The Cardinals acquired ex-Rams wide receiver Pharoh Cooper off waivers earlier this week, but they weren’t the only team with interest in the return man. The Giants, Jaguars, and Titans also put in claims for Cooper, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
Once the NFL’s trade deadline passes in November, every player is subject to waivers once they are cut. (Cooper, as a player with fewer than four pro seasons under his belt, would have gone on the waiver wire even if he’d been released before the deadline.) After the first three weeks of the season, the waiver order is based on standings, with the league’s worst team earning priority. Arizona has the No. 1 waiver slot, while Jacksonville is fifth, New York is ninth, and Tennessee is 22nd.
A fourth-round pick out of South Carolina in 2016, Cooper earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2017 as a return man. The 23-year-old handled 66 combined kick and punt returns, and led the NFL in yards per kickoff return (27.4). Cooper hasn’t been much of an offensive force through two-plus years in the NFL, as he played roughly 400 offensive snaps from 2016-17 and managed only 25 total receptions during that time. This season, Cooper was on injured reserve for nine weeks and thus only made five appearances.
Neither the Giants nor the Jaguars are headed to the postseason this year, but both clubs may have been attracted to Cooper’s contractual status, which will now keep him with the Cardinals through 2020 at a league minimum rate. The Titans would reaped the benefits of Cooper’s cheap salary, as well, but they’d have been hard-pressed to improve their kick return unit, which already ranks as the league’s best per Football Outsiders.