Rating the Rumor: Eagles a suitor for Brandin Cooks

Rating the Rumor: Eagles a suitor for Brandin Cooks

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks made it no secret that he was unhappy and in search of a big payday last season. Now he’s on the trade block, and the Eagles are in the hunt.

On Thursday, Chris Mortensen for ESPN reported Cooks is the object of trade talks, and sources said there were two interested parties: the Tennessee Titans and the Eagles.

Meanwhile, there are conflicting reports as to which of the two suitors currently has an edge. Alex Marvez for SiriusXM NFL Radio claims it’s the Eagles, and the cost might be a second-round draft pick. Mortensen described the Titans as the leader and put the cost at a first.

The Saints maintain they are willing to keep Cooks, so this is no giveaway. Then again, now that a trade is being explored, there might be no going back.

Cooks expressed some frustration with his role in the Saints offense on social media following a victory in which he was held without a reception or target. The third-year receiver’s gripe seemed to be financially motivated, writing, “They tell you it’s a business. Well I guess I have to turn into a businessman.”

The conclusion we can draw from that is Cooks is looking for a long-term extension sooner rather than later. Although, technically, he’s under contract for 2017 and has a club option for 2018, the reality is either the Titans or Eagles would have to get right to work on a new deal.

In other words, this isn’t simply a matter of trading a pick and acquiring a great talent for cheap. The Eagles are going to pay him, too, and based on the money wide receivers command these days, we’re talking upwards of $11-12 million per year.

That doesn’t make a swap a bad idea. Cooks is only 23 and one of the best, young wideouts potentially available. Over the past two seasons, he’s averaged 81 receptions, 1,156 yards receiving and 8.5 touchdowns. More importantly, Cooks could be the deep threat the Eagles so desperately need, with 14 touchdowns catches of 20 yards or more in three NFL seasons and 8 over 40 yards.

The Eagles were believed to have interest in Cooks in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft as well, only to watch the Saints to trade up two spots ahead and snag him.

All of which is why it’s difficult to imagine the Saints parting with Cooks for less than their investment. His value certainly hasn’t decreased, and if anything, he’s worth more than the first and third they paid to go get him.

That’s also why the Titans are probably more likely to land Cooks.

The logistics behind this line of thinking are simple. First, the Titans have two first-round choices in their possession for the upcoming draft, opening up a world of possibilities – they could swap the No. 5 pick for the Saints’ No. 11, or swap No. 18 straight up for Cooks. Second, the Titans are a whopping $61 million under the salary cap, so they can easily afford to hand out the extension Cooks wants.

The Eagles have one first-round pick, either No. 14 or 15 depending on the result of a coin flip, and giving that up for a receiver when there are many quality options headed to free agency could be cost prohibitive. Second, currently at only $8.7 million under the cap, paying any top-tier receiver looks like a problem.

The Eagles can come up with the cash needed if they want, but the Titans are still the more attractive option for Cooks. The larger issue is the Titans can outbid the Eagles quite easily regardless.

This is absolutely the kind of move the Eagles absolutely should explore and have been since last year. They traded for Dorial Green-Beckham and reportedly discussed dealing for San Francisco 49ers wideout Torrey Smith. The motivation is there.

Yet those moves weren’t costing a first-round pick, which the Eagles also so desperately need. When it comes down to it, they really can’t afford Cooks, not when Alshon Jeffery, Kenny Stills, Pierre Garcon, Terrelle Pryor, Brandon Marshall and DeSean Jackson are just a handful of the options in free agency.

Look at it this way. Assuming the Titans do trade for Cooks, that’s one last team to drive up bidding on the open market.

Rating the Rumor: Exciting possibility, but ultimately outgunned

Sixers now officially growing hyper-efficient big men on trees

Sixers now officially growing hyper-efficient big men on trees

Three weeks ago, even relatively devout 76ers fans could be forgiven for not recognizing the name Shawn Long. You might've recalled his pretty strong showing for the Sixers at Summer League last July, and if you were on the press mailing list for the Delaware 87ers -- lucky you -- you might have noticed him popping up in a lot of "LONG'S 22 HELPS SEVENS DOWN RED CLAWS" type headlines. But however D-League dominant-he was, it seemed unlikely he'd factor into a Sixers season where the team already had four young, high-upside centers on the roster. 

Then of course of those four bigs, one of 'em got surgery, one of 'em got traded and one one of 'em got hurt (and/or maybe just stinks). So with 20 games to go, Shawn Long was called up to the Sixers, posting 13 and seven in garbage time a blowout loss to the Bucks at home. That seemed likely to be the meaningless highlight of a nothing Sixers campaign for Long, but as Okafor keeps missing games with knee issues, Long has continued to be productive in picking up the slack. And last night, he had his best game of the season, posting 18 and 7 in just 19 minutes against the Chicago Bulls. 

Long's per-36 numbers, already decently absurd before last night's 117-107 Sixers victory -- just can't help ourselves beating these garbage teams -- are now downright hilarious: 25 and 14, shooting 67% from the floor, with a 28.5 PER The sample size is still too small (92 minutes) to mean anything considerable, and at this point in the season it's hard to trust any numbers being put up by anyone. But it's especially notable on these Sixers, who have seen such similar high-efficiency offensive production from Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and (most recently) Richaun Holmes before the beginning of Longsanity. 

It's hard not to start wonder if playing center on this Sixers team is kind of like being a running back for a team with an impenetrable offensive line, or being a ground-ball pitcher on a team with an all-Golden Glove infield. It seems like as long as our big can roll to the hoop, catch the ball and crash the boards off misses, playing with pass-first point guards like T.J. McConnell and Sergio Rodriguez in Brett Brown's increasingly coherent half-court offense ensures at least above-average production from our five-man. (Unless, of course, that center was taken with the No. 3 pick of the 2015 draft, in which case such context doesn't seem to help a ton.) 

Or maybe the Sixers just have a better eye for young centers than Drake does for European slang he half-understands. Either way, the Sixers' ability to get such consistent contributions so far down their depth chart is one of the biggest reasons they seem practically certain to win 30 games one year after barely scrapping their way to double-digits. This season really just never stops being incredible for one reason or another, does it?

Watch: Dario Saric not pleased with more water, then remembers to Trust the Friendship

Watch: Dario Saric not pleased with more water, then remembers to Trust the Friendship

We thought T.J. McConnell learned.

Remember? Pouring water on Dario Saric is not a good idea?

Yeah, thought that was clearly understood after one Sunday in January.

But McConnell was at it again on Friday night after his buddy Saric poured in a career-high 32 points during a 117-107 win over the Bulls. Just like last time, McConnell struck during Saric's postgame interview with CSN's Molly Sullivan.

And, just like last time, Saric looked like he wanted to destroy his point guard.

Look at it unfold ...

But Saric remembered his mantra: Trust the Friendship.

For the postgame moment, watch below. For highlights from Saric's career night and the full interview, watch the video above.