For the last few months, Rams coach Sean McVay happily signed off on acquiring numerous star players to remake the team’s defense.
On Tuesday, the aggressive play-caller finally got a piece for his offense.
A week after news broke that they had flirted with the New York Giants about trading for star receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the Rams sent their first-round draft pick and a sixth-round pick to the New England Patriots in exchange for receiver Brandin Cooks and a fourth-round pick.
The speedy Cooks, 24, is expected to take the place of receiver Sammy Watkins, a deep-ball threat who left the Rams after one season to sign a huge free-agent contract with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The trade for Cooks was the latest bold move by a Rams organization that is coming off an 11-5 season and doing everything possible to take advantage of a window of opportunity with quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley still working under rookie contracts.
Cooks is the Rams’ fourth major acquisition since their wild-card playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
In February, general manager Les Snead traded for Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters. In March, he traded for Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib. Last week, the Rams signed star free-agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who will be introduced at a news conference Wednesday.
During last week’s NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Fla., Snead, McVay and Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ vice president of football operations, declined to discuss Beckham, who was reportedly available at a cost of not less than two first-round draft picks.
But all three said the Rams would remain aggressive in adding to a team that led the league in scoring and won the NFC West in McVay’s first season.
“We’ve shown we’re not scared to explore trades,” Snead said.
Demoff pointed to the acquisition of Watkins during training camp last year.
“There’s always a chance to call around and find out who may help us get better and who can help us win,” he said.
To acquire Cooks, the Rams gave up the 23rd pick in the April 26-28 draft, leaving them without a first-round pick for the second year in a row. The Rams also are without a second-round pick, which they gave the Buffalo Bills, along with cornerback E.J. Gaines, as part of the trade for Watkins last August.
The 5-foot-10, 189-pound Cooks played at Oregon State and was selected 20th overall by the New Orleans Saints in the 2014 draft. He eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving in two of his first three NFL seasons before he was traded to the Patriots in March 2017 for a first-round pick.
Cooks caught 65 passes for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns in 2017. He played in the Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles, but was forced to leave the game in the first half because of a concussion.
Cooks is scheduled to earn about $8.5 million this season in the fifth and final year of his rookie contract.
So, just as they did with Watkins, the Rams will have a decision to make at the end of the season about whether they will commit to Cooks long term. If he leaves as a free agent, the Rams probably would receive third-round compensatory pick in 2019.
That was the same thinking they employed when they dealt for Watkins last summer.
Watkins’ departure last month for a three-year, $48-million deal with the Chiefs left the Rams searching for a replacement. Their pursuit of Beckham dominated news at the owners’ meetings, leading to New York Daily News headlines such as “Odell California.”
Gurley, the reigning NFL offensive player of the year, described Beckham as “my guy” and said, hypothetically, that it would be “awesome” if the Rams acquired him.
But they dealt instead for Cooks, who gives McVay and Goff another weapon to go along with Gurley and receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Tavon Austin, Josh Reynolds and Mike Thomas are other receivers who will be competing for touches.
Barring more moves before the draft, the Rams will have eight draft picks: one in the third round, three in the fourth round and four in the sixth round.
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein