It had been rumored for months. And yet, when the Saintstraded star wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Patriots in March, it was one of the most shocking circumstances of this offseason.
With the two teams set to play one another today at 1 p.m. ET, let's take a look back at how this trade -- which netted New Orleans the 32nd overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft -- went down.
According to multiple sources informed of the situation in New Orleans, Cooks was dealt because of a combination of his unhappiness with his role, his doubts that aging quarterback Drew Brees could get him the ball deep, the Saints' frustrations with Cooks focusing on his numbers and their disbelief he should be paid like a top receiver.
In a matter-of-fact meeting with coach Sean Payton deep into 2016, Cooks laid out his issues. The Saints got through the season, then dealt Cooks.
It started in the one-point win over the Chargers last year, when Cooks had just three catches. He was spotted being grumpy in the locker room despite the victory, which rubbed some in the organization the wrong way.
They knew it was going to be a problem.
"Closed mouths don't get fed," he told reporters. That week, reports (including from NFL Network) discussed the two sides parting ways in the offseason.
Internally, when Payton discussed the issue with Cooks, the receiver never left satisfied. The longtime coach pacified the issue, telling Cooks he'd get targets. And the following week he did -- a season-high seven catches the next week. But Cooks felt the elephant in the room -- Brees' arm strength not enabling him to find Cooks deep -- couldn't be talked about on any level.
That was frustrating to him, though personally and professionally he loved Brees. The situation and Cooks' feelings were addressed with Payton, his receivers coach John Morton, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael and general manager Mickey Loomis. Some talks even began in the preseason.