Did the Saints get full value from Cooks trade? Yes

He didn’t get fed enough in New Orleans. And, now he’s off to New England.
As he departs, here’s a number Brandin Cooks should ponder: In 2016, seven different New England Patriots had at least three touchdown receptions.
The numbers were certainly skewed by the fact that tight end Rob Gronkowski played only five games due to injury. But, the numbers are the numbers.

The Patriots’ leading receiver in 2016, Julian Edelman, caught 98 passes but scored only three touchdowns.

In the meantime, the chatter is ceaseless about how the Patriots fleeced the Saints in the trade. The Saints traded Cooks and a fourth-round pick to New England for the last pick in the first round (No. 32) and a third-round pick.

Did you think the Saints were going to do better? The Saints were clearly looking to unload Cooks, and getting a first and third in return is solid value.

The trade of Cooks fits the narrative of a team looking to the short term. The Saints now have three of the top 42 picks in the draft and five of the top 103. At No. 11, the Saints will have a chance to add another piece to their defense. At No. 32, the club will have a multitude of options.

If the Saints hit on the majority of their picks, they could make a huge leap forward, just as the Atlanta Falcons did in 2016.

The Saints’ actions in free agency also fit the narrative of a team looking to win now. If guard Larry Warford from Detroit plays at high level, the Saints will have their best offensive line since the 2009 Super Bowl champions.

Speedy wide receiver Ted Ginn is a one- or two-year rental. And, by re-signing defensive tackle Nick Fairley, the Saints made sure they didn’t take another step back, defensively.

As productive as Cooks was (17 touchdown receptions the last two seasons), the Saints will not make a big move forward until they fix the defense.

In the 2016 draft, the Saints added defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins and safety Vonn Bell. But there are many holes to fill.

My guess is, whether the Saints fill them adequately or not, it is at least 50/50 that this is the last year of the Brees/Payton partnership in New Orleans. If the Saints have a fourth straight losing season, the decision by ownership will be relatively simple: Brees, on the final year of his contract, and Payton depart.

If the Saints win 10 games or more, the Saints can trade Sean Payton for draft picks.

A change of venue can often do wonders for a coach or player. Brandin Cooks is sure hoping.

Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at edaniels@clarionherald.org

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