Speedy receiver Brandin Cooks quickly made a positive impression with the Rams. And the Rams wasted little time making sure they kept him in the fold.
After trading their No. 1 pick in the draft to the New England Patriots for the receiver, the Rams did not wait until Cooks played a snap before rewarding him with a five-year, $80-million extension.
That’s how sure coach Sean McVay is that Cooks is the perfect addition to an offense that already featured Todd Gurley — the NFL’s reigning offensive player of the year — ascending quarterback Jared Goff, and an offensive line that returns intact from a team that won the NFC West and made the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
In July, a week after the Rams signed Cooks, they gave Gurley a four-year, $60-million extension, the largest contract for a running back in NFL history.
A month later, the Rams signed right tackle Rob Havenstein to a four-year, $32.5-million extension.
“It seems like they’re trying to keep this team together — they’re trying to lock us in,” said receiver Robert Woods, who signed a five-year, $34-million contract before the 2017 season. “We’re a tight-knit family of guys who compete and work for each other.
“When you see those contracts … you’re happy for it. You don’t have to worry about like, ‘Is this going to be my teammate next year?’ It’s keeping the family together, keeping us connected.”
Most of the attention during the offseason was focused on the high-profile additions to the Rams’ defense.
Cooks, 24, is the only major addition to an offense that helped the Rams finish 11-5 and led the league in scoring.
With McVay calling plays, Gurley amassed more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage and scored a league-best 19 touchdowns. Goff became a top-10 passer and the Rams scored 29.9 points a game.
The Rams let receiver Sammy Watkins leave via free agency, and then sent their first- and sixth-round picks to the Patriots for Cooks, whom the New Orleans originally had chosen with the 20th pick of the 2014 draft.
Cooks has scored 27 touchdowns catching passes from future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Drew Brees in New Orleans and Tom Brady in New England. He eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving in each of the last three seasons.
But he was happy to join the Rams.
“What they had going on, even before I got here, you saw something special going on with this team and the coach,” Cooks said the day he signed his extension.
Cooks joined a receiver corps that includes Woods, Cooper Kupp, Pharoh Cooper, Mike Thomas and Josh Reynolds.
During offseason workouts and training camp, he wowed teammates with his work ethic and quiet leadership.
And his speed.
“He’s so freakin’ fast,” Goff said.
In 2017, a year after struggling as a rookie and going 0-7 as a starter under the former coaching staff, Goff passed for 28 touchdowns, with only seven interceptions. He played in the Pro Bowl.
As Goff begins his third pro season, McVay wants him to achieve “a mastery and an ownership of our offense.”
With the addition of Cooks, that could include a new wrinkle: a consistent deep-ball threat.
New cornerback Aqib Talib, an 11th-year pro, said Goff’s confidence was “rising through the roof” on deep passes that land “in the perfect spot” for receivers.
“That’s huge in the NFL,” Talib said. “A lot of guys can’t throw deep balls.
“So, you find a guy who’s super accurate on them deep balls, you stretch that defense and then Todd Gurley’s got 200 [yards].”
Gurley rushed for 1,305 yards last season and turned screen passes into big gains and touchdowns.
The fourth-year pro said the Rams can be more productive inside the 20-yard line this season. He can improve in short-yardage situations.
“I didn't do a good job converting a lot of third-and-ones, third-and-twos,” he said. “So, we can definitely get a lot better on third downs.”
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, left guard Rodger Saffold, center John Sullivan, right guard Jamon Brown and Havenstein did not sit out a game last season because of injuries.
Brown is suspended for the first two games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, but the line returns otherwise intact to pave the way for Gurley and protect Goff.
“We’re on the right track,” Saffold said of the offense.
Cooks will add speed. And he said there would be no letup after signing the big contract.