There were some anxious moments for Cowboys fans yesterday when the Cowboys exposed Amari Cooper to free agency for roughly half a day. Suddenly, that first-round pick from last year’s draft could be walking out the door and the Cowboys would lose their number one receiver. Fortunately, Cooper and the Cowboys came to an agreement on a new deal. And what a deal it was. Five years, $100 million with $60 million guaranteed. It was a huge contract, and on some levels (as noted below) it was the largest ever given to a wide receiver.
With such a big move, what kind of reaction did it generate? We scanned four publications for their letter grades on the move, and in general, it was well-received.
We’ll start with Bill Barnwell at ESPN.
The deal: Five years, $100 million
It was a dangerous move in case Cooper was bowled over by an offer from a competitive team, but the biggest offer for the former Raiders star appeared to come from Washington, which doesn’t yet know what it has in quarterback Dwayne Haskins. In the end, after all the public negotiating the Cowboys did to try to convince Prescott to take a hometown discount, it was Cooper who sacrificed by taking less money to stick around with the team.
Don’t get me wrong: This is a massive deal. Cooper is only the second wideout to breach the $20 million barrier; only Julio Jones and his three-year, $66 million extension top Cooper’s average annual value. When you include the two years that were left on Jones’ prior extension, the Falcons star took home $87 million over five years. By overall value, Cooper now has the largest deal of any receiver.
Given that the Cowboys traded a first-round pick to acquire Cooper in fall 2018 and then rode several huge games from him to a winning streak and a division title, it’s difficult to imagine that any Cooper deal would have come in much below $20 million per season.
Cowboys re-sign WR Amari Cooper
After tagging Dak Prescott, the Cowboys had to keep Cooper so they gave him a $20-million-a-year deal. That’s a bit pricey for five years, especially since Cooper didn’t play well on the road last season, but they had to keep him after trading a first-round pick to get him from the Raiders. It was the right thing to do, even if the cost was high.
Cowboys sign: WR Amari Cooper
Dallas needed Cooper. Quarterback Dak Prescott — who the team retained via the exclusive franchise tag — levels up with the dynamic wideout on his team. His passer rating with Cooper in the lineup is 101.4. Without him, it’s 94.2. That’s enough to make him worth a top-of-the-market five-year, $100 million extension ... even if it may only serve to push the Cowboys deeper into salary cap hell in 2021 and beyond.
Short-term grade: A
Long-term grade: B
Grade the move — B.
The Cowboys could have let Cooper walk and tried to replace him in the draft or with a cheaper free agent, but they decided to keep their offensive trio together, even if it’s ultimately going to be extremely costly. Ezekiel Elliott already owns the top running back contract; Cooper is now near the top for receivers. Prescott, who received the franchise tag from the Cowboys earlier Monday, will surely command a contract in the $30-35 million range at least … depending on how much hardball he plays with the Cowboys and what the quarterback market looks like when he signs.
No grade less than a B- and a consensus around a B to B+. That sounds about right. Cooper is a high-end player that had leverage on the Cowboys so he was going to command a big contract. The fact that he turned down more from Washington to stay with the Cowboys was a nice bonus, but also sheds light on the danger of the Cowboys exposing him in the first place.
With Cooper on the field, it’s been statistically shown that the Cowboys is significantly better and that he also raises the game of Dak Prescott. The Cowboys almost had to make this move or put the offense at risk heading into Mike McCarthy’s first year. It’s obvious Cooper wanted to be here, we know that Dak Prescott wanted him here, and the team is better when he is here. That deserves an A grade, but the cost of the deal and the Cowboys reluctance to get something done sooner knocks down a little. The grade of a B sounds about right.