The biggest rumor on Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine was that the New Orleans Saints were in fact shopping speedy receiver Brandin Cooks. Though it’s unusual for big name players to be traded, it’s not unusual for the Saints to be doing the trading: Since 2010, the team has traded away Jammal Brown, Reggie Bush, Darren Sproles, Chris Ivory, Jimmy Graham, and Kenny Stills.
Of course, the biggest shock/news of all those deals was Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks (along with a fourth round pick) for Max Unger and a first round pick. So if Cooks is on the trade market ... why not the Seahawks?
As I recently wrote, I believe Seattle is in need of a receiver and will in fact be adding one of considerable value this offseason. Cooks is not the big, imposing receiver I was thinking of (if you didn’t want to click the link, my suggestion was Terrelle Pryor), but he’s undeniably talented and Pete Carroll would have no problem finding a way to integrate him into the offense. Over the last two seasons, Cooks has caught 162 passes for 2,311 yards and 17 touchdowns. It’s believed that New Orleans only finds him to be expendable because they’ve managed to put up points even when he’s not a part of the offense (same case with Graham) and the rise of Michael Thomas and Willie Snead. No doubt the Saints would expect Brandon Coleman to take a bigger role in the offense while still adding another receiver in the draft or free agency, and given how many players have succeeded with Drew Brees, it’s potentially the smartest move for GM Mickey Loomis to add a high draft pick at the expense of Cooks.
Why the Seahawks?
Carroll expressed optimism that Tyler Lockett would be ready for the start of the season after recovering from a broken leg, but what if he’s not? And even if he is, there’s no guarantee that the physical and psychological effects of the leg fracture won’t remain for quite some time. I believe the team needs to release Jermaine Kearse (with a post-June 1 designation for maximum savings) meaning that their top two receivers at the start of the year could be Doug Baldwin and Paul Richardson, a player who has been absent for the majority of his career. If no Lockett and no Richardson, the team would be leaning too heavily on Baldwin, Graham, and worst case scenario, Kearse. Carroll doesn’t take chances with his skill players like he does with his offensive line.
Players like Cooks — 23, cheap (he’ll be due a little over $2 million next season with a fifth-year option certain to be picked up for 2018), and extremely talented — don’t come around often. It’s a similar move to the ones for Graham and Percy Harvin, but Cooks would be even more valuable than both of them for various reasons. That’s why the cost is definitely their first round pick (26th overall) but is Cooks a better player than anyone John Schneider can get in the draft this year? That’s the only question left to be answered, it’s why they felt comfortable trading out of the horrible 2013 first round draft class, and at the bottom of round one in 2015 where they didn’t love any prospects rumored to be available.
However, the 2017 class is very good and very deep. It’s not a good class for offensive linemen though, so they might not worry about a risk of losing out on Forrest Lamp or Cam Robinson. As far as receivers go, they probably can’t get John Ross at 26, so that’s another consideration. Will they fall in love with any of the receivers at the combine this week who they may feel are undervalued? The other thing to consider is that Cooks is a proven commodity and there’s no question he’s talented enough to play at the highest levels of football because he’s already done it. He’s also barely older than most of the players in this draft, and younger than a few.
I don’t think there would be a worry about him being redundant to Baldwin because we already know that they don’t mind redundant receivers. We also know that Loomis and Schneider have a recent trading history. Cooks for the 26th overall pick — I’m not saying it will happen, but there are too many dots to know consider why it could happen.