I’m starting to come to the realization that maybe Bill Belichick is just an average intelligence guy in a league full of idiot negotiators.
That’s probably a gross overreaction, but after Belichick went out and got Kony Ealy from the Panthers, he kept the NFC South on the line and kept right on trucking. The rumor was that Malcolm Butler was the dealbreaker for the Saints to trade Brandin Cooks to the Patriots, but the sad truth is that high school drama doesn’t translate well to the NFL, and Butler may have never even been on the table from the Pats’ end.
It was perfectly clear that there was no way Cooks was going to stay in New Orleans. Apparently the best receiving corps in the NFL was pretty much what happens when Wolverine teams up with Cyclops. They’re effective, but on their own merits, and targets from Drew Brees are Jean Grey. While Cooks was hilariously posting about Twitter Fingers on Twitter and Michael Thomas was wondering why Cooks was just, like, so jealous of him, Willie Snead posted a photo on Instagram of himself catching a pass from Brees with the subtle hashtag #NOShade and the more interesting #Adidas (still working on decrypting that one).
The earliest talks obviously consisted of trading with the receiver needy Tennessee Titans or Philadelphia Eagles, who both had Top 20 picks (and the Titans had two). How serious those talks got is really going to be up to who’s talking about them, but once the Eagles went out and just signe every receiver on the market to be sure it was clear that they were out. The Titans still need receivers, but they can now address that with the fifth pick after what’s been a successful free agency for them. There were more leaks springing up than the Trump Administration (or the Titanic if that’s too political for you), and it was rumored that the Saints turned down the 18th pick while also working towards the fifth.
And all the while, Sean Payton said that everything was totally fine. The Saints value Cooks, he’s a shining star and they’d never break up with him unless the other receiver was like, super hot. Unfortunately, the more it became clear none of these other deals would go through, the more Cooks’s value depreciated. It had become obvious at this point that Cooks didn’t want to be with New Orleans, or at least as obvious as his Twitter-speak allowed it to be, and New Orleans didn’t want Cooks. Cooks wanted to be a legitimate number one threat, but the Saints’ offense just isn’t conducive to that guy. On the other side, the Saints wanted to get some value for Cooks, but the pricetag he’ll demand after 2018 made him a rental.
Signing Ted Ginn Jr. was the final nail in the coffin. It was a concession. “We need someone else that runs straight fast.” After he signed on, there was simply no way anyone was going to believe Cooks had a future on the Saints in 2017.
The Saints held all of the cards in this deal, and they folded. Bill Belichick has the best poker face of all time. Cooks had two options if he wasn’t traded: Play out the rest of his deal on New Orleans and get paid after his fifth year option, or tank and tank his value. But the Saints panicked. This wasn’t a Junior Galette situation. Galette got paid and then did Galette things. Cooks would have continued playing at a high level. But, per usual, at the slightest sign of discord it feels like the Saints fall out of their happy place. So, with what I imagine was a heavy sigh, the Saints looked at Belichick and said “You’d better beat the Falcons after being down 30 next time.”