While in search of a wide receiver to bolster a unit with Hunter Renfrow and Bryan Edwards, the Las Vegas Raiders need speed and more productivity on the perimeter. They can find that player on the trade market for a decent price.
On Monday, Michael Ginnitti of Spotrac (h/t Lance Zierlein of NFL.com) floated the thought that the Houston Texans will likely move three players in the offseason.
Among the three players, the Raiders would have the most interest in Cooks because of their need at wide receiver.
Don’t expect general manager Dave Ziegler to inquire about quarterback Deshaun Watson, who still has an unsettled future with 22 civil lawsuits and 10 criminal complaints from women alleging sexual assault on the signal caller’s part. Vegas just signed left tackle Kolton Miller to a three-year extension worth approximately $54 million. Laremy Tunsil has played in that same position for most of his career.
The Raiders’ new regime knows Cooks well. The New England Patriots acquired him with a fourth-round pick from the New Orleans Saints in exchange for a first- and a third-round selection in 2017. In the following campaign, he led the Patriots in targets (114) and ranked second among the club’s pass-catchers in catches (65), receiving yards (1,082) and touchdown receptions (seven).
Only three weeks into Cooks’ tenure with the Patriots, McDaniels had a glowing assessment of what the wideout brought to the field and the locker room.
“Cookie [Brandin Cooks] – he’s got a great attitude,” McDaniels said to reporters. “He’s a great competitor, he cares about doing things the right way, he’s a great teammate, he’s very smart, he’s got a great work ethic, he’s been out there every single day since we got him. So, this guy loves the game of football, practices hard, plays hard, will do whatever you ask him to do to help the team win and has been a tremendous addition to our team and to our wide receiver group.”
Based on McDaniels’ thoughts about Cooks back in 2017, the Raiders’ new head coach may make an attempt to bring the wideout into the fold because of his production within the scheme and leadership by example.
As he did with the Saints, Cooks quickly became a primary option in the Patriots’ passing game under McDaniels, who coordinated the second-ranked aerial attack in yards that year. In 2017, quarterback Tom Brady had a solid one-two combo on the perimeter with Cooks and tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Naturally, Cooks would fit in the Raiders’ offense under McDaniels in Vegas. More importantly, the eighth-year pro has a track record of consistency. He’s registered at least 65 catches and 1,037 receiving yards in six out of eight seasons with four different teams.
On one hand, general managers haven’t kept Cooks in their long-term plans, but he’s been effective at every stop in his career, catching passes from Drew Brees, Brady, Jared Goff, Deshaun Watson, Tyrod Taylor and a rookie in Davis Mills. The 28-year-old shouldn’t have an issue building a rapport with Derek Carr, who’s completed at least 67.3% of his pass attempts in each of the past four years.
Last season, with Taylor and Mills as his primary quarterbacks, Cooks averaged a career-high 16.6 yards per reception. He stretched the field and added yards after the catch in the short-to-intermediate passing game. The savvy veteran wideout finished with an ADOT (average depth of target) of 11.8 (tied for 44th leaguewide) and 350 in YAC (yards after the catch), which tied for 36th across the league.
Cooks isn’t the star that Raiders fans pine for when they dream about Davante Adams, but McDaniels hasn’t needed an elite wide receiver set for a massive pay raise to field a productive passing attack. Cooks has a solid resume and knows the system, which is enough to put him on the Raiders’ radar if he’s available.
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Financial and draft costs of the Las Vegas Raiders trading for Brandin Cooks
Of course, the Raiders would have to pay a fair cost to acquire Cooks from the Texans, so let’s take a look at his current contract.
Cooks’ deal will void at the end of the 2022 campaign. He’s on Houston’s books with a $16.2 million cap hit next season. If the Texans trade him, they would hold $7.5 million in dead cap while the team acquiring him takes on the remaining $8.7 million, per Over the Cap.
Though Cooks will head into a contract year, essentially making him a short-term rental barring an extension, Vegas would pay far less for him than comparable top three agents on the open market. Allen Robinson II, Mike Williams, DJ Chark Jr. and Christian Kirk will all command salaries that average more than $11 million per year. Even receivers going into the offseason on the mend, Chris Godwin (torn ACL) and Michael Gallup (torn ACL) could sign long-term deals that put their AAV (average annual value) in the upper echelon of the market.
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In April of 2020, the Texans sent a second-round pick to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for Cooks and a 2022 fourth-round pick. Based on Bill O’Brien’s highly questionable moves as a general manager (2019-2020), let’s assume the Texans overcompensated in that transaction. Two years later, the Raiders may be able to acquire the veteran wideout with a fourth-round pick (No. 124 overall) since he’s in the last year of his contract.
At a manageable price and possibly available for a fourth-round pick, Cooks would land on the trade block as an appealing target—not just for the Las Vegas Raiders but several teams in need of a boost at wide receiver especially clubs with a fair amount of cap space such as the Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Washington Commanders, Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions.
Perhaps Cooks’ familiarity with McDaniels offense and the thought of playing with Carr compared to the quarterbacks of the aforementioned teams draw him to Vegas. Though he accumulated a career-high 1,204 receiving yards with Goff in 2018, the Raiders just went to the playoffs with a 10-7 record while the Lions finished with the league’s second-worst record (3-13-1). If he wants to play meaningful games in January, Vegas has a much better shot to do that than Detroit in 2022.
From a Las Vegas Raiders’ perspective, Brandin Cooks can start on the perimeter ahead of a rookie understudy for a well-rounded wide receiver unit, giving Carr another reliable playmaker alongside Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller.
Maurice Moton covers the Raiders for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @MoeMoton.