April 30, 2015, the Oakland Raiders are on the clock and with the fourth overall pick, select All-American Amari Cooper, SEC player of the year, and Fred Biletnikoff Award winner out of the University of Alabama. Little did anyone know that mediocre play awaited creating two trades: to the Dallas Cowboys and Cleveland Browns. Three teams in a seven-year career are not the stuff of legends.
Coming out of Alabama, the accolades and expectations were high. Still, despite a combination of speed, route running, and separation ability; polished skills that made him ready to start on day one. There were questions.
- Too many dropped passes, doesn’t give it 100% on plays he’s not involved in, especially blocking, and he’s not the guy who’ll consistently win the jump ball.
Rebuilding an image: “JUST WIN BABY!”
In 2015, the Raiders were a team trying to rebuild its image of bad boys. Too many penalties, poor attitudes, and “Just win, baby!” were no longer a reality with a dozen years passing since a winning season (2002). A legendary statement forgotten and replaced with a losing culture. A culture lacking the discipline to win. Just soap opera discontent.
- The team needed Cooper, a true No. 1 to pair with its high-priced, next great Raider QB, Derek Carr.
History would change for one season, and Cooper would help take the Raiders from a 7-9 rookie campaign to 12-4 and their first winning season since 2002, earning two Pro Bowl bids in the process – only to collapse in 2017.
The Honeymoon is Over
Despite being one of three players in NFL history to have a minimum of 70 receptions and 1,000-yard seasons in his first two years, the third season implodes for Cooper and the Raiders. He’d disappear throughout stretches, and the Raiders went back to their losing ways.
In 2018, the fourth season, looking more like his third, with contract talks emerging, Cooper was looking for an Odell Beckham Jr. (OBJ) and Antonio Brown payday. So, the Raiders’ new coaching staff acted. In the middle of the 2018 NFL season, the Raiders traded the talented but inconsistent and under-performing Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys.
In desperate need of a No. 1 receiver, the Cowboys still had the faith and gave up a first-round pick for him, the 24th overall in 2019. Eventually, a $20 million a year contract, only to turn around three years after acquiring him and give him away for peanuts.
Cowboys and Browns: Amari Cooper Trade Details
- The Cleveland Browns receive the 2022 fifth-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys.
- There is a swap of sixth-round picks.
- The Cowboys take the Browns’ 192nd pick; the Browns take the Cowboys’ 202nd pick.
Cowboys and How They Saw Amari Cooper
The question is, why did the Cowboys move Cooper so cheaply? They didn’t have a choice. Cooper has one of the highest salaries for a wideout in the league – the fourth highest at the time of this article. His production doesn’t match his salary despite the perception he has in the eyes of most fans and even some general managers. He also allegedly dished on the star and face of the Cowboys, QB Dak Prescott.
Amari Cooper: Complaining
The star and face of this team is QB Dak Prescott. Not happy with his use and production, Cooper supposedly made comments that probably helped the Cowboys decide to move him.
- Cooper stated Prescott was the “Black Kirk Cousins,” obviously references the belief that Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins can’t win a big game.
- Cooper is unvaccinated, and the NFL punishes the vaccinated more harshly when they test positive to force them to take the “jab,” regardless of the fact the vaccinated can catch and pass the virus, thus forcing Cooper to miss two games.
The Cowboys were looking at a $22 million cap hit in 2022, and you combine that with two years still left on a $100 million contract that pays out $20 million per year; salary cap issues await.
- It seems every 2-to-3 years they go through a restructuring of contracts or lose valuable talent – usually both.
We can say the Cowboys may not be the most strategic team in looking at the big picture of the salary cap, but they’re not dumb. Cooper’s contract allowed the Cowboys to walk away from him and suffer modestly on the field and with the salary cap.
- The Cowboys can cut Cooper because they have CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup as their one-two-punch.
- “Da Boys” don’t take the $22 million cap hit by trading him, but only suffer a $6 million hit in dead money, saving $16 million.
The Browns and How They Saw It
Many don’t realize QB Baker Mayfield played with a separated shoulder much of the 2021 season, and their hope is healthy; he can showcase the talent that made him the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. If they can win in 2022, they believe they have their foundation set for the next 3-5 years. The reality?
- We’ve been waiting for Baker to become elite since day one and are still waiting.
The Browns have a top offensive line and some playmakers on the defensive front. They likely feel they can compete if they can hit on some solid free agent and 2022 NFL Draft moves.
Replacing Odell Beckham Junior
The necessity to replace their former No. 1 wideout in OBJ was apparent. They had no answer, thus the move for Cooper. Right or wrong, they must still believe he has upper echelon playmaker talent to produce and become an elite No. 1 NFL wide receiver.
Like others, the Browns are struggling to align themselves with the cap. However, while it’s a big salary, they must only eat year one of the $20 million salary and cap hit. Depending on Cooper’s production, they should take a wait-and-see before considering him long-term. That said, restructuring is always possible depending on their salary cap issues.
Cooper Fallout: Jarvis Landry = Cap Casualty
The Browns aren’t exactly deep in cap space. At the time of the trade, they had their issues to resolve, and one was Landry. A fan favorite and locker room leader. He would do anything to win, including playing hurt.
- Keeping Landry = $16.4 million cap hit.
- Releasing Landry = $1.5 million cap hit = $14.9 million cap savings.
My friends, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what the Browns’ next move would be, and Landry is now a free agent, and the Browns have some breathing room. The good news for Landry fans is that teams with Super Bowl aspirations are ready to call.
AMARI COOPER BREAKDOWN
Let’s take a quick look at Cooper’s career numbers from an NFL and fantasy football perspective.
Career Breakdown – 108 games
- 57 targets per game
- 78 receptions per game
- 52 yards per game
- 425 TDs per game (averaged a TD approximately every 2-3 games)
- Fantasy Average: 13.94 points per game
Cowboys Breakdown – 56 games (about 3 ½ seasons)
- 66 targets per game
- 21 receptions per game
- 52 yards per game
- 482 TDs per game (averaged a TD approximately every 2-3 games)
- Fantasy Average: 15.05 points per game
2021 Breakdown – 15 games
- 93 targets per game
- 53 receptions per game
- 66 yards per game
- 553 TDs per game (averaged a TD every two games)
- Fantasy Average: 13.61 points per game
Note: fantasy points count one point per pass reception and six points per TD with standard rushing and receiving points, but remember, every fantasy league’s scoring fluctuates.
Amari Cooper’s Statistical Diagnosis?
These numbers put him at the 30ish mark in most fantasy football wide receiver rankings and NFL statistical receiver categories. Mind you, that’s a very general statement.
- Fantasy Football Value: Cooper = low-end No. 1 or high-end No. 2 Fantasy WR with upside.
- NFL and Browns Value: Cooper = low-end No. 1 NFL wideout with upside.
THIS GRUMBLERS’ FINAL THOUGHTS
It’s hard to argue Amari Cooper’s an elite wideout worth $20 million per season. I’m being polite; he’s not. Production and salary are the two reasons there weren’t many takers for a low-end No. 1 NFL wide receiver.
Sports Grumbling’s founder Big John Georgopoulos states the league figured him out and realized you can bump, push, and bully him at the line to disrupt his game.
- Despite this, the Browns lacked a true No. 1, and a playmaker combined with costing only a fifth-round draft pick, and not having to bid for a premier free agent with their salary cap constraints made this deal.
Who got the better of the trade? Cleveland, if Cooper pans out, it remains to be seen until then. Let’s not forget Cooper will only be 28 this season. He is a four-time Pro Bowl selectee and was performing at a higher level with the Cowboys than he was with the Raiders.
- Cooper’s play has not deteriorated, and the Cowboys are notorious for their inconsistency; thus, Cooper’s production isn’t all on him. Wideouts are dependent upon the quarterback and his offensive schemes to be productive.
A significant negative that many won’t argue? That makes him a much less attractive target on fantasy football draft day?
- Cooper’s going to a worse offense, from the Cowboys to the Browns.
Viewing him as a value pick with upside is the best option for now. If he falls to you as a solid No. 2 wideout, grab him with this thought process; while not true, he’s playing for a new contract for all intent.