It is clear now that the Packers front office made an error by shipping All-Pro receiver Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders this offseason for a couple of high draft picks. In fairness, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been significantly hurt for much of the season, but the absence of Adams’ playmaking has stymied the Green Bay passing attack to a degree that just about no one saw coming.
After a 4-8 start, the trade talk that has swirled around Rodgers for the last two years has already begun again, as have calls for quarterback Jordan Love to get more run so the Packers can find out exactly what they have in their backup before making a decision on his longer-term future in May.
While some insiders believe there is little chance Rodgers plays elsewhere next season, one reality is crystal clear: Green Bay must invest in more talent at the wide receiver position for whomever starts under center in 2023, be it the now 39-year-old veteran or the soon-to-be fourth-year signal caller with a sparse NFL resumé.
One of the best options in this regard also happened to be one of the best options for the Packers at the trade deadline, and a player Green Bay made calls on before that deadline came and went on November 1 — Brandin Cooks of the Houston Texans.
Brandin Cooks Carries Trade Price That Packers Can Afford
The two issues Green Bay will face in dealing for Cooks both boil down to cost — the cost of his contract and the projected draft capital they’ll need to forfeit to secure him.
Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report on Friday, December 2, listed Cooks as the fifth-best trade piece who will likely be available come the offseason. And while the price tag Knox suggested is substantial — third-round draft picks in both 2023 and 2024 — it is well within the Packers’ reach as a team desperate for more playmaking at the receiver position.
The Texans came close to moving wide receiver Brandin Cooks at the 2022 trade deadline. … While Houston might not land a massive return because of Cooks’ large salary, it should have no trouble finding a trade partner.
Cooks is still only 29 years old and is coming off of back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He’s a speedy, field-stretching receiver who isn’t being maximized in Houston’s 27th-ranked passing attack. However, he could return to being a star elsewhere.
Cooks has amassed six seasons north of 1,000 receiving yards across nine years in the league. Over that time, he has caught 617 passes for 8,437 yards and 47 touchdowns, per Pro Football Reference.
The Texans wideout has also played for the New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams over the course of his career. He is under contract through 2023 but carries a cap hit next season of more than $26 million.
The significance of that number would require some salary cap wizardry from Green Bay’s front office in order to squeeze Cooks into what is already an expensive roster, though any deal would probably include Houston paying some of the receiver’s salary in 2023.
Packers Receivers Watson, Doubs Should Make Jumps Next Year
If the Packers could land Cooks, they would immediately elevate from what was an essentially hapless air attack early this season back into a dynamic one come the start of next year.
A primary reason for that transformation, other than the signing of a player of Cooks’ caliber, is the leap that a now-healthy Watson has made during his rookie campaign. The wideout missed much of the preseason with a knee issue and was forced to sit out three of the Packers’ first eight regular season contests with various other ailments. However, over his last three games, Watson has exploded in flashes of brilliance so lightning quick that if you blinked, you might miss them.
He has produced 12 catches for 265 yards and six touchdowns over that span, skyrocketing up the list of the league’s leading scorers at the position. Watson is now tied with the likes of Ja’Marr Chase, Cooper Kupp and Jaylen Waddle with the fourth-most receiving TDs through 12 weeks.
Green Bay’s other rookie receiver, Romeo Doubs, was having one of the team’s best seasons at the position before he was hurt early in a Week 9 matchup with the Detroit Lions. The ankle injury he sustained has kept him sidelined ever since.
Before he went down, Doubs had emerged as one of Rodgers’ favorite targets, hauling in 31 catches for 314 yards and three touchdowns, per Pro Football Reference.
If Doubs can get back on the same track once he returns to active work, and Watson can maintain the new trajectory he has set for himself, Green Bay should be in a decent spot at wide receiver come 2023. Add a player like Cooks to the mix, and Rodgers or Love or whoever is taking snaps for the Packers is sure to miss Adams considerably less next season.