Browns, Amari Cooper Aiming For Resolution Before Training Camp

The CeeDee Lamb and Brandon Aiyuk situations stand out among this offseason’s remaining receiver matters, but a host of others linger during this post-minicamp period. Following the Jerry Jeudy extension, the Browns have an issue to navigate with their top pass catcher.

Amari Cooper skipped minicamp, drawing the low-six-figure fine for the unexcused absence, but Kevin Stefanski confirmed the team has engaged in talks with the perennial 1,000-yard receiver. Cooper’s Cowboys-constructed contract includes one more nonguaranteed season, and the WR market booms of 2022 and 2024 have dropped the former top-five pick down the earnings list at his position. Considering Cooper’s importance to a Browns team essentially forced to make its Deshaun Watson-centered setup work, it is logical the club is exploring an agreement with the twice-traded target.

The Browns are hoping to have a resolution in place by the time they report to training camp, the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot notes. Cooper, 30, is on board with this route. The Browns restructured Cooper’s contract upon acquiring it from the Cowboys in 2022, but he has gone through the past two offseasons without any guarantees on the deal. Cooper tied himself to a long-term contact at what turned out to be a bad time.

This is relative, of course, as productive NFL players are obviously paid quite well. Cooper also secured $40MM guaranteed up front from the Cowboys, but the NFC East club’s preference for five- or six-year extensions effectively kept the veteran target out of the mix for a new deal while the WR market took off. Cooper’s $20MM AAV ranked second at the position — behind only Julio Jones‘ third Falcons contract — when he signed his contract in March 2020; it has since dropped to a tie for 20th, as Justin Jefferson has taken the position’s per-year ceiling to $35MM. Receivers have since opted for shorter-term extensions to have extra chances at paydays.

Although Cooper approached the WR ceiling with his 2020 free agency agreement, he is not a candidate to land a Jefferson-level deal. This will be the former Alabama weapon’s 10th season, and last year marked his first 1,200-yard campaign. Though, Cooper now has seven 1,000-yard seasons. Still, the 6-foot-1 wideout played a central role in a Cleveland team down Watson, Nick Chubb and its top three tackles venturing to the playoffs. It makes sense, then, for the Browns to be interested in another agreement.

Sometimes all teams will have periods where they go through this type of situation, but it does not change our affinity for Amari,” GM Andrew Berry said during an NFL Network appearance. “We’ll navigate the business considerations, the business aspects, as it goes, but he is a big part of our team, and just as important, he’s a big part of our culture.”

With Cooper going into the final year of his deal, an extension would be the most likely way to resolve this matter. A rumor about a potential Browns-Cooper extension surfaced in April. The team having given Jeudy $41MM fully guaranteed (sixth among WRs) despite the younger Alabama alum being 0-for-4 in 1,000-yard seasons stands to strengthen Cooper’s case to have a new contract by camp.

An extension would stand to reduce Cooper’s cap hit from its $23.8MM place while helping on the void years front as well; the team’s restructure would create $7.6MM in dead money were the accomplished receiver to leave as a free agent in 2025. It does not sound like the Browns are interesting in that happening.

The high-end route runner has produced for three teams and is coming off a year in which he played a starring role in Joe Flacco‘s stunning Comeback Player of the Year season. In addition to Lamb and Aiyuk, Cooper joins Tyreek Hill, Courtland Sutton and, technically, Tee Higgins — though, it does not sound like any 2024 resolution will come out of Cincinnati — as other wideouts angling for better terms. Separating this situation from the other Ohio WR matter, it appears likely the team’s top target will be in a more favorable situation by the time he dons a game uniform again.

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