Before heading back to Oregon State to complete his junior year, first-round pick Brandin Cooks took the time to sign a four-year deal with the Saints on Sunday.
Cooks’ contract carries an option for a fifth year that the team can exercise up until after the player’s third season, as has been the case with No. 1 picks since the current collective bargaining agreement was adopted in 2011. ESPN reported that the deal is for four years and $8.3 million, with $4.47 million in bonus money.
Cooks is the fifth of six draft picks this year to sign with New Orleans, and he is just the third first-round selection in the NFL to sign a contract. Of the Saints’ picks, only California linebacker Khairi Fortt, whom they selected in the fourth round, had not signed as of Sunday afternoon.
Last year, the 5-foot-10, 189-pound Cooks set Pac-12 Conference records with 128 catches for 1,730 yards, which were most in the nation. He also had a school-record 16 touchdown receptions, which gave him a school career record of 24, and he won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver.
At February’s NFL combine, Cooks ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds, the fastest time among wide receivers. On the first night of the draft, the Saints front office gave up a third-round pick as well as the 27th selection to move up to No. 20 and take Cooks, who spent this weekend at the team’s rookie minicamp.
“These five practices (at the minicamp) are extremely important for me,” he said Saturday. “I want to show that I can get comfortable with the playbook and that I can pick up on things easily. It’s very similar to my offense back at school. Our formations, even some of the play-calling and the terms are exactly the same. Some of it’s a little different. But as far as where I line up at, it’s pretty much the same.”
Saints coach Sean Payton agreed.
“We can move him around ... in the slot ... outside,” he said. “He’s got a very good skill set with regard to his acceleration and his speed. He catches the ball well. I like his toughness.”
After he completes the academic year in Corvallis, Oregon, Cooks will rejoin the Saints for their final week of organized team activities and the offseason program in mid-June. His deal was worth the same amount as last year’s No. 20 pick, Bears guard Kyle Long.
ESPN reported that the Saints intend to sign outside linebacker/defensive end Cheta Ozougwu. The final pick of the 2011 draft by Houston, Ozougwu was with Chicago the past two seasons. He recorded seven tackles and a sack in nine games over those two years. He was among 38 tryout players at the Saints’ rookie minicamp.
Other tryout players the Saints have signed to their expanded offseason roster reportedly include wide receiver Steve Hull (Illinois) and Derrick Strozier (Tulane), both rookies.
Hull and Strozier announced their signings on Twitter.
After moving to wide receiver from safety in 2013, Hull had 59 receptions for 933 yards and seven touchdowns.
Strozier was a cornerback for the Green Wave, posting 101 total tackles, 18 pass break-ups and five interceptions (two returned for TDs) in 20 starts. However, he lined up at running back at the Saints’ rookie minicamp.