NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Thursday that Cooks is drawing interest during this week’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen also noted that both the Titans and Eagles have been identified as interested suitors.
Rapoport first reported in December that “Cooks’ frustration with his role in the offense led some to wonder if this is the best system for his talents, something the Saints likely will explore in the offseason.”
Saints head coach Sean Payton spoke to the team’s official website about the Cooks trade talk.
“Brandin is someone who we value tremendously in our system. He’s been extremely productive. He’s everything we were wanting when we drafted him,” Payton said. “These news items come up and there are a lot of meetings that take place here. I wouldn’t say he’s on the trade block, but certainly when a team calls — a team that’s looking for a receiver and we’re looking to improve our defense — we’re always listening.
“I know Mickey (Loomis) has probably spoken to a handful of GMs or presidents with other teams. Right now, I’m comfortable, we’re comfortable with him in a Saints uniform, and we think the world of him and his skill set. It would have to be something real significant. That’s part of being at the combine and that’s one of the things that takes place down here and that news certainly spreads quicker now than it would ten years ago.”
Cooks spent portions of last year unhappy about his diminished role in the attack, but the fourth-year receiver still wound up with 78 catches for 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns, down just six catches from 2015. His overall targets dropped from 129 two seasons ago to 117 in 2016, but Cooks is part of a crowded house at the receiver position.
Second-year pass-catcher Michael Thomas is a sensational talent and Willie Snead also thrived last season. Trading away Cooks comes with the risk of finding his replacement, but New Orleans could certainly net a valuable draft pick in a swap.
As for the Titans and Eagles, they line up as super-logical landing spots for Cooks. He’d immediately morph into a featured target in either offense while giving Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota or Philly’s Carson Wentz a new best friend.
For teams looking for a sure thing over drafting a developmental prospect, Cooks has emerged as a juicy offseason option.