Payton told SiriusXM Radio that he “absolutely” anticipates Cooks will remain a Saint this year when asked if the dynamic young receiver could come up in trade talks.
Cooks, 23, is heading into the final year of his contract -- though the Saints hold an option on him for 2018, which will cost around $8-8.5 million. They will likely exercise that option on Cooks this spring.
Cooks was upset about being used so often as a deep threat and clear-out receiver at times last year. His frustrations became public after he was targeted zero times in a 49-21 rout over the Los Angeles Rams.
Cooks, however, insisted that it didn’t come from a selfish place, saying that he wants to be great for his team, adding, “Closed mouths don’t get fed.”
When reports popped up last December that Cooks could possibly be traded during the offseason, Payton called them "garbage." And Payton downplayed Cooks’ frustration in his interview Tuesday with the "Schein on Sports" show.
“Really, if you really want to cut down to the chase, he's a magnificent kid … a worker, he's not a kid anymore,” Payton said. “He's a tremendous player, he practices a hundred miles an hour, you have to slow him down some. He's got a great rapport with Drew (Brees). And you have a game, oh, we played the Rams, we score 50 points, but he didn’t have any touches -- and it was unusual; sometimes that happens.
“And generally those things are an agent-driven complaint. And he's too sharp of a guy, and he understands it all. He and I have met several times, and I think what's most important is these guys come in the start of the week and they see their name stamped on plays. We're up until 2 in the morning thinking about ways to get him open, get him on the right matchup. And when the players know that, I think they know they're getting a real good script.
“Now, whether it plays out that way on that given Sunday, sometimes it doesn't. But more often than not, a guy like him you have to get the ball to, and he's explosive. But I see him playing here."
As I have written before, the only reasons that Cooks could make sense as possible trade bait are because the Saints are so deep at the WR position, they have proven an ability to replace elite playmakers on offense and Cooks could fetch a lot in return to help New Orleans in greater positions of need -- like on defense. Payton listed edge rusher and cornerback as two “musts” for the Saints this offseason during his SiriusXM interview.
However, the Saints certainly aren’t in any rush to push Cooks out the door. The former first-round pick has more than 1,100 yards in each of the past two seasons, with a combined 17 touchdowns.
The bigger question mark with Cooks is whether the Saints will invest mega-millions in him in a contract extension beyond 2018.