Amari Cooper

Browns Restructure Amari Cooper’s Contract; Jarvis Landry, Jadeveon Clowney Returns In Play

Despite authorizing a Deshaun Watson contract with guarantees well beyond uncharted NFL territory, the Browns still carry some of the most cap space in the league. They are prepared to use the additional funds to bring back familiar faces.

The Browns restructured Amari Cooper‘s contract Saturday, moving the bulk of his $20MM base salary into a signing bonus, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. This created $15MM in cap space for Cleveland, which sits second in the NFL with more than $36MM in available funds. This opens the door to both Jarvis Landry and Jadeveon Clowney coming back, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes.

Cleveland “would love” to bring back both players, Cabot adds, despite having cut Landry earlier this week. Having Landry back would give Watson an accomplished No. 2 receiver, with Cooper set to play the WR1 role for his third NFL team. Clowney said earlier this month he was planning to be patient, but Cabot adds the Browns have been in discussions with both he and Landry about coming back.

Cooper’s restructure balloons his 2023 and ’24 cap figures north of $23MM, and while Watson’s $230MM fully guaranteed resides in another stratosphere compared to the rest of the league, he is only set to count $10MM against Cleveland’s cap this year, Pelissero adds (on Twitter). By reducing Watson’s salary in 2022, the embattled quarterback stands to lose less money if/when he is suspended. While the Browns have been heavily criticized for the Watson addition and contract extension, they are preparing to be a Super Bowl contender. That status will naturally be a draw for veterans.

Clowney, 29, has famously never landed a long-term contract as a veteran, going from a 2018 fifth-year option to a 2019 franchise tag to one-year deals with the Titans and Browns in the following years. Playing opposite Myles Garrett, Clowney registered nine sacks last season. He played with Watson for two seasons in Houston.

Landry’s five-year Pro Bowl streak stopped after the 2019 season, and he finished with a career-low 570 receiving yards. But Baker Mayfield‘s shoulder injury limited the Browns’ passing game. When Watson is available in 2022, the Browns should feature superior aerial capabilities. Landry, 29, is not a lock to come back, however. The Falcons have him on their radar, joining other teams in that regard. The Chiefs’ JuJu Smith-Schuster signing may take them out of the Landry running, though.

Cowboys Re-Sign WR Michael Gallup

The Cowboys will avoid letting wide receiver Michael Gallup hit the free agent market after to a five-year, $57.5MM deal, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (on Twitter). After trading away Amari Cooper earlier this week, this moves cements that Dallas’s other three top pass catchers will be returning for the 2022 NFL season.

Gallup, 26, will collect $23MM in guarantees, with Pelissero noting this contract will max out at $62.5MM. A nice payday for Cooper’s former sidekick, whom the Cowboys have chosen over their four-year WR1.

A third-round pick out of Colorado State in 2018, Gallup broke out for 1,107 yards in 2019 alongside Cooper. The arrival of CeeDee Lamb in 2020 limited his production to a still impressive 843 yards as a number three receiver. Even in an injury-plagued 2021 season, Gallup enjoyed glimpses of success.

This news has been in the works for a while now with estimates that the Cowboys were aiming for a five-year pact with an annual average value around $10MM, but that Gallup’s camp may possibly having been pushing for a shorter commitment. Either the rumors about Gallup’s camp have been proven untrue or an annual average value of nearly $12MM was too enticing to turn down.

Regardless, the long-term, decently priced deal is a strong commitment to Gallup after he only played in nine games of his contract year due to a Week 1 calf injury and a season-ending ACL tear in Week 16. The contract seems to indicate that the Cowboys are confident in the medical information they are receiving on Gallup’s recovery.

With decisions made on Cooper and Gallup, and the franchise tag placed on Dalton Schultz, Dallas can focus its attention on the litany of other impact players set to hit the free agent market this week like Randy Gregory, Connor Williams, Leighton Vander Esch and Cedrick Wilson.

Browns To Acquire WR Amari Cooper From Cowboys

Amari Cooper is heading to Cleveland. The Browns are trading for the Cowboys wide receiver, reports NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter).

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter), Cleveland is trading 2022 fifth- and sixth-round picks to Dallas for Cooper and a sixth-round pick. Josina Anderson was first with the news (on Twitter) that the two teams were zeroing in on a trade. This move clears $16MM in cap space for the Cowboys while arming the Browns with a Pro Bowl receiver in his prime.

The Jaguars, Dolphins and Jets also pursued Cooper, according to CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones. Given the modest return the Cowboys are collecting, the other AFC teams’ offers did not appear to impress Dallas. Had the Cowboys cut Cooper, ESPN.com’s Dianna Russini adds he was not expected to garner a similar contract on the open market (Twitter link). This ends a four-season partnership between Cooper and the Cowboys, who traded their 2019 first-round pick to acquire the ex-Raider ahead of the 2018 deadline.

Cooper landed on the trade block this time because of his contract, which calls for $20MM base salaries from 2022-24. That said, none of that money is guaranteed for the Browns, making this a similar arrangement to their previous big-ticket wide receiver trade.

Wideout did not reside especially highly among the Browns’ needs for a bit, but the team could not establish a fit with Odell Beckham Jr., leading to a messy separation. Cleveland’s latest marquee wide receiver trade has proven far less costly. It cost the team a first-round pick and Jabrill Peppers to acquire Beckham in 2019, and the Giants had recently given Beckham a monster extension. The Cowboys handed Cooper a five-year, $100MM deal in 2020 but made it known this week they were planning to move on from him, limiting the compensation.

Despite having been in the NFL since 2015, Cooper is still just 27. His high salary aside, the former Alabama target will be a welcome addition for a Browns team leaning toward — per the bulk of this offseason’s reports — giving Baker Mayfield another opportunity. (That said, the Browns have also been linked to Derek Carr, which is now a bit more interesting with Cooper in the fold.) The Browns ended their season thin at receiver, and Jarvis Landry is not a lock to return. Landry, 29, has fallen off his Pro Bowl pace in recent years, though he did aid the Browns’ playoff push after Beckham’s 2020 ACL tear.

Cooper provided vital assistance to Dak Prescott, with the Cowboys turning their 2018 season around after his midseason arrival. The former No. 5 overall pick is one of the NFL’s best route runners. He topped 1,100 yards in both 2019 and ’20, doing so in the latter year despite Prescott’s early-season injury. Overall, Cooper is 5-for-7 in 1,000-yard seasons. His presence freed up opportunities for CeeDee Lamb and Dalton Schultz last season, but Dallas will go with its cheaper cogs moving forward. The team is also trying to lock down Michael Gallup to a lower-cost extension.

Cowboys WR Amari Cooper Generating Trade Interest

Amari Cooper may not hit free agency after all. Clarence Hill Jr. of the Dallas Star-Telegram reports (via Twitter) that there is a “real trade market” for the wide receiver. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler tweets that five teams have discussed Cooper’s availability “in a potential trade or release.”

This runs counter to what we heard earlier this week. While the Cowboys were “likely” to release the receiver, they were still hoping to trade him…but there were reports indicating that the Cowboys weren’t receiving a whole lot of interest. One team source cited Cooper’s hefty contract, which runs through 2024 and carries a $22MM cap number for this season, as the main reason why they wouldn’t deal for him.

However, today’s report indicates that teams may be rethinking their stance. Cooper’s contract does provide some year-to-year flexibility; if an organization is wiling to tolerate his $20MM salary in 2022, they could move on from him in 2023 with just a $4MM cap hit to show for it. The receiver inked a five-year, $100MM contract with the Cowboys in 2020.

Teams also might be wary of their ability to attract Cooper if he does indeed hit free agency. According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, the veteran receiver may want to return home to Miami and play for the Dolphins if the opportunity presents itself. So, if another team has Cooper high on their list, their only option may be to acquire him via trade.

Dolphins Set To Be Aggressive In Upgrading Offense

Changes to the Dolphins’ offense have already begun on the sidelines, principally with the hiring of Mike McDaniel as head coach. On the field, the team is preparing to add significant pieces to the unit, according to NFL Network’s Cameron Wolfe (video link). 

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In 2021, the team ranked 22nd in the league in points and 26th in yards, so there is certainly room for improvement in addition to developing quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Wolfe names Amari Cooper as someone the team is “watching closely” in the event he is cut from the Cowboys. Given the lack of teams interested in trading for the four-time Pro Bowler – and taking on the weighty cap hit his contract carries as a result – it seems likely he will be released.

If that happens, Miami will certainly have competition to land such an accomplished wideout. With more than $50MM of unused space, however, the team will certainly have the spending power to offer Cooper a deal that would at least be close to what he would have made with the Cowboys. In any event, Wolfe notes that the Dolphins are looking to add a third impact piece to their pass-catching corps, in addition to Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki.

With that said, Wolfe names the offensive line as the team’s “top priority”. With the potential for upgrades existing across the front, the team is looking at free agents at each position. Chief among those is tackle Terron Armstead; perhaps the top free agent of any kind this year, the Dolphins would, like with Cooper, need to win a bidding war for his services. Interior options they are watching reportedly include guard Laken Tomlinson and center Ryan Jensen, other established veterans who would help in both run blocking and pass protection.

Whether along the offensive line or amongst skill-position options, the Dolphins are set up to make at least one notable signing next week. Who that will be – and what further moves the team makes – will certainly be worth keeping an eye on in the coming days.

AFC East Rumors: Bills, Jets, Douglas, Jackson

On Friday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul made comments that all but guaranteed that an agreement for a new stadium for the Bills will be made soon, according to Mike Florio of NBC Sports.

Highmark Stadium (previously Rich Stadium, Ralph Wilson Stadium, and New Era Field) has been the home of the Bills since 1973. The Bills’ current lease on Highmark expires in 2023 and the franchise has been pushing with many government entities to build them a shiny, new stadium. The team has used the very real looming threat that there are plenty of other markets in the country that can support an NFL franchise.

Hochul commented on that threat saying, “That’s why we’re negotiating very intently, to make sure we have the right outcome for this community.” The new stadium will partially be funded by the public to the tune of about $850MM. The Governor claims that a deal will be done by April 1, in time for the annual budget.

Here are a few other rumors from around the AFC East, starting with a couple of notes that keep us in the Empire State:

  • The Jets are planning to use this offseason to add some weapons to the roster for quarterback Zach Wilson. They currently have Corey Davis and Elijah Moore sitting atop the depth chart. They would love to bring back Braxton Berrios as a fourth-receiver/gadget player and they haven’t yet given up on Denzel Mims. Still, New York will have ample opportunity to add a potential No. 1 receiver to the roster, according to SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano. The free agent market is home to many household names like Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson, Mike Williams, and, potentially, Amari Cooper. Players like Calvin Ridley and Cole Beasley have been rumored to be available via trade. The 2022 NFL Draft is also so rich in talented receivers that many believe some first round talent could fall to the second round where the Jets have two high picks, if they don’t choose to take a top prospect like Garrett Wilson or Drake London with the 10th overall pick.
  • That being said, Vacchiano also reports that, despite their vast spending ability, general manager Joe Douglas has been preaching the maintenance of financial flexibility. Though the Jets rank in the Top 5 in the NFL in salary cap space, Douglas rejected the notion that their $50-60MM in cap space will be dedicated to big spending in free agency. Douglas acknowledged free agency as just one of “a lot of different tools to improve your roster” and pointed to the Bengals as an example of responsible free agent spending. “I think Cincy did great in free agency last year,” he said. “They didn’t blow the doors off in terms of signing super high-priced guys. They brought in guys who fit exactly what they wanted to do.”
  • According to Mike Giardi of NFL Network, Patriots’ cornerback JC Jackson is likely headed for free agency with some lofty expectations. While Jackson still likes the Patriots, money is a big factor for the 26-year-old. Giardi claims that Jackson is strictly seeking compensation similar to Jalen Ramsey. New England won’t bring that money to the table and it sounds like they won’t be utilizing their franchise tag on Jackson, either. That information could lead to a tag and trade situation if other teams aren’t willing to shell out for Jackson in free agency.

Amari Cooper Not Drawing Trade Interest

When attached to his rookie contract, Amari Cooper commanded a first-round pick in a trade. The Cowboys, who sent the Raiders their 2019 first ahead of the 2018 deadline, are not seeing nearly as much interest now that Cooper is tethered to a high-end receiver deal.

The Cowboys will try to trade Cooper, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes, but the veteran wideout has not drawn much interest. Even with teams having known the pricey wideout’s availability for weeks now, Yahoo.com’s Charles Robinson notes teams are not lining up to acquire his current contract (Twitter links). Cooper’s deal runs through 2024 and carries a $22MM cap number for this season. One receiver-needy team informed Robinson it has no interest in Cooper at this price. If no reasonable trade offer emerges, the Cowboys intend to cut Cooper.

In recent years, the draft has begun to provide teams with quality value at receiver, with the past few classes being flush with pass-catching help. With those rookies tied to low-cost deals for at least three seasons, value for players like Cooper — who signed a five-year, $100MM deal in 2020 — diminishes.

The Cowboys moving Cooper off their roster before March 20 saves them $16MM, funds that could be allocated to some of the team’s impending free agents. Cooper’s $20MM base salary becomes fully guaranteed on that fifth day of the 2022 league year. The team is interested in retaining Dalton Schultz, and Robinson adds it weighed Cooper’s cost with the ability to keep Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson and potentially Randy Gregory (Twitter links). Wilson, Gallup’s injury replacement in 2021, joins Gallup and Gregory in being on track for free agency. To go through with this plan, the Cowboys ($13.4MM over the cap) will need to make more moves to free up space.

Gallup potentially being available at a slight discount due to his ACL tear benefits the Cowboys, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes, potentially factoring into the team’s plan. Retaining Gallup would be a cheaper option than keeping Cooper, though losing the latter would stand to put more pressure on CeeDee Lamb, who has benefited from defenses’ attention to Cooper. The Cooper-or-Gallup long-term choice has been on the team’s radar for a while now, and it appears a decision has been made.

Despite having played seven seasons, Cooper is just 27. He would certainly draw extensive interest on the open market. The prospect of the Packers franchise-tagging Davante Adams and the Buccaneers using a second tag on Chris Godwin would enhance Cooper’s value, if the Cowboys indeed release him. Cooper is a four-time Pro Bowler who has posted five 1,000-yard seasons.

Cowboys Likely To Cut Amari Cooper

The Cowboys are “likely” to release wide receiver Amari Cooper by the start of the league year, according to league sources who spoke with Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The move would spare Dallas from a fully-guaranteed $20MM payout, due on March 20th.

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Cutting Cooper would save the Cowboys $16MM in cap room for 2022. This was unthinkable just a couple of years ago, when the wide receiver inked his five-year, $100MM extension. Back then, he was fresh off of his fourth career Pro Bowl nod and had just reeled in 79 catches for 1,189 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. He delivered another solid — though less efficient — season in 2020 with 92 grabs, 1,114 yards, and five scores.

In 2021, however, he had his least productive full season as a Cowboy. His 68 catches for 865 yards and eight touchdowns were still okay for fantasy owners, but his overall performance wasn’t in line with his best work.
Without the former fourth overall pick, the Cowboys may look to completely overhaul their WR unit. Both Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson are scheduled for free agency, leaving CeeDee Lamb as the only pillar of the group under contract.

A Cooper release would provide breathing room for the long run as well. By dropping the remainder of his five-year, $100MM deal, the Cowboys would escape $22MM cap hits in each of the next three seasons. Cooper, meanwhile, would profile as one of the top free agents available. Despite his down 2021, Cooper has five 1,000-yard seasons on his resume and won’t turn 28 until June.

Cowboys Notes: Cooper, Elliott, Prescott

The Cowboys face the possibility of losing a number of their big-name players on both sides of the ball. The most notable of those – not just in terms of pedigree, but also how much his contract will affect the rest of the team’s offseason plans – is Amari Cooper. Recent comments from executive vice president Stephen Jones won’t be confused with a ringing endorsement of the wideout.

As ESPN’s Todd Archer writes, Jones was non-committal when asked if Cooper would remain with the Cowboys through next season. “It’s too early for me to address that yet… we’re continuing to have conversations”, he said. Questions surrounding the 28-year-old have increased recently, due to structure of his contract. There is no more guaranteed money left on Cooper’s deal, creating the possibility the team could get out of a $22MM cap hit in each of the next three years, while incurring relatively little dead money.

The former fourth overall pick had his least productive full season in Dallas last year. While his numbers (68 catches for 865 yards and eight touchdowns in 15 games) were still noteworthy, they fell short of expectations given his Pro Bowl pedigree, along with his contract. Moving on from Cooper could lead to a substantial overhaul of the Cowboys’ receiving corps, as Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson are each pending free agents, leaving CeeDee Lamb as essentially the only sure thing at the position.

Here are some other Dallas notes, including more remarks from Jones:

  • In contrast to Cooper, Jones spoke with more certainty about Ezekiel Elliott, saying “He’s going to be here, no question. We’re fortunate to have him”. With his money being guaranteed, that confirmation shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, Archer notes, but it is still notable given the fact Elliott played through a knee injury all season. Despite being banged up, he produced 1,289 scrimmage yards and 12 total touchdowns in 2021.
  • On a more general note, Jones suggested the Cowboys won’t treat this offseason as an ‘all-in’ year while sacrificing future cap flexibility. “We could do some things that would allow us to keep most of our guys if we wanted to push it all out, but then we’d have a much bigger problem next year and the year after”, he said (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Jon Machota). The Cowboys are currently projected to be over the cap, with several big-ticket free agents (including Randy Gregory and Dalton Schultz) still to be re-signed.
  • Lastly, head coach Mike McCarthy announced at the Combine that Dak Prescott had surgery on his left (i.e. non-throwing) shoulder at the beginning of the offseason, Field Yates of ESPN tweets. McCarthy has “no concern” about Prescott’s availability for offseason workouts, an encouraging sign given his injury history in Dallas.

NFC Notes: Bucs, Cooper, Panthers, Croom

A couple weeks ago, we wrote about the NFL finalizing plans for a regular season game to take place in Germany. Well, according to Ben Fischer of Sports Business Journal, the home team of that game will be none other than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

No word has been announced yet on who their opponent will be, but the Super Bowl LV champions will be present at FC Bayern Munich Stadium next season. The NFL will have one more game in Munich and two in Frankfurt over the following three seasons.

The 2022 NFL season will see four other games on foreign soil. In addition to the game in Germany, England will host three games and the league will return to Mexico City for the first time since 2019.

Here are a few other notes from around the NFC, starting with a note out of the Lone Star State:

  • Cowboys’ wide receiver Amari Cooper carried a $22MM cap hit in the 2021 NFL season, the highest of any receiver last year. His contract is set up to continue carrying that weight for the remaining three years of his deal. What changes is that, were Dallas to cut the free agent addition before the 2021 season, they would be left with $28MM of dead cap, whereas cutting him before March 20, 2022, would leave them with $6MM of dead cap. Michael Gehlken of The Dallas Morning News wrote about the Cowboys’ designed “escape hatch” in an article this past week.
  • The Panthers mutually parted ways with director of pro personnel Matt Allen this weekend, according to Joe Person of The Athletic. Allen started as a scouting assistant in 2009 and worked his way up until he was promoted into his most recent role in 2017. Allen was one of the last few holdovers from the Jerry Richardson-era, as Allen was actually a grandson of Richardson.
  • After spending the 2021 season on injured reserve, tight end Jason Croom is progressing steadily in his recovery from a torn ACL, according to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network. This was Croom’s second full season spent on IR as the former undrafted free agent also sat out his sophomore season in Buffalo. He is set to hit the free agent market as he works toward a full recovery.