Cooper extension caps an anxious first day of NFL free agent activity in Dallas
Written by: Greg Lehr
Finally, some major items on the Dallas Cowboys’ offseason to-do list can be crossed off. Amari Cooper has reportedly agreed to sign a five-year contract extension that will make him the second-highest paid receiver in the league (in terms of average annual salary). According to Ian Rapoport, Cooper’s deal is for five years and $100 million, including $60 million guaranteed. The agreement comes nearly twelve hours after the legal tampering period officially began for free agents, giving Jerry and Stephen Jones a huge (temporary) sigh of relief as they secure Dak Prescott’s top weapon in Dallas for the foreseeable future.
Speaking of Dak, the Cowboys officially placed the exclusive franchise tag on Prescott, per multiple reports, which keeps their quarterback off the open market while extending the deadline to reach a new long-term deal out to July 15th. The exclusive franchise tag means Prescott is set to make $33 million should he play on the tag next season (if the two sides cannot reach an agreement before the summer deadline).
Cooper’s deal comes less than two years after Dallas traded their 2019 first-round draft pick to the Raiders in exchange for his services. At the time, it was a move that in large part brought heavy criticism to the Cowboys, with most pundits and fans saying they gave up way too much for a receiver who had struggled with drops and at times disappeared in games. This was all besides the fact that he only had one and a half seasons left on his rookie deal. However, Dallas clearly didn't see it this way. In Cooper, they saw a former top-five pick that had already made Pro Bowls in each of his first two years in the league, thanks to back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons to kick off his NFL career. They also loved the fact that he would only be 25-years-old at the end of his rookie contract, leading to a higher level of confidence and comfortability with today’s reality of paying him like a top-five wide receiver after only a season and a half with the team.
Even so, the Cowboys were 3-4 in 2018 when they made the trade, and at the time looked completely lost on offense. This was especially true for Dak Prescott, who initially struggled mightily without a true number one option at wideout after the Cowboys cut Dez Bryant and Jason Witten retired to go to ESPN during the previous offseason, leaving Cole Beasley as the presumed lead target. Dallas' passing attack suffered significantly, with Dak averaging only 183 yards through the air with eight touchdowns in the first seven games, both of which were putrid numbers for a modern-day NFL offense. After the trade, those numbers jumped to 251 passing yards per game and sixteen touchdowns over the final nine games. During this stretch, Cooper delivered an average of six catches and 81 yards per game, including six touchdowns. Dallas would go on a 7-1 run en route to an NFC East title in 2018 before falling to the LA Rams in the divisional round of the playoffs, 30-22.
Despite a slower second-half in 2019 due to multiple nagging injuries, Cooper still managed nearly 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns on just 79 receptions. He’s now a four-time Pro Bowler after just five total seasons in the league and is entering the prime of his career. The Cowboys paid a premium in the form of a first-round pick in 2018 to acquire him and now will pay a premium to keep him around. For Dak and the Cowboys, though, he appears well worth the cost.
Other News & Notes:
Blake Jarwin signed a three-year extension worth an upwards of $24.2 million ($9M guaranteed). The deal all but ensures Jarwin is in line to start when the 2020 season opens up. Cowboys fans should be excited to see what Jarwin can do in a full-time role.
Byron Jones is going to Miami on a massive five-year, $82.5 million deal ($57M guaranteed). It makes him the highest-paid cornerback in the league, something Dallas clearly was not willing to do, for better or for worse.
Randall Cobb is set to sign with the Houston Texans on a three-year, $27 million deal. The Cowboys could be in the market for a slot receiver now via free agency and/or the upcoming draft.