When the New England Patriots traded wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams yesterday, one question was definitively answered: Will the team pay the impending free agent the big bucks? The answer, as the trade shows, is “no”. With the Patriots shipping Cooks away, the team will not keep him around on what would have likely been a multi-million dollar long-term contract.
That does not mean that the team did not want to extend the wide receiver, though. Coming off a very productive year which saw Cooks catch a total of 75 passes for a combined 1,237 yards and seven touchdowns, the Patriots were reportedly trying to sign him to a new deal but as ESPN insider Adam Schefter noted on WEEI's Kirk & Callahan show, talks went nowhere.
“New England had attempted to re-sign him during the offseason,” Schefter said before continuing that both sides reached a financial breaking point: “They got to a certain number and that number wasn’t going to get it done. Once it wasn’t going to get it done, New England wasn’t going to go higher and they recognized, 'OK, we have a guy here that we’re stuck with'.”
“You saw some of these wide receiver deals come in,” Schefter continued about the economics of a potential extension. “Mike Evans came in north of $16 million. Sammy Watkins came in at about $16 million. Allen Robinson came in north of $15 million. When you get these deals, you see the market for top wide receivers. It’s $14.5-15 million a year, north of there. I don’t believe the Patriots’ intent was to go that high for Brandin Cooks.”
Cooks was entering the 2018 offseason on the fifth-year option of his rookie deal – a contract that pays him a fully guaranteed salary of $8.459 million. An extension would have likely lowered this number and his cap hit but apparently what the Patriots had in mind was nowhere close to what Cooks was looking for. The difference, according to Schefter, might have been at least $2 million per season without even putting into account any guarantees or structural elements.
“I think they would have liked to have brought him back at a certain price, in their own minds, whatever that was,” Schefter noted. “My guess would be somewhere in the $12 million range, right around there. Obviously, Brandin Cooks looked out there, saw all these other wide receivers getting the money and wasn’t going to commit what New England was offering.”
The Patriots and Rams, who themselves entertained the idea of trading for the former first-round pick last offseason, started negotiating as a result of a breakdown between New England's front office and Cooks' camp. “The Rams have been talking to the Patriots for over a month now,” reported Schefter. “They went back to the Patriots and on Monday, Sean McVay, the Rams head coach, and Bill Belichick were working at the same coaching clinic in Georgia.”
Schefter continued to give an insight into how the trade became a reality – in the process showing just how important director of player personnel Nick Caserio is to the Patriots' front office operation: “The dialogue that had been going on between Les Snead and Nick Caserio was continued by McVay and Belichick. They basically were able, I think, to put into place a framework for a deal.”
The NFL insider also pointed out that the Patriots were also talking to “a couple of other teams”, with Schefter believing that the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears might have been involved in talks. Ultimately, though, New England traded Cooks to a Rams team that is in the middle of an aggressive offseason. The Patriots, meanwhile, are conducting their business as usual and tried to maximize Cooks' value once it became clear that he would not be retained beyond this season.