HOUSTON -- There's a certain level of importance for a young quarterback to have a prime receiver to begin any career. Now more than ever, the value of a No. 1 receiver in growing in the eyes of the NFL.
Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills could be the answer long-term for stability at the position following the trade of Deshaun Watson. Year 1 was about finding a consistent pattern in a pro offense. Year 2 is about expanding on the development found toward the season's end.
Mills, who is set to be the starter for the 2022 season, will have help from veteran standout receiver Brandin Cooks. And while the Watson-DeAndre Hopkins era brought potential, a new age of Mills and Cooks could bring that same intensity in time.
"I’m extremely excited to continue working with him," Mills said Tuesday of Cooks "He has a ton of talent and makes it really hard on defenses to game plan to go out there to stop him, so that’s the biggest thing first.
He’s also a great leader for our team and for the younger guys in that room who are going to be catching passes, for Nico [Collins], for Brevin [Jordan]."
Cooks agreed to terms on a two-year extension worth $39.6 million, keeping him in Houston through the 2024 season. Rumors circulated that for the right price, the six-time 1,000-yard receiver could be moved, but it only reignited a conversation for general manager Nick Caserio to get a deal done with the team's No. 1 target.
Consistency has been Cooks' best attribute throughout his eight years in the league. Playing for four different teams, he's surpassed the 1,000-yard marker at least once on every roster.
The level of quarterback play also has never been a concern. In New Orleans, Cooks shined for Drew Brees.
He later adapted to playing with Tom Brady in New England and Jared Goff in Los Angeles. And in the lone season he work with Watson, Cooks helped the Pro Bowl quarterback make team history.
That season, Watson led the NFL in passing yards (4,823) while also setting the Texans' single-season in passing touchdowns with 33.
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Mills exceeded expectations for a third-round selection. He posted a 102.4 quarterback rating in the final five games while throwing for 1,258 yards and nine touchdowns against two interceptions and completing 68.7 percent of his throws.
In part, Mills' growth could be linked to Cooks' consistency. During that span, the two connected for 295 yards and three touchdowns off 25 receptions in four games.
"Brandin feels really good about being here," Texans coach Lovie Smith said Monday. "We talked about those other players wanting to be here, Brandin is another one that wanted to be here. He believes in that vision for our football team and what we can do. I’m excited to have him back.”
Smith gave his seal of approval that Mills will enter the second stage of the offseason at the team's starter.
He's earned the right to prove he's capable of being the solution at the position following his second stint with the first-team offense last season.
"When you look at just the production that Brandin has been able to have over the last few seasons, but also over the course of his career, he brings a certain level of paranoia for our opponents and that’s going to open up the opportunity for us to balance out our attack," offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said.
The Texans are expected to target a receiver in the upcoming draft later this month despite the extension of Cooks. Currently, Houston owns 11 picks, including seven in the top 110 selections.