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Bait and Switch: Is Brandin Cooks Simply Positioning Himself for Future Contract Negotiations?

Have these Brandin Cooks trade talks resulted from a cunning plan to bolster the wideout’s value before his rookie contract expires? Is he just playing the businessman and shooting the last of his arrows?

Jacksonville Jaguars v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The Brandin Cooks drama has been simmering for days. Multiple reports of a possible trade have surfaced from the NFL Combine, and an alleged Twitter war between the former first round pick and 2016 second round pick Michael Thomas got very awkward before supposedly getting squashed.

It’s kind of exciting, I have to admit, having a Saints player at the center of NFL offseason news. It’s not a common occurrence unless a name like Drew Brees is involved. And many sports writers, national and local combined, including myself, have been enthralled in the most recent episodes of As the Cooks Turns.

The latest turn has pitted the Saints against the Patriots, Titans, and Eagles as possible trade partners, but all the scenarios being thrown out so far are pale in comparison to the value and production Cooks has brought to the Saints since joining the team in 2014.

Many of us remember quite easily the public display of dissatisfaction that Cooks aired over Twitter last year following his zero-targeted game against the Rams. It’s not far fetched to think that these trade talks have been fueled by Cooks’ camp as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.

His high production coupled with his relatively low rookie contract salary have simultaneously placed Cooks at possibly his most valuable peak during his early career. It would be incredibly smart of him to use every bargaining tool available to him in order to cement his value not only for the Saints organization, but across the league.

If legit trade talks are in fact going down, other clubs, as well as the Saints, are getting a varied taste of Cooks’ league wide market value. This will certainly come in handy next year as Cooks positions himself for a contract extension instead of accepting a fifth-year option valued at $8-9 million.

With the Pro Bowl worthy numbers he has put up over the past two years, Cooks could demand upwards of $13-15 million per year or maybe even more as the salary cap rises. By creating and sustaining a trade buzz, Cooks camp could simply be positioning him for future contract negotiations where he receives a more lucrative extension instead of the uncertainty of playing under a fifth-year option.

As I stated in my last article, the Saints have the advantage here in negations with Cooks. They have the wideout under contract for less than $2 million in 2017, and can exercise a fifth-year option (since he was a first rounder) in 2018 that would save them several million dollars as opposed to signing Cooks as a free agent.

Still, even though they have the leverage, it would behoove New Orleans to tread lightly around this situation and act with the long-term future benefits in mind over what’s to be gained in the short term. I seriously doubt Brandin Cooks built a home in his non-native San Diego, next to Drew Brees, if he didn’t have a real connection to the Saints quarterback and franchise.

The Saints cannot afford to be pressured or cajoled into taking less than the Titan’s 5th overall pick for a player of Cooks’ caliber. No compensation rumored so far has sniffed close to what Cooks’ real time value is for the 2017 Saints. Don’t be fooled. This whole soap opera is a case of savvy and professional maneuvering that will end with another Cook in the kitchen of New Orleans.