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My previous article was discussing the possibility of the Green Bay Packers trading for Brandin Cooks. And I also wrote an article discussing the DeAndre Hopkins trade. Little did I know that both of these articles would become relevant in the most recent NFL trade.
The Los Angeles Rams traded wide receiver Brandin Cooks and a 2022 fourth-round pick to the Houston Texans for a second-round pick in this month’s NFL Draft. First, this works out for the Rams as they increased their draft capital. They are already loaded at wide receiver with Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Josh Reynolds and Cooks did not work well in this offense last season. And since the Rams do not have a first-round pick the next two drafts, the Rams badly needed higher-round picks and they now have two second-round picks in this upcoming draft. However, the Rams are paying $24.3 million for Cooks in the past year and for future seasons due to his contract bonuses that is all dead cap space for a team already with a low amount of cap space.
For the Rams, it’s a win as they upped their draft capital. For the Texans, they continue to lose this offseason as head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien continues his run of incompetency. Not only did he blow a 24-0 lead in the playoffs in ten minutes and fail to get full value when trading all-pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins but now he gives up a second-round pick for Cooks.
There are two issues with this. First, they have given up a superstar in DeAndre Hopkins because Bill O’Brien didn’t like him, and he wanted a pay raise. If you are going to justify that claim, then why spend over $20 million over the next two years on a declining running back in David Johnson, $27 million for the next three seasons on wide receiver Randall Cobb and $54 million on Cooks the next four seasons? Johnson has been inconsistent since his phenomenal 2016 season, Cobb has been decent at best since his stellar 2014 season and Cooks just came off his worst season. Hopkins has had three seasons with over 1,250 yards and double-digit touchdowns while Cooks and Cobb have combined for one (Cobb in 2014). For comparison, Hopkins will make $39.9 million the next three seasons. Hopkins had had stellar production and great chemistry with Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Replacing them with lesser players with expensive contracts is a questionable move. One example in sports where this did not work out was Real Madrid. In 2018, they lost soccer legend Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus and instead of replacing him with another superstar such as Kylian Mbappe, they replaced his production with a combination of Lucas Vasquez, Gareth Bale, Luka Jovic and Eden Hazard. Even with all those additions, Real Madrid has still not replaced Ronaldo’s production and went from winning the UEFA Champions League three years in a row to losing in the Round of 16.
Even when removing numbers from the equation, a similar situation exists with Houston, as Cooks does not fit in well with Houston’s offense. Last season, the Texans offense worked so well because they had balance. Running back Carlos Hyde enjoyed a bounce-back season and deep threat wide receiver Kenny Stills complemented the tall and physical Hopkins very well. Cooks is very similar to Stills in that they are both deep threat and explosive wide receivers. With Cobb in the slot, the Texans appear to have a deep wide receiver corp but the problem is there’s little balance. They don’t have that receiver that can win jump balls and catch passes in double coverage. If teams can take away the deep pass, the Texans’ offense may lose its rhythm. Losing Hopkins not only hurts their production and chemistry but it also takes away versatility on the offensive side.
Like I said after the Hopkins trade, it still could work out for Houston. Cooks with Cobb and Johnson could all work well in the offense and make it a new and explosive unit. But it is difficult to replace such an important player with multiple lesser pieces. Real Madrid did the same thing after losing Cristiano Ronaldo and they haven’t looked the same since. Bill O’Brien should have the hottest seat coming into this season and every move he has made this offseason will be watched very closely.