BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots made a big splash on day one of free agency when they signed cornerback Stephon Gilmore. They made an even bigger splash when they shipped their first-round pick to the New Orleans Saints for dynamic young wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
Saints head coach Sean Payton spoke candidly with reporters about the deal and how it went down while attending the NFC coaches breakfast during the NFL owners meeting in Phoenix. He denied that the Saints were actively shopping Cooks in a trade, but confirmed that a handful of teams reached out to him about the player and the Patriots’ offer was “significant” enough to compel him to accept it.
According to ESPN’s Mike Triplett, Payton said that the Cooks trade was not a situation where “we felt like we’ve gotta make this trade or else. It was the opposite actually.”
The Cooks trade rumors gave rise to reports that the Patriots were considering trading cornerback Malcolm Butler straight-up for the receiver, but Payton said that “wasn’t the case,” according to the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe. That should come as no surprise, as it would have been against the rules for the Patriots to discuss a player not under contract with another team. Butler had become a restricted free agent by the time the trade rumors came out.
Either way, the Cooks trade was another surprise move for a coach who is always full of surprises. Belichick had never traded away a first-round pick for a player before the Cooks trade, and it’s rare for the Patriots to spend top-of-the-market money on an outside free agent like they did for Gilmore. Regardless of what ends up happening with Butler, whom Payton said will not be signed to an RFA offer sheet, it’s been an un-Patriots-like offseason so far.