The Cowboys built an escape hatch in Amari Cooper‘s 2020 contract, and the team took its Year 3 out by trading its previous No. 1 wide receiver to the Browns in March. Only $6MM in dead money came from unloading Cooper, who remains attached to the five-year, $100MM deal he signed in March 2020.
Although Noah Brown stepped up to help Cooper Rush to a win in his latest relief outing, the Cowboys have missed Cooper to some degree. They deployed a heavily CeeDee Lamb-dependent wideout cadre in Week 1, with Michael Gallup and James Washington out and third-round pick Jalen Tolbert inactive. Tolbert has yet to suit up for a Cowboys game.
Cooper, 28, has been the Browns’ No. 1 target. After a down Week 1, the eighth-year receiver has come through over the past two weeks, producing back-to-back 100-yard games. The latter effort helped the Browns to a Thursday-night win over the Steelers. When asked about Cooper’s Dallas departure, Jerry Jones reiterated it was a financial sacrifice. Cooper, who carried the top wide receiver cap number in 2021, became a cut candidate in early March. But the Browns took on the deal after winning a modest sweepstakes for the four-time Pro Bowler.
“The issue with Amari Cooper was how much we were paying him and what we could do with that money, completely,” Jones said during an appearance on 105.3 The Fan (via the Dallas Morning News’ Michael Gehlken, on Twitter). “Amari Cooper is a real good player. Top player. You can’t have it all.'”
One of several Cowboys to sign big-ticket contracts between 2019-21, Cooper only fetched fifth- and sixth-round picks in the trade. The Cowboys also sent a 2022 sixth-rounder to the Browns to complete the transaction. Cooper’s contract began to look a bit different as the receiver market boom transpired this offseason. Eight receivers passed Cooper in per-year salary via extensions between March and July, bumping Cooper’s AAV into a tie for 12th at the position. The other teams that traded their top receivers this offseason — the Packers, Chiefs, Titans and Ravens — also each fetched at least a first-round pick in those deals, making the Cowboys’ haul look minuscule by comparison.
The Browns soon restructured Cooper’s contract, dropping his 2022 cap number under $5MM. Cleveland may need to venture further into the void-years realm come 2023, when Cooper’s cap figure spikes beyond $23MM as Deshaun Watson‘s balloons to an unprecedented $54.9MM place.
The Cowboys, who also cut La’el Collins and saw Randy Gregory back out of an extension agreement, regrouped and did not dole out big money to an outside free agent this offseason. After passing on Von Miller‘s offer to take a hometown discount, the Cowboys re-signed Dorance Armstrong and added Dante Fowler on a low-cost deal. The team did not devote much in the way of funds to its offensive line. Dallas re-signed safety Jayron Kearse and gave Gallup a five-year, $57.5MM contract; that became the team’s top offseason expense. Gallup’s contract could age remarkably well, considering where the receiver market has gone. But for now, the Cowboys have him coming off a major injury. They will count on Gallup being a quality Lamb complementary piece this season, as Cooper strives for his fifth Pro Bowl.