From Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins to Trent Brown and Ted Karras, this already has been a year full of reunions for the New England Patriots.
Could a certain speedy wide receiver join that list in the coming days?
Brandin Cooks, who played for the Patriots in 2017, currently is a member of the rebuilding Houston Texans. And based on his social media activity, he isn’t pleased with the direction his cellar-dwelling franchise is taking.
On Wednesday, the 1-6 Texans traded respected running back Mark Ingram to the New Orleans Saints. With a roster full of mid-level veterans on short-term deals, Houston always was expected to be a seller ahead of next Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline. But the Ingram deal evidently infuriated Cooks.
“This is (BS),” the wideout tweeted shortly after news of the trade broke. “Such a joke.”
According to multiple reports, the Texans view Cooks and left tackle Laremy Tunsil as building blocks and aren’t planning to trade either. But if that stance changes — or Cooks’ unhappiness forces general manager Nick Caserio’s hand — the 28-year-old could be a worthwhile target for the Patriots.
Cooks was a productive deep threat during his lone season in New England, catching 65 passes for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns for a Patriots team that lost in Super Bowl LII. His 16.6 yards-per-catch average that year was the best of his career and a mark only one Patriots wideout (Josh Gordon in 2018) has matched since.
Would there be some redundancy with Nelson Agholor, whom the Patriots signed to a two-year, $22 million contract this past offseason? Perhaps. But New England could accommodate both in its offense, and Cooks would be a clear upgrade over N’Keal Harry, who has just three catches in four games this season as the Pats’ No. 4 receiver. With 4.33 speed, he’d also inject more pace into a Patriots offense that ranked the NFL’s eighth-slowest in a recent ESPN study.
(Not that he would have any say in his next destination, but Cooks has spoken fondly about his time with New England, saying earlier this year that it was “one of my favorite places that I’ve ever played.”)
Cooks, who’s tallied 1,000-yard seasons for four different clubs, is in the midst of another productive campaign, posting a 45-502-1 receiving line for a terrible Houston team that’s been blown out in three of its last four games.
“(He’s) probably targeted as much as any receiver in the league, and he’s dangerous on everything,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said before his team’s Week 5 win over the Texans. “Obviously, he has tremendous speed. Great deep-ball player. Super competitive, tough kid. Runs the intermediate routes. A catch-and-run player. Quick screens. Underneath routes. He gets a step on a guy, and he can turn a 5-yard gain into 20 in a hurry.”
And thanks to an offseason contract restructure, Cooks is set to make just $1.5 million in salary over the final 11 weeks of the season, making him an extremely affordable trade target. The Patriots currently have roughly $2.9 million in available salary cap space, according to cap expert Miguel Benzan.
Cooks would be on the books for about $13.7 million next season, though, so there are some future financial implications to consider. And the Patriots, who are beginning to develop an identity as a formidable rushing outfit, aren’t in desperate need of an upgrade at wideout.
Jakobi Meyers, Agholor and Kendrick Bourne are a respectable top trio, even if Agholor has underperformed his contract to this point. Tight end Hunter Henry also has emerged as a legit pass-game weapon with four touchdown catches in the last four games, and the disappointing Jonnu Smith was in the midst of his most productive game to date Sunday before a shoulder injury shelved him.
But if the Patriots are eyeing an upgrade, and New England alum Caserio would be willing to sell Cooks for a reasonable price — say, a mid-round pick and Harry? — he’d be a logical addition.