Drew Brees will head into 2017 without his top receiver on the roster. The New Orleans Saints have traded Brandin Cooks — who led the team in receiving yards in 2015 and 2016 — along with a fourth-round pick to the New England Patriots in exchange for first- and third-round picks.
TRADE! The Patriots have traded their #32 & 3rd #103 pick to the Saints for wide receiver Brandin Cooks & their 4th #118 pick per sources
— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) March 11, 2017
Cooks left his mark as one of the league’s fastest wideouts in his three seasons in New Orleans. The diminutive receiver torched defenses for 17 touchdowns and more than 2,300 yards the last two seasons, but also expressed displeasure with the team after failing to earn a target in a Week 12 blowout win over the Los Angeles Rams. That allowed trade rumors to begin swirling as early as last December, though head coach Sean Payton vehemently denied them.
Payton on Cooks report: “that’s garbage. It’s a false report. It’s an agent picking up the phone and calling a reporter.”
— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) December 4, 2016
The Saints reconsidered after finishing 7-9 and missing the playoffs for the third straight season. While Cooks is entering his prime as a receiver, New Orleans has a sure-handed replacement to take his spot atop the depth chart. Michael Thomas had an eye-opening rookie season in 2016, catching 92 passes for 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns. While he isn’t the dynamic deep threat Cooks is, his 6’3 frame makes him a more dangerous red zone target.
The Patriots will hope Cooks’ emergence as a top-ten receiver with one future Hall of Famer carries over to his time with Tom Brady. Brees has turned several average prospects into Pro Bowl invitees thanks to his uncanny ability to find open targets downfield, but Brady has done the same. By making this trade, New England is hoping Cooks won’t have a Kenny Stills-type downturn after leaving the friendly confines of the Superdome.