Brandin Cooks’ best escape route from Houston is to work with the Texans
Brandin Cooks is trapped in quicksand.
The former New Orleans Saints 2014 first-round pick has spent the last three seasons — of his prime no less — playing for a floundering, rebuilding Houston Texans team that ostensibly has found its direction with new coach DeMeco Ryans. Cooks went from playing for Super Bowl contenders to a team that posted double-digit losses for three straight seasons.
Cooks dutifully produced1,000-yard receiving seasons in his first two years with the 2021 campaign the most impressive given Houston’s struggles at quarterback. The former Oregon State product was also a model for younger players in the receivers room and throughout the locker room. The circumstances just didn’t seem to affect Cooks’ pursuit of excellence.
The last season with Lovie Smith putting in his one-year tenure as coach affected Cooks’ morale. When it appeared Cooks had an exit from Houston’s one-win nightmare at the trade deadline, the pathway disintegrated and the 29-year-old was trapped with the Texans.
Cooks is sinking and he is struggling to get out. However, the best way to escape quicksand is to move slowly, not thrash around as it causes one to sink deeper.
It is hard to fault Cooks for not wanting to be a part of another rebuild. Here are his courses of action to get out of Houston.
Force a cut or trade in time for free agency
(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
If the Texans outright release Cooks, according to Over The Cap, it will hang as $34.2 million in dead money against their salary cap, costing their cap a little over $7.7 million. There isn’t any advantage for the Texans.
The 2024 salary cap would also have $8.1 million in dead money but with $16.5 million in salary cap savings.
A trade might be better as Houston would have just $16.2 million in dead money against the salary cap for 2023 and a little over $10.2 million in salary cap saved. The 2024 salary cap figures would remain the same.
Force a trade or cut after June 1
(AP Photo/Matt Patterson)
After June 1, which would be during voluntary organized team activities, Cooks would cost Houston $26.1 million in dead money against the salary cap if they outright released him and $382,353 in 2023 salary cap savings.
Just as would be the case in the pre-June 1 scenarios, the 2024 salary cap would also have $8.1 million in dead money but with $16.5 million in salary cap savings.
Where the Texans and Cooks may find a mutually beneficial exit is a post-June 1 trade. Cooks would cost $8.1 million in dead money against the salary cap with $18.38 million in 2023 salary cap saved. The 2024 salary cap figures from earlier would also apply here.
Why this move may be riskier for Cooks is he would have less say about where he is going. One would figure any team trading for Cooks would be contending and felt he was the missing piece, or replacement piece for an injured top-two wideout, to push the offense over the top.
Restructure and wait until 2023 trade deadline
(AP Photo/Justin Rex)
This course of action is akin to telling the dealer to “hit me” while sitting at 19 in blackjack with a huge payout.
Cooks could restructure with the Texans and save the club $8,417,500 against the 2023 salary cap.
What that would mean is Houston brought Cooks’ 2023 cap hit from around $26.5 million to a little over $17.9 million by turning a majority of his $18 million guaranteed salary into a prorated bonus of over $16.7 million. It makes Cooks very tradable, which could also be a bad thing as Houston could ship him to another rebuild for premium picks. However, typically by the trade deadline, contenders are sending picks for contributors, not one-win dumpster fires.
Waiting would also reveal where exactly the Texans are under Ryans. Would Cooks want to leave Houston if they were a game above .500 by the trade deadline? Consider Cooks has never been a Texans team with a winning record at any point in his past three seasons.