Bill Belichick continued his active offseason this week by trading 1,000-yard receiver Brandin Cooks and a fourth-round pick to the Los Angeles Rams for first- and sixth-round picks. The trade allowed New England to recoup the first-round pick it surrendered a year earlier in order to acquire Cooks from New Orleans, and the deal was well-received in most circles.
But while the added first-round pick gives the Patriots even more flexibility in the draft, his departure does leave a hole to fill in terms of production. Cooks played in all 19 games a year ago and was by far the most durable of the Patriots pass catchers during the season. He finished the regular season with 65 catches for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns, and he also turned in a strong performance with six catches for 100 yards in the AFC title game win over Jacksonville.
While Cooks had some stretches of inconsistency and didn't always seem like a perfect fit with Tom Brady and the Patriots offense, he was productive and his absence could leave a void. The question is, how big will that void be?
And that brings us to this week's Samsonite Make Your Case question:
Are you concerned about the loss of Brandin Cooks' production?
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
I wasn't always the biggest Brandin Cooks fan but there's no question that he was productive last year and that production will need to be replaced somehow. At this stage of the offseason I don't see a lot of strong options to do that, especially in light of the injury history of many of the remaining wide receivers.
Cooks wasn't always on the same page as Tom Brady but he did consistently get open downfield and made several big plays, both on catches and while drawing key penalties. He and Antonio Brown are the only two receivers in football who have racked up 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns in each of the last three seasons. I don't feel confident that Phillip Dorsett, Kenny Britt or Cordarrelle Patterson can make those types of plays as consistently as Cooks did.
Brady has always been able to make it work almost regardless of who is throwing to, but Cooks' production will need to be replaced in order for the offense to remain as potent as we've come to expect.
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
You never want to lose productive players and Brandin Cooks, for all his faults, was a productive receiver in 2017. He made some plays down the field and provided another element to the offense. But I don't think what he did was anything special that can't be replicated.
It's unlikely that one receiver will piled up 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns in his place next season but I'm pretty confident that the passing game will finish with roughly the same numbers it produced last season. That might mean a different look to the offense with Julian Edelman returning and perhaps Malcolm Mitchell growing into a bigger role if healthy. Rob Gronkowski remains the focal point of the attack, and his presence alone ensures that Tom Brady will be as lethal as ever.
Cooks can fly and it doesn't look like the Patriots will have a receiver with his speed who can consistently make plays, but the group that remains will certainly be able to pick up the slack.