"I made this comment: I think this guy has played better in the middle to the back half of his career than the front," Payton said of Ted Ginn this week at the NFL Annual Meeting (via ESPN.com). "I do think he's got punt-return value. There's a level of toughness that comes with him that I like. And he's still, when he's playing in each game, the fastest player on the field.
"I have an exact vision as to how he'll be used, and that helps."
"I'm very impressed with what he's been able to accomplish (in Carolina)," Brees said Friday on Good Morning Football. "I think he's going to fit in extremely well with what we do."
While talking up a new acquisition is part of the offseason routine, Payton does seem especially smitten with the boom-or-bust wide receiver, who has never had a 1,000-yard season in his 10-year career (Cooks had two in his first three seasons). Because a young first-round pick was part of the deal, he has to be. Should Cooks thrive with the New England Patriots as we all expect, all eyes will be on the group who traded him away and swapped him for a player whose career-best catch rate over 16 games was 60.2 percent. Back in 2015, it was 45.4 percent, or 44 catches on 97 targets (Cooks' career low so far is 65.1).
None of this is news to Payton so it will be interesting to see what exactly sparked his enthusiasm. Obviously the offense will run through second-year wideout Michael Thomas with Ginn as some sort of field-stretching DeSean Jackson-type threat, but will it amount to something better than they had before?