When news came in March that Cleveland had traded with the Dallas Cowboys for perennial Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper, the first reaction was that the Browns are a running team. Why would we need such a multi-talented player like that?
How on earth will he pay his way with the salary that he is going to consume? And if the pass-happy Cowboys don’t want him anymore, is there something wrong with him?
Cleveland GM Andrew Berry traded a 2022 fifth-round pick plus a swap of their sixth-round draft slots for Cooper.
Cooper was a seven-year veteran. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2019 and has scored six or more touchdowns in five seasons in the league since being taken fourth overall by Oakland in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft.
The talented receiver was coming to Cleveland with career reception totals of 7,076 receiving yards, 517 receptions, and 46 touchdowns since his standout college career out of Alabama.
The fact that in 2021 he had just 68 receptions for 865 yards with eight touchdowns was a moment of concern. Was Cooper regressing? Is that why Dallas got rid of him? And for cheap?
Then right out of the gate in Week 1 against Carolina, Cooper had just three catches for 17-yards. Collectively, Browns fans thought that the Cowboys did indeed sell the Browns a vehicle that looked great and was spit-polished, but had something wrong under the hood. And now, not only was there no warranty, but it was too late to get a refund.
To make matters worse, Dallas had inked Cooper to a five-year contract extension in the spring of 2020 worth $100 million which featured $60 million guaranteed. This meant for 2022 he was set to make $20 million.
Not only was the product defective, but the Browns were paying full-ass dollar. But Berry took Cooper’s contract and re-did the verbiage plus how the star athlete would be paid to which Cleveland would save over $15 million on this year’s salary cap.
With the finances out of the way, the issue was now Cooper wasn’t a very productive portion of this offense. Not like he came advertised anyways. There were rumblings that perhaps he was the “old guy” in the receiver room despite being just 28 years old.
One thing Cleveland was definitely getting was a player who would come in and give them experience in comparison to his younger teammates. And from Day 1, he was a leader.
When Cooper was traded from Dallas to Cleveland, he told nfl.com:
“A lot of leadership comes with experience and age. It becomes easier and easier over time because, from what I see now, leadership is just experience. It’s so easy to lead once you have that experience because everything these young guys are going through, you either went through it or saw someone else previously on the team go through it, and you saw how the outcome was.”
With the Browns, their main leader in the receiver room had been Jarvis Landry who was allowed to leave via the free agency period. Like Cooper, Landry was set to make a ton of money this year while his production numbers had dropped the last two seasons. The numbers simply did not justify the contract amount despite being a beloved Cleveland Brown.
Cooper’s five 1,000-yard seasons were front-and-center when the Browns needed a veteran with all the youth they had on the roster at the receiver position. Everybody else was either a rookie, a second-year guy, or entering their third season such as Donovan Peoples-Jones.
Instantly, the position Cooper was viewed was to be looked at like an old guy who had all these accolades and experience, but could he still play at a high level?
Whatever the game plan against Carolina was, for some reason it did not include Cooper. He had just six targets. How can anyone help an offense when they are not being thrown the ball?
That all changed the following week against the New York Jets, a game they had won if not for some pathetic math issues at the tail end of the game. As the game unfolded, Cooper wasn’t being thrown the ball until the 11:24 mark of Quarter #2. He ended up with 10 targets and had nine catches for 101 yards. More importantly, three of those receptions were for pivotal first downs. In addition, he scored his first touchdown as a Brown.
The biggest catch came in the second quarter with the game tied at seven. Facing a third-and-six, the Jets stacked the box with eight players as QB Jacoby Brissett faked a handoff to RB Nick Chubb going left as Cooper began his route going left-to-right on a slow drag route. As the New York defenders bit on the run play action, Brissett found a now speedy Cooper wide open for 20-yards which concluded at the eight-yard line. Three plays later, Cleveland went up 14-7 on Cooper’s touchdown grab.
After this game, despite the sting of the loss, folks wondered if maybe Cooper did indeed still have it. Did he? Or was this just a one-off? This was also the game in which Coop muffed the onside kick. Maybe he was a bit slow after all.
Cooper then replicated his 101-yards total the next week against Pittsburgh. Again, the game plan was slow to get him involved, but then he came through repeatedly and was invaluable in the second half. He ended up with seven catches on 11 targets.
With 8:43 left on the clock in the third quarter against the Steelers, Coop made a nice grab and then tip-toed down the sideline for a huge gain of 28-yards with most of the yardage after the catch. Ran a great route on an assumed run play to begin the fourth quarter and gained 32-yards. Should have had the bullet with just over five minutes to play in the game facing a third-and-12 but misjudged the path of the ball which hit him in the face mask.
At this point, media outlets began to wonder why the Cowboys shipped off Cooper. On the ESPN show “Undisputed”, co-host Shannon Sharpe stated:
“If Jerry Jones got rid of Amari, you have to replace him with something adequate. I don’t think he replaced him. What he did was amplified the number of expectations on CeeDee (Lamb). They now had no question in his mind Lamb was the Number 1 receiver on this ball club. They don’t want to hear about no double teams. You got to make plays.”
Dallas had dug a hole with Cooper because of his inflated contract extension. There wasn’t an issue with trading him initially, but the problem that now surfaces is that they gave him away for next to nothing. And what is very odd is that Cooper was Cowboys QB Dak Prescott’s favorite target.
Plus, their offense is receiver-poor at the present. When you compare similar receiver trades during the off-season, the Tennessee Titans were able to wrangle away a first-round draft pick away from the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for A.J. Brown who is two years younger than Cooper but has three fewer Pro Bowls.
And after the point of playing just three games, the Cowboys were already regretting this trade. Prescott and his temporary replacement QB Cooper Rush took a step back because of the reduced talent and lack of leadership in their receiver room.
Currently, Cooper is ranked 18th in receiving with 585 yards and has the fourth most touchdowns with five. In addition, he is ranked 12th in catches converting first downs.
And just look at what Cooper did in the game against Cincinnati. Only five catches, but for 131 yards. Now, there were mistakes with the big Kahuna in the room with the ill-advised interception. Which by the way, was his first pass attempt employed by three clubs.
Cooper had a superb night catching the football. With that success, the Dallas media pointed out that Prescott and their high-flying offense would greatly benefit from the likes of a top-shelf wide receiver.
A top-shelf wide receiver like...Amari Cooper.
In the loss to the Miami Dolphins, he had just three catches for a pedestrian 32-yards. But in all fairness, he was targeted just three times which means he caught everything thrown his way.
Cowboys’ owner Jones was recently asked about the wide receiver problem they are currently experiencing, and whether it would be as critical if they had simply kept Cooper. On radio station 105.3 The Fan, Jones explained:
“Do we want to factor in that we didn’t have Dak for all but two games? I think we should (factor that in). That (Dak’s injury absence) would have mitigated some of your wide receiver production, without question.”
Basically, Jones trade-dumped Cooper. And what this quote might mean to say is that the Cowboy receivers would be killing it if Prescott was the quarterback all that time instead of Rush. When pressed as to why Cooper is having such a good year with the Browns, Jones surmised:
“It is not an ‘apples-to-apples’ comparison.”
Sharpe had a different take the day after the Cincinnati win:
“We saw what Dak was before he got Amari. You are waiting for CeeDee to do for Dak what Amari did for Dak. Have you seen that? I have not. Where are they ranked as far as wide receivers? Near the bottom? They weren’t there when they had Amari. They were ranked very, very high. I believe in order for you to let CeeDee rise, you had to let Amari go into the sunset, but [Lamb is] not a better receiver. You saw [Cooper’s] arsenal on full display [Monday] night.”
Although Berry saw the potential in Cooper in the off-season, it looks even clearer now after their first nine games. The fact remains: the Cowboys made a huge mistake in trade-dumping Cooper. And on top of it all, Dallas will get basically nothing in return.
The wide receiver position in today’s NFL is crucial to get right with the right players. Not only has Cooper been a playmaker in this Browns’ offense, but he is a very good mentor to the younger receivers with an emphasis on the grooming of DPJ.
And the strangest aspect of all this is the reason Dallas traded him. They thought his production waned, although it was just one season, and Jones wanted to sign WR Michael Gallup long-term instead if they were going to have to pay someone.
Cooper will count for some lofty salary numbers beginning next season - that is true. But this year, Berry got Cooper for peanuts with the restructured contract. Why would the Cowboys not have done that?
AJ Brown went for a 1 and a 3 on Thursday night.— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) April 29, 2022
Davante Adams went for a 1 and 2.
Tyreek Hill went for a 1, 2, two 4s, and a 6.
The Dallas Cowboys sent Amari Cooper and a 6 in exchange for a 5 and a better 6.
A Bleacher Report article by Kristopher Knox stated:
“With little leverage and perhaps even less foresight, the Cowboys sent Cooper to the Cleveland Browns for only a fifth-round pick and a swap of sixth-rounders. Shortly thereafter, the receiver market exploded. (Dallas) also grossly underestimated the receiver trade market. The Cowboys should have been able to pry at least a Day 2 pick out of a team for Cooper. They might not regret trading him, but they dealt him for prospects who might not even make the 53-man roster.”
Too bad Jerry Jones the owner did not tell Jerry Jones the GM to hold onto Cooper. That decision to trade him is their loss and the Browns’ gain at this point. And truthfully, it is potentially a much bigger deal than anyone saw coming back in March.
Except for Andrew Berry, that is.