Houston Texans, Los Angeles Rams

So who really won the Brandin Cooks trade?

The deal is easiest to criticize on one end, but who really won the Brandin Cooks trade?

Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien has offered plenty of fodder for criticism due to the work he’s done as general manager. That is centered on trading DeAndre Hopkins for far below his value, and last week he acquired Brandin Cooks from the Los Angeles Rams to become the team’s new No. 1 wide receiver.

On one hand, the Texans have a wide receiver who posted four straight 1,000-yard seasons from 2015-2018. But Cooks suffered the fourth and fifth documented concussions of his six-year career last year, and thus is coming off a poor season (42 receptions for 583 yards and two touchdowns).

Cooks is also in the middle of a five-year, $81 million contract he signed with the Rams. He has cap hits of $12 million, $13 million and $14 million over the three seasons after this one, but it should be noted the dead money hit for cutting him goes to zero in 2021.

The Texans acquired a 2022 fourth-round pick along with Cooks, as they sent a second-round pick this year (No. 57 overall) to the Rams. Using the famed trade value chart created by Jimmy Johnson (h/t to Pro Football Reference), the 57th pick is worth 330 points and the first pick in the fourth round is worth 116 points this year. But that of course leaves out where Cooks, as a proven commodity who has now been traded three times, fits in value-wise.

Let’s look at the bare bones of the Brandin Cooks trade, then declare a winner.

The Texans Get:

Brandin Cooks
An $8 million cap hit for 2020 (Cooks’ fully guaranteed salary)

The ability to escape the remainder of Cooks’ contract any time after this year, with no dead money

A fourth-round pick in 2022

The Rams Get:

An extra second-round pick in this year’s draft

$21.8 million in dead money

There’s no defense for effectively swapping Hopkins for Cooks, and that’s what Houston has done. And that second-round pick would have provided an opportunity to take someone from a deep wide receiver class, at a far lower cost than Cooks will have this year.

That said, declaring a winner of the Cooks trade really boils down to tangible money.

The Texans have taken an inescapable $8 million onto their the books this year, with nothing committed to Cooks after that unless they want to. The Rams, as a consequence of trading Cooks when they did, are literally absorbing a record chunk of dead money for a single year. The end-game value and ultimate impact of that extra second-round pick is to be determined.

Leaving aside the broad picture of the trades O’Brien has made, as difficult (or impossible) as it is to do, the Cooks trade is not as massive a loss as it seems to be when looked at on its own. Both sides ultimately get grades in the C range, all things considered.

Texans Trade Grade: C
Rams Trade Grade: C-

Next: The Texans are having the worst offseason anybody can remember

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