someone of that caliber, possibly before Amendola and the Pats can come to terms.