Amari Cooper is out in Dallas.
Those were hard words to type given what Cooper has done catching passes for the Cowboys. A midseason trade back in 2018 appeared steep at first, but it didn’t take long for fans to believe that the Cowboys got the better end of the deal. In all, Cooper has racked up 292 catches for 3,893 yards and caught 27 touchdowns as a member of the Cowboys. His production in Dallas exceeded what he had done in Oakland despite starting his career off with two straight Pro Bowl seasons. But just like his time with the Raiders, the new Carr smell eventually wore off and they decided to trade him in for some draft capital.
Amari Cooper with Oakland...— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) March 12, 2022
First two full seasons with team he has two-consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, never misses a game, then misses two games the following year, falls short of 1,000 yards, team loses interest in him, and trades him away.
Amari Cooper with Dallas...
Only this time, the depreciation of Cooper only yielded the Cowboys a fifth-round draft pick in return. Yes, you heard that right, the Cowboys basically only got a fifth-round draft pick for Cooper. Technically, they moved up in the sixth round as well because they swapped sixes with the Browns, but the juicy part of the trade capital return is a mere fifth-rounder. That’s some weak draft capital which usually amounts to a whole lot of nothing. In fact, the last five players the Cowboys have selected in the fifth round have started exactly ZERO games for them.
Of course, a fifth-round pick is better than nothing, which is what the team would’ve received in a flat-out release had they not found a suitor. The whole point of this move is to free up some cap space. Cooper had three years left on his five-year deal with a base salary of $20 million in each of them. That’s $60 million over the next three years that won’t be counting against the Cowboys cap. They are still on the hook for the $6 million of his signing bonus that has yet to be accounted for and that will result in a dead-money hit this year. But even with that hit, the team frees up a lot of money for the future and $16 million in cap space for the upcoming season. Here is a breakdown of Cooper’s contract courtesy of spotrac.
With Cooper out in Dallas, what does this mean for the Cowboys?
The first order of business - re-sign Gallup
With Cooper’s money off the books, the Cowboys find themselves with some extra spending money now, and their first priority will be to lock up Michael Gallup to a long-term deal. This is already a part of the team’s plan as a second contract for Gallup is getting closer.
Cowboys have been working on a new deal with free-agent-to-be WR Michael Gallup and a deal is considered “close,” per sources. There’s hope the two sides can get it done and keep Gallup in Dallas.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 4, 2022
Having Gallup and third-year receiver CeeDee Lamb on the roster provides them with a solid floor. There is still room for improvement, but both of these guys are talented young receivers in their own right.
The second order of business - retain key pieces
The Cowboys are entering free agency with several key players hitting the market. The team has already placed the franchise tag on Dalton Schultz so he won’t be going anywhere and giving Gallup an extension is a foregone conclusion. But the love may not stop there.
The extra cap space could also mean the Cowboys might be able to spread out some funds elsewhere to strengthen the roster. Randy Gregory is one player many fans would love to see return, and suddenly re-signing him doesn’t seem so impossible. The team may look to retain some of their less expensive free agents by re-signing safety Jayron Kearse or edge rusher Dorance Armstrong.
The team may be taking a different approach than what they’ve done before and opting to go for quantity over quality by keeping more good players versus paying a lot for their stars.
The third order of business - draft a wide receiver
If the Cowboys didn’t trade Cooper, then you’d have to figure spending a first-round pick on a new rookie would’ve been highly unlikely. I mean, are they really going to have three first-round WRs on the team? There are only so many balls to go around and they could reach a saturation point when it comes to targets, but that issue is moot now.
There are a few intriguing names who have star potential at pick 24, and if the right guy falls the Cowboys have a shot at revamping the wide receiver position in the blink of an eye. Whether it’s Treylon Burks, Chris Olave, or Jameson Williams, there’s a great chance a potential stud receiver makes it to them in the first round.
And if it doesn’t fall like that, no biggie. There are still several good options later that would fit nicely with Lamb and Gallup. All we can say is that the Cooper trade puts them very much in the mix when it comes to drafting a new receiver, and they have a lot of flexibility in how they go about it.