The New England Patriots went head to head with the New Orleans Saints on Sunday afternoon with a new player. Brandin Cooks, a first-round draft pick in the 2014 draft by the Saints, was traded to the Patriots in March. Standing at 5 feet 10 inches and 185 pounds, Cooks is 23 years old and hails from Stockton, Calif. He played college football at Oregon State University and is currently number 14 on the roster for the Patriots.
Cooks’ trade was controversial following his 2016 season on the Saints. According to several news sources such as CBS Sports, Sporting News and NFL.com, Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ “arm strength” was a large factor in Cooks trade.
CBS Sports reported that the Pats gave up their 2017 first-round pick for the former first-round draft pick “in order to beef up Tom Brady’s arsenal.” According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, Cooks consistently complained about Brees’ inability to throw him the ball deep. Cooks believed Brees’ declining arm strength was the “elephant in the room” and “couldn’t be talked about at any level.”
Cooks told NFL.com that he was unhappy in his role on the Saints and his doubts about Brees, and the Saints were frustrated with Cooks’ large focus on his numbers and his belief that he should be paid like a top receiver. Cooks expressed his concerns with Coach Sean Payton during the 2016 season, but they were not addressed until the postseason. To the Saints, it was reported that Cooks cared more about himself than the team and they knew that he wanted to be paid highly, which was not likely. This triggered the trading process.
During the game on Sunday, the Saints used Ryan Ramczyk as their starting left tackle, who they selected with the pick they acquired from the Pats.
On May 18, 2014, the Saints signed Cooks to a four-year contract worth $8.3 million. In his first career game for the Saints, he caught seven passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. He had one rush for 18 yards in the 37-34 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome. These statistics made Cooks the youngest player (20 years, 347 days) since Reidel Anthony in 1997 (20 years, 343 days) to catch a touchdown pass. He continued on with 53 catches for 550 yards in his first season before breaking his thumb in week 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals, ending his season.
Cooks started the 2015 season as the top wide-receiver, catching over 100 yards in week five against the Philadelphia Eagles. In weeks 15 and 16 combined, Cooks hauled in 15 receptions for 247 yards and two touchdowns against the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Before the 2016 season, ESPN pegged Cooks as a breakout candidate. He caught six passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns in week one against the Oakland Raiders. Following that, he set a career-high in receiving yards with 1,173 and his 10 yards per target ranked him No. 6 among NFL wide receivers.
On April 29, 2017, the Pats picked up the fifth-year option on Cooks’ contract.