Somehow, the Patriots found a way to make their already potent offense even more powerful. Somehow, the best team in football just improved significantly.
As first reported by ESPN’s Dianna Russini, the Patriots traded for Saints receiver Brandin Cooks on Friday night. To acquire Cooks, the Patriots sent the Saints a package of draft picks: the last pick in the first round and a third-rounder. In addition to landing Cooks, the Patriots also snagged the Saints’ fourth-round pick. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora confirmed Russini’s report.
Got all that?
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
So, first of all: Wow.
Cooks, still only 23, averaged 81 catches, 1,155.5 yards and 8.5 touchdowns the past two seasons. In that span, he also averaged 14.27 yards per reception. He’ll be joining an offense that already features Tom Brady (the greatest quarterback of all time), Rob Gronkowski (the best tight end in the game), Julian Edelman (a dependable underneath receiver) and two pass-catching backs in James White and Dion Lewis.
Keep in mind: Brady rediscovered his deep ball this past season, posting the NFL’s second-highest passer rating (124.4) on passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield, per Pro Football Focus. He did that without Cooks.
Again: Wow. The best team in football just found a way to get even better.
This trade might also matter because it could incentivize the Patriots to trade backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. They just gave up two draft picks, already lacked a fourth-rounder due to Deflategate, and sent a second-rounder to the Panthers for Kony Ealy earlier Friday while getting a third-round pick back. The point being, the Patriots could use some draft ammunition, having no picks before the third round, and they have a desirable quarterback sitting behind Brady.
DePodesta and Belichick think very much alike, both are rooting heavily in an economist approach to pro sports, and the Browns and Patriots have already done plenty of business together in recent years. Neither team would have to do a thing until just before the draft and a trade could still come together. No one is better than Belichick at playing hardball and then ultimately squeezing for more than he could have hoped for (he would parlay some of these picks into a trade for Saints receiver Brandin Cooks, for instance, who he really likes and still have plenty left over to move up and down the draft board the next few years).
The thinking remains the same, though it’s clearly happening in a different order. The Patriots already got Cooks. Now they need the draft picks.
As for the Saints, they just parted ways with a talented receiver who is going to want a huge contract in the near future. With the draft picks, they could either grab a cheaper replacement for Cooks or fix an awful defense. They have plenty of holes to fill.
The bottom line: The Patriots are still the team to beat in the NFL.