The latest talk around the league has the Dallas Cowboys contemplating the release of veteran Pro Bowl wide receiver Amari Cooper. Just the thought s has Cowboys nation up in arms. Sending Cooper on his way would mean the Cowboys free themselves of a $20-million wide receiver.
Honestly, I’m not sure what all the outrage is about. Sure, he was a perennial Pro Bowler, but most of those selections were in Oakland while he was a Raider early in his career. He made the Pro Bowl during his first full season in Dallas (2019), but that seemed like more of a reputation selection than production-based. And let’s be real, over the past couple of seasons, there have been far too many games where Cooper goes into witness protection. He’s just non-existent sometimes on the field.
Cooper had six games last year where he caught three or fewer passes for 50 yards or less. No. 1 receivers in the NFL can’t have that many games with that little production, whether they get in the end zone or not. Cooper usually gets his fair share of targets from Dak Prescott. And most times, when a receiver doesn’t get enough targets, it’s usually because they aren’t creating enough separation from defenders and getting open.
On top of that, Cooper saw a significant decline in production in 2021 from the previous year. In 2020, Cooper caught 92 balls for 1,114 yards in 16 games, mainly without Prescott on the field. Last season, his totals fell to 68 catches for 865 receiving yards in 15 games. His targets also saw a dramatic dropoff from 130 in 2020 to 104 in 2021, with Dak back in the lineup full-time.
If Cooper didn’t see the writing on the wall during the season, he certainly does now. Many of his declining statistics can be attributed to the emergence of former first-round pick Ceedee Lamb. Lamb was targeted 120 times in 2021, up from 111 during his rookie campaign of 2020. Let me spell it out for you…Ceedee is the future of the Cowboys at wide receiver. And soon enough, the Cowboys will need to sign him to a huge deal as well.
I know most Cowboys fans won’t agree with this, and that’s fine. But a high-priced receiver isn’t a necessity. High production receivers are, and based on what we just saw last season, Cooper’s production has taken a hit for several reasons. Dallas can find a young, hungry receiving threat in the draft who will count pennies toward the salary cap over the next four to five years compared to Cooper. So, moving on won’t be the end of the world.
Now, if you want to make the argument that Dallas should be looking to release Ezekiel Elliot long before cutting Cooper, then I’ll give you that. Personally, I feel like we’ve seen the best of both players already, but Cooper has far more left in the tank than Elliot. But we also know that Jerry Jones loves to take care of his guys. And by his guys, I mean players that he drafts and grows close with over several years. While Jones did trade a valuable first-round pick for Cooper, he did not draft him. So, that level of connection isn’t there like with Zeke, Dak, and Ceedee, since Cooper isn’t a homegrown product of the Cowboys.
So, the fact that the Cowboys are considering cutting ties with Amari shouldn’t be all that shocking. That coaching staff sees him every day in practice and saw what he produced on the field last year. Last season was not a $20 million-production year for Cooper, plain and simple. Lamb will be the number one receiver sooner or later, whether anyone likes it or not. I’m sure Cooper still feels he’s capable of being the top receiving option on a team, so something has to give. Because of that, the Cowboys are apparently willing to give Cooper away for free. If it helps create some cap relief, I don’t see any issue with that.