Teams do not typically take lesser trades when something better is on the table.
And yet, many Saints fans have a belief that New Orleans got ripped off in the deal that sent Brandin Cooks to the Patriots. There can be disappointment in the compensation received, but the idea that the team got robbed or duped suggests it somehow was conned into taking a lesser offer.
That probably didn’t happen.
New Orleans didn’t turn down better offers to accept the 32nd pick in the draft. If the 18th pick were on the table, the Saints would have certainly accepted it. The Saints aren’t here reject better offers and serve as a farm team for the defending Super Bowl champions.
The rest of the NFL said what Cooks is worth. Everyone knew for a week that he was available and since the Saints accepted it, common sense says New England made the best offer.
The only argument to be had over this situation is whether New Orleans should have kept Cooks or accepted the offer from the Patriots. But if the idea was to make a trade and get something for him now, it’s doubtful his value would go up over time.
The offers weren’t going to get better next season when Cooks is one year closer to becoming a free agent. What likely just happened is that Bill Belichick traded his first-round pick for two years of a player he is going to let walk. And if the Saints kept Cooks, who was unhappy with his role here, it’s almost certain he would have signed elsewhere when his contract expires. All the Saints might have gotten in return was a compensatory pick.
The other thing to consider is that Cooks was unhappy with the evolution of his role, and an unhappy player could have negatively impacted a young receiver room if he had stuck around. This is a critical year for the organization, and it’s imperative everyone is on the same page.
So, the real question is if the 32nd pick is better than two years of Cooks? The question is impossible to answer until we see who is selected and how he fits into the system. But if the Saints land a starter who will be under team control for five years, it’s not the worst outcome. Package in Ted Ginn, who should be able to replace Cooks as a vertical threat, and there’s a chance this doesn’t look bad if New Orleans makes the right decision in the draft.
The problem here is that false expectations were created with early reports of offers that likely were never genuine enough to be considered real offers.
MISSED MONEYBALL: Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com brought up an interesting point.
Since the Patriots will surrender their highest fourth-round pick as part of the punishment for the deflated football scandal, getting the 118th pick from the Saints as part of the deal (New Orleans got pick 103 back in the third round) does nothing for New England except to restore its original, lower fourth-round pick.
A league spokesman confirmed that New England will surrender its highest fourth-round pick.
“In general and not in reference to a particular trade, the Patriots would have their highest pick forfeited and the currently forfeited pick restored,” the spokesman said in an email.
So, if this is the case, in theory, the Saints could have traded down in the fourth round, received more compensation and then sent that fourth-round pick to New England.
And teams seem to be valuing picks more than ever. The Browns basically bought a second-round pick from the Texans by trading for quarterback Brock Osweiler earlier this week.
WHAT 32 MEANS: By acquiring two more picks from the Patriots in the trade for Cooks, the Saints will now need around $7 million to sign their draft class. The team is currently estimated to have around $11 in cap space after its early moves in free agency, and will get $7.8 in cap space when Jairus Byrd comes off the books on June 1.
So, from that point of view, the draft picks should be covered.
Acquiring those picks also gives New Orleans opportunities to be aggressive in moving around the board or taking advantage of other trade opportunities.
While the draft value chart is inexact and requires a willing opponent to make a move, New Orleans’ first two picks equate to 1,840 points in value. The fourth pick in the draft is worth 1,800 in value. So, if strictly sticking to the chart, the Saints theoretically have the currency to package their picks and move up that high.
And being at 32 isn’t a bad spot. If a quarterback or another player falls that a team feels like they have to have, it puts New Orleans in the position where a couple of teams could be bidding to get back in the first round. That could be especially valuable if a quarterback falls since the trading team might want to get back in the first round to have the player under control for five years.
THOMAS BREAKDOWN: Since Michael Thomas will now be considered the team's top wide receiver, it seems like an opportune time to re-illustrate where and how he succeeds.
The rookie was at this best on curl and comeback routes as a rookie, catching 29 passes on 33 targets for 270 yards. He also excelled over the middle, catching 13-of-14 targets on crossing routes for 141 yards and 17-of-21 slants for 211 yards.
This moment has been coming for a week.
The only thing Thomas didn't do as a rookie was garner a lot of targets on deep routes. However, he was very good on back-shoulder throws down the field.
He caught back-shoulder passes for 23-yard against the 49ers and Chiefs, had a 16-yard reception against the Broncos, a 14-yarder against the Lions, and another for 29 yards against the Falcons.
It seems likely Ginn will handle the majority of the go and vertical routes Cooks ran. Last season, Cooks caught 12 of those passes for 562 yards.
GUARD EXPLOSION: The market for guards took off this week.
Kevin Zeitler signed a five-year, $60 million deal with the Cleveland Browns and Ronald Leary got $36 million over four years from the Denver Broncos.
That set up well for Larry Warford, who received a four-year, $34 million deal from the Saints. And he was happy to see his brethren get paid on the open market.
“It’s kind of an anomaly,” Warford said. “I have never really seen guards getting paid, especially like Kevin did. He’s earned it. He’s a guy I’ve watched since I’ve been in the league. I was a fan of his since my rookie year. All these guys earn what they can get.”
Regarding average annual salary, Zeitler now tops all guards at $12 million, while Leary ($9 million) is fifth, and Warford ($8.5) ranks seventh.
Leary might have gotten just a slightly better deal from the Broncos than Warford received from the Saints.
The Saints entered the offseason with their wants, needs and musts laid out at various positions.
Leary’s deal came with a $3.5 million signing bonus and $5 million roster bonus to be paid out this year. His deal also comes with $24 million in guarantees.
Warford received an $8.4 million signing bonus and $17 million in guarantees.
POLYNESIAN REPRESENTATION: The Saints now have five Polynesian players on the roster, including Shiloh Keo, Hau’oli Kikaha, Warford, Senio Kelemete and Michael Hoomanawanui.
The number could be the highest for a single team in the NFL.
“It’s great to have this big of a Polynesian culture just in the league,” Warford said. “It’s crazy with how small a population of Polys there are, for them to make it into the league; it’s cool. To have a few of them on our team makes it feel like home a little bit more.”
CANCELED VISIT: Saints running back Mark Ingram tweeted Saturday that New Orleans had a visit set up with top linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who previously played for the Patriots, but it was canceled.
It makes sense that the Saints would be interested in the former Alabama linebacker. It also makes sense that the visit — assuming it was scheduled — was canceled.
Hightower would have been a strong option to play middle linebacker in New Orleans, but there isn’t an obvious need there after the team agreed to terms to A.J. Klein.