After being left out of the New Orleans Saints’ offense in Week 12, wide receiver Brandin Cooks may want out. Here are five teams that could make an offseason trade for him.
In Week 12 against the Los Angeles Rams, the New Orleans Saints piled up 555 yards of offense and scored 49 points. But absent from that output was wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who was not even targeted by Drew Brees in the game.
Part of Cooks’ lack of involvement can be chalked up to extra attention from the Rams’ secondary, but the third-year wideout still expressed frustration with his role in the Saints’ offense. Head coach Sean Payton immediately said he is not concerned about Cooks’ frustration, which sets him up to possibly be force-fed targets on Sunday against the Detroit Lions.
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That said, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network has suggested the Saints could explore trading Cooks during the offseason. That seems like an overreaction, but there would be a trade market for Cooks if he’s really made available.
Here are five teams that could consider making a deal for Cooks.
5. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have a highly unimpressive group of wide receivers, consisting of veterans (Torrey Smith, Jeremy Kerley, Rod Streater) and young players (Quinton Patton, Aaron Burbridge). Chip Kelly proved during his time with the Philadelphia Eagles that he doesn’t need great wide receivers to have a productive offense, but the 49ers’ need for a talent infusion at the position pre-dates his tenure as head coach.
49ers’ general manager Trent Baalke may be fired after the season, and it’s worth wondering if Kelly will take on a stronger role in personnel decisions at that point. But no matter who the lead man in San Francisco’s front office is, Cooks should be a trade target.
Any time there’s an opportunity to acquire a player who has possibly outlived his usefulness for another team, the Patriots have to be mentioned. Wide receiver may not look like a major need for them, but the perpetually banged-up Julian Edelman will turn 31 before next season. On top of that, questions about tight end Rob Gronkowski’s health after recent back surgery could leave a real void of playmakers around Tom Brady in 2017.
As he completes a third season working with Brees, Cooks obviously has experience with a Hall of Fame quarterback. There are some potential concerns right now about how well Cooks fits in the Saints’ offense, but those issues would likely diminish in New England.
No matter what he says about how much longer he wants to play, Brady is close to the end of his career. So continuing to add proven pieces around him has to be on Bill Belichick’s radar, and Cooks stands out in that regard if New Orleans wants to unload him.
Houston’s offense has been borderline anemic for most of this season, and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ production has really suffered (55 reception for 610 yards and three touchdowns through Week 12) due to Brock Osweiler’s stark ineptitude under center.
Rookie wide receiver Will Fuller started the season strongly, with 100-yard games in Week 1 and Week 2, but he has faded badly since then and the Texans have no real threat opposite Hopkins. Adding a legit, more proven No. 2 wide receiver will be a clear offseason need for Houston, to help take defensive attention away from Hopkins and add more talent around Osweiler as his inflated contract goes on.
Cooks potential as a deep threat would seem to fit very nicely with Hopkins’ skill set, and Osweiler has the arm strength to threaten defenses downfield when the situation calls for it. The fit is fairly obvious here, and the Texans should absolutely be among the teams with serious interest in trading for Cooks next offseason.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Eagles could pursue a reunion with Desean Jackson when he hits free agency next March. Jackson’s previous exit from Philadelphia was likely pushed by former head coach Chip Kelly, so it’s worth noting a different coaching regime led by Doug Pederson is now in place and the Eagles have one of the most talent-barren wide receiver groups in the league.
With that need for a wide receiver in mind, and his being far younger (23) than Jackson (30), Cooks looks like a great fit for the Eagles. One fly in the possible trade ointment would be Philadelphia’s relative lack of draft pick capital, after an aggressive move up to take quarterback Carson Wentz last spring.
But the Eagles did get a second first-round pick next year and a conditional draft pick in 2018 from the Minnesota Vikings in the Sam Bradford trade three months ago, as Howie Roseman fully exercised his leverage over Vikings’ general manager Rick Spielman in the wake of Teddy Bridgewater’s leg injury late in the preseason. Either or both of those extra picks could easily be used in a trade for Cooks, with a player possibly thrown in for good measure to get the Saints’ attention.
Cooks would be an instant upgrade to Wentz’s supporting cast, and with youth on his side they could be a productive combination for a long time. Eagles’ fans may want Jackson back for nostalgia purposes, but trading for Cooks would be the better offseason move by far.
Mike Evans has become of the best wide receivers in the NFL this season, but Vincent Jackson”s season-ending torn ACL back in October has left Tampa Bay with nothing close to another substantial threat on the perimeter.
The Buccaneers have yet to play the Saints this season. But the teams will play each other twice in a three-week span from Week 14-Week 16, and some familiarity with Cooks should be inherent as NFC South foes over the previous two seasons.
With Jameis Winston (22 years old) in place as the quarterback long-term, along with Evans (23 years old), the running back duo of Doug Martin and Charles Sims and tight end Cameron Brate , Tama Bay is building a nice collection of talent on the offensive side of the ball. Cooks would fit in very nicely, and trading for him would give the Buccaneers one of the top wide receiver duos in the league for years to come.