Free agency is off and running in the NFL, and nearly every team is wheeling and dealing to sign or trade players. On Friday, March 10, the New Orleans Saints traded leading receiver Brandin Cooks to the New England Patriots.
The Saints got the Patriots’ 32nd pick of the first round and their 103rd pick in the third round. New England received Cooks and the Saint’s 118th pick in the fourth round to complete the trade.
New England is making moves to try to for a couple more runs at the Super Bowl while they still have Tom Brady. The future Hall of Fame quarterback will be 40 years old when the 2017 season begins.
Cooks gives Brady a reliable deep threat that the Patriots haven’t had in recent years. If tight end Rob Gronkowski is healthy next season and Cooks proves his worth, New England could become a matchup nightmare in the red zone.
It is easy, in the short term, to think New England is getting the better end of this trade. Cooks’ salary is $1.56 million this year, but with his fifth-year option in 2018, his salary will jump up to $8.5 million.
New Orleans has shown that it is able to get rid of offensive players and still have one of the top offenses in the in the NFL. The Jimmy Graham trade is one example of how the Saints have moved offensive players while future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton have kept the offense rolling.
The Saints now own two picks in the first round (11th and 32nd overall), one pick in the second round (42nd overall) and two picks in the third round (76th and 103rd overall) in the first two days of the draft. New Orleans picks 196th overall in the sixth round and 229th in the seventh round to complete its draft.
In today’s NFL, first-, second- and third-round picks are supposed to help a team immediately in various ways. The first- and second-round picks should produce starters at some point in the season, and the third-round picks should make contributions early.
The best-case scenario is New Orleans getting five starters in this draft, but getting three starters out of five picks would be outstanding.
This draft is deep in wide receivers, so finding a cheaper replacement for Cooks isn’t out of the question. New Orleans needs plenty of help on defense, and this draft is also deep with pass-rushing defensive linemen and defensive backs, both areas of need for the Saints.
New Orleans could end up the long-term winner of this deal, depending on how well they draft. New England might just get Cooks for one season, and if the season doesn’t end in a trip to the Super Bowl, it could be a letdown.
The Saints’ other moves in free agency included re-signing defensive tackle Nick Fairley with just $9 million in guaranteed salary. Fairley had his best season as a pro in his first year with New Orleans.
The Saints also signed offensive guard Larry Warford with a $14-million guarantee, wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. with a $3-million guarantee, and linebacker A.J. Klein with a $9.4-million guarantee.
All the signings could help the Saints next season, and the team didn’t badly overpay for any of the players. None of these moves will hurt the salary cap in the long term, with just the first two years of Warford’s deal fully guaranteed, and the first year and part of the second year of Klein’s salary guaranteed.