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New Orleans Saints: Where the hell is Brandin Cooks?

For the last few days, trade rumors regarding Saints star wideout Brandin Cooks have been spreading like wildfire across a dry landscape. The media has been covering the story in so much depth that it actually forced Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis, usually deathly quiet on such matters, to address the issue in some detail at this weekend's scouting combine. There is one person who has been conspicuously quiet all week long, prompting the question: Where the hell is Brandin Cooks?

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Most of us have heard the rumors by now. Brandin Cooks to the Titans. Brandin Cooks to the Eagles. Brandin Cooks to the Patriots. The Saints are shopping Cooks. Cooks wants out of New Orleans.

Cooks was the 20th overall pick from Oregon State in the 2014 draft. His rookie year was cut short by injury, but the last two seasons have seen him go for 84 receptions for 1,138 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2015, followed by a 78 catch, 1,173-yard, 8-score campaign last year. The speedy 5-foot-10, 189-lb Cooks brings an explosive dynamic to the Saints that few can match in the NFL. His 246 targets and almost 66% catch percentage shows that Cooks is much more than just a "one trick pony" deep threat in this offense.

Cooks is an every down threat on every level of the football field. A 49-21 victory over the Rams in Week 12 of the 2016 season showed that not all was necessarily well between Brandin Cooks and the Saints coaching staff. Despite arguably New Orleans' best offensive performance of the year, Cooks was held without a catch. He voiced his displeasure with the way he was being utilized on social media afterwards.

In the historical landscape of diva wide receivers, Cooks' comments wouldn’t even qualify as a blip on the radar. They did, however, cause a national analyst or two to guess that Brandin Cooks would now be a trade candidate once the regular season ended. Those rumors were immediately rebuffed by coach Sean Payton, who then proceeded to talk privately with Cooks. Fast forward, and Cooks ended the season with at least five receptions in four of the final five games. All indications were that this was a bit of frustration overflow from a competitive young player.

Then came last week, when reports exploded that Cooks was close to being traded to either the Tennessee Titans or Philadelphia Eagles. The reports had the 23-year-old Cooks on the move for either a mid-first round pick, or the Saints swapping picks with Tennessee for the 5th overall pick with presumably other picks or players in play. Then the New England Patriots put themselves into the mix, with reportedly a late first round offer.

Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis felt compelled to address these issues at the combine; something that they very rarely do. Both stated unequivocally that Cooks was not necessarily on the trading block, but they did not exactly dispel rumors that the young wideout could be dealt. Payton, in particular, spoke to how much he loved Cooks' skill set and what he adds to the prolific Saints offense. Payton and Loomis did specifically spell out that it would take a "significant offer" to pry Cooks out of New Orleans. Their words didn't exactly inspire confidence that Cooks would continue to be a member of the Saints.

Then, a new development took place. Reports from multiple sources surfaced that it was Brandin Cooks himself that wanted out of New Orleans, and it was he who was trying to orchestrate a trade. One thing worth noting here is that Cooks changed agents sometime within the last 2-3 months. Cooks had been represented by Jeff Sperbeck through the NOVO Agency since the beginning of his career. Although the reasons for this change are not known, Cooks is now represented by Ryan Tollner, and Rep1 Sports. This is significant, if for no other reason that not a single word was heard from either client (Cooks), or his representation (Rep1 Sports) to either refute or deny any of the claims that Cooks indeed wanted out or was discontent in any way.

This past Sunday, things took another bizarre turn, thanks to the wonderful world of Twitter. At 4:04 p.m., fellow Saints wideout Michael Thomas tweeted "The jealousy will cause people to part ways huh #shhh". Thomas did go on to say an hour later that he was merely quoting lyrics to a song. What was followed was a tweet from Brandin Cooks at 5:16 p.m., stating "Trigger fingers turn to twitter fingers". Was this a response to Thomas' tweet, which the wideout may or may not have meant to be a slight at Cooks? Perhaps not, but interestingly enough, Cooks' tweet was removed within a half hour of it's posting.

The Saints don't have to trade Cooks. He is still under a very cap-friendly contract, and even next year has an option that would only increase his yearly salary by a manageable amount before a contract year in 2018. It does seem less likely each day that we will see Cooks in a Saints uniform in 2017. Payton and Loomis seem to be doing their best "damage control", and trying to maintain the highest possible trade value for the young wideout.

It is not Brandin Cooks' responsibility to reply to me, any other member of the media, or any of the fans. He does, however, have a responsibility to his teammates, who deserve to know if he can be counted on. Sean Payton has alluded to the fact that player movement rumors are always at their highest this time of year. He's right, but this now calls into question whether a potential elite talent like Cooks even wants to remain here. His deafening silence answers that question with a resounding no. This is a team that has so many young players in key positions trying to build and turn itself around from three straight non-playoff seasons. The last thing needed is a soap opera like this.