Want to trade for Brandin Cooks? It’s going to cost you.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Thursday that the Saints receiver is drawing trade heat during this week’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. ESPN went on to name both the Titans and Eagles as interested suitors.
On Friday, though, Rapoport made it clear that Cooks won’t come cheap. The Saints are telling teams they want a first-round pick in exchange for the 5-foot-10, 189-pound pass-catcher, sources informed of the situation told Rapoport.
Complicating matters further, Cooks wants a “hefty contract extension” that would place him among the highest-paid at his position, per Rapoport.
It doesn’t mean that New Orleans won’t come down from its perch, but this new information is a game-changer.
The Titans own both the No. 5 and No. 18 picks in the first round. The Eagles will roll with the 14th pick, after winning their coin toss with the Colts on Friday. Every one of those selections are incredibly valuable and likely too precious to part with.
Cooks is a talented receiver, but the idea of paying him like a top-five wideout is problematic. If he were truly this valuable, the Saints wouldn’t spend the week aggressively shopping him.
“Right now, I’m comfortable, we’re comfortable with him in a Saints uniform, and we think the world of him and his skill set,” coach Sean Payton told the team’s official website on Thursday. “It would have to be something real significant. That’s part of being at the combine and that’s one of the things that takes place down here and that news certainly spreads quicker now than it would 10 years ago.”
Still, Cooks — despite being unhappy with his role — finished with 78 catches for 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns last season, down just six grabs from 2015. His overall targets dipped from 129 two seasons ago to 117 in 2016, but Cooks isn’t the only mouth to feed.
Rapoport first reported in December that “Cooks’ frustration with his role in the offense led some to wonder if this is the best system for his talents, something the Saints likely will explore in the offseason.”
Saints head coach Sean Payton spoke to the team’s official website about the Cooks trade talk.
“Brandin is someone who we value tremendously in our system. He’s been extremely productive. He’s everything we were wanting when we drafted him,” Payton said. “These news items come up and there are a lot of meetings that take place here. I wouldn’t say he’s on the trade block, but certainly when a team calls — a team that’s looking for a receiver and we’re looking to improve our defense — we’re always listening.
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“I know Mickey (Loomis) has probably spoken to a handful of GMs or presidents with other teams. Right now, I’m comfortable, we’re comfortable with him in a Saints uniform, and we think the world of him and his skill set. It would have to be something real significant. That’s part of being at the combine and that’s one of the things that takes place down here and that news certainly spreads quicker now than it would 10 years ago.”
Cooks spent portions of last year unhappy about his diminished role in the attack, but the fourth-year receiver still wound up with 78 catches for 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns, down just six catches from 2015. His overall targets dropped from 129 two seasons ago to 117 in 2016, but Cooks is part of a crowded house at the receiver position.
Second-year pass-catcher Michael Thomas is a sensational talent and Willie Snead also thrived last season. Trading away Cooks comes with the risk of finding his replacement, but New Orleans could certainly net a valuable draft pick in a swap.
The situation seems quite fluid and will likely be followed up with some platitudes from New Orleans. Teams looking to bring in a controversial player such as Manziel ordinarily couch such explorations as customary due diligence. Whether or not this graduates beyond a meeting remains to be seen.
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What we do know is that the Saints should and will be in the market for a Drew Brees successor at some point. Brees is set to become a free agent again at the end of this season but has said multiple times that he plans on playing a few more years. This is good news for Payton, who has won games on the shoulders of Brees’ supreme talent for nearly a decade now. Deep into his 30s, the former second-round pick still is throwing for more than 5,000 yards per season. Should the team’s defensive rebuild take hold, the Saints could be bound for a return to the playoffs.
Life after Brees is not so simple. Perhaps that is why Payton is at least kicking the tires on a high-upside talent, even if there is a tremendous amount of baggage. Interest in Manziel seems surprising, especially while other high-upside quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick are still available with far fewer issues under their belt.
The draw is Manziel’s off-the-cuff playmaking ability which former Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said could sometimes negate the best laid plans by a coaching staff.
In two NFL seasons, Manziel started a total of eight games, completed 57 percent of his passes for 1,675 yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.