So, have you heard about the Dallas Cowboys trading a 2019 first-round draft pick to the Oakland Raiders for WR Amari Cooper? If not, let me be the first to congratulate you for coming out of your coma. It was, without question, the biggest story in the NFL on Monday. Such is life in the Cowboys fan base, of course. Just look at the comparative shrug about the New York Giants trading Eli Apple to the New Orleans Saints to see just how Dallas is on everyone’s mind, all the time.
But now that we have had a bit of time to digest things, just what does this all mean? What Cooper brings to the offense is of course the most important part of that. It is hardly the only thing to take away, however. Here are some possible effects for both the short and long term.
There are some big ifs, but this should be a major shot in the arm for the offense.
Let me borrow this from the inestimable One Cool Customer.
The Cowboys are going to force Dak to look for Cooper, Gallup, and Beasley only.— One Cool Customer (@OCC44) October 22, 2018
This is a good thing.
While it will still depend a bit on Dak Prescott making better and, more importantly, quicker reads, this certainly looks like something that can simplify that for him. On just about any passing play, his first read should be Cooper or Michael Gallup, with Cole Beasley as his second option underneath. And with both Cooper and Gallup to occupy the defense’s attention, Beasley should be open more often. The saucy one may be the biggest beneficiary of the trade, after Prescott. And that is not saying he is not going to get some good targets from the other two. We saw what Gallup can do on that 49-yard touchdown against Washington, and Cooper’s route running is his greatest strength. (For those with access, John Owning has an excellent and detailed look at that at the DMN.) Dak is limited in his ability to see routes that are going to come open, so having not one but two wide receivers who can make moves to be so uncovered will only help him - and Beasley is no slouch at that, either. This all depends on the players doing their part, and that includes the entire offense. But if it works out, this could become one of the more important moves in recent memory.
Suddenly having such a clear cut top three receivers rather than the “by committee” approach is a significant and now much needed development. And that may have some future impact on the coaching ranks.
That idea of not having a clear WR1 was a huge failure, the pressure is on Scott Linehan to succeed now
Scott Linehan will need a strong performance over the final nine games to help his cause. It is on Linehan to prove that he can get the job done with the new addition, excuses about not having any weapons will ring hollow. If things do not work out, then the wish so many have for a new OC may come true. Even if the offense gains significant new life, the fact that the team struggled for the first seven games still may lead to a change. And that may also ripple throughout the offensive assistants, as some others have some things to answer for, such as the struggles of the offensive line under Paul Alexander.
There may be a sea change happening in talent acquisition.
One reason the Cooper trade was such a shock to most of us was that cost. The Cowboys have had a lot of success with their first-round picks recently, so much so that it was thought they would never part with one for Cooper, no matter how big the need. But they pulled that trigger. The logic that has been presented is solid as the 2019 wide receiver crop does not seem to have any players worthy of a high-to-mid first round selection, and Dallas was reportedly zeroing in on that position in the first.
What is most intriguing is what that may indicate about the thinking towards roster building. If the Cowboys have a flaw there, it is in overvaluing draft picks and being gun-shy about spending in free agency. But 2019 is going to be comparatively uncharted territory for Dallas, as they are currently slated to have $55 million in cap space, even including Cooper’s nearly $14 million hit. Given how good Stephen Jones and his staff is at creating cap space, the Cowboys can now go after anyone and find a way to make it work. That is even with the big decisions looming on new deals and extensions on several key players like DeMarcus Lawrence.
We don’t really know if things have really changed, but this is already a fairly major departure from business as we have come to expect. It is going to be a fascinating story to watch next year. Many Cowboys observers who have long criticized the Cowboys for not taking any risks or investing enough in the roster now complain about that first-round pick they spent. Sometimes it’s hard to win, unless you win.
Now, about those playoff chances.
Truly, it all comes down to whether this works out on the field. While the frustrating and hugely disappointing loss to Washington hurt things, the NFC East is still a winnable division. The New York Giants are all but out of it, the Philadelphia Eagles have started to show some real flaws, and Washington won on Sunday as much because of the blunders and bad decisions made by Dallas as anything. If this is the boost to the offense we hope, the Cowboys could make a real run and get to the postseason.
That is the biggest if of all, of course. In one move, the Cowboys are trying to change their fortunes. After the latest road loss, the doom and gloom was palpable and growing. Now, there is hope things can change. We still have to find out if it is real or false. It might be best to not worry so much about the cost of the trade and focus on what Cooper can bring to the table. If the scouting department got this one right, the rest of the season may just be a lot of fun to watch.