Over the last few days, the New England Patriots have been relatively quiet outside of a few free agency visits and pre-draft workouts. This all changed earlier today, however, when the team made a blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Rams: The Patriots shipped their number one wide receiver of 2017, Brandin Cooks, and a fourth-round draft pick to California in return for a first-rounder and a sixth-rounder.
Let's take a closer look at what this means for the Patriots.
New England now owns five picks in the top-100 of the draft
Trading Cooks to Los Angeles drastically changes the Patriots' draft board and now gives the team a total of eight selections:
As can be seen, the Patriots now own five selections in the top 100 picks of the draft. This, in turn, gives the team plenty of flexibility to move up and down and address the needs it currently has: offensive tackle, off-the-ball linebacker and developmental quarterback. Draft-wise, New England is in a much better position today than it was yesterday.
The Patriots realized that Cooks was no long-term option
When New England made a trade with the New Orleans Saints last year to acquire Cooks, the team brought a highly talented player on board that was headed towards the end of his rookie deal. And even though the Patriots quickly exercised his contract's fifth-year option, Cooks was far from a safe bet to stay in New England for the long haul. This became especially clear after Tampa Bay signed Mike Evans, a player comparable to Cooks, to a 5-year, $82.5 million extension in early March. The Patriots were never going to give Cooks similar money and today's trade is confirmation of that.
Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan now lead the Patriots' wide receiver group
Last year, Cooks was New England's leading wide receiver with 65 catches, 1,082 receiving yards and seven touchdowns – all ranking second on the team behind tight end Rob Gronkowski. With this production gone, the rest of a Patriots' depth chart that now looks as follows will have to step up:
A look at the group above shows, Julian Edelman – coming off an ACL injury – and Chris Hogan should now be considered the top-two wide receiver options on the roster. Behind the duo, Phillip Dorsett, Malcolm Mitchell, Kenny Britt and Cordarrelle Patterson will fight for playing time. All four of them will be needed to replace what Cooks and Danny Amendola brought to the table in 2017.
The trade is another sign that Rob Gronkowski will be back in 2018
Shortly after reporting the trade, ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted that the Patriots will not be trading away Rob Gronkowski. This is yet another sign that the NFL's best tight end will be back with the team in 2018 despite some speculation that he might a) decide to hang up the cleats and call it a career, or b) get traded away. Instead, Gronkowski will once again play a huge role within New England's re-tooled offense in 2018.
The Patriots create $7.5 million in salary cap space
Trading away Cooks not only has a big impact on the Patriots' draft capital, it also has financial ramifications: With the wideout set to play on his rookie deal's option year, he was on New England's books with a salary cap hit of $8.459 million. Now, this burden is the Rams' to bear as the Patriots create around $7.5 million in additional cap space to bring their total – according to the Boston Sports Journal's Miguel Benzan – to $14,651,158.