Cowboys gambled big with Amari Cooper and the deadline cemented their loss

Amari Cooper #19 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Amari Cooper #19 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys came into the 2022 NFL season with high hopes. They came in with a mindset to compete and looked to do just that in the second year of Dan Quinn’s tenure behind an explosive defense.

Head coach Mike McCarthy should have even been given a bit of leeway coming into the year, improving every step of the way, thus far, in his Cowboys tenure. And with yet another of experience with this core group under his belt, you knew that Kellen Moore would be able to draw some really good things up for them on that side of the ball.

The problem is that the “core group” didn’t remain intact. Looking at Amari Cooper’s 68 receptions for 865 yards across 15 games in 2021, where he had eight touchdowns and averaged 12.7 yards per reception, they would be baited by CeeDee Lamb’s 79 receptions for 1,102 yards across 16 games in that same season, where he scored six touchdowns and averaged 13.9 yards per reception.

While the production was equitable or better from Lamb in that same timeframe, the nearly $4.5 million he was due over the next two seasons compared to the $60 million or so that Cooper was due over the next three years became the biggest factor. Trading Cooper was the route they deemed most effective and efficient for their payroll.

Nine weeks in and past the trade deadline, you can officially say the front office was wrong.

They took a gamble on Ceedee Lamb by letting Amari Cooper go for peanuts, essentially only getting a fifth-round pick for him after sending a sixth-round pick along with him to Cleveland that, pretty much, cancels out the sixth-round pick they received back from Cleveland in that deal.

The Cowboys’ need for a WR at the deadline (and lack of getting one) proves they were wrong to let go of Amari Cooper so quickly

So, there you have it. But their error in that whole scenario bears three-fold and here’s what that means.

The Cowboys were looking to be players at the trade deadline that just passed. The team was clearly trying to secure a wide receiver (given the Jerry Jeudy and Brandin Cooks reports) after they gave away a great one before the season started. So the fact that they felt they needed to add a WR is the first piece of evidence.

The second is that whole “good one” part of it all. The one they just let walk most recently went for 131 yards and a touchdown on five receptions against a heated in-state rival in the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football in a Halloween Showdown. Watching Cooper shine with another team makes this deal even more frustrating.

The “let walk” is the third piece of it all.

Trading him for a rubber band, a paper clip, a chewed piece of bubblegum, and the lint in Browns GM Andrew Barry’s pockets makes Dallas look so much worse given the current WR market. In just one example of their carelessness there, the Pittsburgh Steelers just got a second-rounder from the Bears for Chase Claypool.

Claypool isn’t a bad player, by any means. However, he certainly isn’t as good as Cooper is right now.

Now, who is to say that the Cowboys even look to trade Cooper if they hold on to him long enough to see that Claypool-type value on him; but again, they never even gave themselves that chance.

Former Cowboys defensive back Byron Jones is one cautionary tale that they got right, to be fair.

Currently, on the third year of a five-year deal for $82 million dollars with the Dolphins, Jones has only two interceptions during his tenure, hasn’t played at all this year, and might not be one of their top two defensive backs if he had been healthy anyway. The point is that the Cowboys got that one right.

And with that, you understand the thinking and the gamble that was taken here. The reality here is that the gamble and the decision to get rid of Cooper for what they got in return was a bad one, and they’re paying for it now.

Unfortunately, that’s what happens in the business of football. It had to be brought up, and now it can be put to rest. It’s yet another cautionary tale to look back on when this kind of thing inevitably arises again.