Amari Cooper Trade: The Cleveland Browns Just Robbed the Dallas Cowboys

After a week when the NFL quarterback market went wild, a big wide receiver trade went down on Saturday. The Dallas Cowboys salvaged their Amari Cooper investment by trading the player instead of cutting him outright. Despite that fact, the Cleveland Browns won the trade. Here’s why.

The Amari Cooper Trade: From the Dallas Cowboys to Cleveland Browns

In 2018, the Oakland Raiders traded an unhappy Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys for a first-round pick that eventually became No. 27 overall in 2019. The Raiders used it to select safety Jonathan Abrams.

Dallas got its money’s worth out of that trade.

In there-plus seasons, Cooper made two Pro Bowls, caught 292 balls for 3,893 yards, and scored 27 touchdowns. He also helped the Cowboys go 36-29 and make two playoff appearances.

Despite the impressive tenure overall, the Cowboys were ready to cut Cooper during the 2022 offseason. He had his worst statistical year in Dallas last season. In 15 games, the former Alabama wideout caught a career-worst 68 balls for 865 yards, which is only the second time he missed the 1,000-yard mark. His eight TDs, though, tied a career-best mark.

Cutting Cooper was about more than the stats, however. Shedding the WR’s $20 million salary in 2022 saved the ‘Boys $16 million against the cap, per Tom Pelissero on Twitter.

Why the Cleveland Browns won the trade

There are several reasons that will entice people to say the Dallas Cowboys won the Amari Cooper trade. The team cleared $16 million in salary-cap space and got something for what could have been nothing if the franchise cut Cooper.

However, Cleveland got a steal in the Amari Cooper trade, and Jerry Jones made a mistake.

Let’s start with the fact that Cooper is a 1,000-yard-a-year receiver who, despite being a seven-year NFL vet, is still just 27-years old. Yes, his contract is big, but there are five WRs right now who make more money than him, and that number could grow depending on what happens with Chris Godwin.

For Cleveland, they got an upgrade on Jarvis Landry — who, according to Mike Garafolo on Twitter, can now seek a trade — for less than $4M in additional salary. They also get a pure No. 1 wideout, as opposed to Landry, a high-end No. 2.

Pairing Cooper with the up-and-coming Donovan Peoples-Jones, the recently re-signed TE David Njoku, and the 1-2 punch at running back of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt gives Baker Mayfield a serious stable of offensive weapons.

On the Cowboys side, CeeDee Lamb did become the true No. 1 last season, but with Michael Gallup an unrestricted free agent and just a few months into an ACL injury, losing Cooper will hurt Dak Prescott.

In 2022, a team’s pass-catching group needs to be like a basketball team. There needs to be players of all shapes, sizes, and skillsets for the group to be dynamic. The Amari Cooper trade gave that to the Cleveland Browns and took it away from the Cowboys, all for a fifth-round and swapped fourth-round picks.

Cleveland won the trade.

The Browns need to go all-in for the 2022 season 

The Amari Cooper trade was a win for the Cleveland Browns and an L for the Dallas Cowboys. The WR is pictured here running the ball in 2019.
Amari Cooper | Elsa/Getty Images

Taking the Dallas Cowboys out of the Amari Cooper trade, the move was a necessary one for the Cleveland Browns.

The 2022 season is all about QB Baker Mayfield, and giving up a fifth-rounder and swapping sixth-rounders for a true No. 1 receiver (who hopefully is less temperamental than Odell Beckham Jr.) is a no-brainer.

Mayfield is going into the fifth-year option of his rookie deal that will pay him $18.8 million this season. If the Browns want to keep him past this coming year, an extension will likely cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $30-$40M per year over three to six seasons.

The Browns are committing to giving Mayfield everything he needs to succeed (or prove he’s a failure) in 2022. In addition to re-signing TE David Njoku and trading for Cooper, the Browns are in position at No. 13 in the upcoming NFL Draft to pick one of the top pass-catchers available, like Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson or Chris Olave, USC’s London Drake, or Arkansas’ Treylon Burks.

Heading into a season that will decide the future of the franchise, the Cleveland Browns made a great move getting a top WR who went for a first-round pick just a few seasons ago.

Now the ball is in Mayfield’s court. If he brings the Browns to the playoffs, he probably gets a big-money contract and stays in Northeast Ohio for the foreseeable future. If he fails, the 2018 No. 1 overall pick will likely play for a new team on a prove-it deal in 2023.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference and contract figures courtesy of Spotrac

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