Just days after he was put on the trade block, the Dallas Cowboys have traded former Pro Bowl wideout Amari Cooper, 27, to the Cleveland Browns for a pair of picks. Instead of waiting for him to be released, the Browns made an aggressive stand and sent two Day 3 selections to Dallas.
Cowboys trade Amari Cooper to Browns
The Cowboys were against the clock heading into the new league year, as the team wanted to hang onto impending free agents, wideout Michael Gallup and tight end Dalton Schultz, ahead of free agency. In order to retain Gallup and Schultz, the Cowboys need to rid themselves of Cooper, whose $20 million salary was set to become fully guaranteed during the first week of free agency.
While the Cowboys initially planned to release Cooper, his trade market became active after that news leaked and the Browns decided to jump ahead of a potential bidding war by offering up late-round draft assets for the wideout.
Pro Football Network Insider Aaron Wilson has confirmed that the Cowboys have traded Cooper to the Browns. According to multiple reports, the two teams will swap 2022 sixth-round picks and the Browns will send an additional fifth-round selection to Dallas.
Let’s take a look at how the deal worked out for all of the parties involved.
The four-time Pro Bowl wideout has always had a weird vibe with the Cowboys. While Dallas traded a first-round pick for him in the middle of the 2018 season, and eventually signed him to a massive long-term contract, Cooper never seemed like a long-term fit for Dallas. Now, with the Cowboys choosing to keep Schultz and probably Gallup over him, Cooper will head to Cleveland where he will be welcomed as the No. 1 wideout on an aspiring playoff team.
The Browns have a host of playmakers to put around Cooper, including tight ends David Njoku and Austin Hooper and running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Cooper will partner with Donovan Peoples-Jones and probably a draft pick or two to round out the Browns’ wideout group. Longtime pass catcher Jarvis Landry could become a salary cap casualty.
The downside for Cooper in this situation is that he didn’t get to choose where he went. If he would have been released, he would have been able to play the free agency game for the first time and leverage the market. Now, he will head to Cleveland, where the roster is stacked outside of the QB spot. While the Browns have backed QB Baker Mayfield publicly, he struggled quite a bit last season and is entering a lame-duck contract year.
For Cooper, this might not have been the most appealing landing spot, but he does have his guaranteed salary to leverage himself into a new long-term deal with the Browns.
The fact that the Cowboys were able to save $16 million in cap space AND get a draft pick for Cooper is a pretty great outcome for Dallas. With news of his possible release leaking out earlier in the week, shrewd teams could have tried to wait out the Cowboys. Instead, Dallas got a willing buyer and moved him for a Day 3 pick and a swap of sixth-round selections.
Now, with the Cowboys under the salary cap threshold, they can afford Schultz’s $10.9 million salary on the franchise tag and effectively work to re-sign Gallup ahead of the league’s tampering window on Monday. All things considered, this is a terrific outcome for Dallas.
The Browns were lacking a true top wideout with the Odell Beckham Jr. trade proving to be a disaster for everyone involved. So, Cleveland made an aggressive strike and pushed to grab Cooper ahead of his release.
The Browns acquired a four-time Pro Bowl wideout for a fifth-round pick, essentially, and that’s a win. That said, they now need to figure out a way to lower Cooper’s cap number and extend his deal if possible. Cooper has the leverage of his salary becoming guaranteed on March 22. He can use the trade compensation as leverage as well.
The Browns now have the flexibility to move on from Landry with Cooper in town. They can also move forward with plans to run a 12-personnel-focused offense with Hooper and Njoku playing the majority of their snaps together. Cooper, Hooper, Njoku, Peoples-Jones, Hunt, and Chubb form a strong nucleus around any QB. If Mayfield can’t succeed with these weapons, it’s time to move on.
That said, if the Browns were looking to make a preemptive strike with the idea of acquiring Deshaun Watson — a superstar QB with a no-trade clause — adding a No. 1 wideout to the offense would be a logical move. Watson could be swayed to join the Browns — PFN’s Aaron Wilson reports Cleveland is interested in the QB — given the added appeal of Cooper. With Cooper in Cleveland, Watson’s availability to the Browns becomes something to monitor.