Will Patriots opt for second-tier quarterback over top-flight options?

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While Patterson is being looked at mostly as a return man, this leaves the team with just one major contributor from last season at the position. And this also tells you that the Patriots had no intention of paying Cooks top receiver money after 2018, anyway. For a man who loves to manipulate the draft by moving up, down, and adding picks for future drafts, this gives him options aplenty at the end of the month.

Los Angeles receives Cooks and New England's No. 136 overall pick in the fourth round in exchange for the Rams' No. 23 overall pick and No. 198 overall in the sixth round. This is the same team that lined up with Brandon LaFell as a starting wideout as recently as the 2014 and '15, seasons, when they totaled 24 regular-season wins and a Super Bowl title. Instead, they find a cheaper replacement through the draft or a cheap, veteran contract.

The Rams are ecstatic about acquiring Cooks, who they think will add a defense-altering deep and over the middle threat that was lacking after Watkins signed with Kansas City.

When I asked a member of the Pats organization in the know if they would be shocked if Belichick moved well into the first half of the first round to land a quarterback, he responded: "Certainly not". With two first-round picks (No. 23 and No. 31), the Patriots have what it takes to get in the Beckham Jr. conversation right now.

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Cooks was entering the final year of his contract, and the Patriots had exercised the fifth-year option on Cooks rookie contract, which will pay him $8.4 million in 2018. Another approach makes more sense, and it meshes with the history and practices of coach Bill Belichick.

The Patriots own three top-50 selections after the Cooks deal, giving them plenty of ammunition to either move up in the draft's first round or make another blockbuster trade. But it was wide receiver Brandin Cooks, not tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was exiting, and now the question about the Patriots becomes: What's next? The departure of Cooks means that the wide receiver group could use an addition.

The actual details of any Beckham deal are tough anyway, because he basically requires a top-of-the-market deal for a wide receiver sight unseen. Cooks' speed and versatility should fit in well in coach Sean McVay's schemes as he lines up alongside Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp in the NFL's highest-scoring offense last season.

If a team trades for Beckham, they're also going to have the cap space needed to sign him to a long-term deal. The Rams emerged as the primary potential trade partner with the Giants for OBJ, but their asking price was likely too high.