PHOENIX -- Sean Payton went out of his way to tell Brandin Cooks that the Saints weren't looking to trade him. Then when the Patriots offered their pick at the bottom of the first round of this year's draft, there was a change of heart.
The Saints ended up dealing their dynamic 23-year-old wideout and a fourth-round pick to New England for the No. 32 overall pick and a third-rounder.
"We spoke to a few teams, and we weren't in a position where we felt like we gotta make this trade or else," Payton said during the NFC coaches breakfast at the Arizona Biltmore on Wednesday morning. "It was the opposite actually. I had a couple conversations with him, saying, 'This . . . isn't going to happen. We're not interested in just looking to do this.'
"But when we were able to do a deal with New England, which involved a first-round pick, third-round pick, we felt that was significant. We did feel like it was a way to help our team, particularly our defense. Those picks specifically, you don't know how the draft falls, but they're getting a real good player and someone that was obviously good for us."
Cooks has performed as one of the most productive players at his position since joining the Saints as their first-round pick in 2014, and he is one of just three players to record 75 catches, 1,000 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in each of the last two seasons, joining Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr.
There have been, however, some hints that Cooks was unhappy during his time in New Orleans -- particularly recently. On a conference call with Patriots reporters following the trade, he indicated that he hoped he'd be able to do things in Josh McDaniels' offense that he wasn't able to do in Payton's. And after a blowout win over the Rams last year, during which Cooks didn't see a single target, he said, "Closed mouths don't get fed."
Still, Payton said Cooks wasn't dealt because he was disgruntled.
"For sure, he wasn't a player that we went out and said, 'Hey, we're shopping this player.' But when someone calls on a player you obviously take the call and listen to what they have to say," Payton explained. "I've said this a number of times: Working with him, he's not a kid, but he's fantastic in regards to his approach. Never at any time was he upset or unhappy.
"I think a little bit of last season, after [the Rams] game, his agent, you know, was a little disappointed, if you will. He didn't have the produciton in the game. Mind you, we had just finished scoring 49 points and beating a team. But to Brandin's credit, he was smart enough to see the season he was having. So he signed and got with another agent when this offseason began."
Though Payton clearly was happy with the return the Saints received for Cooks, he indicated that he was not necessarily resigned to picking at No. 32. Perhaps it could become available in a trade.
"It'd be hard to say, well we're just going to sit at No. 32," Payton said. "You do have some flexibility. I think, overall, having five picks in the first 103 picks provides that flexibility as well where you can certainly move up or move back. But we felt like there was some depth at certain positions in this draft, and we were trying to get a little fire power or ammo in those first 100, 103 picks was important."