Brandin Cooks trade gives New England Patriots more options but Odell Beckham Jr likely not on the way

Jay Asser 16:10 04/04/2018
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Brandin Cooks will bring his speed to the Los Angeles Rams.

Brandin Cooks spent all of one season in New England before the Patriots decided to move on from the speedy wide receiver.

New England shipped Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams for the 23rd overall pick in this month’s draft, one year after acquiring him for a first-rounder.

As part of the deal, the Patriots also sent a fourth-round pick (136 overall) and received a sixth-round selection (198) back from Los

Angeles.

Cooks was one of Tom Brady’s primary weapons this past season, serving as the vertical threat in New England’s offence. He hauled in 65 passes for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns, while his mark of 16.6 yards per reception and 18 catches of 20-plus yards ranked seventh and eighth in the NFL, respectively.

His speed and ability to beat defenders allowed Brady to attack downfield more than he had in years. And at 24, Cooks is still near the front-end of his prime as one of the star receivers in the league.

So why did the Patriots, who are very much in the middle of a championship window with an aging Brady, trade away one of their best playmakers?

Bill Belichick is known for moving on from players before they begin to decline, but that’s not what this trade is about. Instead, it has more to do with getting value for a player who New England may not have wanted to pay a premium for.

When the Patriots sent the 32nd overall pick in last year’s draft to acquire Cooks from the New Orleans Saints, they likely did so with the intention of keeping him for at least two seasons on the tail end of his rookie contract – including the fifth-year option for 2018 that will pay him nearly $8.5 million.

But with receivers like Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins earning deals this offseason that will pay them around $15m annually, New England may have felt dissuaded by their chances of keeping Cooks on an appealing contract after this coming year.

Watkins also indirectly factors into the Cooks trade in another way. With the wideout having left the Rams for the Kansas City Chiefs, it created a vacancy for Los Angeles to fill with another deep threat capable of stretching the field.

The Rams reportedly inquired about New York Giants star Odell Beckham Jr, but preferred the option of Cooks. With the reigning NFC West champions trying to fill a need and continuing to be aggressive in the trade market to assemble a win-now roster, the Patriots likely saw an opportunity to extract maximum value for Cooks.

New England now have two first-rounders (23 and 31 overall), two second-rounders (43 and 63) to play with ahead of or during the draft. Belichick has given himself plenty of flexibility to bolster the roster in a number of different ways, whether that means using the picks on impact rookies, trading up to select a top prospect, trading down to accumulate more assets, or – the most proactive option – using them in a trade for a star.

It’s impossible to escape the speculation that the Cooks trade is potentially a precursor to a trade for Beckham.

Beckham

The Giants probably aren’t actively shopping Beckham, but have reportedly told teams that price for the mercurial wide receiver would be two first-round picks. And it just so happens that the Patriots now have two first-round picks.

As fun as it would be to imagine Brady and Beckham on the same field destroying defences, it’s more fantasy than reality. New England, under Belichick, have never been the type of team to give up valuable, cost-controlled assets for star players. Even when they traded for Randy Moss in 2007, they bought low with a fourth-round pick.

Perhaps Brady’s ticking clock – and maybe Belichick’s as well – could change the Patriots’ approach, but it’s more likely the Cooks trade has nothing to do with Beckham and is more telling of the confidence they have in their current receiving corps of Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Rob Gronkowski, who looks like he’ll be back after contemplating retirement.

But even if Beckham isn’t on the way, New England should now have more moves up their sleeve.

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