Dallas Cowboys fans are all looking forward to the 2021 season. Training camp is in full swing and the Hall of Fame preseason game isn’t that far away. After a long offseason of waiting, football is right at the doorstep.
But, there’s always time to a look back. And Bill Barnwell did that recently as he examined major trades that have happened in the NFL in recent years. Given that timeframe, the Cowboys had to be involved given the huge trade they pulled off in 2018.
The date: Oct. 22, 2018
Cowboys got: WR Amari Cooper
Raiders got: 2019 first-round pick
Raiders draft pick became: S Johnathan Abram
At the time: This was seen in most circles as an overpay by the Cowboys. Cooper had looked like a star through his first two seasons in the league, but he was coming off a 680-yard, 12-game season in 2017 and was averaging just 48.6 receiving yards per game in 2018 with the Raiders before the deal. The 3-4 Cowboys had moved on from Dez Bryant and were starting rookie third-rounder Michael Gallup and Allen Hurns at wide receiver; this felt to many like a desperate attempt to try to make a play for the division title, despite the fact that Dallas was already looking up at a 4-2 Washington team.
The receiver-by-committee approach never quite took off for the Cowboys that season and midway through it the Cowboys offense desperately needed a boost. Given the Cowboys history with trading first-round picks for wide receivers (Joey Galloway, Roy Williams), there was some definite trepidation about the move. In fact, almost everyone said the Cowboys overpaid and this was a bad deal.
So what was the immediate impact?
What happened: Cooper revitalized the Dallas offense and got a struggling Dak Prescott back on track. Prescott’s passer rating in 2018 was nearly 18 points better with Cooper on the field, and the quarterback has blossomed into one of the league’s best passers over the ensuing two seasons.
After a loss to the Titans in Cooper’s first game, the Cowboys went 7-1 over the second half of the season, with Cooper torching the rival Eagles in a key overtime victory. Alex Smith’s broken leg took Washington out of the race and opened a path for the Cowboys, who won the NFC East at 10-6. The Cowboys would happily make this trade again.
Worth a first became a slogan around here as Cooper resurrected his game while the Cowboys offense, and Dak Prescott, greatly benefited from Cooper’s presence. The fact that the Cowboys re-signed Cooper shows just how well he did fitting into the Cowboys offense.
As for the Raiders?
This trade doesn’t look quite as enticing for the Raiders, who haven’t replaced Cooper in the lineup and don’t have much to show for the deal. The first-rounder they acquired looked like it might fall in the middle of Round 1, but Dallas’ playoff push dropped the pick down to the 27th selection. There, the Raiders chose Abram, a physical safety who hasn’t shown much more than the desire to hit over his first two seasons. He tore a rotator cuff in his NFL debut and missed the final 15 games of his rookie season, then missed three more games in 2020 with myriad injuries and a COVID-19 absence. He’s not a lock to start in 2021, which is a massive disappointment for Gruden & Co.
In hindsight: Big win for Cowboys
Jerry Jones has taken a lot of flak over the years for chasing the shiny object and making bad deals, but this certainly wasn’t one of them. If the Cowboys can’t keep Michael Gallup this offseason, having Cooper and CeeDee Lamb is not a bad fallback position.