The Saints are still considering trading Cooks, with the Patriots and Titans among the most likely suitors, CSN New England reports. Already rumored to be shopping Cooks in exchange for defensive help, the Saints did nothing to quiet the whispers when they signed fellow speedster Ted Ginn on Thursday. While there would be a sizable drop-off from Cooks to Ginn, young wideouts Michael Thomas and Willie Snead make a downgrade at the other receiver spot much more tolerable. Meanwhile, the Patriots spent big to lure CB Stephon Gilmore away from the Bills, hinting at a willingness to part ways with CB Malcolm Butler, the player rumored to be involved in trade talks with the Saints. The Titans may also still be in the mix for Cooks' services, whereas the Eagles are likely set at wide receiver after signing both Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith on Thursday.
The Saints dealt Cooks and a fourth-round pick to the Patriots for first- and third-round selections, Dianna Russini of ESPN reports. It appears that the Saints were unable to wrest cornerback Malcolm Butler from New England, but with five picks in the first three rounds of the upcoming NFL Draft, they'll have numerous chances to bolster the unit. Meanwhile, Cooks provides a deep threat to an offense predicated on precise, short throws from Tom Brady. The fit may not be ideal, but because he doesn't turn 24 years old until March and is entering the final year of his rookie deal -- if his fifth year option isn't picked up, that is -- the Patriots will gamble that adding Cooks to the mix provides a wrinkle absent from the offense during their run to Super Bowl LI.
ESPN.com relays that Cooks' name has been associated with potential trade talks involving both the Eagles and Titans. While it's unclear whether Cooks will actually be moved, the Titans and Eagles are both looking to upgrade at wideout and the Saints also feature the likes of Michael Thomas and Willie Snead at the position. Cooks, who New Orleans took 20th overall in the 2014 draft, is coming off a season in which he turned 117 targets into 78 catches for 1,173 yards and eight TDs. Despite that respectable level of production, previous reports have hinted at Cooks' frustration with his role in the Saints offense. That said, per the New Orleans Times-Picayune, coach Sean Payton has indicated that he "absolutely" expects Cooks to be back with the Saints in 2017.
Head coach Sean Payton "absolutely" expects Cooks to be a member of the Saints in the 2017 season, Tom Pelissero of USA Today reports. After he emerged from Week 12 without a target for the first time in his career, Cooks expressed frustration, spurring rumblings within the NFL that he may shopped in the offseason. Having said that, he has one year remaining on his rookie deal, which can become two seasons if the Saints exercise the 2018 option available to former first-round picks. With a March 3 deadline looming, such a decision would seemingly be a no-brainer for a wideout coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns and 17 touchdowns during that span.
Cooks caught three of six targets for 19 yards in Sunday's loss to Atlanta. It's been a whirlwind season for Cooks, who has had games in which he has looked like a dominant force like Week 1 against Oakland, Week 6 against Carolina and Week 15 against Arizona. He's also had games where the Saints' offense has appeared to focus more on Michael Thomas and Willie Snead. Cooks has not been shy about voicing his displeasure in such situations and this offseason will be full of questions about whether the Saints, with other weapons in the wings, should keep their former first-rounder or try to get value for him on the trade market.
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