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A departure of Brandin Cooks could boost the New Orleans Saints quest for a Super Bowl

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Building another Super Bowl contender means sacrifice, and a Brandin Cooks trade could absolutely help the New Orleans Saints.

Super Bowl XLIV
Brees and Saints receive the Lombardi Trophy
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Brandin Cooks trade scenario has resurfaced with numerous reports from multiple sources. Information and speculation continue to trickle in outlining the possible details of such a trade. NFL Reporter Chris Mortensen of ESPN stated that Cooks is the subject of potential trade talks with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Tennessee Titans. Mortensen stated according to one source, “The Titans are considered the more likely suitor.”

Matt Miller of Bleacher Report also took to Twitter on his thoughts about the potential trade.

It would make sense that the Titans would be the more likely suitor, since they already have an established backfield with running back duo DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry and hold multiple first round draft picks. A legitimate receiving threat for Marcus Mariota is what the Titans offense is missing, and Cooks could presumably fix that problem.

On the other hand, the Eagles only have one fist round selection and have offensive issues at both the running back and the receiver position. Many mock drafts have the Eagles selecting Dalvin Cook in the first round, but with only one first round selection, a Cooks trade would eliminate that possibility for them.

At the combine, head coach Sean Payton answered questions about a potential Cooks trade in a short interview with John DeShazier. Payton stated, “I wouldn’t say he’s on the trade block, but certainly when a team calls, a team that’s looking for a receiver and we’re looking to improve our defense we’re always listening. I know Mickey’s probably spoke to a handful of, whether GMs or presidents with other teams.”

It was a bit surprising that Payton made this statement public and acknowledged that the Saints are entertaining a potential trade involving Cooks. Payton is not known for making this kind of information public and generally likes to keep things in-house. With this statement, it seems like the rumors surrounding a Cooks trade over the past few seasons may finally come true. What was also interesting was that Payton said, “We’re looking to improve our defense.”

Thank you Coach! Thank you!

Now, so you know. I love my Saints, and they are the only NFL team I’ve ever been a fan of, through both good times and bad, but the truth is our defense stinks. It’s no secret either, because while Drew Brees is steadily setting NFL offensive records and working his way to the Hall of Fame, the defense has set a few records of their own, and they aren’t the good kind. They are the records that have doomed this team to three straight 7-9 seasons.

Drew Brees came to New Orleans in 2006 as a free agent from the San Diego Chargers. Since that time, the Saints offense has ranked in the Top 4 in total offense with the exception of the 2010 season when they were ranked 6th. Under Sean Payton and Drew Brees, the Saints have been an elite offense at the top of the league year after year no matter who Brees was throwing to.

Now, this is in no way a criticism of Brandin Cooks, because he is a very talented receiver, but he did not improve the already potent offense. The Saints were elite before him, and will be elite after him. With Cooks alleged displeasure with the Saints, his interest in leaving the team and the price tag he would presumably command in free agency next offseason, he seems best suited as a bargaining chip to do exactly what Payton said, and that’s improve the defense. If we want another shot at the postseason or another Lombardi Trophy while Brees is still a Saint, there is no way around it, the defense must improve. Trading Cooks could provide us the means to do just that with extra draft picks and with future cap space savings.

Now, some are asking why would a team trade a first round pick and potentially more for Cooks when they can just draft a receiver like Mike Williams, Corey Davis, or John Ross? First off, Cooks is a former first-round pick himself which already elevates his value. Then, in his three NFL seasons, Cooks has performed at an elite level against tough professional competition. He is an NFL proven talent just hitting his prime.

Now compare that to the risk associated with draft picks, all draft picks. Starting with the most recent example, 2016 first-round pick, Laquon Treadwell. Treadwell was rated as the top receiver in the country, and did not contribute at all to the Vikings offense this past season. He still has some time to prove everyone wrong, so let’s look at a few more. Here is a list from The Sportster containing some of the first round receiver busts over the past 10 drafts. (The link actually provides the past 15 drafts)

  • 2015 Nelson Agholor (wonder why the Eagles are interested in Cooks?)
  • 2014 - Marquise Lee
  • 2013 Cordarrelle Patterson
  • 2012 Justin Blackmon
  • 2011 Jon Baldwin
  • 2010 Arrelious Benn
  • 2009 Darrius Heyward-Bey
  • 2008 Devin Thomas
  • 2007 – Craig Davis
  • 2006 Chad Jackson

Every draft pick comes with risk and the potential to be a bust, and it hurts when that happens. It especially hurts when that draft pick is a first-rounder. Trading for Cooks helps to reduce, if not eliminate, that risk for whatever team is interested in him.

So, if we’re talking draft picks, what’s the cost for a team to acquire Cooks? Can Sean Payton and Dennis Allen use that to finally restore the defense to its 2009 or even its 2013 form? Can Cooks help bring home the Lombardi? That obviously remains to be seen, but it certainly makes you wonder.