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Patriots trade Brandin Cooks to the Rams for 1st-round pick. Why this makes sense for both teams

Brandin Cooks helped the Patriots get to Super Bowl 52, but now he’s headed to another contender.

NFL: Super Bowl LII-Philadelphia Eagles vs New England Patriots Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots gave up a first-round pick to get Brandin Cooks a year ago. But that proved to be just a one-year rental, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the Patriots flipped the receiver for the same return by trading him to the Los Angeles Rams for a first-round pick and a swap of Day 3 selections.

Cooks, 24, was a first-round pick for New Orleans Saints in 2014 and quickly emerged as one of the NFL’s most dangerous deep threats. He has eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in each of the last three seasons with 20 touchdowns over that span. In his one season in New England, Cooks had 65 receptions for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns.

Why did the Patriots make this trade?

New England is notoriously thrifty and always on the hunt for value. A year ago, the team traded away the No. 32 pick and a third-round selection to the Saints for Cooks.

While he wasn’t a disappointment for the Patriots, the No. 23 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft is a high price tag for Cooks and New England can feel good about the return. It’s also an impressive haul for the Patriots considering Cooks was set to play 2018 on the fifth-year option of his rookie deal before hitting free agency in 2019.

By keeping Cooks, the Patriots likely would’ve been looking at a lucrative contract extension or the franchise tag.

The Patriots have a history of avoiding big contracts for receivers and did so again by getting a first-round pick for Cooks. Despite a productive season with the AFC Champs, he still wasn’t considered a No. 1 receiver by the Patriots, according to Ian Rapoport, thus an even greater reluctance to extend his contract.

There were rumors that Rob Gronkowski could be on the trading block, but that appears even more unlikely now that the Patriots are down a weapon.

With Cooks gone, the Patriots have a hole at receiver. But what may be most interesting about the acquisition of the No. 23 pick is how it better sets up New England to identify and draft a quarterback of the future. With another pick at No. 31 overall, the Patriots are in good shape to find Tom Brady’s eventual replacement.

Why did the Rams make this trade?

The Rams are all in on a Super Bowl run. That much was clear long before this deal and now it’s even more obvious.

Earlier in the offseason, the Rams made trades to acquire Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, and the team signed Ndamukong Suh in free agency. Now the offense will get a little spice after losing Sammy Watkins.

A year ago, the Rams traded away a second-round pick and cornerback E.J. Gaines to acquire Watkins. But the receiver finished the year with just 39 receptions for 593 yards, though he was a valuable deep threat with a team-leading eight receiving touchdowns.

Cooks has already spent time this offseason, before the trade, catching passes from Jared Goff, so there’s a familiarity established.

If Cooks plays the same way he has in New Orleans and New England, he’ll be an upgrade for an offense that was already No. 1 in the NFL in points scored. The Rams love to throw deep and Cooks is one of the best in the league at hauling in long passes. Los Angeles was reportedly interested in Odell Beckham, Jr. and fill that need by acquiring Cooks.

By trading away a first-round pick, the Rams don’t have any picks until they’re on the clock at No. 83 in the third round. But Cooks is still just 24, so it’s hardly a move that is mortgaging the team’s future, so long as he is extended and kept in Los Angeles. Reportedly, that is the plan.

The Rams felt that Cooks was more of an impact player than anyone they could draft with the 23rd pick. Money is running tight for the Rams, but having too many good players to pay is a problem many teams would prefer.