HOUSTON – Brandin Cooks is one of the most dynamic and fastest wide receivers in the NFL.
The veteran Texans starter is also one of the most frequently traded players in league history.
The former New Orleans Saints first-round draft pick has been traded three times previously, including a transaction in 2020 during which he was dealt from the Los Angeles Rams along with a fourth-round draft selection in exchange for the Texans’ second-round draft pick that year.
Could Cooks wind up tying the NFL all-time record Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson with a fourth trade?
Cooks’ trade scenarios remain unclear with a league source predicting he’ll ultimately remain with the Texans as the Nov. 2 trade deadline approaches, barring an extremely competitive offer for the former Oregon State standout.
That isn’t from lack of interest, though. Cooks has been the subject of multiple trade inquiries, including the Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs and the Rams. Nothing has advanced into anything that could be characterized as developing at this time heading into next Tuesday’s deadline.
All of those teams could use an established, speedy wide receiver like Cooks (4.33 speed in the 40-yard dash).
So can the Texans, though.
Cooks, 29, is the Texans’ most experienced and dangerous wide receiver.
He’s also a strong team leader frequently cited by the coaching staff for the example he sets with his work ethic and professionalism.
This season, his production is down for the 1-4-1 Texans head into Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans.
He has 28 receptions for 281 yards and one touchdown on a team-high 47 targets, setting a pace for 79 receptions and 796 yards for the season after catching 90 passes for 1,037 yards on 134 targets last season and then signing a two-year, $39.6 million contract extension during the offseason.
There have been times when quarterback Davis Mills and Cooks have appeared out of sync.
Some of that appears to be a function of Mills’ growing pains and progressions as he looks at multiple reads and progressions and has increased the involvement of second-year wide receiver Nico Collins and tight end Jordan Akins on third downs. Mills is coming off his best game, and Cooks caught four passes for 46 yards on five targets during a 38-20 road loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.
In offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton’s offense, Mills is asked to do more this year and isn’t primarily looking at Cooks as his first and only read as he did as a rookie last year.
Cooks has a close relationship with former Texans executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby, who’s no longer with the team.
After being asked about Easterby’s departure from the AFC South franchise, Cooks expressed confidence recently in the job Texans general manager Nick Caserio has been doing.
“Nick, we all know, in my opinion, is one of the best GM’s in this game,” Cooks said. “Starting off in his first couple of years, I think he’s been able to show that with his draft picks, this year, last year. Fully trust him moving forward whatever that looks like. That’s his job as far as putting guys in place, players in place, to be able to help this team win.
“There’s no doubt in my mind he’ll do that on however that looks. We’ve got a full trust and confidence in him. I got a lot of respect for Nick. Dating back to our relationship as well, I’ve got a lot of love for him regardless of the fact.”
Cooks and former Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil are arguably the Texans’ top two players along with rookie running back Dameon Pierce. Unloading Cooks makes them a less competitive team as they continue to try to build their roster.
Financially, the Texans would take on $8.782 million in dead money this year and $16.22 million in dead money in 2023 if they traded Cooks. They would net just $967,533 in net cap savings immediately this year and $10.398 million in 2023.
The Texans already restructured Cooks’ contract in September, converting $831,11 of his $2 million base salary into a signing bonus to create $554,000 in immediate salary cap savings.
Cooks’ base salary is now $1.12 million after playing one game at the $2 million rate.
He signed a two-year, $39 million contract extension in April that included $36 million guaranteed and a maximum annual value of nearly $19.8 million, rewarding him as one of the top wide receivers in the league.
That included a $16 million signing bonus.
A year ago, the Texans restructured Cooks’ five-year, $81 million contract, creating $7 million in salary cap space by paying him a $10 million signing bonus and adding voidable years to the deal.
As for the extensive trade history, Cooks was previously traded from the Saints to the New England Patriots in 2017 along with a fourth-round pick in exchange for a first-round draft pick and a third-round draft pick. Then, the Patriots sent Cooks to the Rams with a fourth-round draft pick for a first-round draft pick and a sixth-round draft pick.
He recorded 171 receptions for 2,187 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first two seasons since the Texans acquired him from the Rams.
Cooks has caught 601 career passes for 8,198 yards and 47 touchdowns.
Aaron Wilson is a contributor to KPRC 2 and click2houston.com.