- The New England Patriots have emerged as the biggest players in the free agency market so far, and their latest, a trade for Brandin Cooks, gives Tom Brady his most dangerous receiving corps in years.
Are you not entertained?
Over the first two days of free agency, the New England Patriots—the team that just came back from a 28—3 deficit to win their fifth Super Bowl— have emerged as the biggest players in the market, gearing up for a sixth championship run after patching holes and seemingly getting whatever and whomever they want.
The latest development: speedy wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Bill Belichick has had his eye on Cooks for years since the Patriots and Saints shared training camp practices. The Saints have been trying to unload Cooks for weeks in order to get some help for their awful secondary. The Patriots had to pay a steep price for Cooks by sending their first-round (No. 32) and third-round (103) picks to the Saints in exchange for Cooks and New Orleans’s fourth-rounder (118).
“I’m glad we don’t have to play him twice a year and he’s not in our division,” Belichick told reporters after a preseason game last year. “He’s a really good player.”
Belichick has had a productive start to the new league year. The Patriots nabbed Stephon Gilmore to start off free agency. They traded for Dwayne Allen after letting Martellus Bennett walk. Belichick took a low-risk move by moving down eight spots in the draft to get Carolina defensive end Kony Ealy. Dont’a Hightower has yet to re-sign, but things still look promising there. And Cooks tops off the wild two days for the reigning champs.
As Tom Brady officially gets over the hill with his 40th birthday in August, he’ll have his best receiving corps in years. Hopefully there’s a healthy Rob Gronkowski to go along with Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell. Now he gets the speed of Cooks, who ranked sixth last year in the league in yards per target (10), only had four drops and had back-to-back 1,100-yard receiving seasons with Drew Brees. The AFC East won’t be able to keep up, and the rest of the league may not fare better.
This may not be the last time these two teams deal with one another. The Saints wanted Malcolm Butler, but because he hasn’t signed his franchise tender he’s not technically under contract and therefore cannot be traded. New Orleans needs a cornerback to help its defense, which has been in the bottom four of the league the past three years. The Patriots currently have zero picks in the first two rounds of April’s draft, but a deal with Butler will likely land them at least one.
And then there’s Jimmy Garoppolo. He’s one of the biggest trade chips in the league. This Cooks deal seems fair for both side; something must always be evaluated when trading with Belichick. But the quarterback so many teams want will come at a price if the Patriots are willing to deal. If Belichick starts feeling left out of the draft, he can always look to his old home of Cleveland and its nine top-65 picks in the next two seasons.