ESPN's Dianna Russini reported the Patriots will receive Cooks and a fourth-round pick (No. 118 overall) in exchange for their first-round pick (No. 32 overall) and a third-round pick (No. 103 overall).
ESPN's Adam Schefter added the two sides could revisit a trade for cornerback Malcolm Butler, whose name came up in talks for Cooks.
Cooks enjoyed plenty of success during his three years within New Orleans' high-powered passing attack. The 2014 first-round pick caught 215 passes for 2,861 yards and 20 touchdowns in 42 games. He topped the 1,100-yard mark each of the past two seasons.
The dynamic Oregon State product is best known for his big-play skill set. His 98-yard touchdown catch against the Oakland Raiders in Week 1 stood as the longest reception of the 2016 NFL season. He also tied for sixth in catches of at least 20 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.
Trey Wingo of ESPN further highlighted the wideout's ability to beat defenses over the top:
Cooks wasn't always happy with the Saints' tendency to spread the ball around, though. Drew Brees completed passes to 14 different receivers during the 2016 campaign, and six players finished the year with at least 50 targets.
Mike Triplett of ESPN.com noted the 23-year-old California native spoke out after failing to record a catch during a 49-21 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in late November.
"It's one of those things, as a competitor, I was frustrated. But at the same time, our offense was moving the ball, and we won the game, so that was the bright side of it," Cooks said. "I'm just thinking from a competition standpoint, I always want to help, I feel like, and I necessarily didn't that game."
He added: "I feel like from my mindset, when I touch the ball, things happen, and I just want to help my team in that way."
Those comments, which Cooks said didn't come from a "selfish standpoint," raised questions about whether he would be available for a trade during the offseason.
"Absolutely I do [expect Cooks back]," Payton said. "And, really, if you really want to cut down to the chase, he's a magnificent kid—a worker, he's not a kid anymore. He's a tremendous player. He practices 100 miles per hour. You have to slow him down some. He's got a great rapport with Drew."
That New Orleans decided to move forward without Cooks comes as a surprise given his production and his contract situation. He'll carry a measly $2.7 million cap hit for 2017 and will remain under team control for 2018 with the fifth-year option of his rookie deal, per Spotrac.
Schefter broke down additional financial ramifications:
He'll be a welcome addition for the reigning champions, as he was right there with Alshon Jeffery as a top option available through the draft, free agency or the trade market.
Cooks should immediately become the Patriots' top deep threat as a starter opposite possession receiver Julian Edelman. Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan are slated to fill out the rest of the depth chart, giving the team a well-rounded group of wideouts to pair with star tight end Rob Gronkowski.