FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots' trade of wide receiver Brandin Cooks and a fourth-round pick to the Los Angeles Rams for a first-round pick (23rd) and sixth-rounder has multiple layers to dissect, so let’s break them down:
Economics: It was hard to find someone in the Patriots’ organization over the past year who didn’t appreciate all that the 24-year-old Cooks brought to the team. He was young, energetic, productive, durable and could fly. The Patriots would have been happy to have him back in 2018, but this deal was obviously sparked, in part, by assessing the chances to retain him after his contract expired following this season. It was unlikely the Patriots were going to pay Cooks in the range of $14 million per year, which is likely what he will command with salaries for top pass-catchers rising rapidly. So this is a case of trading a player one year early and receiving a significant asset in return.
Long-term assets sought as stars heading toward twilight: Whether it was quarterback Tom Brady in the final episode of the "Tom vs. Time" docuseries, or tight end Rob Gronkowski after Super Bowl LII, both players have acknowledged thoughts of how much longer they want to subject themselves to the physical and mental grind of the game. Because of that, the Patriots need to accumulate as many longer-range assets as possible to support their model of sustaining success, as two of their best players now seem to be in year-to-year situations. Cooks, because of the economics, was a short-term asset. In his place, if the Patriots use the 23rd overall draft pick wisely, they have a chance at a more cost-effective long-term asset (regardless of position).
After making four picks in 2017, Patriots loading up: The Patriots now have two first-round picks (23, 31), two second-rounders (43, 63), a third-rounder (95) and then two selections in the sixth round and one in the seventh. One year after the team made just four selections in the draft, they need to get back to more drafting and developing. This gives them a chance to do so, while also providing them flexibility to move around the draft board, which is often when coach Bill Belichick (61 career draft-day trades in 18 years) is at his best.
Don’t expect OBJ: Some of the immediate reaction on Twitter was speculation the Patriots would pursue Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in a trade now that the Rams -- who had discussed the possibility -- were out of the mix and the Patriots had assets to do it. I’d be shocked if the Patriots go in that direction, or if that was even a consideration when they traded Cooks.
Wide receiver depth chart still plentiful: The Patriots’ overall talent at wide receiver takes a hit without Cooks, but it’s not as if the cupboard is bare. A depth chart of Julian Edelman (knee), Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Malcolm Mitchell (knee), Cordarrelle Patterson, Kenny Britt, Riley McCarron and Cody Hollister provides quality options, and there's still a chance of adding a draft pick. Overall, the position was ranked toward the bottom of the team’s needs list earlier Tuesday, and I wouldn’t move it too far up, if at all, even after the Cooks trade.