Making Sense Of The Brandin Cooks Trade

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Dec 24, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton on the sidelines in the fourth quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 24, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton on the sidelines in the fourth quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports /
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The New Orleans Saints traded away their star receiver for much less than most fans expected. The disappointment is jarring.

But before we get out our pitchforks, a few things need to be said. You’ve probably heard it already, as Nick Underhill and Mike Triplett and the like have voiced similar reactions: the New Orleans Saints got what they could from Cooks. Fans wanted more, but this was the Saints’ best offer. This was Cooks’ trade value.

It likely didn’t help that word of his grievances with the organization had found public broadcast. Knowing that he’d put pressure on the team to trade him took away some of Payton and Loomis’s leverage. Teams could lowball them because they knew the Saints were obligated to get Cooks out.

That still doesn’t take the sting off of things.

The Disappointment

The worst part of this trade, in my mind, is that Saints fans expected so much more. And it sounded very much like we would get more.

Everyone and their mothers thought that Malcolm Butler was coming to New Orleans. And we all thought that they’d need to send a pick with him. That seemed like the proper value for Cooks. And that was the report that most had.

I don’t know if any of you were caught in this most frustrating moment, but the ever-

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embarrassing Jason La Canfora first tweeted out that the trade had been completed… with Malcolm Butler AND the 32nd pick. That was a bitter pill to swallow when the other reports came out. Just goes to show: never trust a La Canfora.

Reports that the Titans had offered the 18th pick for Cooks were a further path to disappointment. To be fair to those reports, I never considered that there might be a high asking price in picks behind Cooks for that deal. Maybe Cooks and a 2nd or 3rd rounder for that 18th pick. I didn’t think it through. And it made the whole situation worse.

The Reality

The reality of the situation is that the Saints traded Cooks away for their best offer. They didn’t pull a Sacremento Kings. At least I hope they didn’t.

If Cooks, on a cheap rookie contract with a team option in 2018, only managed to land the Saints a 32nd pick and a mid-round pick swap, that’s what he was worth. The Saints didn’t get swindled. That’s not to say that teams can’t get swindled in trades. But this was not an instance of that.

Cooks demanded the trade. I had thought the concern was money, but a recent tweet from Benjamin Watson cast more than a shade of doubt on that thought. According to Lyons Yellin, Cooks and the Saints had reached a “point of no return”, and a trade was essentially necessary.

According to Yellin, Cooks didn’t like the way the organization handled the situation. From my standpoint, I have absolutely no idea what he’s talking about. The Saints handled this about as well as you could, considering Cooks had demanded the trade. Payton and Loomis shopped him for fair offers and dealt him even when the return wasn’t great. They sent him to the Super Bowl Champions. They sent him to Tom Brady. That’s about as perfect a situation as Cooks could want. But what do I know.

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Anyway.

There’s no point being mad at Loomis or Payton for the poor return. That’s what Cooks was worth. Yes, you can be mad about the mysterious reasons behind the need for a trade—what was Cooks so mad about? But until we know the details, I can’t fault the front office for trading a player that demanded a trade. They needed to. And they got the best they could for him.

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