Here’s everything you need to know about Cowboys trading for Brandin Cooks

The Dallas Cowboys have been allergic to free agency over the last decade plus. Apparently nothing’s changed on that front and everyone knows the reasons why. Dallas looks at big signing bonuses and guaranteed money as rewards given to employees who have done great work for them. When the work has been done on other teams, they are less inclined to pay the going rate.

This offseason, though, they’ve finally realized that there is a third method of talent acquisition they’ve largely ignored. Dallas is in the veteran trade market. First they acquired cornerback Stephon Gilmore from Indianapolis for a comp fifth rounder. Now they are using late-round picks again in acquiring WR Brandin Cooks from the Houston Texans.


Contract, cap details

Cooks has two years, $35 million remaining on his contract including $18 million for this season. Dallas currently has a little over $21 million in cap space with another $11 million available once Ezekiel Elliott’s salary comes off the books in June.

The Texans are going to pick up $6 million of the $18 million, leaving Dallas with $12 million of salary and $500,000 in per game roster bonuses.

Because Cooks played 13 games last year, his cap hit is currently $12,382,353. Dallas can walk away from Cooks after this season and not have any dead money; none of his $16.5 million cap hit in 2024 is guaranteed.

There does remain the possibility Cooks’ new base salary is converted into bonus money so that he doesn’t use almost half of the current amount of space.

This can be done simply by adding two void years to the deal, allowing Dallas to shrink his base salary almost down to $1 million and spreading the other $11 million cap hit evenly across the four seasons. This would reduce his 2023 cap to under $3.75 million, leaving Dallas with over $17 million to remain available right now.

There are a myriad of variations to this type of move.

Who is Cooks?

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Cooks will turn 30 years old soon after the start of the 2023 season. A former first-round pick of New Orleans in 2024 he is well traveled across the league. However Cooks has performed will at literally every stop.

He’s had over 1,000 receiving yards in six of his nine seasons. He had two in three seasons with the Saints, then another in his only season in New England. He had another in his first year with the Rams, then after a down season ended up in Houston and once again gained 1,000.

Last season he gained 699 yards on 53 catches in 13 games played on a bad team with a bad QB situation.

When surrounded by elite talent

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Cooks, like most NFL players, has found himself in a myriad of situations. He’s produced everywhere he went, but when he’s surrounded by elite talent and doesn’t have to be the focal point of an offense is when he really thrives.

There’s been a handful of seasons when Cooks has been on a team with a top QB and the offense has had a primary weapon who outshined Cooks. When that happens, he’s been a remarkable second option.

That’s important, because he’ll have that in Dallas with Dak Prescott throwing to he and Lamb, with Tony Pollard out of the backfield. This is going to be the most diverse offense Cooks has been a part of.

In 2020 with Deshaun Watson as his quarterback and only Will Fuller to compliment him, Cooks turned in an 81 catch, 1,150 receiving yards, six touchdown season.

In 2018 with Jared Goff as his QB but in an offense with Todd Gurley as its centerpiece, Cooks hauled in 80 catches for 1,204 yards and five TDs with Robert Woods putting up similar numbers as his primary compliment.

In 2015 with Drew Brees as his QB and during Mark Ingram’s prime years he was able to thrive to the tune of 84 receptions, 1,138 yards and nine scores.

But the best comparison comes in Cooks’ 2016 season when he was joined by Michael Thomas. Despite Thomas getting 121 targets (compared to Cooks’ 117) 1,137 yards and nine TDs of his own, Cooks still checked in with 78 catches, 1,173 receiving yards (15.0 average) and eight scores of his own.

With Brees at the helm and Ingram checking in with almost 1,400 yards and 10 scores of his own, this is the grouping that most resembles the talent level Dallas is surrounding Cooks with. Of course, he has a lot more mileage on his tires now, but the circumstances offer the best comparison.


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Cooks stands just under 5-foot-10 and weighs around 185 pounds. He’s a speed demon, running a 4.33 second 40-yard dash at the combine in 2014. His 20-yard shuttle time of 3.81 seconds ranks in the 99th percentile of all time.

CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup ran 4.5 and 4.51 second 40s respectively.

In other words, he fits the speed merchant role the Cowboys severely lacked amongst their receivers in 2022.

Cooks is the deepest of deep threats, one of the league’s best. Over the past three seasons, he’s graded out as elite in deep routes.

2022: 99.5 out of 100
2021: 97.1
2020: 99.1

Additional Advanced Analytics

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According to PFF, Cooks has never had a bad year. All nine of his season grades are green, indicating above average performance.

He’s an outside receiver, capable of playing inside as well. Over his career 70% of his snaps have been out wide. He hasn’t spent over 34% of his time in the slot over a full season since 2016, his final year in New Orleans.

Cooks’ career drop rate is just 5.6%, though he did skyrocket to 9.7% in 2022, his second highest in his career.

His career average depth of target is 12.8 yards.

To put these numbers in Cowboys’ perspective, Lamb’s career aDoT is 10.5 and his drop percentage is 8.0; Gallup’s aDoT is 13.1 and he has a 10.9 career drop percentage.


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Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire