Winners, losers from Brandin Cooks trade: Patriots have options

The conspiracy theories started roughly one minute after the first report emerged that the Patriots traded wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Rams.

This is a sign Tom Brady is retiring.

The Patriots are loading up for a run at Odell Beckham Jr.

New England will trade up for a top quarterback.

The reality is probably a lot more boring: The Patriots likely didn’t want to pay Cooks. Entering the final, fifth-year option of his rookie contract, Cooks was due for a massive extension this offseason or next. Based on what receivers Sammy Watkins and Allen Robinson earned on the open market this year, that could have been a difficult contract for Patriots coach Bill Belichick to swallow. Then again, trying to get inside of Belichick’s mind is a lonely, fool’s errand.

The Rams were clearly interested buyers here, with multiple reports indicating they chased Cooks for weeks, ultimately sending the No. 23 overall pick and a sixth-rounder to New England. That first-round selection is nine spots higher than the one the Patriots sent to the Saints for Cooks a year ago in a trade that proved to be a fruitful one-year rental for

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