There’s absolutely no doubt about it, Bill Belichick has been under the microscope since Super Bowl Sunday. Game plans, free agency moves, and everything else you can possibly think of have been the never ending topic of conversation. Things have gotten so insane that I’ve seen people go as far as question whether or not Belichick should resign. The sky is falling in New England, apparently.
But maybe not.
For the last decade plus, the New England Patriots have been as dominant as it gets in every phase of the game: preseason, regular season, postseason, offseason. Last season was arguably one of the best offseasons the Patriots have had, ever. One of the highlights was the trade that sent Brandin Cooks to New England from New Orleans.
The initial rumors surrounding Cooks’ potential future with the Patriots was that he would be swapped for Malcolm Butler, but when all it took was pick #32 in the draft (and a third round pick), it was a done deal. Excitement ensued. Brandin Cooks was the deep threat Tom Brady needed and the Patriots would have absolutely no problem with winning another ring now.
But again, maybe not.
While Cooks is a great receiver, racking up just under 4,000 yards in only four years in the league, he just never really fit. I said it all season: he never seems to fight for the ball. I have no problem admitting that a portion of the deep balls that went his way were off the mark a bit resulting in incompletions, but there were a few times that Cooks would’ve come up with the ball had he either dove or just fought through a defender. Above all else, despite being the Patriots number two receiver in 2017, it seemed pretty clear this wouldn’t be a long term relationship.
Money has been thrown around like crazy during this year’s free agency period, and with one year left on his rookie contract, there’s no doubt in my mind Cooks would look for that after next season. Belichick knew that. I’m sure he knew that when the idea of acquiring Cooks from New Orleans popped in his head. Bill’s a genius, that’s no secret. The Patriots have never been known for paying receivers an incredible amount of money because of their ability to be replaced. If you look at Julian Edelman’s contract you’ll see exactly that, and he’s one of the Patriots’ most valuable assets. Adam Schefter reported this morning that the Patriots had tried to discuss an extension with Cooks, but when the price wasn’t right and the conversation had stalled, the Los Angeles Rams came in contact.
The Rams have been one of the most active teams this offseason. When you think about all the moves they’ve made, it’s hard to believe this is a real life football team and not one someone drafted for their fantasy league. After losing Sammy Watkins in free agency (signed with Kansas City), the Rams had a spot at wide receiver that needed to be filled. I, personally, had Watkins on my fantasy team last year so I’ll be the first to tell you how underappreciated he was in LA. Despite their best efforts, he walked. Cooks fills that hole. Los Angeles decided that he’s their guy, so much so that they sent their first round pick (#23) to New England in exchange.
And there you have it. While everyone else is playing checkers, Belchick is playing strategic chess.
When you look at the entire Cooks saga, it’s almost laughable. Bill actually did that.
- Trade your first round pick (#32) and third round pick (#103) for a third year receiver with two years left on his rookie deal.
- Get a productive year out of him: 65 receptions, 1,082 yards, 7 touchdowns with a trip to the Super Bowl.
The 2018 draft is going to be a very big deal for the Patriots, who now have two picks in both the first and second rounds. Gaining this pick from the Rams is huge and if only losing Cooks was the price, the Patriots won.
Cooks and Brady were never a match for each other. They did well together, but Cook's strength is stretching the field and that's not Brady's strength. Pats don't pay WRs so a first round pick is amazing value.
— rob (@robbyballgame) April 3, 2018
I’m not saying Cooks wasn’t valuable to New England because he was. With the insane amount of injuries this team suffered in the 2017 season, the fact they made it to the Super Bowl is really something. What I am saying, though, is that it’s not a huge loss. Edelman and Mitchell are returning, and the Patriots still have a bunch of receivers on the roster to pick from. On top of it all, New England is loaded with draft picks. A receiver definitely isn’t sitting at number one on the list of imporance, but they’ve been known to turn late round receivers in to perennial stars.
It’s that time of year where Bill Belichick proves why he’s not only the best coach in football, but also the best GM. To any other team, losing a guy like Cooks would shift them into crisis mode. To Bill, on the other hand, it’s just another day in the office.
Front office executive: “Whenever Belichick makes a trade, the whole league gets nervous. Teams always wonder, ‘What does he know that I’m missing?’ He’s in a lot of people’s heads.”
— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) April 4, 2018