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Grading the Saints Offseason: Cooks Trade Grades Highly

Most fans think we were robbed in the Cooks trade. Others see it differently.

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NFL: Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

I’m going to start off with the Cooks trade only because it is the most controversial. I’m among those who don’t think it was a bad deal and was probably just the best we could obtain. I’m not going to speculate on Butler or any possible trade scenarios either.

CBS Sports gives an A grade to only two teams so far. The Saints and the Jaguars. They also say the Cooks trade was key to boosting our grade.

New Orleans Saints

The Skinny: The Saints were very active and landed a starting guard in Larry Warford from the Lions, a starting middle linebacker in A.J. Klein from the Panthers and re-signed defensive tackle Nick Fairley. Then, after signing away receiver Ted Ginn Jr. from the Panthers, they shipped receiver Brandin Cooks to the New England Patriots for a first-round pick. They will almost certainly use both of their first-round picks on defense. It was a good first few days for the Saints.

Grade: A. This grade goes up because they got an extra first-round pick to play with in the draft.

The rest of the NFC South not so well with the Buccaneers doing the “Best of the Rest”.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Skinny: The Buccaneers wanted to get bigger up front on defense and faster outside on offense. Adding Redskins defensive tackle Chris Baker will help with the first part, while DeSean Jackson, another Redskins player, will give them a deep threat outside in the passing game. They also brought back end William Gholston, a good run player, and running back Jacquizz Rodgers, which they needed to do with the uncertainty surrounding Doug Martin.

Grade: B-. I love adding the speed of Jackson, if he doesn’t slow down at 30. Baker was an underrated signing.

Carolina Panthers

The Skinny: The Panthers were active in helping to bolster both lines and the deep middle. They put the franchise tag on defensive tackle Kawann Short, which was wise. They re-signed edge rushers Wes Horton, Charles Johnson and Mario Addisonand added former Panthers star Julius Peppers. They added veteran safety Mike Adams and also signed Vikings tackle Matt Kalil to start on the left side. The knock on these moves is they added age, which is never a good thing. Kalil has to be better than what he was in Minnesota.

Grade: C+. They kept their own, which is a good move, but they also seemed to get older.

And the Falcons offseason grabs the bottom.

Atlanta Falcons

The Skinny: The Falcons didn’t do much, aside from adding Cowboys edge player Jack Crawford to help the pass rush. They also re-signed linebacker Courtney Upshaw and put a second-round tender on receiver Taylor Gabriel to keep him. Good teams usually don’t have to be active in free agency, and they weren’t.

Grade: C. They didn’t do a lot, which was to be expected. Crawford could help.

Pro Football Focus also gives a above average grade to the Cooks trade.

Patriots receive WR Brandin Cooks from New Orleans

New England Patriots get: WR Brandin Cooks and a fourth-round pick (118 overall)

New Orleans Saints get: first-round pick (32 overall) and third-round pick (103 overall)

Patriots grade: B

Saints grade: B

This trade effectively amounts to the acquisition of WR Brandin Cooks for a first-round draft choice. The Patriots prefer veteran receivers who have proven NFL pedigree, and Cooks does give them a deep threat and athletic profile they don’t already have on the roster. Cooks has 17 touchdowns over the past two seasons. The Saints clearly were happy to move on from him and get a solid return back in the trade. This looks like a classic win-win.

Of the rest of the offseason moves only the A.J. Klein signing receives a poor grade from PFF.

Barely Passsing:

LB A.J. Klein to New Orleans Saints

Actual: Four years, $24 million, $9.4 million guaranteed

PFF play-earned contract: Four years, $3.4 million, $750k guaranteed

Grade: D

The Saints are backing on A.J. Klein’s ability to step into a larger role and start for them. He has played a reasonable number of snaps over each of the past two seasons as Luke Kuechly’s backup given the struggles of the star LB with concussions, and the results have been mixed. His play in 2015 was good, but this past year he allowed a passer rating of 119.6 when targeted and 76.9 percent of the targets into his coverage to be caught.

Above average:

DI Nick Fairley re-signs with New Orleans Saints

Actual: Four years, $30 million

PFF play-earned contract: Four years, $21.6 million, $5.9 million guaranteed

Grade: B

Nick Fairley has consistently been a disruptive interior pass-rusher throughout his career, but has rarely put together his best play for a long period, or even been an every-down starter. 2016 saw him play a career-high 723 snaps for the Saints, and he responded with seven sacks and 47 total QB pressures, also career highs.

G Larry Warford to New Orleans Saints

Actual: Four years, $34 million, $17 million guaranteed

PFF play-earned contract: Four years, $18.2 million, $6 million guaranteed

Grade: B

Larry Warford was PFF’s rookie of the year back in 2012, but has never quite hit those heights again. The Saints are banking on the fact that he is back trending in the right direction again, and is still young enough to get back there.

WR Ted Ginn to New Orleans

Actual: Three years, $11 million, $3 million guaranteed

PFF play-earned contract: Three years, $13.5 million, $3.5 guaranteed

Grade: B

The Saints were clearly planning for life after Brandin Cooks, and while Ginn isn’t nearly the same player Cooks is, he still possesses the kind of blazing speed that can take the top off a defense and lead to big plays – just as long as he can catch the ball at the end of it all. He was signed to a modest price for the high-reward impact he can have on an offense in that defined role.

The D grade given was mostly because PFF thought we over paid for Klein. On this I have to agree, but he should be an upgrade to our linebacking corps.

The Fairley resigning I’d have given an A grade for the same reasoning. I felt this was a very team friendly, value signing for us.

The rest of the grades including the B for the Cooks trade I agree with. Of course many will disagree, so feel free to vent in the comments.