Patriots shipping Cooks to Rams, sources say

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots are trading receiver Brandin Cooks and a 2018 fourth-round pick to the Los Angeles Rams for the 23rd overall pick in the draft and a sixth-rounder, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The deal helps both teams in different ways.

The Rams — who had explored a trade for Odell Beckham Jr. but liked the Cooks option better — were seeking a vertical threat for second-year coach Sean McVay’s dynamic offense after Sammy Watkins joined the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency.

  • Trading Brandin Cooks, a player they were unlikely to re-sign in 2019, allows the Patriots to load up on draft picks and long-term assets.

  • The Patriots acquired the 23rd overall pick — their second in the first round — in exchange for Brandin Cooks. Could they be getting ready to move up the board for the next Jimmy Garoppolo?

  • Is Johnny Manziel too risky for the Patriots to consider? What spots should they focus on in the draft? Patriots reporter Mike Reiss provides the answers.

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The speedy Cooks, who totaled 65 receptions for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns for the Patriots last season, fills that void alongside Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Cooks had 16 receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield last season, tied with DeAndre Hopkins for most in the NFL.

Cooks had made a strong impression on many in New England after the team acquired him last offseason from the New Orleans Saints for a package that included the Patriots’ first-round pick (No. 32 overall), but he was entering the final year of his contract (due to earn $ 8.459 million) at a time when salaries for top pass-catchers have skyrocketed.

In trading Cooks, the Patriots were likely balancing the chances of re-signing him in 2019 while also working to accumulate assets at a time when quarterback Tom Brady turns 41 in August and tight end Rob Gronkowski appears to be on a year-to-year plan in terms of how much longer he will play.

The Patriots, who hope to sustain success as some of their star players enter the final stages of their careers, now have two first-round picks (No. 23, 31) and two second-rounders (No. 43, 63), along with a third-rounder (95), two sixth-rounders and a seventh-rounder this year.

As for their wide receiver depth chart, it is still well stocked with Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Malcolm Mitchell, Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley McCarron and Cody Hollister, although the club will miss Cooks’ blazing speed and durability, as he played 92.7 percent of the offensive snaps in the regular season and coach Bill Belichick said he never missed a practice.

Cooks had 10 catches for 155 yards in the postseason before being knocked out of the team’s Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles with a concussion in the second quarter.

The 24-year-old Cooks, who entered the NFL as a first-round draft choice of the Saints in 2014, is the latest star acquisition for the Rams this offseason. They previously traded for cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, then signed defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, whom they will introduce to the media Wednesday.

The Rams will be without a first-round pick for the second consecutive year. They were hoping to use this year’s pick to help address drastic needs at linebacker.

The 23rd overall pick will be the Patriots’ highest in the draft since 2012, when they selected Chandler Jones 21st overall. In addition, they now have two first-round picks in the same draft for the third time under Belichick. In 2012, they selected Jones and Dont’a Hightower. In 2004, they took Vince Wilfork and Benjamin Watson. Rams reporter Alden Gonzalez contributed to this report. – NFL

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