Cooper had to overcome a pair of hurdles to play on Sunday. Most notably, Cooper is now out of concussion protocol after receiving his final clearance from an independent neurological consultant, as Rapoport passes along.
The wide receiver has also been dealing with a rib issue. Cooper suffered the injury in Week 12, but subsequent x-rays came up negative for any damage. Cooper still managed to play last weekend against the Rams, hauling in three of his five targets for 34 yards. The wideout was limited to a season-low 23 snaps after having to exit the contest due to his head injury.
Cooper is putting up strong numbers during his second season in Cleveland. The 29-year-old receiver has collected 50 receptions for 799 yards and two touchdowns.
In addition to clearing Cooper, the Browns made a handful of additional moves ahead of tomorrow’s game. The team announced that they’ve elevated quarterback Joe Flacco as a standard gameday practice squad elevation while waiving QB P.J. Walker. The team also activated rookie cornerback Cameron Mitchell from injured reserve.
The Browns suffered a loss in Denver today as they continued to deal with significant injuries on both sides of the ball. The team was without star cornerback Denzel Ward to start today’s game after the veteran failed to rally for a second straight week, but they’ll hope that his absence doesn’t extend too far past today.
Ward was able to tough it out last week for a divisional matchup against the Steelers after suffering a neck injury in the prior week’s win over Baltimore. Unfortunately, for Cleveland Ward’s ailments would pile up as he would sustain an unrelated shoulder injury against Pittsburgh. Despite suffering a second injury, Ward was able to finish the game last week.
According to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com, the shoulder injury could potentially keep Ward out for a couple of weeks. The team doesn’t believe that it will require a stay on injured reserve, though, and hope that he’ll be able to make a comeback as soon as next week.
Here are a few other injury updates for the ailing Browns:
The hits to Cleveland’s quarterbacks room keep coming as new rookie starter Dorian Thompson-Robinson was forced to leave today’s game with a concussion, per ESPN’s Jake Trotter. The team had not yet activatedrecent quarterback signeeJoe Flacco, so they were required to turn to P.J. Walker as Thompson-Robinson’s backup. Thompson-Robinson may be able to clear concussion protocols in time to start next week’s contest in Los Angeles, but the Browns may need to call up Flacco in order to serve as either a new backup or potentially even a starter if Thompson-Robinson can’t play.
Leading wide receiver Amari Cooper was also forced out of today’s loss after suffering a rib injury. Luckily, the X-rays on Cooper’s ribs returned negative, according to Trotter, but bruised ribs can be a nagging injury in football. Cooper’s status on the injury report will be something to watch in the coming week.
As if all the above wasn’t enough, the Browns saw two more injuries of note today, these to their defensive line. Firstly, and perhaps most troublingly, Defensive Player of the Year frontrunner Myles Garrett was seen with his left arm in a sling after today’s contest. Garrett reportedly “felt something pop in his shoulder” today, per Cabot, necessitating the sling. According to Trotter, he told reporters that he doesn’t know how significant the injury may be but that he “will get scans in LA.” The team also saw starting defensive tackle Jordan Elliott leave today’s game with an ankle injury. The Browns will hope that Elliott’s injury is a minor one and that they will be able to catch a break from the constant string of recent maladies.
SEPTEMBER 18: Cooper’s practice setback will not lead to a Monday-night absence. The Browns’ top wideout will play against the Steelers, Rapoport tweets.
SEPTEMBER 16: The Browns may be down a receiver on Monday against the Steelers. Amari Cooper “aggravated” his groin during Saturday’s practice, according to coach Kevin Stefanski (via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport). The wideout is considered questionable for Cleveland’s Week 2 matchup.
After sitting out a practice earlier this week for a maintenance day, the veteran was on the practice field over the past two days. Stefanski said Cooper was injured late during Saturday’s practice before he exited with training staff.
Despite inconsistent quarterback play, Cooper was productive during his first season in Cleveland. The receiver finished the 2022 campaign with 78 catches for 1,160 yards and nine touchdowns. He played through a hip injury for much of the second half of the season, and he ultimately underwent core muscle surgery this offseason. The veteran had three catches for 37 yards in the season opener.
There is a lot of confidence around the Browns’ roster heading into the 2023 season. One of the positions of interest, though, is the wide receivers group. Highly dependent on the production of its top two wideouts last year, Cleveland will be paying close attention to the availability of Amari Cooper and the development of other receivers.
Luckily, after offseason surgery for a core muscle injury that had Cooper limping into the offseason, there are reportedly “no concerns from either Cooper or the Browns that he won’t be ready to go for training camp,” according to Chris Easterling of the Akron Beacon Journal. Even with the injury, Cooper delivered a team-leading 78 receptions for 1,160 yards and nine receiving touchdowns. Finally able to have an opportunity to build a rapport in camp with quarterback Deshaun Watson should set Cooper up for a strong second year in Cleveland.
The other top receiving performance for the team last season came via a bit of a breakout year for third-year receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones. The former sixth-round pick recorded career-highs in receptions (61) and receiving yards (839) while also matching his career-high total in touchdowns (3). If Peoples-Jones can take the next step forward in his development in 2023, the Browns could end up with three extremely capable receiving options for Watson in Cooper, Peoples-Jones, and tight end David Njoku.
Following Cooper and Peoples-Jones, the experienced depth disappears and the Browns begin to rely on young players to produce. The first player the Browns will look to is offseason trade acquisitionElijah Moore. After two years with the Jets that contained several hit-or-miss performances, Cleveland will be hoping for a bit more consistency from Moore this year. They can expect him to produce around 500 receiving yards, considering he’s delivered similar numbers in each of his two previous seasons, but if Moore, too, can take a step forward, the Browns’ top three wideouts can be dangerous. The versatility of Cooper and Peoples-Jones combined with the speed of Moore can provide Watson with a diverse set of primary weapons.
A trio of receivers will look to be top contributors behind those three. Free agent additionMarquise Goodwin, second-year receiver David Bell, and third-round rookie Cedric Tillman will all be vying to prove they can contribute in limited opportunities. Bell could find himself on the roster bubble after a disappointing rookie season, but it seems unlikely that they would release the former third-round pick after only one year.
If the Browns only decide to take six receivers on the roster into 2023, Bell will be competing for the sixth spot with veteran Jakeem Grant and Jaelon Darden. Neither Grant nor Darden are likely to add much on offense, but their abilities in the return game could allow Cleveland to trot someone other than Peoples-Jones out there for returns. If the team would prefer the possible offense Bell could add, they could continue utilizing Peoples-Jones in the return game.
This leaves another third-round pick, Anthony Schwartz, in danger of being waived. Over two years, Schwartz has only caught 14 passes for 186 yards and one touchdown. He contributed on kick returns as a rookie, but with others who can fill that role, that doesn’t help his case much. Other receivers Ra’Shaun Henry, Mike Harley Jr., and Daylen Baldwin all face long odds to make the 53-man roster, while last year’s sixth-round pick, Michael Woods II, is expected to miss the entire season after rupturing his Achilles tendon in April.
The Browns will have a few tough decisions to make when deciding just how many receivers to keep going into 2023, but they should feel confident about the weapons they have leading the group. With Cooper expected back healthy and Peoples-Jones and Moore hoping to continue their development, the Browns could be providing Watson with a talented top group of targets.
The NFL’s salary cap once again ballooned by more than $10MM, rising from its $208.2MM perch to $224.8MM. Factoring in the pandemic-induced 2021 regression, the NFL’s salary risen has climbed by more than $42MM since 2021.
This has allowed teams more opportunities for roster additions and opened the door for more lucrative player deals — at most positions, at least. However, it does not look like this season will include a $40MM player cap number. The Browns avoided a record-shattering Deshaun Watson $54.9MM hit by restructuring the quarterback’s fully guaranteed contract, calling for monster figures from 2024-26.
Here are the largest cap hits for teams on the offensive side going into training camp:
As should be expected, quarterbacks dominate this list. Mahomes’ number checks in here despite the Chiefs restructuring his 10-year, $450MM contract in March; the two-time MVP’s cap hit would have set an NFL record had Kansas City not reduced it. The Chiefs did not restructure Mahomes’ deal last year, but if they do not address it — perhaps via a complex reworking — before next season, Mahomes’ $46.93MM number would break an NFL record.
Cousins is also heading into a contract year, after the Vikings opted for a restructure and not an extension this offseason. Cousins does not expect to discuss another Minnesota deal until 2024, when he is due for free agency. Two relatively low cap numbers have started Wilson’s $49MM-per-year extension. The Denver QB’s cap number rises to $35.4MM in 2024 and reaches historic heights ($55.4MM) by ’25. The subject of a Goff extension has come up, and it would bring down the Lions passer’s figure. But Goff remains tied to his Rams-constructed $33.5MM-per-year deal through 2024.
Jackson and Jones’ numbers will rise in the near future, with the latter’s contract calling for a quick spike in 2024. Next year, the Giants QB’s cap hit will be $45MM. Watson’s 2024 hit, as of now, would top that. The Browns signal-caller is on the team’s ’24 payroll at $63.98MM. Long-term consequences aside, the Browns can be expected to once again go to the restructure well with Watson’s outlier contract.
The Raiders did not backload Garoppolo’s three-year contract; it only climbs to $24.25MM on Las Vegas’ 2024 cap sheet. The Bills did backload Allen’s pact. Its team-friendly years are done after 2023; the six-year accord spikes to $47.1MM on Buffalo’s cap next year. The Cowboys have gone to the restructure well with Prescott. Like Watson, the Cowboys quarterback is tied to a seemingly untenable 2024 cap number. The March restructure resulted in Prescott’s 2024 number rising to $59.46MM. Two seasons remain on that $40MM-AAV extension.
Another notable cap hold that should be mentioned is Tom Brady‘s. When the Buccaneers did not sign the again-retired QB to another contract before the 2023 league year, his $35.1MM dead-money figure went onto Tampa Bay’s 2023 cap sheet. The Bucs will absorb that entire amount this year. Brady’s 2022 restructure, after retirement No. 1, led to the $35.1MM figure forming.
Were it not for another O-line-record extension, the Tunsil number would have come in at $35MM this year. Matthews signed an extension last year. Moore would have come in higher on this list were he still on the Panthers, who took on $14.6MM in dead money to move their top wideout for the No. 1 overall pick. Sutton came up regularly in trade rumors, with the Broncos wanting a second-round pick for the sixth-year veteran. The former second-rounder’s high base salary ($14MM) hinders his trade value.
Cooper is a crucial returning member of the Browns offense. After a down 2021 season in Dallas that saw him fail to reach 1,000 receiving yards for the first time since 2017, Cooper rebounded beautifully in Cleveland as a top target for quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Deshaun Watson. He delivered a masterful performance in his age-28 season, catching 78 passes for 1,160 yards and nine touchdowns, leading the team in all three categories.
Cleveland also returns wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones and tight end David Njoku, who ranked second and third on the team in the different receiving categories, but after them, production dropped off dramatically, making Cooper’s presence in the offense that much more crucial. The Browns did trade for former Jets wide receiver Elijah Moore, who had varying levels of success in New York and signed veteran Marquise Goodwin, who has historically been a strong contributor throughout his career. Those additions should take some of the pressure off of young receivers Cedric Tillman (2023 third-round pick out of Tennessee), David Bell, Anthony Schwartz, and Jaelon Darden to be immediate contributors.
The team has also been exploring the possibility of reuniting Watson with his former Houston teammate, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Having a top-three of Hopkins, Cooper, and Peoples-Jones would improve the team’s talent in the room from good to elite. The addition of Hopkins has been deemed “unlikely,” but it’s still apparently on the table. With neither Hopkins nor Cooper, the Browns top-three would be Peoples-Jones, Goodwin, and Bell or Tillman, making Cooper’s return all the more relieving.
Regardless, Cooper is back with plenty of time to get back in shape for the regular season. He’ll be working to get fully healthy while continuing to build on his rapport with Watson in preparation for a full season with Watson behind center.
Allen Robinson passing his physical will send him to a fourth NFL team. The Rams will assume much of Robinson’s 2023 payout — as a result of the three-year, $46.5MM deal they authorized in 2022 — and could only offload that contract for a 17-spot jump in the seventh round. The Steelers adjusted Robinson’s contract further before the trade became official, with Ian Rapoport of NFL.com indicating (via Twitter) the wide receiver will collect a $3.84MM signing bonus from his new team. That will help reduce his cap hit. As for 2024, Rapoport adds Robinson’s base salary will drop from $15MM to $10MM. Two void years are also present on Robinson’s Steelers deal, per OverTheCap, which indicates the 10th-year veteran will be tied to a $5MM cap number this year and a $10MM hit in 2024. While Robinson’s $5MM 2023 salary is locked in, nothing is guaranteed for 2024.
The Steelers sought an experienced option at receiver, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac, due to second-year players George Pickens and Calvin Austin being expected to play significant roles in 2023 (Twitter link). Robinson will join Diontae Johnson, who is going into his fifth season, as veteran options. This might lead to the Steelers addressing other positions with their Day 2 draft capital; the team has taken eight wideouts on the draft’s second day since 2013.
Here is the latest from the AFC North:
Four years after working together on a dysfunctional Browns team, Odell Beckham Jr. and Todd Monkenreunited with the Ravens. Beckham said he and the recently hired Baltimore OC have a great relationship. In 2019, however, Monken served as a non-play-calling OC under Freddie Kitchens, who was fired after one season. Midway through that disappointing Browns slate, cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot notes Beckham initiated a clear-the-air meeting with Monken in an effort to move parties onto the same page. Browns wideouts perceived Kitchens and the team’s QBs at the time to be “cliquey,” and the disconnect led to shouting matches between wideouts and coaches. The Browns disbanded the Beckham-Baker Mayfield partnership midway through the 2021 season. Although Monken ran the offensive meetings during the week in 2019, Cabot adds the future Georgia staffer did not have much play-calling input. The Ravens will count on Monken, who now has a third NFL OC opportunity, and OBJ to elevate their offense next season.
Amari Cooper may miss some offseason time due to a core surgery he underwent this offseason. Cooper did not miss any games last season, but Cabot adds he underwent this procedure in February. Kevin Stefanski said the team will not rush Cooper back, so it stands to reason the ninth-year wideout may not be a full OTAs participant. Cooper, 28, put together his sixth 1,000-yard season in 2022; two years remain on his Cowboys-constructed contract.
The Ravens‘ pass rush could receive a huge boost today as rookie second-round pick David Ojabo is reportedly set to make his NFL debut, according to Rich Eisen of NFL Network. The Score’s Jordan Schultz first reported Ojabo would be good to go this week.
Ojabo was a first-round talent who dropped to the second round of the draft when he suffered a torn Achilles while performing in his pro day at Michigan. Playing across from No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson, Ojabo was impressive in his own right, nearly matching Hutchinson blow-for-blow with 11 sacks and 12 tackles for loss to Hutchinson’s 14 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss.
The Ravens took the value pick, knowing that Ojabo likely wouldn’t debut for the team until late in the year and hoping it would help gear up the defense for a playoff run. The team designated Ojabo to return from the reserve/non-football injury list at the same time as they designated outside linebacker Tyus Bowser to return from the reserve/physically unable to perform list in mid-October. Both players were officially activated from their respective lists on November 1.
Both moves were announced shortly after Baltimore acquired Roquan Smithin a trade with the Bears. Bowser and Smith have already debuted for the Ravens this season, and the additions have been significant. Adding Ojabo to the mix give the Ravens a linebacking corps that consists of Smith, Patrick Queen, Bowser, Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Houston, Odafe Oweh, and Ojabo, among others. A unit that appeared to be a weakness heading into the season is now overloaded with talent.
Here are a few other rumors concerning the two teams in the AFC North that will face off later today:
Browns veteran wide receiver Amari Cooper has reportedly been dealing with a core muscle injury. The team’s top receiver has been playing through the injury, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com, and hasn’t considered the prospect of potential surgery in the offseason. Losing Cooper would be detrimental for Cleveland. Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones account for 80% of the catches and nearly 86% of the receiving yards by Browns receivers. Cleveland wideouts have caught eight total touchdowns this season; Cooper has accounted for seven of them. Cooper has struggled to find chemistry so far this year with new starting quarterback Deshaun Watson. In two games with Watson behind center, Cooper has six catches for 82 yards.
Speaking of the Browns’ new starting passer, Watson has continued his mandatory treatment program, despite his 11-game suspension coming to an end. A report two weeks ago detailed that sources have claimed Watson has shown “signs of progress” during the program, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. The program is confidential, so the laymen are not privy to the details of his treatment. A source with knowledge of the program told Schefter, “(Watson)’s been progressing well and he wants to continue with it.” The team, league, and Players Association feel it’s helping him, and he’ll continue treatment until it’s been determined that it’s no longer needed, which, reportedly, “could take a while.”
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson will miss his second straight game with a PCL sprain today, allowing backup quarterback Tyler Huntley to make his second consecutive start. The team is hopeful, though, that Jackson will be back at practice this week, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. The Ravens remain hopeful that he may even play on Christmas Eve against the Falcons.
The Ravens will lose a staffer at the end of the year as defensive assistant Ryan Osborn is set to become the defensive coordinator at Charlotte at the conclusion of the season. Osborn works closely with the outside linebackers and defensive linemen for Baltimore. He held a similar role last year as a defensive analyst at the University of Michigan, before following defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald to Baltimore. Osborn was a key proponent in helping Hutchinson and Ojabo get drafted as highly as they were and has done an admirable job of piecing together a strong pass rush for a Ravens team that has dealt with injuries at the position.
Of course, Kirk’s next 1,000-yard season will be his first. That helped lead to the surprise factor when he inked his deal, which is effectively a two-year, $37MM agreement. Kirk has been a nice addition for Jacksonville thus far, having caught 20 passes for 327 yards and three touchdowns through four games.
Flush with cap space, the Jags decided to make their No. 1 receiver bet in free agency. Jacksonville’s draft position and uncertainty of landing a top weapon in a trade factored into this decision. The team viewed its draft position — Nos. 1 and 33 at the draft’s outset — as unideal to land a wideout that would be ready to contribute immediately, Jones adds, and it was not especially high on Amari Cooper. The Jags were involved in the Cooper sweepstakes, but considering the Browns acquired him for a fifth-rounder and a sixth-round pick swap, it is clear the AFC South team was not offering much.
Kirk’s contract helped drive the receiver market’s ensuing boom; 11 wideouts have since passed or matched Kirk’s $18MM-AAV accord. This makes the Jags’ thinking somewhat prescient. The Jags expected Samuel to score a payday north of $20MM per year, Jones adds. Samuel reached $23.85MM per annum during an offseason that also saw Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, Cooper Kupp, A.J. Brown, Stefon Diggs, D.K. Metcalf, Terry McLaurin, Chris Godwin, Brandin Cooks and Diontae Johnson surpass Kirk’s contract between free agency’s outset and the preseason. The run of big-ticket wideout deals led to Kirk’s AAV dropping from seventh to 18th at the position.
Another team was prepared to offer Kirk $13MM per year, but Jones adds that squad was quickly told it was not in the ballpark. The Eagles pursued Kirk briefly but were not prepared to go near where the Jaguars did for the ex-Cardinal second-rounder. Philly soon pivoted to Allen Robinson but saw the Rams blow that offer away, leading the Eagles to set the market for fully guaranteed money by trading for Brown and giving him $56MM at signing. The Jaguars’ focus on landing a high-end target in free agency helped lead to the domino effect that sent Brown to Philly.
September 23rd, 2022 at 12:11pm CST by Sam Robinson
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.
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 Kearseand 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.