Today's stream of consciousness stems from the reports that Brandin Cooks, that twitchy wide receiver you see run amok on defenses so often, wants out of New Orleans and is pushing for a trade.
First thing that crossed my mind was how great of a fit he’d be in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, and what a rare opportunity was presented to the 49ers new head coach and first-year GM John Lynch. The team had already been exploring sinking money into an outside receiver, as multiple reports have them as the top suitor for Alshon Jeffrey, arguably the most coveted playmaker or even free agent in 2017.
The team currently has one veteran, Torrey Smith, and he’s earning $8M per year.
I like Smith. I imagine if he stays aboard, he’ll have a bounce-back year in 2017, and I don’t even know who is going to be quarterbacking for the team yet. But, if the club is truly ready to pay up for a big-time receiver, and one with similar base traits as Smith, the 49ers should find a way out of Smith’s contract and acquire Cooks.
This would allow the 49ers a chance to unload a couple “name” players that maybe the new regime isn’t planning to build around.
Cut candidates like Ahmad Brooks, Antoine Bethea or even Eric Reid, could be dangled and eventually included in a trade for Cooks. Sean Payton already loosely mentioned that defensive players would sweeten the deal. And with Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward in house, and a potential addition in Malik Hooker or Jamal Adams, the two current starting safeties become expendable.
I’m not sure how the mechanics of the deal would work, it could go several ways. But say Reid and Smith, and a swap of Nos. 2 and 11 might do it. The Niners would unload two veterans, including a $40M contract, and could essentially replace Reid and Smith for the best player available at No. 11 and Brandin Cooks. An upgrade. And if it’s not a safety like Hooker or Adams, it could be Reuben Foster or another surprise drop. And the Saints would get three starters back, including a top five pick in 2017.
Both teams could win here.
They need to unload Cooks before he walks as a free agent and they get nothing back - because he clearly won't sign a long-term deal with New Orleans. And it's unlikely the Saints would receive a better package than the example we offered up here.
And for the 49ers, the bottom line is Cooks is younger, far more explosive and also more reliable than both Jeffrey and Smith, which is why they should explore this and see if they can cut a deal. Given that Cooks is a complete receiver at 23 years old, it would be a smart move for the future.
Hero image courtesy Derek Hingle (USATSI)