By trading for Brandin Cooks, Rams get missing piece on offense

Schefter: Trading Cooks to Rams was long time coming (1:29)

Adam Schefter joins SportsCenter to analyze why the Patriots traded WR Brandin Cooks to the Rams for the 23rd overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft. (1:29)

LOS ANGELES -- Les Snead, in his seventh year as the Los Angeles Rams' general manager, had spent the entire offseason wheeling and dealing for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, parting with Alec Ogletree and Robert Quinn, trading for Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, signing Ndamukong Suh.

Apparently he didn't want Sean McVay, his head coach and offensive playcaller, to feel left out.

On Tuesday afternoon, Snead acquired a new No. 1 wide receiver at a heavy price. He sent his upcoming first-round pick, No. 23 overall, to the New England Patriots in exchange for the speedy Brandin Cooks, who will replace the departed Sammy Watkins as the new "X" receiver and highly coveted vertical threat. The Rams also received a fourth-round pick, giving them three in this year's draft, and sent away a sixth-round pick for the third time this offseason.

They don't have a pick in the first two rounds of this year's draft, they don't have any real wiggle room underneath the salary cap, and they don't have much certainty at three of their four linebacker spots. But here's what they do have: A menacing defensive line, with Suh -- scheduled to be introduced on Wednesday morning -- joining Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers. A standout secondary, with Talib and Peters joining the trio of Lamarcus Joyner, John Johnson III and Nickell Robey-Coleman. And, now, an elite wide-receiver group for an offense that came alive under McVay last season.

Cooks will play a similar role to Watkins, stretching the field vertically to free up the likes of Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Todd Gurley. But he's faster, younger and more productive than Watkins. He isn't as dynamic as Odell Beckham Jr., the mercurial New York Giants star the Rams were recently linked to, but he also doesn't bring any of the baggage.

Cooks represents the third player at the end of his rookie contract that the Rams have traded for in a span of eight months, after Watkins and Peters. In those deals, the Rams gave up this year's first- and second-round pick and next year's second-round pick, their intentions crystal clear: They'll try to build a dominant team now and worry about the rest later.

Cooks, 24, is represented by Ryan Tollner of Rep1 Sports, the same agent as the Rams' franchise quarterback, Jared Goff. The connection gives the Rams confidence that they can sign Cooks long term, but it's Goff's timeline that even makes this possible.

The Rams are a contending team getting great value at the most important position, which frees up their ability to be so aggressive elsewhere.

Goff will cost about $16.5 million toward the salary cap over the next two seasons, then will be on his fifth-year option in 2020. Before then, the Rams will look to extend Donald and Cooks, and potentially Gurley and Peters. It'll make for some tricky salary-cap maneuvering. But the Rams are currently projected to have roughly $250 million in salary-cap space going into the next two offseasons, more so than any other team.

Cooks, now traded for a first-round pick twice in less than 13 months, has totaled 227 receptions for 3,393 yards and 24 touchdowns with the Patriots and the New Orleans Saints over the past three years, ranking 15th in the NFL in yards per catch during that time. He is one of four players to record at least three seasons of 1,000 receiving yards and seven touchdowns before his 25th birthday, joining Randy Moss, John Jefferson and Beckham. The only other player with at least 1,000 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in each of the last three seasons is Pittsburgh Steelers superstar Antonio Brown, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Cooks fills what McVay always considered a major need in the Rams' offense, one the team could only hope to piece together beforehand. He cost a lot, but he is the final piece to an offense that now looks about as menacing and elite as the Rams' defense and special teams.

Now the Rams have to justify it all with a Super Bowl.