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April 04, 2018

Non-Eagles thoughts: A look at the Rams' odd trade for WR Brandin Cooks

Remember the old days when Philadelphia Eagles fans didn't pay much attention to the "other" teams in the NFC outside of the NFC East? Ah, memories.

Well, now that the Eagles are Super Bowl Champions, and thus the hunted instead of the hunters, it's beginning to make sense to look around at the rest of the conference from time to time at some of the teams gunning for the Eagles.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Rams pulled the trigger on a trade with the New England Patriots for wide receiver Brandin Cooks. To acquire Cooks, the Rams parted with their first round pick (23rd overall). The tale of the tape, trade-wise:

 Rams getPatriots get 
 Brandin Cooks1st round pick (23rd overall) 
 4th round pick (136th overall)6th round pick (198th overall) 

The draft compensation makes little sense from the Rams' perspective. A season ago, the Patriots traded the 32nd overall pick for Cooks, as well as moving back from the 103rd overall pick to the 118th overall pick. The tale of the tape of that trade:

Patriots get Saints get 
Brandin Cooks 1st round pick (32nd overall) 
 4th round pick (118th overall)3rd round pick (103rd overall) 

Using the draft value chart, the Patriots actually got better value in the trade of Cooks to the Rams than they had to give up when they acquired him the previous year, despite his low cost (at the time) of $1,563,198. Here's the tale of the tape of the value of each trade, from the Patriots' perspective:

Patriots' draft pick value to acquire Cooks Rams' draft pick value to acquire Cooks 

That's awful, frankly, considering Cooks is due to become a free agent next offseason, playing on his fifth-year option in 2018, and he'll cost $8,459,000 on the Rams' cap in 2018, or 5.4 times as much as he counted on the Patriots' cap in 2017. 

Certainly, the Rams will want to get a contract extension done with Cooks, obviously, or they wouldn't have traded a first-round pick for him. Now that the deal is done sans extension, Cooks' agent has all the leverage. Here are some of the other receivers in Cooks' draft class and what they have gotten paid so far:

Mike EvansBuccaneers5$82.5 million$16.5 million
Sammy WatkinsChiefs3$48 million$16 million
Jarvis LandryBrowns1$16 million$16 million
Davonte AdamsPackers4$58 million$14.5 million
Allen RobinsonBears3$42 million$14 million
Donte MoncriefJaguars1$9.6 million$9.6 million
Marqise LeeJaguars4$34 million$8.5 million
Paul RichardsonRedskins1$8 million$8 million

And now let's take a look at where Cooks ranks in comparison to those players, statistically:

Mike Evans309457932
Jarvis Landry400403822
 Brandin Cooks280  3943  27 
Sammy Watkins192305225
Allen Robinson202284822
Davonte Adams237281126
Marqise Lee17121668
Donte Moncrief152187518
Paul Richardson9513028

Based on the two graphs above, it's a pretty good bet that Cooks is going to get a contract north of $16 million per season, as only Mike Evans has clearly better numbers. In other words, the Rams are spending major resources on Cooks in the form of draft capital and cap space.

If you dig even deeper, you might make the argument that the Rams actually spent first- AND second-round picks, as well as a good cornerback on Cooks.

How? Well, during the 2017 offseason, the Rams traded for wide receiver Sammy Watkins. The cost was as follows:

 Rams getBills get 
 Sammy WatkinsE.J. Gaines 
 2018 6th round pick (195 overall)2018 2nd round pick (56th overall) 

Like they did with Cooks, the Rams traded for a player in Watkins who was in the final year of his contract, without having first worked out a contract extension with him. That came at a high cost, as you can see above, as Gaines is a good cornerback, in addition to a second-round pick.

After just one season with the Rams in which he was fourth on the team with 593 receiving yards (though he did lead the team with 8 receiving TDs), Watkins walked in free agency for the $16 million per year deal noted in one of the graphs above.

To replace Watkins, the Rams overpaid for Cooks. If you mash each of the Watkins and Cooks trades together, here's what the Rams received, versus what they gave up:

 Rams gotRams gave up 
 One year of Sammy Watkins,  and likely a 2019 comp pick at the conclusion of the 3rd round (roughly the 100th overall pick) for losing him in free agency 1st round pick (23rd overall 
Brandin Cooks  2nd round pick (56th overall)
 4th round pick (136th overall) E.J. Gaines
 2018 6th round pick (195th overall)6th round pick (198th overall) 

That is simply horrendous overall value.

The Rams have become something of the talk of the NFL with all the high-profile acquisitions they have made this offseason. They added Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, and now Cooks. All four players are very talented, and they all come with personality concerns.

They've also parted with Robert Quinn, Alex Ogletree, Watkins, their first two picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, and their second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft (for Peters).

The Rams are pushing their chips to the center of table this offseason, going for a Super Bowl, and they aren't being subtle about it. Personally, I respect the aggressiveness, but the Cooks trade is in no way an impressive acquisition, based on the cost.

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