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Dallas Cowboys’ Amari Cooper injury history creating frustration, star facing crucial 2021 season

Matt Johnson

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When the Dallas Cowboys signed Amari Cooper to a $100 million contract in 2020, the franchise envisioned the talented wide receiver would become one of the best players at his position. With the 2021 NFL season approaching, Cooper could be facing an uncertain future in Dallas.

Acquired for a 2019 first-round pick, Cooper made a splash immediately. Across nine games in 2018, he hauled in 53 receptions for 725 receiving yards, six touchdowns and averaged 13.7 yards per catch. As Dak Prescott improved and the duo’s bond grew stronger, the 6-foot-1 weapon took off.

  • Amari Cooper stats (2019): 79 receptions, 1,189 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns and 15.1 ypc

Cooper hit NFL free agency in 2020 and found a lush market of suitors. Despite receiving a stronger offer from the Washington Football Team, Cooper took a slight discount to re-sign with the Cowboys. But injuries have been an issue during his time in Dallas.

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Cooper entered training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list as he recovers from ankle surgery. After attending Cowboys’ training camp, Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson shared on the “You Pod to Win the Game” podcast that he sensed some internal frustration from the Cowboys with Cooper’s durability issues.

“I get the feeling, I get a very strong feeling that internally there, they really don’t want to be dealing with, he’s banged up multiple games, he’s not practicing, he’s got soft-tissue problems. It’s this, it’s that. I really truly feel, there is going to be a strong focus on him internally there. Like, ‘ok, we’re paying this guy like he’s an elite No. 1 receiver and we can’t continue to have, he’s this banged up or that banged up, this problem or that problem.”

Yahoo Sports’ NFL insider Charles Robinson on Dallas Cowboys WR Amari Cooper, via “You Pod to Win the Game”

Dallas paid its star wide receiver to perform at the highest level on a weekly basis and thus far, while he finds a way to stay on the field, instances of missed practices and playing at less than 100 percent are becoming a worrisome trend.

Will injuries impact Amari Cooper’s future in Dallas

The 27-year-old dealt with a foot sprain early in the 2019 season and later suffered a quad bruise the same year. A month after that, he played through a knee sprain that forced him to miss practice time. He was also banged up in 2020, missing practice or being a limited participant.

“I think there is a slight level of frustration there internally. that has built up over time, where they are like, ‘OK, this is important. For us to maximize everything this year, we want two No. 1’s on the field in terms of wide receiver…That is our advantage, that is our mismatch, two No. 1 wideouts plus Michael Gallup.”

NFL reporter Charles Robinson on Cowboys’ issues with Amari Cooper

If the Cowboys are going to make the NFL playoffs, the offense will be almost entirely responsible for it. Dallas invests heavily on this side of the ball, creating one of the most explosive offenses with playmakers all over the field. But if Cooper can’t be on the field or isn’t able to move at his normal speeds and run crisp routes, that impacts everything else.

  • Amari Cooper contract: $22 million cap hit (2021), $22 million cap hit (2022), $22 million cap hit (2023)

Dallas is already banking on Ezekiel Elliott staying healthy in 2021 to justify his massive contract. The front office will also face some difficult decisions next spring as the franchise is expected to be $24.7 million over the salary cap.

That’s why Robinson believes, with everything else going on, another injury-plagued season could spell trouble for Cooper’s tenure in Texas.

“If this is a 12-game season for Amari Cooper…Unless he blows it out for those 12 games. I don’t know, this is a guy who I would have to question whether or not he’s a Cowboy next offseason if this continues.”

If he doesn’t live up to expectations, the Cowboys will have options. Trading him in 2022 would create $16 million in cap space and a deal would net a quality draft pick. Another option, more likely given Cooper’s love for the organization, a contract resolution could fix a lot of problems.

Cooper has the talent to earn every dollar of his contract and he’s in the perfect offense to post huge numbers. Ultimately, it all comes down to whether or not he stays healthy and plays up to his talent level.