The New England Patriots acquired WR Brandin Cooks from the New Orleans Saints for a first round pick and some loose change in order to prepare for the future. Cooks is a great receiver that has perfect athleticism and ability for the Patriots offense. I personally think he’s going to fit in like a duck to water.
MMQB’s Peter King led off his weekly column by highlighting the Patriots recent transactions and he has a little section about Cooks, where he praises the Patriots for “finding a pissed off player” they could acquire. Cooks was unhappy with his usage in the Saints offense, where he felt he was only used as a decoy to clear out passing lanes for other players. How Cooks felt that way while leading the Saints in receiving yards and ranking second in targets, receptions, and touchdowns eludes me.
“New England controls Cooks for the next two seasons, if the Patriots choose to keep him after this year, for about $10.5 million,” King writes. “Immediately he’ll become the most talented Patriots wideout since Randy Moss (and Cooks may prove to be better). One other plus: when he and Rob Gronkowski are on the field together, a defense may have to use both safeties as downfield cover guys over the top of each. That could be a huge advantage to New England’s intermediate passing game, not to mention the screen game.”
Yes, pairing Gronkowski and Cooks on deep routes should make Edelman incredibly productive underneath. Yes, pairing Gronkowski with deep threat WR Chris Hogan could open up passing lanes for Cooks in the screen game. Yes, Cooks’ versatility is a great fit for the Patriots offense and I think Cooks is good enough to swipe the top job and make Edelman a #1B receiver.
But to highlight that Cooks will “become the most talented Patriots wideout since Randy Moss”, and to suggest that “Cooks may prove to be better” than Moss deserves some serious evaluation.
Right out of the gate, Moss is the most talented receiver in NFL history, never mind the Patriots, bar none. Jerry Rice is “greater”, but Moss is the biggest freak the position has ever seen. In three seasons with the Patriots at age 30 (the magical 2007 season with Tom Brady), 31 (the Matt Cassel season in 2008), and 32 (a 2009 season where Brady was still recovering from his ACL injury) Moss racked up 3,765 receiving yards and 47 receiving touchdowns.
In just one season, Moss ranked 9th in franchise history for receiving touchdowns. After two years, Moss ranked 19th in receiving yards and 6th in receiving touchdowns. After three years and 48 games, Moss ranked 3rd in receiving touchdowns, behind Stanley Morgan and Ben Coates, who played 180 and 142 games with the Patriots, respectively.
Cooks is still just 23 years old and has been one of the best, young receivers in league history. Cooks has 2,861 receiving yards and 20 receiving touchdowns. By the age of 23, Moss had racked up an NFL-record 4,163 receiving yards and 43 receiving touchdowns. Cooks is great. Moss is an all time player.
Cooks is the most talented receiver the Patriots had since Moss, and it’s okay to let that statement stand alone. Cooks has Deion Branch size and quickness with Randy Moss breakaway speed and that will make him dangerous in the Patriots offense.
I’m more interested to see if the Patriots find a way to retain Cooks, should he find success in the Patriots offense. There is already talk that the Patriots view this as a 2-year deal with Cooks before he’ll leave in free agency, but I’m not so sure. The Patriots have no problem handing out record-setting and big money contracts to players that earn them and Cooks would certainly qualify if he produces even greater numbers as he enters his prime.
Even if Cooks won’t be as talented as Moss, we can still use Moss as a relevant contract negotiation point. After Moss set records in 2007, the Patriots signed the 31-year-old to a 3-year, $27 million contract. That sounds like pennies in 2017, but it was the 4th-most money for a receiver in the NFL, and trailed 25-year-old Larry Fitzgerald and 27-year-old Andre Johnson on $10+ million per year deals, and 36-year old Marvin Harrison, who was in year five of a 6-year, $67 million contract signed in 2004.
Cooks will be 25 at the end of his two years with the Patriots and would likely be looking for a 4-year deal so he could get another crack at a big contract before the age of 30 years old. All receivers earning more than $13 million per season have multiple 1,300 receiving yard seasons under their belt; Cooks has never cracked 1,200 yards and is behind players like DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr., and Mike Evans.
But Cooks is looking at the 4-year, $46 million deal for Doug Baldwin and the 4-year, $45 million for Keenan Allen as the floor, with room to grow over the next two years. The Patriots won’t be afraid to pay Cooks if he earns it- and he won’t have to be better than Randy Moss to still be successful in the Patriots offense.