The Dallas Cowboys have some maneuvering to do on the salary cap, and one of the casualties could end up being one of their top-2 wide receivers.
That would be Amari Cooper, who could soon find himself in the free agent pool if the Cowboys decided to move on from the veteran receiver. Cooper seems like a cut candidate at the moment because, as noted by Jori Epstein at USA Today, he’s due $20 million – fully guaranteed – if he’s still on the roster as of March 20. Dallas can save $16 million against the cap if they cut or trade him before then. He originally signed his current contract for $60 million guaranteed over up to five years.
Cooper caught just 68 passes, the second-lowest total of his career, for 865 yards in the Cowboys’ league-best offense in 2021. He still managed to score eight touchdowns. CeeDee Lamb took over as Dallas’ top pass-catcher, with a team-high 79 catches, 120 targets, and 1,102 yards. Tight end Dalton Schultz has as many targets (104) as Cooper, but was more efficient, with 78 catches of his own.
In light of Lamb’s emergence during his rookie deal, the Cowboys now have to wonder if Cooper is worth $20 million a season. Executive vice president Stephen Jones was noncommittal when asked at the Combine about Cooper’s future in Dallas, which was notable, because he sounded much more committed to retaining running back Ezekiel Elliott.
“It’s too early for me to address that yet,” Jones said on Cooper, per USA Today. “We’re continuing to have conversations. A lot of things affect that. … There are some moving parts to that, that we’ll have to continue to massage as we move forward.”
Cooper is still just 27 years old and, in the aggregate, has been one of the league’s most consistently productive receivers. He’s compiled at least 72 catches, 1,005 yards, and five touchdowns in five of his seven NFL seasons, including a combined 15 games between the Cowboys and Raiders in 2018.
His struggles have been with game-to-game consistency. In 2021 alone, Cooper had three games with at least seven catches and 85 yards with a touchdown, but averaged 3.3 catches and 43.3 yards in the other 12. If that continues in New England or elsewhere in 2022, that could prove frustrating.
Cooper’s age and total production could still make him a candidate for another long-term contract if he becomes a free agent, albeit at a lower AAV than what he got in Dallas. If he needs to settle for one year, that would be ideal for the Patriots, who could stand to add impact talent without committing for too many years.
If the Patriots really want to continue addressing the wide receiver position in the 2022 off-season, they may be better suited focusing on someone for the slot rather than the outside. Keep reading for some of the top options in that area.
7 free-agent slot receivers to bolster the Patriots offense in 2022
Jan 5, 2019; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper (19) runs the ball against the Seattle Seahawks in the second half in a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shane Roper-USA TODAY Sports
TAMPA, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 09: Amari Cooper #19 of the Dallas Cowboys catches a touchdown pass against Jamel Dean #35 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium on September 09, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Dec 29, 2019; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper (19) makes a leaping catch against Washington Redskins cornerback Jimmy Moreland (32) during the second quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 8, 2019; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper (19) catches a second quarter touchdown pass against New York Giants cornerback DeAndre Baker (27) at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 22, 2019; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper (19) runs with the ball after a reception in the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
More from 985TheSportsHub.com…
Ranked: Top-20 NFL free agents of 2022
Click here for complete New England Patriots coverage at 985TheSportsHub.com.
Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.