If the Dallas Cowboys decide to move on from receiver Amari Cooper, could someone like Sammy Watkins be available to take his place?
The Dallas Cowboys have some big names to make decisions on this offseason. The three biggest, of course, are pending free agents in quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Amari Cooper, and cornerback Byron Jones.
With a focus on Cooper, the Cowboys traded away a first-round selection to the Oakland Raiders for the Pro Bowl receiver midway through the 2018 regular season. And that move resulted in Dallas turning their season around two years ago.
But coming off an 8-8 record and considering the Cowboys parting ways with head coach Jason Garrett and a majority of the coaching staff last month, Cooper’s future with America’s Team is in question. With his rookie contract coming to an end, and Amari scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next month, the 25-year old receiver needs to be re-signed or tagged this offseason to be retained.
The Cowboys could also simply decide to move on from Cooper as his potential new contract would likely make him one of the highest-paid receivers in the NFL. Yet, parting ways seems unlikely as Dallas would have essentially given up a first-round pick for a season-and-a-half rental. Yet, would the Cowboys be more willing to move on from Cooper if they knew they could get another wide receiver they once coveted to replace him?
Before acquiring Cooper, Dallas was reportedly interested in signing wide receiver Sammy Watkins as a free agent in early 2018. The Cowboys apparently made an honest offer to Watkins but the former first-rounder opted to join the Kansas City Chiefs instead.
SI.com’s Albert Breer recently mentioned Watkins as a possible candidate for release in Kansas City due to his price tag and the expected upcoming contract extension for their Super Bowl MVP quarterback, Pat Mahomes.
"“Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins (cap savings: $14 million): This feels like a cost-of-doing-business thing for the Chiefs. They overpaid on Watkins because he was a good fit for their young quarterback in 2018, and that young QB was on a rookie deal. Now, Mahomes is about to get paid, they need room—and they have Watkins’ younger, cheaper replacement (Mecole Hardman) on hand.”"
Comparing Watkins to Cooper is like comparing Ford to Ferrari. Amari has been to four Pro Bowls in his five-year career and is coming off a season where he posted career highs in receiving yards (1,189) and touchdowns (8).
Although Watkins has never been named to the Pro Bowl, he is coming off a Super Bowl victory in Kansas City. He recorded five catches for 98 yards in the big game.
But the 26-year old wideout hasn’t posted a 1,000-yard season since 2015. Watkins recorded 52 receptions for 673 yards and three touchdowns in 2019 with Mahomes as his quarterback. And his current average salary of $16 million a year makes him the ninth-highest paid receiver in the NFL according to OverTheCap.com.
Another wrinkle to consider is the Cowboys’ current coaching staff. Former wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal coached Watkins during their time spent together with the Buffalo Bills. That relationship is likely one of the main reasons Dallas was interested in Watkins in the first place. With Lal being replaced on the staff by Adam Henry this offseason, that same sentiment likely no longer exists.
In the end, swapping Amari Cooper for Sammy Watkins makes little sense. Yet, if the Dallas Cowboys opt to move on from Cooper this offseason, they’ll need someone to replace him with. If Watkins is on the open market as a free agent by then, perhaps there’s a chance.