Amari Cooper, Wide Receiver
Oh lordy, here we go… Starting off this list with a fastball if you will. It has been roughly two years since the Dallas Cowboys traded a first-round pick to the then Oakland Raiders for Amari Cooper. The effect of that move was extremely significant as the team had no help from their receivers that season. Cooper’s arrival to Dallas propelled the passing offense from one of the worst in the league to one of the best.
Cooper came in as an established WR1 and resumed that role in Dallas. This allowed Dallas to continue developing 2018 rookie wide receiver Michael Gallup who has turned into one of the best deep threat receivers in the league. Cole Beasley continued dominating in the slot with these other guys garnering heavier coverage in the slot and eventually the same applied to Randall Cobb.
However, the Dallas Cowboys were very lucky and had the opportunity to draft Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb with the 17th overall pick in the 2020 draft. What was once a really good wide receiver group somehow got a lot better. However, what wasn’t clear heading into the season was how the Cowboys would try to use all their star wideouts.
Now at the team’s bye week and it’s pretty clear that Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb garner the most targets of the wide receivers on the team. So why not trade Michael Gallup? Gallup is a WR1 on many other teams but here he “struggles” to get targets compared to the other two receivers. (He’s been targeted 55 times this season which is the third-highest on the team)
The fact that he hasn’t reached his potential as a pass-catcher because of a lack of volume can drive his price down. Throw in the fact that he has only solid short-area quickness and drops passes at a high enough rate and his price should go down. The team could bring back Gallup on a cheaper deal than most would expect and this would allow the team to continue destroying defenses in the intermediate and deep areas of the field.
Lamb is on his rookie contract for another three years; when the team exercises his team-option that will make it four more years. In that time Cooper’s deal would finish presenting possible salary cap issues down the road. This is all excluding the fact that the team has yet to sign their franchise quarterback to a long-term extension.
Financially trading Cooper after this season could really help the Cowboys. Next season the Cowboys would accrue $28 million in dead cap. (Not great!) However, after that the team would only accrue six, four, and two million dollars for the following three years respectively. His 5 year/$100 million contract was right at market value for someone of his caliber meaning other teams wouldn’t feel burdened by his contract knowing he is a consistent 1,000-yard receiver every year.
How would the Cowboys deal with this loss? The team would likely move Lamb to the X position Cooper currently fills and move Wilson to the F spot that Lamb currently plays. This is with Noah Brown still as a WR4. If the team wants to draft someone they have the ability to do so in the third and fourth rounds where plenty of good receivers generally remain.
Wide receiver is reaching the point where teams can draft the position in later rounds and still have plenty of success with these players. College teams running so much 11 and 10 personnel are allowing more wide receiver talent to seep to the professional level than ever before. (This is also why having as many good cornerbacks on your team is so important)
The 2021 NFL draft looks like there will be as much insane depth at the position as the 2020 draft meaning the Cowboys can find their slot or outside receiver if they feel Cedric Wilson is not fit for the starting slot role.
Financially giving up Amari Cooper makes sense. The compensation for Cooper would likely be a first-round pick, which the team can use on improving the defense. Cedric Wilson slides in and the offense continues its dominance with QB Dak Prescott at the helm. I see a win-win here.