Grading the Brandin Cooks Trade: Cowboys Add Speed While Texans Sell for Cheap

The Dallas Cowboys badly needed reinforcements in the wide receiver room, and the team received just that in the form of Brandin Cooks from the Houston Texans.

Nearly three years after he was traded from the Los Angeles Rams to the Houston Texans, Brandin Cooks has once again been shipped to a new franchise. The Texans sent the veteran wideout to the Dallas Cowboys, where he’ll team up with Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb for the 2023 season, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Today, we’re breaking down how the trade impacts all parties involved and assigning a grade for each.

Grading the Brandin Cooks Trade From the Texans to the Cowboys

Cooks has found a new home, but he’s staying in the state of Texas. According to Rapoport, the Cowboys sent a 2023 fifth-round pick and a 2024 sixth-round pick in exchange for Cooks. The oft-dealt pass catcher has now tied Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson as the most-traded player (four) in NFL history, according to NFL Research.

Dallas Cowboys Get Much-Needed Speed on the Outside

The Cowboys had one of the league’s most efficient offenses last season. Dallas was top five in total touchdowns (52) and points per game (27.5) and 11th in yards per game (354.9).

But the team clearly needed help at wide receiver heading into the 2023 season. Lamb is a one-man wrecking crew, but when he wasn’t popping off, the passing game often stagnated.

Michael Gallup was once plenty worthy of the WR2 role, but that was before suffering a season-ending ACL tear in 2021. He simply wasn’t the same player after returning from injury last season.

Noah Brown was serviceable in spurts, but he’s no every-down starter, and he just signed with the Texans in free agency anyway. Jalen Tolbert, you say? Expectations were high for the rookie who was selected in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, but he barely saw the field last season.

The Cowboys needed reinforcements, and Cooks will provide just that. Most importantly, he’ll provide something the receiving corps was sorely lacking last season: speed.

MORE: Grading the Stephon Gilmore Trade

Cooks is one of the fastest wideouts in the NFL, and he’ll take the top off of defenses for Dallas this season, leaving room for Lamb, Gallup, and whoever’s starting at tight end to do damage in the middle of the field.

This isn’t the first time Dallas has pursued Cooks, either. According to ESPN, “the Cowboys and Texans had discussions regarding a deal before last year’s trade deadline but could not come to an agreement.”

Acquiring the 29-year-old pass catcher for a fifth-round pick and a sixth-rounder is a steal for a contending team like the Cowboys. Despite posting just 699 yards and three scores in 13 games last season, Cooks showed no tangible signs of slowing down.

He was catching passes from the likes of Davis Mills and Kyle Allen on one of the league’s worst offenses, after all. In 2020 and 2021, Cooks posted consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and should return to such productive play in short order while corralling deep shots from Prescott.

What’s even better? The Cowboys have Cooks locked in for two years. He signed an extension with the Texans that runs through 2024 and has base salaries of $18 million and $13 million (according to Spotrac) for the next two seasons, a relative bargain for a player of his caliber.

Grade: A-

In Full Rebuild Mode, Houston Texans Sell Low on a Valuable Veteran

I get it. 29-year-old wide receivers coming off sub-700-yard seasons often don’t sell for much. But it still feels as though Houston should’ve gotten a bit more for Cooks. As previously mentioned, he was working with very little in the way of high-quality quarterback play last season, and his contract is relatively team-friendly.

The most important factor that should’ve inflated his market beyond two late-round picks is the current state of the WR market. Plenty of teams are in need of pass catchers, and there are very few available. Odell Beckham Jr. represents the best of the bunch, and he’s 30 years old and coming off of a torn ACL.

The rest of the group still available? DJ Chark, Mecole Hardman, Adam Thielen, Mack Hollins, and Kenny Golladay. Not exactly a list of guys for which teams are lining up to hand out lucrative deals.

With several contending teams in the WR market (think Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens, and Minnesota Vikings), I would’ve thought the Texans could squeeze a bit more out of a trade partner for a player with six 1,000-yard seasons on his résumé and few historical injury concerns.

MORE: Grading the Darren Waller Trade

Now, it must be noted that Houston didn’t have much leverage here. ESPN’s Todd Archer noted that Cooks “has been vocal about his unhappiness in Houston and said he didn’t want to be part of a rebuild.” The league knew as much, as evidenced by trade talks surrounding the wideout at last year’s trade deadline.

Given the early stages of the Texans’ rebuild and Cooks’ own desire to be elsewhere, it’s not like Houston had much power to stand pat and pound the table for more.

Those two picks could turn into valuable players, and getting Cooks’ contract off the books helps keep foundational pieces around. For example, the Texans signed stalwart left tackle Laremy Tunsil to a record-setting contract extension on the same day the team traded Cooks.

Houston will now enter the 2023 season with the recently signed Robert Woods, 2021 third-round pick Nico Collins, Noah Brown, and 2022 second-round pick John Metchie III, who will look to return after a battle with acute promyelocytic leukemia, as the team’s top wideouts.

The haul probably could’ve been more substantial, but given the circumstances, it’s hard to punish Houston too much on their report card.

Grade: C

Brandin Cooks Gets To Compete for a Lombardi Trophy on a High-Powered Offense

This couldn’t have turned out much better for Cooks himself.

Not part of a rebuild? Check.

Play for a team competing for the Super Bowl? Check.

Be an integral target on a high-flying offense? Check.

As far as preferred destinations go, the Cowboys likely would’ve been near the very top of his list. Cooks will play alongside one of the top receivers in the NFL in Lamb, and catch passes from one of the better QBs in Prescott. And Cooks doesn’t even have to move out of the state!

Now entering the back end of his career, Cooks gets a legitimate shot at a Super Bowl ring while playing for one of the highest-profile teams in the NFL.

Grade: A

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