As the Rams brass explained to our Peter King, they have three more years with Jared Goff on an affordable rookie contract, and so this is their window to spend big at other positions and go all-in for a Super Bowl run. Brandin Cooks, acquired along with a fourth-round pick for L.A.’s first-rounder (23rd overall) and a sixth-round pick, is a huge piece of this plan.
Though the Rams led the league in scoring last year and finished 11-5, a persistent problem they had was defenses not feeling compelled to double-team Sammy Watkins, who often aligned on the weak side. Instead of helping on Watkins, the safety to that side would help inside against L.A.’s downfield crossing routes (usually run by Cooper Kupp). That help won’t be available now because Cooks has north/sound speed that demands a safety stay over the top. He also has the quickness to hurt you on east/west routes, which will allow him to be productive from any spot in the formation (Watkins didn’t necessarily offer this dimension). Our Albert Breer says Rams head coach Sean McVay has long been fond of Cooks and explored trading for him last year, before the Saints traded Cooks to New England.
The downside for L.A. is that Cooks’ rookie contract expires after this season. Retaining him will cost either $16 million-plus on a franchise tag in 2019, or much more than that on a multiyear deal. There’s a good chance they’ll find the cap space, but still: Over the next four years, the Rams will pay Cooks significantly more than they would have paid to whomever they drafted at No. 23.
For the Patriots, there’s two takeaways on this move:
1) It was simply an opportunity to capture a first-round pick in exchange for a receiver they would have had to pay big money to after this season.
2) With Cooks gone, the Patriots passing attack, which had become more vertically oriented in 2017, can revert to its old dink-and-dunk ways (an approach that’s boosted by the return of a healthy Julian Edelman). If New England decides a reliance on a shorter, quick-strike passing game is inevitable, would that make them more inclined to trade Rob Gronkowski, whose dominance as a seam route runner was a better fit in that vertical passing game?
The Patriots are accustomed to trading great players, and the Rams are quickly becoming accustomed to acquiring them. This move fits the profile of both teams, and it’s likely we’ll still be talking about them come mid-January.
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