When you look around the Houston Texans’ current roster, there’s very little that jumps out as keeper material. Names like Laremy Tunsil, Justin Reid, and Tavierre Thomas have replaced star players like Duane Brown, J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins in recent years. Looking back on the utter
transformation devastation of the roster in the last few seasons is like re-living a nightmare and still feeling the cold sweat and intruding darkness. But here we stand, with the harsh reality of 2022 staring us in the collective face.
Despite major salary cap restrictions, the lingering scenarios about Deshaun Watson’s future, and the continued deleterious impact of Jack Easterby, general manager Nick Caserio and head coach Lovie Smith need to get about rebuilding this roster. Not next year, not next week, but right now.
When looking around the modern NFL and culling through historical evidence, seeking a road map out of the belly of this self-induced Sarlac pit the team has thrown itself into, the easy thing to do is just clear everyone out and start fresh. Trade Tunsil and his ridiculous Bill O’Brien/Jack Easterby contract to anyone willing to take it and offer back anything of value. Say goodbye to Justin Reid, as painful as it will be, simply because there’s no room in the current cap to pay him market value and he deserves to go play for a contender. Give him the same respect given to Watt. Thanks for the memories, Mr. Reid; you will be missed.
Lock down Tavierre Thomas and a few other “bright spots” from last year, but otherwise, every seat at the table should be up for grabs. That is, with the exception of WR1.
Historically, championship teams are built in the trenches. That’s one of the oldest truths in the football world. In the modern NFL, however, there’s something to be said for building around a top-flight wide receiver. Especially when you have a young quarterback who may or may not develop into one of the top five quarterbacks in franchise history. So here’s why Brandin Cooks shouldn’t be viewed in the same light as Tunsil or Reid.
Highest graded offensive players this season:— PFF HOU Texans (@PFF_Texans) January 11, 2022
1️⃣ Brandin Cooks - 77.4
2️⃣ Chris Moore - 68.4
3️⃣ Brevin Jordan - 66.6
4️⃣ Nico Collins - 65.6
5️⃣ Rex Burkhead - 64.8 pic.twitter.com/mvdvEeRKJm
Top Five Reasons To Keep Brandin Cooks
In no particular order...
1. Heading into 2022, per Spotrac, Cooks will carry a $16.2 million cap hit. His dead cap number is $7.5 million. With Houston’s nearly unimaginable $35 million in dead cap cash right now, adding to that is literally throwing good money after bad.
2. Cooks has done nothing but produce since he first donned a Deep Steel Blue helmet. In his two seasons with the Texans, Cooks has caught 171 passes for 2,187 yards, 96 first downs, and 12 touchdowns. That’s pretty solid for a team that won only eight games in that span.
3. Davis Mills. The unsung hero of the 2021 Texans was Pep Hamilton, the quarterback coach who took a third round pick and helped him generate stat lines and postgame headlines none of us saw coming. Mills threw for 2,664 yards last season, and a huge chunk of those came by way of Cooks. Hamilton is now the offensive coordinator and having a receiver like Cooks to lean on as he continues to develop Mills is better than any other option out there. Are there better receivers in the NFL? Yes. Are there better receivers who already have chemistry with Mills and familiarity with Hamilton? No.
Per Statmuse, Cooks caught 74 passes from Mills for 786 yards and 5 touchdowns last year. That’s just shy of one third of Mills’ total production. Imagine what he could have been with a decent offensive line and a running game that actually moved the ball for positive yardage? As a side note, imagine what Cooks does for the development of younger receivers like Nico Collins.
4. Looking at the above cap numbers and Houston’s current legacy of trading, it’s hard to imagine Houston gets anything close to equal value in return for Cooks. It’s almost a guarantee they eat the $7.5 million in dead cap space. Instead, Caserio and whoever is his cap guru should find a way to renegotiate a long-term deal with Cooks, reduce his 2022 hit, and avoid adding to the already embarrassingly large dead cap number.
Brandin Cooks' career is pretty strange. Only 28-years old but somehow has recorded at least one 1,000 season for 4 different teams in his short career.— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) January 15, 2022
2 for the #Saints
2 for the #Texans
1 for the #Rams
1 for the #Patriots pic.twitter.com/8oUbBcV6kS
5. The modern NFL is a pass-happy league. A team simply cannot compete without at least one upper echelon wideout. Over the last five seasons, Cooks ranks tenth on the receiving yards list with 5,056, fifth in average yards per catch at 14.1, and he’s tied for fifth-most games played in that span with 77 - which speaks to his best ability—availability. (Here’s looking at you, Will Fuller V.)
Could Houston trade Cooks and get better value in return? Maybe. Would they? Highly unlikely.