All of Boston’s big four professional sports teams were in action on Tuesday. It was a very busy evening, and all of the action was happening roughly around the same time.
The Bruins laid an egg in Tampa, getting blown out 4-0 by the Lightning in a game that could’ve put some much needed space between the two teams for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The battered and bruised Celtics did everything they could to get a win in Milwaukee (playing without their superstar point guard Kyrie Irving, and even without Kyrie’s mini-me Terry Rozier), but they couldn’t overcome a 29-11 performance by the Greek Freak, losing 106-102 in a game that could’ve pulled them within a game of first place Toronto.
Only the Red Sox managed to pick up a win after Hanley Ramirez drilled a go-ahead two-run double in the 13th inning, which helped the Sox to a 4-2 win in Miami and saved them from wasting yet another great start from Chris Sale.
When I settled down with my laptop in the evening, getting ready to make an attempt at juggling all three games at the same time, little did I know that even the Patriots would be jumping right into the thick of things as well.
Around roughly the same time the other games were getting underway, the news broke that the Pats had shipped wide receiver Brandin Cooks off to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for a first round pick (23rd overall) and a sixth round pick. This wasn’t just some no-name receiver that everyone expected to be gone anyway. This was Brandin Cooks, New England’s No. 1 receiver last season, a young guy still in the early stages of his career. Obviously, we knew Cooks wouldn’t be around forever, but we didn’t think he would only be around for just one season – just a one-and-done Rent-A-Player.
Not only did the Patriots get in on the Tuesday night Boston sports action, but they stole the entire show. This wasn’t just the most significant move they had made this offseason. This was a blockbuster deal.
It’s actually a little bit funny, because just yesterday in my ramblings piece, I briefly touched on the rumors of a Rob Gronkowski trade and how I didn’t think it was going to happen. I mentioned that in the meantime, fans should still be wary because Bill Belichick is known to be unpredictable at times. Less than 24 hours after I wrote that column, Belichick stunned Patriots fans by trading away one of the most pivotal pieces of New England’s offense in 2017 – a deal that apparently he had been working on with the Rams for over a month, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
It was just over a year ago that the Patriots acquired Cooks, getting him from New Orleans in exchange for draft picks. It seemed like an excellent trade, as they were getting a young receiver, a former first round pick by the Saints in 2014, whose career was still very young and had potential to become one of the better receivers in the league. Cooks’ importance to the team became amplified during the 2017 preseason, when Julian Edelman tore his ACL and was lost for the year.
They still had Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan, two receivers who had already proved their worth to the Patriots and their fans. But as good as they were/are, Amendola couldn’t always be relied on to stay healthy (fortunately, he did this year) and Hogan isn’t quite “No. 1 Guy” material. Having Cooks around to throw into the mix with those guys was huge, especially considering youngster Malcolm Mitchell would also be kept out of action with a knee injury.
Cooks went on to have an excellent season, winning over the appreciation of the Patriots organization and their fans. He was one of the better deep threats this team had seen in quite a few years; if Tom Brady was dropping back and throwing downfield, more often than not, you could almost guarantee he had Cooks in his sights. He wound up as the No. 1 receiver on the team, reeling in 1,278 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.
He had what was arguably his biggest highlight of the season in Week 3 against the Texans, when he caught a 25-yard go-ahead touchdown from Brady with 23 seconds left in the game, and then scored again on the ensuing two-point conversion. It doesn’t take much to become a fan favorite in New England; you just have to deliver in the clutch a time or two and lift the team to victory. Cooks fit in perfectly in that department.
Unfortunately, our final memory of Cooks in a Pats uniform wasn’t exactly ideal. We watched him leave Super Bowl 52 with a concussion after catching just one pass for 23 yards, and the Pats eventually lost to the Eagles 41-33. Who knows, if Cooks hadn’t been knocked out of the game, maybe they would’ve ended up winning. Maybe Cooks would’ve caught another game-winning touchdown. Sadly, we’ll never know, and neither will Brandin. That probably stings for him even more than it does for us.
Ultimately, even though he turned in an excellent season during his one year in New England, Cooks turned out to just be a Rent-A-Player that would eventually be used to bring in another first round draft pick. With Brady nearing 41 years old, the Patriots are obviously looking at quarterbacks to eventually take over the throne that he’s claimed since 2001. Now that Belichick owns the 23rd overall pick in the draft later this month, this could be the direction he is looking to go.
The Pats won’t be picking high enough to take one of the big names on the draft board, like Josh Rosen, or Sam Darnold, or even Baker Mayfield. But Belichick could have his eyes on someone projected to go lower in the first round, such as Lamar Jackson. It’s also impossible to know if he’s even finished dealing yet. He might try to move up even further to grab Josh Allen, who is projected to go somewhere in the middle of the first round. Or Belichick might not even be looking to go with the quarterback route at all. He could end up trading down too, something he’s been well known for in the past. We simply won’t know what he has in mind until it’s a done deal, since that’s how Belichick does business.
If it turns out in the long run – via a trade with the Rams on an April evening when all four Boston teams were in the headlines – that Brandin Cooks helped us net our quarterback of the future (or another player that plays a big part in the future success of the Patriots), then that’s just all the more reason to appreciate him. For now, we still have the stellar 2017 season that Cooks gave us – a season in which he was head and shoulders the most productive receiver on our team, finishing with far more yards than both Amendola and Hogan, finishing just behind the tight end Gronkowski as the team’s number one pass catcher, filling in for the injured Edelman (no easy task), and genuinely giving his best effort to help the team win every week.
It was a short tenure in New England, but it was a good tenure. It’s just a bummer that it ended with a concussion and a Super Bowl defeat. But then again, rarely do sports have happy endings.
Luckily for Cooks, however, he was traded to a Rams team with a rising star of a quarterback in Jared Goff, the NFL’s Coach of the Year Sean McVay, and a fully-loaded roster that has spent the offseason stacking up on even more talent. There’s a decent chance that Cooks, who will only be 25 years old next season, could find himself back in the Super Bowl again next February.
This trade might have actually been the best thing that’s happened to him.