By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — There are a lot of things to think about the Patriots trade of Brandin Cooks.
The Patriots lose the receiver who played the most snaps for them in 2017, but in return, they gain a ton of flexibility in the upcoming NFL draft. Bill Belichick now has four picks in the first two rounds, and five selections in the first 95 picks. For a man who loves to manipulate the draft by moving up, down, and adding picks for future drafts, this gives him options aplenty at the end of the month. Belichick can add some high-end young talent to his roster that will be under their control for at least four seasons. After not having many picks in recent drafts, the Cooks trade will give the Patriots a chance to add some much-needed youth across their roster.
There’s a lot to digest with the trade, but in an offseason that has caused mostly indigestion for New England fans, it’s hard not to feel good about this move. Here’s everything we think we can think about the deal.
– The Patriots did try to re-sign Cooks.
Cooks had a solid first (and only) season in New England, hauling in 65 receptions for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns. The Patriots were talking about an extension with him, but with some silly money being thrown at receivers this offseason (look no further than the $48 million over three years — with $30 million guaranteed — that Sammy Watkins got from Kansas City) he was in line for a giant payday when he hits free agency next offseason. When it became clear they weren’t going to get him back on a figure they were comfortable with, the Patriots started to discuss trades with other teams, and received a great package from the Rams.
While they would have liked to have brought Cooks back, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport is also reporting that there aren’t many tears being shed over the loss down in Foxboro:
The #BrandinCooksSmearCampaign has already begun…
– The Patriots have a lot of picks and a ton of flexibility in the draft.
The Patriots sent a first-round (31st overall) and third-round pick to the Saints for Cooks last offseason. They got a solid year out of the player and then sold high, getting that first-round pick back in return.
Here’s a quick look at their current picks in the draft:
1st round — 23rd overall
1st round — 31st overall
2nd round — 43rd overall
2nd round — 63rd overall
3rd round — 95th overall
6th round — 198th overall
6th round — 210th overall
7th round — 219th overall
With seven picks, and four of them coming in the first 63 selections, Bill Belichick has plenty of wiggle room to maneuver the draft however he wants. He can snag a new left tackle, add some youth to the defense, add another wide receiver, and most importantly, draft a quarterback for the future. That plethora of picks will allow them to get young in a handful of areas in a hurry. The last time the Patriots had two first-round picks in 2012, Belichick moved up to draft Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower, two players who helped transform their defense.
Those three days at the end of April just got a lot more interesting for the Patriots.
– Gronk isn’t going anywhere.
The uncertainty surrounding Rob Gronkowski’s future has dominated the offseason thus far, but in moving Cooks, a Gronkowski trade becomes even more unlikely for the Patriots. There’s a good chance we can put all of that retirement talk to rest too, because the Patriots probably wouldn’t have traded away such a productive offensive player if they were still uncertain about the future of their most productive offensive player.
– The Patriots will not be trading for Odell Beckham Jr.
The reason the Patriots traded Cooks was because they weren’t going to be able to re-sign him next offseason. They’d be in the same situation if they dealt for Odell Beckham Jr., who is going to get even more money than Cooks on the open market — not to mention they’d have to pay a lofty price just to acquire the receiver.
– They don’t have as much insurance at wide receiver — yet.
Getting Cooks was a luxury when the Patriots first traded for him, but he was a much-needed commodity after Julian Edelman tore up his knee in the preseason. For now, they don’t have that insurance heading into the 2018 season.
The Patriots will have Edelman back in the fold, with Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Malcolm Mitchell (also coming off a season of knee issues), Kenny Britt, and newcomer Cordarrelle Patterson making up their depth chart, with Riley McCarron and Cody Hollister also there for some “break glass in case of emergency” insurance.
There’s a chance they could add another veteran to take Cooks’ spot on the roster (Jordan Matthews was in Foxboro for a visit earlier this week), but they could just as easily add that body via the draft.