The Patriots have a number of issues that they need to address this offseason including linebacker, defensive line, and offensive line. Wide receiver is certainly not high on the list, as every receiver on the 2017 roster other than Danny Amendola is signed for 2018 (and Amendola may also be back), on top of the fact that both Malcolm Mitchell and Julian Edelman will also be returning from injury for the 2018 season. However, looking to the future in both the “win now” window and the post-Brady/Belichick years, extending Brandin Cooks makes a good deal of sense.
The Patriots traded their 2017 first round pick to the Saints for Cooks and then proceeded to enact his fifth-year option for the 2018 season, putting him at a salary of $8 million for 2018. He finished 2017 with 65 receptions for 1082 yards and seven touchdowns, posting the highest yards/catch of his career at 16.6. He was a difference maker in his first year in New England, coming up with a number of clutch plays including a game-winning touchdown against the Texans early in the season in Foxboro. His season had a disappointing ending as he was injured early on in Super Bowl 52 after a brutal hit to the head.
Many have been disappointed in Cooks this season for a variety of reasons, some justified, some not. Many people expected Cooks to come in and post Randy Moss-esque numbers, which is an absolutely absurd expectation. Moss was a generational talent who was entering his 10th year in the league. Cooks is a very good player who was only entering year four of his NFL career. On top of that, Randy Moss was by far the most talented weapon available for Brady in 2007. While Cooks is good, he is stuck playing alongside Rob Gronkowski, the greatest tight end of all time. It is only natural that he is not going to be Brady’s top target all the time. In addition, the 2007 Patriots had only two receivers with more than 50 receptions (Moss, Welker), while the 2017 Patriots had four (Cooks, Amendola, Gronkowski, White). The 2017 Patriots were a much more balanced offense that spread the ball rather than feeding an unstoppable force like Moss.
The two relatively fair critiques were that Cooks did not always have the best connection with Brady, and that Cooks did not always fight for the ball. It was concerning late in the season to still see miscommunication between the receiver and his quarterback. There were also a number of times where Cooks did not battle for the ball when Brady threw it into a congested spot. However, both of these issues were ridiculously overblown by the Boston sports radio shows. Cooks showed great fight late in the season and made a number of key plays that were critical in getting the Patriots to their 8th Super Bowl. It is truly baffling to see how critical Patriots fans and Boston sports reporters are of Cooks when they have watched Brady deal with utter crap at outside receiver throughout his career (other than Moss). The second best pure outside receiver that the Patriots had was Deion Branch and while I loved Branch as a player, he never posted a 1000+ yard season nor did he catch more than five touchdowns in a season. Even Patriots legend Troy Brown only had one season with over 1000 receiving yards, and it took him over 100 receptions to accomplish it. Cooks is easily the second best outside receiver that Belichick and Brady have had in their time in New England.
Extending Cooks allows them to continue the success that they had this past season, as well as set themselves up for the future. The Patriots two-three year championship window will see the last of Brady, Gronkowski, Edelman, and Amendola in New England. The new quarterback that the Patriots bring in will need weapons, and extending Cooks allows the QB to develop a repertoire with the star receiver over the next few seasons. Thus when Brady leaves and the reins are handed over, Cooks and the new QB will have a solid foundation that will give the team somewhere to start heading into the post-Brady/Belichick era. Cooks is still only 24 years old, which means the Patriots don’t need to worry about him dropping off due to age.
Cooks would likely require a contract with similar numbers to that of Keenan Allen and Davante Adams, both of whom signed at similar ages to Cooks when he will be a free agent. Both signed four-year deals, worth $11.25 million and $14.5 million respectively. Cooks would likely be set to make similar money, somewhere in the range of $11.5-15 million per year. The higher end would be a steep price for New England to pay, but if they can extend him early then they might be able to keep the numbers in check. Plus, with Brady, Gronk, and other large contracts extending over the next few seasons, paying Cooks will be reasonable and will allow them to secure an extremely valuable and talented wide receiver with a great attitude for the future.
The past few seasons have shown that the Patriots have the ability to make due without a star outside receiver. However, that has been thanks to having Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Julian Edelman, three players who don’t come around often (while Edelman isn’t as talented as Gronk or Brady, his toughness and reliability make him invaluable). The next era of Patriots football will be drastically different, and New England will need to prepare for it. Signing Cooks allows them to do that.
Until next time – B$