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Should the Browns trade for Amari Cooper?

The question of trading for Amari Cooper comes down to value for the Cleveland Browns.

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Cleveland Browns v Oakland Raiders Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The question isn’t really should the Cleveland Browns trade for receiver Amari Cooper, it really boils down to what it’ll take to pry him away from the death-spiraling Oakland Raiders.

According to The Athletic’s Jay Glazer, they’re looking for a first-round draft pick. After shipping Khalil Mack to Chicago earlier this season for two No. 1 picks and a third-rounder, new head coach John Gruden—who signed a 10-year deal to return to the NFL to coach the Raiders—is burning the team to ashes.

The Browns are in a good position to snag a premier player, but only if the price is right. They currently possess their own first- through sixth- rounders in the 2019 draft, adding a third-rounder from New England from their Danny Shelton swap, two fifth-rounders from sending Josh Gordon to New England and Carlos Hyde to Jacksonville, and a conditional seventh-rounder from shipping Cody Kessler to the Jags.

An important issue when discussing trade value is control. After getting taken No. 4 overall in 2015, Cooper inked a deal that his him under contract through the 2019 season. He’ll make a whopping $13.92 million next season in the final year of the deal. So, if the Browns traded for him, they wouldn’t be looking at a “rental” in terms of control.

Now we have to look at ability, which he has been both good and bad during this three-plus NFL seasons. His potential and eventual salary are also some considerations.

Cooper has looked like a dynamic playmaker at the receiver position, that’s not really debatable. But he has shown inconsistencies, including a 15 percent drop rate in his career, although he has only two so far this season. And in 19 of his 52 career games, Cooper has amassed less than 30 yards while receiving only about 4 targets per contest, according to Pro Football Focus’ Connor Price. Price pointed out the discrepancy exists in his usage in those poor performances, in that Cooper averaged over nine targets in all his other outings.

But the biggest reason to trade for Cooper is his playmaking ability. Cooper creates separation and can deliver big chunk plays, both with the ball in his hands and without. He’s a shifty and underrated performer in space, something the Browns are sorely lacking outside Duke Johnson.

According to Price, Cooper ranks fourth in the NFL in separation, defined as having one step or more distance between him and the closest defender. He’s achieved that in 80 percent of his 30 targets in 2018.

This, to me, isn’t a question of talent. It’s a matter of finding the right value. If the Raiders would be willing to part with him after failing to secure their initial demands, the Browns could very well be contenders to acquire him. Cooper would provide the Browns a legitimate outside threat who can make things happen, is under contract for the next 25 games, and he would be well worth the eventual extension price tag he’d demand.

The only remaining question is how much is too much to offer.