|Cooks would add an explosive element to the already dangerous Patriots offense|
The Picayune's Josh Katzenstein reported that a Patriots trade offer including their first round pick (#32 overall) was rejected by the Saints, who as of now are believed to be holding out for a pick higher in the first round. He also names the Eagles and Titans as teams interested in Cooks, a former first round pick who caught 78 balls for 1,173 yards and 8 touchdowns last season.
The 20th overall pick in the 2014 draft, Cooks complained at times about his usage last season in a Saints offense that spreads the ball amongst several dangerous passing game weapons. He has one more year left on his rookie deal for just $2,667,462, a number that would actually decrease if traded, and could be retained through 2018 as well by picking up his fifth year option for an estimated $8.5 million.
That fifth year option would buy another year of service, but whomever trades for Cooks will ultimately need to pay him long-term to make the investment worth their while. Cooks will undoubtedly seek a deal at least near the top of the receiver market. Despite sharing targets with the likes of Willie Snead, Michael Thomas, Marques Colston, Kenny Stills and Jimmy Graham during his Saints career, he's topped 1,000 yards in back to back seasons. The only season he failed to surpass that mark was his rookie season, in which he flashed his top flight playmaking ability before a broken thumb ended his impressive campaign prematurely.
Cooks certainly would be an Xs and Os fit in New England. While best known for his explosive deep speed, his quickness and open field elusiveness would work well in a Patriots offense that prioritizes getting the ball to it's playmakers in space. Cooks is lighting quick and tough to bring down, which would make him a nightmare to stop on the bubble screens, hitches, crossing routes and other short routes that make up a big chunk of the playbook.
He'd also fit as a long-term successor for the Julian Edelman/Danny Amendola slot role that has long been a major source of pass catching production for Tom Brady. With Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell signed through the next few seasons, the Pats are set on the outside for the future. However, Amendola will likely be released barring yet another drastic pay cut and Edelman is a season away from hitting free agency as a 31 year old slot receiver with a laundry list of injuries and punishment taken throughout his career. Even if Edelman is signed to an extension, the forward-thinking Patriots are surely thinking about the future at the position. Trading for the still only 23 year old Cooks would give them a stud at the position for years to come, presuming that the Pats would be then willing to meet Cooks' contract demands.
The Patriots are also very familiar with the Saints standout, having had joint practices with the Saints during each of the last two offseasons. Each year saw ferocious competition and plenty of mutual respect between Cooks and Malcolm Butler, who had trouble at times coping with Cooks' pure explosiveness in one-on-ones. His performance in those sessions earned praise from none other than Bill Belichick, who said the following after Cooks torched the Pats for catches of 45 and 36 yards during a 2015 preseason game:
I'm glad we don't have to play him twice a year and he's not in our division. He's a really good player.
While Belichick obviously has plenty of respect for Cooks' game, will that translate into a decidedly uncharacteristic Patriots splurge? Could (gasp) Jimmy Garoppolo get involved with the Saints acquiring their successor for Drew Brees? Will none of this speculation come to fruition whatsoever? Stay tuned to find out!