Payton says Cooks wasn't dealt to Patriots because he was disgruntled

Payton says Cooks wasn't dealt to Patriots because he was disgruntled

PHOENIX -- Sean Payton went out of his way to tell Brandin Cooks that the Saints weren't looking to trade him. Then when the Patriots offered their pick at the bottom of the first round of this year's draft, there was a change of heart. 


The Saints ended up dealing their dynamic 23-year-old wideout and a fourth-round pick to New England for the No. 32 overall pick and a third-rounder.

"We spoke to a few teams, and we weren't in a position where we felt like we gotta make this trade or else," Payton said during the NFC coaches breakfast at the Arizona Biltmore on Wednesday morning. "It was the opposite actually. I had a couple conversations with him, saying, 'This . . . isn't going to happen. We're not interested in just looking to do this.'

"But when we were able to do a deal with New England, which involved a first-round pick, third-round pick, we felt that was significant. We did feel like it was a way to help our team, particularly our defense. Those picks specifically, you don't know how the draft falls, but they're getting a real good player and someone that was obviously good for us."

Cooks has performed as one of the most productive players at his position since joining the Saints as their first-round pick in 2014, and he is one of just three players to record 75 catches, 1,000 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in each of the last two seasons, joining Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr.

There have been, however, some hints that Cooks was unhappy during his time in New Orleans -- particularly recently. On a conference call with Patriots reporters following the trade, he indicated that he hoped he'd be able to do things in Josh McDaniels' offense that he wasn't able to do in Payton's. And after a blowout win over the Rams last year, during which Cooks didn't see a single target, he said, "Closed mouths don't get fed."

Still, Payton said Cooks wasn't dealt because he was disgruntled.

"For sure, he wasn't a player that we went out and said, 'Hey, we're shopping this player.' But when someone calls on a player you obviously take the call and listen to what they have to say," Payton explained. "I've said this a number of times: Working with him, he's not a kid, but he's fantastic in regards to his approach. Never at any time was he upset or unhappy.

"I think a little bit of last season, after [the Rams] game, his agent, you know, was a little disappointed, if you will. He didn't have the produciton in the game. Mind you, we had just finished scoring 49 points and beating a team. But to Brandin's credit, he was smart enough to see the season he was having. So he signed and got with another agent when this offseason began."

Though Payton clearly was happy with the return the Saints received for Cooks, he indicated that he was not necessarily resigned to picking at No. 32. Perhaps it could become available in a trade.

"It'd be hard to say, well we're just going to sit at No. 32," Payton said. "You do have some flexibility. I think, overall, having five picks in the first 103 picks provides that flexibility as well where you can certainly move up or move back. But we felt like there was some depth at certain positions in this draft, and we were trying to get a little fire power or ammo in those first 100, 103 picks was important." 

'Leprechaun' Gronk dropping more hints about future plans - sort of

'Leprechaun' Gronk dropping more hints about future plans - sort of

Rob Gronkowski, decked out in his finest St. Patrick's Day duds over the weekend in Nashville, reportedly tried to shed some light on his NFL future.

Of course, while Gronk was doing Gronk things, he told a Patriots fan one thing and a reporter another.

Breech is an NFL writer for His father is former Cincinnati Bengals kicker Jim Breech. And the "69ers" aren't a real team.


AFC East is starting to prepare for post-Brady life

AFC East is starting to prepare for post-Brady life

The Patriots' "direction" never really changes. They're always "going for it" because they're always one of the best teams in the league. 

The rest of the AFC East is usually in flux. The other teams range from hoping for 8-8 to trying to bottom out in hopes of a high draft pick. Yet right now, it seems the stars are aligning and that the Jets, Bills and Dolphins all have the mindset: Change things now and be ready to pounce once Brady is gone. 

The Jets traded up to No. 3 on Saturday, assuring themselves a chance at one of this draft's top quarterbacks. The Bills, with picks Nos. 12 and 22, are expected by pundits to make a similar move up. The Dolphins, fresh off cutting bait with Ndamukong Suh in an attempt at a culture change, have the 11th pick and could use it on a quarterback to either push or replace Ryan Tannehill. 

None of the three teams are close to pushing the Patriots as long as Brady's around, even with the Bills coming off a season in which they reached the playoffs. Yet there's a two-or-three-year plan on which all three teams could have designs: Get the quarterback now, build around him and be in a good situation by the time Brady is done. 

We've seen these teams try to rebuild before during the Brady Era, with only limited success. Mark Sanchez worked out better in New York than anyone could have initially expected, but that success lasted way shorter than any believers could have hoped. Now, it seems they try again. 

Over in Buffalo, the end of the Tyrod Taylor era hardly means the beginning of the Nathan Peterman era. Those two first-rounders should easily be able to get the Bills into the top five, and they've also got two second-rounders and two third-rounders. Hell, they have the pieces to get to No. 1 if Cleveland is bold enough to pass on their choice of Darnold/Rosen/Allen/Mayfield. 

The Dolphins are in the more interesting spot. Tannehill missed all of last season and he's 29. If you're six years into your career and your team still isn't totally sure if you can be one of the better QBs in the league, you probably aren't one of the better QBs in the league. At the very least, Lamar Jackson should be there at No. 11. They could also trade up. 

At the start of last season, the Patriots had far and away the two best QBs in the AFC East. Now, it stands to reason that at least two of their divisional opponents (the Jets and Bills) will come away with what they hope are franchise quarterbacks. And if any of these guys hit, the Pats will have gone from the best QB situation in the NFL to seeing some actual competition waiting for them by the time their own quarterback is done. 

Of course, all three of these teams usually suck at everything, so it shouldn't be a big deal.