The wide receiver market in the NFL has absolutely exploded this offseason. Star wide receivers all around the league are holding out and earning themselves massive contracts. While stars deserve to be paid what they’re worth, the immense increase in annual salaries is making the Dallas Cowboys‘ decision to trade away Amari Cooper due to his $20 million salary look very questionable.
Let’s cover a couple of things up front. Yes, the Cowboys needed to free up salary-cap space. Yes, Jerry and Stephen Jones were clearly unhappy with Cooper and expressed their frustration with him during and after the season. And, yes, the team did sign an excellent receiver in Michael Gallup to an extension.
However, looking at the massive contracts out there, Cooper was likely worth $20 million. Was he as prolific as Davante Adams or Tyreek Hill in 2021? No. But he did have more touchdowns in fewer games than Terry McLaurin of the Washington Commanders who just earned himself a three-year, $71 million deal on Tuesday – making him worth over $23 million a year.
Not only was Cooper, who is still considered one of the top wide receivers in the league, likely worth $20 million based on this market, but he also was certainly worth more than the measly fifth-round draft pick the Cowboys got in return. There are teams out there chomping at the bit and emptying their bank accounts for wide receivers, and the Cowboys got a fifth-round pick. Not ideal.
The recent wide receiver market boom makes the Cowboys’ Amari Cooper trade look even worse
This doesn’t even take into account the fact that it took the Cleveland Browns one week to figure out how to restructure Cooper’s contract. On March 19, Tom Pelissero reported that Cleveland restructured the wide receiver’s contract by converting most of his $20 million base salary into a signing bonus. They added two void years and saved over $15 million on their 2022 salary cap.
If the Cowboys did this, they could have saved $15 million, which was just $1 million less than what they gained by trading away Dak Prescott’s favorite target. Keeping Cooper was absolutely doable. And if there were relationship issues that made the front office not want him on the roster, they at least should have tried to get way more in return for their WR1.
This deal looked bad on the surface back in March. Now, seeing these lucrative deals come in week after week, it only looks worse. With CeeDee Lamb able to sign a long-term extension next year, the Joneses better be prepared to offer him a pretty penny. Paying bargain prices for top WR talent just isn’t an option anymore.