LOS ANGELES — In four NFL seasons, receiver Brandin Cooks played with two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks.
Drew Brees tossed him passes with the New Orleans Saints, Tom Brady with the New England Patriots.
Cooks, acquired by the Rams this week in a trade with the Patriots, said Thursday that he learned much from playing with the veterans, and that he was looking forward to connecting with Jared Goff, the Rams’ 23-year-old quarterback.
“I’m extremely excited about the opportunity to be able to grow with a young guy,” Cooks, 24, said during a news conference in Thousand Oaks. “I’m young myself.
“To be able to start that rapport this offseason, I think is going to be extremely huge, and I look forward to getting to work right away.”
The 5-foot-10, 189-pound Cooks replaces Sammy Watkins in what was one of the NFL’s most productive offenses in 2017. The Rams led the league in scoring and ranked 10th in passing en route to winning the NFC West.
In the last few months, Rams general manager Les Snead acquired several key defensive players, including cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib and defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh.
Cooks, three times a 1,000-yard receiver, was the first major addition on offense.
Coach Sean McVay, the Rams’ play-caller, said that Cooks “fits really kind of in any system” and that his production “speaks for itself.”
Others apparently spoke highly on his behalf when the Rams did a background check.
“I’m hard-pressed to remember a player that’s gotten so many positive things said about him from different people that he’s been exposed to,” McVay said.
Cooks grew up in Stockton and played in college at Oregon State before the Saints selected him with the 20th pick in 2014 draft.
He was traded to the Patriots for a first-round pick before last season, and then caught 65 passes for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns as the Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl.
But with Cooks’ having a salary of about $8.5 million this season, and the prospect of an extension that could conceivably double that figure in years to come, the Patriots dealt him and a fourth-round pick to the Rams for a first-round pick and a sixth-round pick in this month’s draft.
Getting traded twice, Cooks said, was “part of the game — the business side of it.”
He said he had nothing but respect for the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick and that he was happy to be closer to home, possibly for a long time.
“Being back on the West Coast where the sun is shining every single day — you can’t complain about that,” he said. “So as far as making this home, absolutely I’d love to do that.”
Cooks arrives as the Rams are trying to work out an extension with star defensive lineman Aaron Donald, and also are adding the $14-million, one-year salary for Suh. Extensions for running back Todd Gurley and Goff also are in the horizon in the next few years.
Safety Lamarcus Joyner will play this season on an $11 million franchise tag, and Peters will be in the final year of his rookie contract in 2019.
Snead said the Rams’ salary-cap situation would enable them to absorb the cost of building a winner.
“We have plenty of space over the next few years to be able to lock up these guys for the long term and then have this core together,” he said. “And that’s the goal.”
Asked if he wanted an extension in place before the start of the season, or if he would monitor the market at its conclusion, Cooks said he was not “pressing” to get a long-term deal done.
“I don’t look at the market and get into what everyone else is getting into,” he said. “I’m focused on my situation, the blessing I’m able to receive, and at the end of the day they’ll take care of that.”
Cooks joins a receiving corps that includes fellow starters Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Josh Reynolds, Tavon Austin and Mike Thomas are other receivers who will compete for roles.
The Rams’ interest in acquiring Cooks dated to before the 2017 season, Snead and McVay said.
The Rams dangled cornerback Trumaine Johnson to the Saints as trade bait for Cooks, but the Patriots offered the Saints a first-round pick in the 2018 draft.
The Rams revisited the idea of acquiring Cooks after last season.
“Made a phone call to the Patriots relatively early in the game and we’ve been discussing it for a while,” Snead said.
The Rams also contacted the New York Giants about the possibility of trading for Odell Beckham Jr., who reportedly could not be had for less than two first-round picks.
McVay and Belichick were at a coaching clinic in Georgia last week.
“That wasn’t anything that like closed the deal or anything like that,” McVay said.
Said Snead, jokingly: “I think I did text Sean, ‘Make sure you maybe mention something to Bill while you’re there. Don’t just talk football.’ “
By giving up their first-round pick for Cooks, the Rams will not make their first selection until the third round. They also have three fourth-round picks and four sixth-round selections.
“We’re going to give up all our sixes for somebody’s first,” Snead said, jokingly.
The Rams believed the cost for acquiring Cooks was worth it.
As Peters and Talib noted when they were introduced a few weeks ago, Cooks said he watched the Rams from afar last season and saw a group of hungry players on the rise.
He said he would put teammates’ interests before his own, and hoped they would return the favor.
The lessons he learned from playing with Brees and Brady, he said, would serve him well.
“You talk about top-class professionals, the guys that perfect their craft every single day the best way they can,” he said. “Picking that up as a young guy early in my career, I’m hoping I can come here and bring that.”