Amari Cooper

Cowboys Rumors: Earl Thomas, Witten, Draft

Seahawks free agent safety Earl Thomas is expected seek $15MM a year with his next deal, The Athletic’s Calvin Watkins tweets.

Watkins notes that figure might be too high for the Cowboys. Though possessing plenty of cap space this offseason, the team is expected to use most of that money in signing Demarcus Lawrence to a long-term deal and working on extensions for players like Dak Prescott and Byron Jones.

Thomas and the Cowboys have long been linked ever since the All-Pro safety told head coach Jason Garrett to “come get him” following a 2017 game. The Cowboys and Seahawks were in talks on trades for the star defender in the offseason but could not come to an agreement on draft-round compensation.

Thomas, a Texas native and longtime Cowboys fan, reportedly will not take a “hometown” discount with the team and is also expected to be courted by the 49ers.

Here’s more surrounding the Cowboys:

  • When asked whether the newly signed Jason Witten is a “coach in waiting,” owner Jerry Jones said that he will be with the team in the future, whether that is as a coach or in another position, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen tweets. After a year-long hiatus, Witten made a shocking decision when he decided to come back for another season in 2019. Long considered a future NFL coach, Witten is sure to make a move in that direction following what is, presumably, his last season.
  • Speaking of Witten, when the future Hall of Famer rejoined the team, it was expected the Cowboys would not take a tight end early in the draft. That might not be the case, as the team has already met with Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson, The Dallas Morning News’ Jon Machota tweets. Though they might have interest, the Cowboys do not possess their first-round pick thanks to the Amari Cooper trade and the college standout will likely be gone before their Day 2 selection.
  • Like we said earlier, the Cowboys are expected to use most of their cap space to resign their own players this year. The team has already met with the agents for Prescott, Jones and Cooper, and are expected to meet with Lawrence’s agent tonight, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Clarence Hill Jr. tweets. They have not met with Ezekiel Elliott‘s agent yet, but have indicated plenty of interest in resigning him at some point.

 

Extra Points: Cooper, Raiders, Ansah, Lions, Firings

The trade of Amari Cooper from the Raiders to the Cowboys has been one of the most discussed stories this NFL season. The conventional wisdom had been that new coach Jon Gruden wanted him gone as he sought to stockpile more draft picks to completely rebuild the Raiders the way he wanted, but new information suggests that might not be the case. Cooper himself told Calvin Watkins of The Athletic (Twitter link) that it was Raiders owner Mark Davis who wanted him gone and not Gruden.

Cooper shares an agent with Khalil Mack, and rumors have swirled online for a while now that there may have been bad blood between Davis and Mack’s agent after the two sides were unable to work out a new deal for the defensive end. That being said, the notion that Davis is the one who wanted Cooper off the Raiders isn’t true, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, who tweets that Cooper is misinformed. It’s unclear who’s right, but it’s likely this isn’t the last we hear of this story.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah was placed on injured reserve recently, and has likely played his last game as a Lion, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Birkett writes that he “can’t see” Ansah returning to Detroit, even on a “one-year prove-it deal.” Ansah is a very talented pass-rusher, but has been unable to stay healthy the past couple of years while the Lions have paid him a ton of money. His free agency and what type of deal he’s able to land will be one of the most interesting to monitor this spring.
  • There will surely be a bunch of coaching moves on Black Monday once the regular season is over, but there have already been a bunch of moves made this season, and Field Yates of ESPN.com recapped all of the in-season firings (Twitter link). Packers head coach Mike McCarthy & associate head coach Winston Moss, Browns head coach Hue Jackson & offensive coordinator Todd Haley, Bengals defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFillipo, Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith, Cardinals offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, and Lions special teams coordinator Joe Marciano have all been let go this year. We’ll know more very soon, but at least a few more head coaching jobs will be open soon, with Vance Joseph, Dirk Koetter, and Todd Bowles being the most likely candidates to be replaced.
  • In case you missed it, the Seahawks are interested in re-signing linebacker Mychal Kendricks once he serves his sentence for insider trading.

Latest On Extension Talks For Amari Cooper, Dak Prescott

The Cowboys indicated earlier this month that they are planning on signing the newly-acquired Amari Cooper to an extension. However, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com writes, the two sides have not yet had any talks regarding a new deal. Cooper is under club control through 2019 under the fifth-year option that Oakland had previously exercised, and Cooper would be a legitimate franchise tag candidate for at least the 2020 season if it comes to it, so the Cowboys have not prioritized a new contract. However, Schefter said player and team do plan to discuss a long-term extension after the season, and that Dallas is prepared to pay Cooper.

Cooper’s price, though, is only going up. He is starting to look a little like his old self in Dallas, and he exploded for 180 yards and two scores in the team’s Thanksgiving Day win over the Redskins. Now riding a three-game winning streak, the Cowboys have suddenly become the favorites to win the NFC East, and Cooper — who has 22 receptions for 349 yards and three TDs in four games with the team — is a big reason for that.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk examines what a new contract for Cooper could look like, and he suggests that any deal reached prior to the 2019 season would need to include at least $30.6MM in fully-guaranteed money, and probably more. Plus, in light of recent contracts for players like Sammy Watkins and Brandin Cooks, Cooper could easily make a case for a deal that features an average annual value of $16MM+. Cooper is represented by agent Joel Segal, who of course did wonders for Khalil Mack earlier this year.

In addition to Cooper, the Cowboys are also planning an extension for third-year signal caller Dak Prescott. as Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network confirms (video link). Owner Jerry Jones and executive VP Stephen Jones are reportedly convinced that Prescott is the team’s franchise quarterback, and they plan to pay him accordingly. As Florio notes, it will be difficult to determine a true starting point in negotiations for Prescott, but Rapoport says that Dallas wants to lock up both Cooper and Prescott for the foreseeable future this offseason and that the club is making financial preparations now. The Cowboys have not yet initiated talks with Prescott’s camp either but will do so at season’s end.

As we heard yesterday, star running back Ezekiel Elliott may be left out once Dallas has finished paying Prescott, Cooper, and (potentially) Demarcus Lawrence.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys Planning Amari Cooper Extension

One more full season remains on Amari Cooper‘s contract, his guaranteed-for-injury 2019 fifth-year option, but the Cowboys didn’t trade a first-round pick for a player without a potential long-term future with the team. They are planning a Cooper extension.

In general, we believe we’re going to sign Amari to an extension,” Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones said during an interview on 105.3 The Fan (via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). “That goes without saying. We feel like he was worth the No. 1, and I think part of making it worth it is that we eventually sign him to an extension.”

Jones added the Cowboys wouldn’t have made the trade if Cooper was merely a rental commodity. The 24-year-old wideout is due $13.9MM next year. An extension could bring that figure down and potentially add to Dallas’ $54MM in 2019 cap space, but when the team made the deal with Oakland, an extension didn’t seem imminent just yet.

Cooper has not been the same player he was during the 2015-16 seasons. He finished last season with 680 receiving yards in 14 games; his 48.6 yards per game were nearly 25 yards down from his 2016 average. He caught two or fewer passes in four of his six Raiders games this season. The former No. 5 overall pick came to Dallas understanding he doesn’t have the leverage to command a top-market re-up, and the Cowboys were believed to be fine with waiting on an extension. It appears they’re being more aggressive on this front now.

Of course, the Cowboys planning an extension doesn’t necessarily mean the team and Cooper are close on terms. With wideout contracts exploding in 2018 — 13 WRs now make more than $14MM per year on average, and seven of those deals were finalized this year — Cooper may view himself as closer to that group than the Cowboys do. Dallas trading a first-round pick for him may only further embolden the receiver’s camp.

How Cooper performs down the stretch of this season will be critical to setting a price point, but the sides may be in for a long-term partnership.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Titans Were Willing To Trade First-Rounder For Amari Cooper?

The Cowboys’ decision to give the Raiders a first-round pick for Amari Cooper has brought criticism, considering Dallas’ 3-4 record and Cooper’s inconsistency. But their Monday night opponent may have viewed the former top-five pick in a similar light.

The Titans were also willing to part with a first-round pick to acquire Cooper, David Moore of the Dallas Morning News reports. A Tennessee-proposed caveat may have scuttled a Cooper-to-Nashville path, however.

While the Cowboys landed Cooper for a first-round pick, the Titans wanted to swap Day 2 draft slots with the Raiders to soften the blow of losing a Round 1 choice, Moore adds. It’s unclear if this means flipping both second- and third-round selections, but the Titans look to have wanted something from the Raiders the Cowboys didn’t.

Cooper will debut for the Cowboys against the Titans tonight after arriving during Dallas’ bye week. The Titans (3-4) have also struggled in recent weeks and are hurting for pass-catcher depth. They lost Delanie Walker and enter tonight’s game with the NFL’s 30th-ranked passing attack. Corey Davis‘ 395 receiving yards lead the team. Tajae Sharpe‘s 222 yards are second. Marcus Mariota has only thrown three touchdown passes.

The Eagles, Colts and Redskins were also believed to be interested in Cooper, and the crowded market benefited a Raiders team that now holds three 2019 first-round picks.

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West Notes: Peterson, Broncos, Raiders

The Cardinals and Patrick Peterson appear to be moving forward together, despite the All-Pro cornerback’s trade request. A key part of Peterson reaffirming his commitment to the franchise was a 30-minute meeting with team president Michael Bidwill, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter). The parties discussed ways the Cardinals could improve, with Bidwill assuring Peterson the franchise is committing to winning, per Schefter.

I think we definitely have a clear understanding and I have two years left under my contract, so I’m here,” Peterson said, via ESPN.com’s Josh Weinfuss (on Twitter), who adds the cornerback didn’t exactly exude much happiness during his remarks Wednesday, which could be understandable given the state of the Cardinals (Twitter link).

Peterson also responded to a question about why he wanted to be traded by saying (via Weinfuss, on Twitter), “You see the record.” He’s signed through the 2020 season but has little guaranteed money left on an extension he agreed to in 2014.

Here’s the latest out of the West divisions:

  • The Broncos do not plan to sign a backup quarterback in the near future. While Mike Klis of 9News notes the team likely will add another signal-caller to either the active roster or practice squad, expect that player to now work behind previous No. 3 passer Kevin Hogan. “Kevin is the backup right now,” Vance Joseph said. “We’ll see as time progresses here. Kevin is fine. Kevin has played in games. He’s a smart guy; he’s picked it up quick and we have full confidence in Kevin.” Hogan is a career 59 percent passer who started one game and saw action in eight with the Browns from 2016-17. The Redskins waived him before the season began, and the Broncos’ subsequent claim led to Paxton Lynch‘s departure.
  • Addressing the trade that sent Amari Cooper to the Cowboys, Jon Gruden said (via the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Michael Gehlken, on Twitter) this was more about acquiring a valuable draft pick than the Raiders being dissatisfied with the wide receiver. Reggie McKenzie said Monday that Dallas offering a first-rounder was a proposal he could not pass on.
  • Both K.J. Wright and Ed Dickson are expected to make their season debuts for the Seahawks on Sunday, Pete Carroll said (via ESPN.com’s Brady Henderson). An arthroscopic knee surgery and a setback kept Wright out for this long. Dickson’s spent time on the NFI list because of a quad injury. The Seahawks signed Dickson to a three-year, $10.7MM deal this offseason.
  • The Seahawks placed safety T.J. Green on their exempt list, and Carroll said (via the Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta, on Twitter) Green simply didn’t want to play football anymore. The former second-round pick out of Clemson hadn’t seen action with the Seahawks. He’d started 11 games prior to the Colts cutting him two months ago.
  • Citing Gruden’s inconsistent draft history with the Buccaneers, CBS Sports’ Joel Corry wonders how well the Raiders coach will fare in rebuilding this team that now has three 2019 first-round picks. Gruden assumed full Bucs control during the 2003 season, and only one of his draft choices (2006 first-rounder Davin Joseph) made a Pro Bowl as a Buccaneer (although, 2008 first-rounder Aqib Talib made several after leaving Tampa Bay). Both Michael Clayton and Cadillac Williams started strong before failing to match their rookie seasons’ excellence, with Corry adding Gruden’s draft work in Tampa Bay does not measure up to McKenzie’s high-end 2014 haul of Khalil Mack, Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson.

Fallout From Raiders’ Trade Of Amari Cooper

After looking at the Amari Cooper trade from the Cowboys’ perspective, let’s take a look at things from the Raiders’ side:

  • Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie insists that Cooper’s contract situation, or the fact that he is represented by the same agent as Khalil Mack agent (Joel Segal) had nothing to do with his desire to make a deal (Twitter link via Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area).
  • McKenzie said the trade “was an opportunity I couldn’t pass on, to get a first-round pick. … I love Amari but I just felt it came down to getting the pick,” (Twitter link via Vic Tafur of The Athletic).
  • The Raiders are now in a full rebuild mode, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) doesn’t think they’re done yet. Safety Karl Joseph is another first-rounder who could be available, giving the Raiders a chance to add even more to their 2019 draft haul. As Rapoport understands it, quarterback Derek Carr and cornerback Gareon Conley are unlikely to be dealt, but many other players could be had for the right price.
  • Head coach Jon Gruden did not immediately address the trade with his team (Twitter link via Michael Gehlken of the Review-Journal). Some players saw Cooper pulled off of the practice field on Monday but didn’t know why until they checked their phones in the locker room.

Fallout From Cowboys’ Trade For Amari Cooper

On Monday, the Cowboys pulled off a blockbuster trade by acquiring multiple-time Pro Bowler Amari Cooper from the Raiders. Many were surprised to hear that the Cowboys gave up a first-round pick for the wide receiver, but the Cowboys had their reasons for splurging. Here’s a look at the fallout from the Cooper deal from the Cowboys’ perspective:

  • Before the trade, the Cowboys were committed to taking a wide receiver high in the 2019 draft, likely in the first round (Twitter link via Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports.) By dealing for Cooper instead, the Cowboys believe they have secured a star wide receiver who is already proven and can contribute right away.
  • Cooper knows he doesn’t have the leverage to land the sizable extension he will eventually seek, and the Cowboys were sold on the deal upon learning that he was OK with holding off on extension talks (Twitter link via Robinson). Cooper, who hasn’t done a whole lot in his last 20 games, is willing to play through his 2019 fifth-year option, which will pay $13.9MM.
  • Gil Brandt of NFL.com (on Twitter) doesn’t have any wide receivers in his top 25 for the 2019 draft. Therefore, if the Cowboys drafted around No. 20, they’d be reaching for a wide receiver less capable than Cooper and wouldn’t have him for the second half of this season. The Cowboys had a similar evaluation of things, Clarence Hill of the Star Telegram tweets.
  • “[Cooper is] a younger veteran receiver – only 24 tears old – who can do lot of things in our offense and we don’t have to wait for him to learn how to play in NFL,” said a high-ranking Cowboys source (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Chris Mortensen).
  • In giving up a first-round pick for Cooper, the Cowboys are further casting their lot with Dak Prescott as their quarterback of the future, Todd Archer of ESPN.com tweets. His reasoning is that the Cowboys would have had to use a first-round pick in order to be in the QB market in next year’s draft.

Eagles, Jets, Others Pursued Amari Cooper

The Cowboys did not wait for trade deadline week to make their move, unloading a first-round pick to land Amari Cooper from the Raiders. They look to have fought off several others to acquire the fourth-year wide receiver.

Reggie McKenzie said (via Vic Tafur of The Athletic, on Twitter) he spurned initial offers, but that five teams upped their offerings until the Cowboys parted with their next first-round selection. Teams were contacting the Raiders about Cooper as early as the offseason and continued to do so during the season’s opening weeks before recent media reports accelerated the process, McKenzie said (via NBC Sports Bay Area’s Scott Bair and the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Michael Gehlken, Twitter links).

One team that was in the thick of the pursuit: the Eagles. The defending Super Bowl champions were interested in Cooper, but Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (video link) other suitors ended up being scared off by the Raiders’ first-round demand. The Cowboys’ initial offer didn’t satisfy the Raiders, either, and they weren’t the first team to ask about Cooper. But executive VP Stephen Jones called McKenzie with the first-round offer and completed the deal Monday morning.

The Jets were involved as well, with Rich Cimini of ESPN.com tweeting Gang Green had some interest in a player current team brass loved coming out of the draft in 2015. Just as in the case of Khalil Mack, though, the Jets chose not to part with the kind of draft compensation a trade ultimately required. It’s unclear, however, if the Jets made an offer, per Cimini.

Both the Redskins and Colts were rumored to be interested as well. The Jets are banged up at wide receiver and don’t have much in the way of long-term options at that spot. The Eagles just paid up for Alshon Jeffery and have Nelson Agholor on the books for 2019 via fifth-year option. Cooper now stands to be on the Cowboys’ 2019 payroll via $13MM-plus fifth-year option.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys To Acquire Amari Cooper

The Cowboys and Raiders have reached an agreement on Amari Cooper, with ESPN.com’s Josina Anderson reporting (via Twitter) the fourth-year wide receiver will head to Dallas. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets this transaction is indeed happening.

The compensation is big. Dallas will send a first-round pick to Oakland for Cooper, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). It’s a 2019 pick, per SI.com’s Albert Breer (on Twitter). The Oakland/Las Vegas rebuild is in high gear, with the franchise now holding three first-rounders in next year’s draft.

Oakland received an offer for a pick expected to be in the high second-round range, per La Canfora (on Twitter), and turned it down, to the surprise of many around the league. But Gruden has recouped a first-round pick for a wideout whose value doesn’t appear to be what it once was.

While this marks another Reggie McKenzie first-rounder dealt, Breer tweets the Raiders GM handled the trade calls for Cooper and was holding teams to a first-round pick for the 24-year-old receiver’s services. The now-Jon Gruden-led Raiders have traded both of McKenzie’s top first-round acquisitions — Cooper and Khalil Mack — in a two-months span.

Cooper was at Raiders practice earlier on Monday, per ESPN.com’s Paul Gutierrez (on Twitter), but has been the subject of trade rumors for several days now. The Cowboys are swooping in, doing so after their record dipped below .500 after a Week 7 loss to the Redskins.

While Cooper has not shown the consistency he displayed during his first two seasons — both Pro Bowl campaigns — the Raiders wanted a first-round pick for him and will receive it. The Colts and Redskins were also rumored Cooper suitors, but he’ll head to a team with a dire need at wide receiver. Cooper is signed through the 2019 season, with the Raiders having picked up the 2015 No. 5 overall pick’s $13.924MM fifth-year option.

The return is surprising given Cooper’s performance over the past two years.

He has one catch in Oakland’s past two games and has finished four of the Raiders’ six 2018 contests with two or fewer receptions. After he posted a career-best 1,153 receiving yards in 2016, the Alabama product’s 2017 total (680 yards on 48 receptions in 14 games) was a considerable disappointment.

But Cooper will step in and be a key player for a Cowboys team that cut Dez Bryant this offseason but did not, until Monday, make a big move to replace him. Third-round pick Michael Gallup and UFA addition Allen Hurns represented Jerry Jones‘ Bryant-replacement efforts. Cooper will join a receiving corps currently fronted by slot man Cole Beasley. Only Beasley and tight end Geoff Swaim have more than 200 receiving yards for Dallas. Hurns has only caught 13 passes for 158 yards, and Terrance Williams is on IR.

Cooper’s season will now have back-to-back bye weeks, and he’ll have two weeks before debuting as a Cowboy. Dallas faces Tennessee in Week 9.

While the Cowboys have shown intermittent promise this season and play in an NFC East that’s seen the favored Eagles stumble to start their title defense, a 3-4 team trading a first-round pick represents massive risk. The pick Dallas is sending to Oakland could be in the top half of next year’s first round. With the Raiders’ own first-rounder in contention for No. 1 overall in 2019, they will have prime real estate to bring in potential cornerstones for their Vegas start.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.