Brandin Cooks trade grades: Bill O’Brien loses another one, Rams do all right
Bill O’Brien on Thursday made another trade involving a star wide receiver and a second-round draft pick. This time, the Texans coach and general manager agreed to acquire Brandin Cooks and a 2022 fourth-round pick from the Rams in exchange for the 57th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, according to multiple reports.
The move comes after the Texans agreed last month to trade All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals in exchange for running back David Johnson and the 40th pick in this month’s draft. O’Brien was heavily criticized for that trade, which is not yet official.
Sporting News grades the reported trade of Cooks from Los Angeles to Houston:
Rams grade: B-
The Rams have a lot of money tied up in just a few players. Quarterback Jared Goff has cap hits of $36 million and $32.5 million in the next two seasons. Defensive lineman Aaron Donald will take up $25 million and $27.9 million against the cap in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
The Rams are also paying $20.15 million against the cap for running back Todd Gurley to not play for them. The team \doesn’t have a first-round pick this year or next because of its trade for cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who will most likely be signed to a contract extension north of $16 million per year.
Los Angeles isn’t saving money with this deal, either. It will pay more in dead cap to Cooks than to Gurley.
The Rams do benefit by now having four picks in the first three rounds of the 2020 draft; there, they can add young players on affordable four-year contracts. In addition, the team still has two good receivers in Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, who is going into the last year of his rookie deal. Josh Reynolds stepped in well when Cooks and others went down with injuries last year; he’ll be a solid replacement as the third receiver.
Texans grade: C-
In isolation, this trade is fine, but a full assessment is needed, starting with what the Texans could have gotten in the second round of the draft.
The 2020 wide receiver draft class is the deepest in recent memory. Cooks will probably have a bigger immediate impact than a rookie, but he’ll also be about $10 million a year more expensive over the next four years than a receiver taken at No. 40, the pick Houston is getting in the Hopkins trade. If it wasn’t trading for Cooks, then the Texans would still have their own pick at No. 57 to add another economical player. That selection is now going to LA.
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The trade also seems to contradict the logic used for trading Hopkins. O’Brien claims Houston dealt Hopkins because it didn’t want to pay him more money, but it’s paying Johnson and Cooks (and free-agent addition Randall Cobb) a lot more than they would have paid Hopkins, even on an extension. Cooks ($8 million), Johnson ($10.2 million) and Cobb ($3.75 million) will make a combined $21.95 million next season compared to the $12.5 million Hopkins was owed.
It’s also difficult to isolate this trade from other trades O’Brien has made in the past year. The Texans essentially traded Hopkins for Cooks, Johnson and a move up 17 spots in the second round.
Then there’s Cooks’ history. He has suffered five concussions in six seasons and been traded three times. He had 42 catches for 583 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games last season, a fraction of the 104 catches, 1,165 yards and seven touchdowns Hopkins compiled in 15 games in 2019.
The optimistic view for the Texans is that Cooks, who is only 26, returns to his 2018 form, when he had 80 catches and 1,204 yards, and gives Deshaun Watson another decent receiving option alongside Cobb, Will Fuller and Kenny Stills. Even so, O’Brien’s offseason has been difficult to understand.
(Salary figures taken from Spotrac.com.)
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