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Brandin Cooks Traded To New England
Sometimes where there's smoke there is actually some fire. In the wake of rumors the Saints might be willing to trade Brandin Cooks after the receiver complained about a lack of targets in a blowout loss to the Rams last November, we heard Sean Payton tell Sirius XM NFL Radio on February 21st that he "absolutely" expected the fleet-footed wideout to be back with the team in 2017.

It appears Payton has a different definition for the word "absolutely" or he's better at parsing than you and I, because the Patriots just acquired Cooks from New Orleans in exchange for their first- and third-round picks in this year's draft. New England also gets the Saints fourth round pick.

A first-round pick by the Saints in 2014, Cooks had eight touchdown catches last season and has 20 over his three-year career.

According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, one reason Cooks was traded now is he had a $781,599 roster bonus due on fifth day of league year -- Monday. That bonus is now New England's responsibility. In addition, the Pats will likely want to come up with a contract extension -- one that Sirius's Alex Marvez recently suggested would have to be "hefty."

But we're fantasy owners. The accounting isn't of concern to us.

What is of concern is what Cooks' arrival means in New England and what his departure means to the Saints.

For the Patriots, the addition of Cooks is huge. His high-end speed and ability to stretch the field will add another dimension to a passing attack that already makes life miserable for opposing defenses. While Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell are both viable enough deep threats, Cooks takes that to another level.

But he must do one thing to truly succeed in New England: Cooks has to earn the trust of Tom Brady -- something not everybody has done.

That means being exactly where Brady expects him to be exactly when the QB wants him to be there. Chad Ochocinco couldn't do it. Randy Moss did. Hogan did. Julian Edelman does it constantly. So does Rob Gronkowski.

Reports that Brady and Cooks are hitting stride early in OTAs and mini-camp would be music to fantasy owners’ ears. Remember, we heard similar reports about Hogan all the way through training camp. If Cooks can make a similar connection, he's going to be hard to slow down.

And even then there could still be issues.

As's Mike Florio suggested, "If Cooks thought he wasn’t getting the ball often enough in 2016 (when he caught 78 passes for 1,173 yards), we’ll see how he does when his do-your-job job consists in many cases of running deep and drawing the coverage away from Gronkowski, Edelman, etc."

In case you missed it, the trade for Cooks comes just two days after the Patriots acquired tight end Dwayne Allen from the Colts.

As for the Saints?

The remarkable rookie season posted by Michael Thomas and a solid connection between Drew Brees and Willie Snead had to be major factors in the club's willingness to let Cooks move on. In addition, the signing of former Panther Ted Ginn Jr. offers similar speed if not similar ability at a much cheaper price.

Bottom line? Don't expect a major dropoff for Brees or his top weapons this fall. It's just that Cooks won't be one of them.