“They tell you it’s a business. Well I guess I have to turn into a businessman.”
Those are the words receiver Brandin Cooks shared on Instagram after the Saints’ 49-21 win over the Rams. In that game, Cooks didn’t receive a target. Rumors began to spread that Cooks wanted out of New Orleans, and on March 10th, the Saints shipped Cooks and their fourth round pick to Foxborough for the Patriots’ first and third round picks.
The NFL was immediately shaken up after the trade. Social media highlighted the shockwaves the trade sent out. A number of analysts were puzzled as to why the Patriots would trade for another offensive weapon when the team already has several threats (Gronkowski, Edelman, Hogan). A majority of Saints fans were infuriated by the trade.
It seems as if most of Saints fans’ anger stems from the fact that the Saints didn’t get enough in return for Cooks. Prior to the trade being finalized, it was rumored that the Titans offered their two first round picks (5 and 18) for Cooks and the 11th pick. According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the Eagles offered safety Malcom Jenkins (a former Saint), their third-round pick, and their fourth-round pick for Cooks.
Although the compensation for Cooks might not have reached fans’ expectations, it was still quality compensation for a quality player. Cooks’ frustration and complaints put the Saints in a position where they were “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” By trading Cooks for less than what many expected, the team received backlash from fans. On the other hand, if they opted to keep Cooks around and he became a cancer in the locker room, the organization gets blamed for not getting rid of him soon enough.
There’s little reason to believe that Cooks would have become a problem in the locker room. Teammate Zach Strief had nothing but good things to say about the young receiver on Twitter. Regardless, Cooks’ comments could have created a rift with his fellow receivers.
— Zach Strief (@ZachStrief) March 11, 2017
It is likely that Brandin Cooks was going to walk in free agency after the remaining two years on his contract were up. He would undoubtedly demand big money, and as of now, it appears as if the Saints are preparing to give Michael Thomas the large contract when his rookie deal is up. Rather than letting Cooks walk for the chance at a compensatory pick, the team took matters into their own hands and maximized his value.
As it currently stands, the Saints own five picks in the first two days of the draft (two first rounders, one second rounder, two third rounders). In a draft that is as strong as it has been in recent years, the Saints are in a prime position to grab a defensive stud, a satellite back (possibly Christian McCaffery), or the quarterback of the future.
The upcoming draft will give Mickey Loomis, Jeff Ireland, and the rest of the scouting department a chance to change their reputation. It is essential that the Saints hit on at least three of the five picks they have in the first two days of the draft.
It is difficult to determine who the real winner of the trade is at this point in time. Brandin Cooks is definitely a winner as he is going from catching passes from future Hall of Famer Drew Brees to future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. But for the two teams involved, only time will tell if they made the right move.