New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks made it no secret that he was unhappy and in search of a big payday last season. Now he's on the trade block, and the Eagles are in the hunt.
On Thursday, Chris Mortensen for ESPN reported Cooks is the object of trade talks, and sources said there were two interested parties: the Tennessee Titans and the Eagles.
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Meanwhile, there are conflicting reports as to which of the two suitors currently has an edge. Alex Marvez for SiriusXM NFL Radio claims it's the Eagles, and the cost might be a second-round draft pick. Mortensen described the Titans as the leader and put the cost at a first.
The Saints maintain they are willing to keep Cooks, so this is no giveaway. Then again, now that a trade is being explored, there might be no going back.
Cooks expressed some frustration with his role in the Saints offense on social media following a victory in which he was held without a reception or target. The third-year receiver's gripe seemed to be financially motivated, writing, "They tell you it's a business. Well I guess I have to turn into a businessman."
The conclusion we can draw from that is Cooks is looking for a long-term extension sooner rather than later. Although, technically, he's under contract for 2017 and has a club option for 2018, the reality is either the Titans or Eagles would have to get right to work on a new deal.
In other words, this isn't simply a matter of trading a pick and acquiring a great talent for cheap. The Eagles are going to pay him, too, and based on the money wide receivers command these days, we're talking upwards of $11-12 million per year.
That doesn't make a swap a bad idea. Cooks is only 24 and one of the best, young wideouts potentially available. Over the past two seasons, he's averaged 81 receptions, 1,156 yards receiving and 8.5 touchdowns. More importantly, Cooks could be the deep threat the Eagles so desperately need, with 14 touchdowns catches of 20 yards or more in three NFL seasons and 8 over 40 yards.
The Eagles were believed to have interest in Cooks in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft as well, only to watch the Saints to trade up two spots ahead and snag him.
All of which is why it's difficult to imagine the Saints parting with Cooks for less than their investment. His value certainly hasn't decreased, and if anything, he's worth more than the first and third they paid to go get him.
That's also why the Titans are probably more likely to land Cooks.
The logistics behind this line of thinking are simple. First, the Titans have two first-round choices in their possession for the upcoming draft, opening up a world of possibilities – they could swap the No. 5 pick for the Saints' No. 11, or swap No. 18 straight up for Cooks. Second, the Titans are a whopping $61 million under the salary cap, so they can easily afford to hand out the extension Cooks wants.
The Eagles have one first-round pick, either No. 14 or 15 depending on the result of a coin flip, and giving that up for a receiver when there are many quality options headed to free agency could be cost prohibitive. Second, currently at only $8.7 million under the cap, paying any top-tier receiver looks like a problem.
The Eagles can come up with the cash needed if they want, but the Titans are still the more attractive option for Cooks. The larger issue is the Titans can outbid the Eagles quite easily regardless.
This is absolutely the kind of move the Eagles absolutely should explore and have been since last year. They traded for Dorial Green-Beckham and reportedly discussed dealing for San Francisco 49ers wideout Torrey Smith. The motivation is there.
Yet those moves weren't costing a first-round pick, which the Eagles also so desperately need. When it comes down to it, they really can't afford Cooks, not when Alshon Jeffery, Kenny Stills, Pierre Garcon, Terrelle Pryor, Brandon Marshall and DeSean Jackson are just a handful of the options in free agency.
Look at it this way. Assuming the Titans do trade for Cooks, that's one last team to drive up bidding on the open market.
Rating the Rumor: Exciting possibility, but ultimately outgunned