Last offseason, the Dallas Cowboys bit the bullet by inking Dak Prescott to a four-year, $160 million deal. The front office knew that his $40 million average annual salary would eventually impact the roster in other areas, making Amari Cooper a primary target to keep financial flexibility.
All that led the Cowboys to move on Cooper in a surprisingly lopsided trade to the Cleveland Browns. More importantly, the transaction adds more pressure on Prescott to lead the franchise to the Super Bowl.
Cowboys trade Amari Cooper to the Browns
After several days of trade rumors swirling around Amari Cooper, the Cowboys finally pulled the trigger on moving the star wideout.
Dallas shipped Cooper and a sixth-round pick to the Browns for a 2022 fifth-round selection and a sixth-round pick. The 27-year-old’s departure marks the end of a three-and-half-year tenure with the franchise, where he ranked seventh in the league with receptions (292), ninth in receiving yards (3,893), and ninth in receiving touchdowns (27) over that span, according to ESPN.
Cooper is in the third year of his five-year, $100 million deal that he inked in March 2020. The trade results in only a $6 million 2022 dead-cap hit for the Cowboys instead of $22 million, saving them $16 million in cap space.
He’s coming off a productive 2021 campaign, where he notched 68 receptions for 865 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Cooper fell short of reaching 1,000 receiving yards for a third straight season partly due to missing the final two games of the regular season because of dealing with COVID-19.
The star wideout will have the chance to shine with the Browns as the No. 1 receiving option for Baker Mayfield. He will get every opportunity to return to producing at an elite level while helping the franchise return to the playoffs.
However, Cooper’s departure speaks more intently on the increased pressure that Dak Prescott holds to succeed in Dallas.
Dak Prescot has all the pressure to succeed with Cowboys after Amari Cooper trade
The Amari Cooper trade is more than shedding team salary, impacting the Cowboys in other prominent areas.
Dallas is reportedly working toward an extension with veteran wideout Michael Gallup before free agency begins March 16. Meanwhile, the move signals that the team holds much comfort that CeeDee Lamb can take the next step toward becoming the team’s No. 1 passing game. In the 2021 campaign, he posted career highs with 79 receptions for 1,102 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
More than anything else, the Cowboys are banking on Dak Prescott proving he can lead the offense forward. Losing Cooper’s departure is a significant blow due to his importance to the offensive game plan. However, Dallas still possesses a talented roster around their Pro Bowl quarterback.
Prescott is coming off posting career-best numbers with 37 touchdown passes and a 68.8% completion rate, along with finishing seventh with 4,449 passing yards. The Cowboys took a step forward in 2021 by reaching the playoffs behind winning the NFC East division title, but their aspirations go much further than a disappointing wildcard exit.
Dallas wants to snap their nearly three-decade Super Bowl drought, and the Cooper trade only further underlines how much Prescott needs to guide that effort.
Dak Prescott holds the keys to the franchise
There is no other way around it: Dak Prescott controls the Cowboys’ future.
His play will be the ultimate factor in determining the Cowboys’ fate ahead. His decision to restructure his contract to save the team $15 million cap space will help the roster construction around him, but the pressure is on him to lead the charge.
Prescott is playing for the most popular NFL team and one of the biggest brands in sports. He needs to find Super Bowl success, and only time will tell if the Cowboys making him one of the league’s highest-paid players was the right move.