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Buccaneers WR Mike Evans’ new contract makes it hard for the Patriots to keep Brandin Cooks

That’s a lot of money.

NFL: Super Bowl LII-Philadelphia Eagles vs New England Patriots Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers inked wide receiver Mike Evans to a 5-year, $82.5 million contract with $55 million guaranteed and I had two immediate thoughts.

First, whew that’s a lot of money.

Second, the New England Patriots are going to have a hard time retaining wide receiver Brandin Cooks beyond this season.

Evans and Cooks entered the league in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft and they’ve been two of the best receivers in the league since they first stepped on the field. Evans trails only Randy Moss in receiving yards though his age-24 season (4,579; Moss had 5,396), while Cooks ranks sixth with 3,943, behind only Moss, Evan, Larry Fitzgerald (4,544), DeAndre Hopkins (4,487), and Odell Beckham Jr. (4,122).

Through four seasons, Evans has 4,579 yards from scrimmage and 32 touchdowns. Cooks has 4,104 yards from scrimmage and 28 touchdowns. While Cooks has had the benefit of playing with Drew Brees and Tom Brady and Evans has been the greater talent, Cooks has to be eyeing the $16.5 million per year deal of Evans as he enters the final season of his contract with the Patriots.

Hopkins signed a 5-year, $81 million deal with the Houston Texans ($16.2 million per year) last August, while Jarvis Landry received the franchise tag for nearly $16 million this month (Update: The Dolphins just traded Landry to the Browns.) and the Packers signed Davante Adams to an extension worth $15 million per year. The top five for receiver contracts is led by Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown and his $17 million per year contract.

Is Cooks a top five receiver in the NFL? Not as of right now, but he is an incredible talent that is still very young. His name deservedly belongs to be next to Evans, Hopkins, and Beckham. He should be looking for top 10 money on his next deal.

So long as players like Evans and eventually Beckham and Allen Robinson and others keep pushing the limit, the price tag to retain Cooks will continue to rise- and the odds that the Patriots traded a first round pick for a two-year stint of Cooks will also increase.