It certainly wasn’t the most popular move around the Dallas Cowboys fanbase. The Cowboys decided to part ways with wide receiver Amari Cooper and managed to get what is basically a fifth-round pick for him. The complicating factor in that transaction was the size of Cooper’s contract. Dallas was on the hook for $20 million for each of the next three years, and the brain-trust at the Star thought it was too much.
Never mind thy were the ones who signed him to that contract, but in the intervening time between that contract and this offseason, the team had soured on Cooper. There are plenty of theories as to what happened to make a productive receiver a persona non grata in Dallas.
Figuring out exactly what went wrong is for another day, for now, the Cowboys have to move on. One thing they did was re-sign Michael Gallup, who returned on a team-friendly deal and who the organization prioritized over keeping Cooper. Gallup may not be ready at the very start of the 2022 season, but he will be counted on long term.
The team also brought in James Washington, who at the moment looks like the third receiver in the rotation, but will likely be joined by a draft pick and/or a low-cost free agent.
Perhaps the biggest reason the Cowboys decided they could move on was because of what happened in the 2020 Draft. Dallas was never expecting to get their hands on a top receiver like CeeDee Lamb. That shook up their plans at the position and sometime down the line, the Cowboys will have to reach a new contract with Lamb.
Heading into 2022, Lamb is being counted on to be WR1. Last year he technically was that. He had the most targets (120), receptions (79), and yards (1,102). By reputation Cooper may have been WR1, but stats-wise it was definitely Lamb.
Dak Prescott likely had an opinion on the decision to move Cooper. but being the face of the franchise and a good leader, he treated it with class and non-controversially.
“This is the hardest part of the league to me, watching teammates, watching friends, watching men you’ve grown with over the past few years, on the field and off the field, leave,’’ Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott said Monday, via David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. “I’m excited for them, their next chapters. They’ll do great things.
“And I’m excited for this team.’’
That’s for one side of the equation, as for the other side.
“Yeah, there’s no doubt [Lamb] is (ready to replace Cooper as the team’s No. 1 receiver),’’ Prescott said. “I think that’s the best part of that move. You look at a guy like CeeDee and what he’s done in his first two years, it’s exciting. He hasn’t really scratched the surface. Just for him to be the one, to be the main guy, I know he’s going to be ready for it.
“I know he’s already doing the things he needs to do that are necessary to have a great season.’’
There has been some question as to Lamb making as big of a jump in year two as anticipated. Year one for him was tough being a rookie, losing Dak Prescott for much of the season, and all of the COVID problems. In year two, he did jump up slightly but there is a feeling something more is out there with his game and the Cowboys need that to surface. Especially with Cooper gone.
The Cowboys believe in Lamb and think he is on the right track.
“Look at his trajectory,’’ Cowboys coach McCarthy told Moore this weekend. “Look at what he’s done from year one to year two. Now, he’ll have to take another step. It will be a different step for him because there will be more attention on him. He’ll be more of a focal point for the defense. But with that greater responsibility will come more opportunities for him to improve even more.’’
The Cowboys made a controversial move in moving Cooper. They are placing a majority of their chips on Lamb to prove it was the right move. No pressure or anything.