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Dallas Cowboys trade Amari Cooper to Cleveland Browns

Matt Johnson
Amari Cooper, Cleveland Browns
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys have traded wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns, swapping Day 3 picks in the NFL Draft.

NFL insider Josina Anderson first reported word of the two teams negotiating a deal. Dallas shopped its Pro Bowl receiver around the league, seeking something in return before cutting him. The Cowboys needed to move on from one of Dak Prescott‘s go-to weapons due to their tight constraints against the NFL salary cap.

  • Amari Cooper stats (2021): 68 receptions, 865 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns

Cleveland is sending fifth- and sixth-round picks to the Cowboys in exchange for Cooper and a sixth-round pick.

With Cooper now traded, Dallas will prioritize signing Michael Gallup to a long-term deal. The franchise is extremely high on the young receiver and believes he will recover fully from the torn ACL he suffered late in the 2021 season.

This is a developing story. More details and analysis to come.

Why are the Cowboys trading Amari Cooper?

NFL: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
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The decision to part ways with Cooper doesn’t come as a surprise. Signed to a five-year, $100 million contract before the 2020 season, the Dallas Cowboys never got exactly what they wanted out of Cooper.

  • Amari Cooper contract: $22 million cap hit (2022), $22 million cap hit (2023), $22M cap hit (2024)

While the deal leaves a $6 million dead cap hit for the Cowboys, it also creates $20 million in space this offseason. It’s cushion Dallas needed after placing the franchise tag on Dalton Schultz ($10.931 million guaranteed) with plans to re-sign other key free agents.

Multiple reports have suggested the Cowboys will soon agree to terms on a multi-year deal with Gallup worth more than $10 million per season. Dallas also wants to avoid a disastrous scenario, being forced to trade or release edge rusher DeMarcus Lawrence ($27 million cap hit in 2022) after he refused a pay cut.

This is also about a bit more than the cap crunch. Dallas viewed the 2021 season as a crucial year for Cooper, increasingly frustrated by his injury history. The fluctuation in his weekly production, voicing complaints about his targets and persistent soft-tissue injuries all became too much. With Cooper not playing up to his $20 million annual salary, the Cowboys had enough.

How Amari Cooper impacts the Cleveland Browns offense

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
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Cleveland finds itself in an interesting spot this season. The franchise knows quarterback Baker Mayfield didn’t play nearly well enough to warrant a contract extension. Furthermore, his durability issues and reckless style of play raised doubts regarding his ability to be a reliable starter over a 17-game season for a playoff contender.

With that said, the Browns also didn’t put the best possible talent around him. Following the departure of Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry proved he can’t be the No. 1 option in a quality offense. A passing attack depending on Landry, Rashard Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones aren’t ideal for any passer.

  • Jarvis Landry: 69.1 quarterback rating when targeted (Pro Football Focus)
  • Donovan Peoples-Jones: 89.5 quarterback rating when targeted
  • Rashard Higgins: 73.3 quarterback rating when targeted

Cooper instantly steps in and can become Mayfield’s favorite target. Cowboys’ signal-callers posted a stellar 122.7 quarterback rating when they targeted the 6-foot-1 receiver this past season. He ranked 21st in the average cushion (5.03) created and in completed air yards (669).

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Whether it’s Mayfield under center or another quarterback – Cleveland is interested in Derek Carr – Cooper is a true No. 1 wide receiver. While he might be overpriced, the Browns won’t feel pressure to spend their first-round pick on a pass-catcher in the 2022 NFL Draft.