By Nick Shook
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Les Snead isn’t finished wheeling and dealing.
The Los Angeles Rams have acquired receiver Brandin Cooks and a fourth-round pick in a trade with the New England Patriots, the team announced via its official site. The Rams are sending their first-round pick in the upcoming draft (No. 23 selection) and a sixth-round pick to the Patriots, according to the announcement.
Cooks lands on his second new team in as many years, being dealt from the organization that acquired him via trade last offseason. The speedster, who was sorely missed in the latter stages of Super BowlLII, leaves New England after posting a 65-catch, 1,082-yard season that also included seven touchdowns.
Cooks is perhaps the best receiver to be traded twice over a young career that has shown plenty of promise and production so far. The game-breaking wideout is one of only three players with 1,000-plus receiving yards and five-plus receiving touchdowns in each of the last three seasons. The other two: Antonio Brown and Larry Fitzgerald.
The 24-year-old moves to a team featuring a quarterback with whom he is familiar (thanks to sharing representation via Rep1 Sports) and one that was in need of another deep threat after the departure of Sammy Watkins. Cooks brings his top-end speed and big-play ability to a receiving corps that now features targets for every level of the field, and does so affordably in 2018, as he’s in the fifth and final year of his rookie deal (due $8.5 million).
The Cooks deal is the latest move by Snead to stock his contending team with proven talent. Most of that occurred this offseason on the defensive side, but Cooks now stands to make Los Angeles’ offense a complete threat that is fully capable of taking advantage of Jared Goff‘s arm.
Unlike most frequently dealt players, this move isn’t a knock on Cooks, but instead a team swapping one asset for another to fit its needs. While Tom Brady is losing his best yards-per-catch target in his career (Cooks averaged 16.6 yards), New England is now armed with multiple first- and second-round picks, which sounds like the right pile to toss into discussions to move up to potentially select a quarterback. Brady might be battling time but the calendar doesn’t move backward, and with the departure of Jimmy Garoppolo via trade, the Patriots appear primed to pick Brady’s successor.
That selection could be made in a position gained by packaging some of the aforementioned picks, or could be one pick spent on a quarterback considered a second-tier prospect in this class (Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, for example). New England could instead use the other picks to address needs elsewhere, which are numerous after multiple players left via free agency. Either way, the Cooks deal creates flexibility, which has always been key to Bill Belichick’s team-building process.