Dallas sent Amari Cooper to Cleveland for a fifth-round pick in
the upcoming draft and a swap of sixth-round selections. On the
surface, it seems a strange move by the Cowboys, but an obvious
move for the wide-receiver desperate Browns.
Dallas, however, is dealing with a budget crunch and ridding
itself of Cooper’s final three seasons in a five-year, $100
million goes a long way in fitting all the pieces under the cap.
It also should allow the team to sign both of their current free
agent wideouts, Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson, if they desire.
There was also a rumor floating about that Cooper and star quarterback
Dak Prescott haven’t been getting along very well. Social
media was reporting that after the Cowboys lost to the 49ers in
the playoffs, Cooper called Prescott the “black Kirk Cousins.”
Considering Cousins is 10-40 against .500+ teams for his career
and 1-3 in the playoffs … the comment obviously didn’t
go over well.
There are two primary areas to evaluate to determine Cooper’s
production in 2022. First, his ability to get opportunities in
a more run-oriented offense. Secondly, the difference in talent
levels from Prescott to Baker Mayfield.
When looking at the Cowboys and Browns over the past two seasons,
Dallas passed it 58.7% of the time versus the Browns at 51%. The
Dallas offense threw the ball 265 times more than the Browns.
On the other hand, in Dallas, Cooper has to share wideout targets
with the uber-talented CeeDee Lamb, Gallup and Wilson. Seeing
what the Cleveland wide receiver room currently looks like, unless
they sign a free agent or draft someone early, targets should
be dominated by Cooper. Even with two solid pass-catching tight
ends in David Njoku and Austin Hooper there is no reason Cooper
can’t see 125 targets.
So the question comes down to whether Mayfield can throw him
enough “on target” passes. In Dallas, Prescott completed
68.8% of his passes (fourth-best). Mayfield was ranked 27th at
60.5% behind the likes of Jalen Hurts, Carson Wentz and Daniel Jones. Mayfield’s best completion percentage of his career
was in his rookie season when he still completed just 63.8%. His
“Bad Throw” percentage in 2021 was the worst of his
career – 20.9%. So while Cooper may see a lot of passes
come his way, unless there is a change at the quarterback position
in Cleveland (Deshaun Watson or Jimmy Garoppolo anyone?), he likely
will not be able to improve on his 2021 yardage and touchdown
Cooper’s absence on Dallas
Even if the Cowboys traded Cooper to sign their two UFA wideouts,
I believe the Dallas offense will still be a man short on the
outside to start the season. Gallup suffered an ACL tear in January
so there is no guarantee he’ll be ready for opening day. They
would begin the season with Lamb, Wilson and emerging star tight
Schultz. The result of Cooper’s absence, however, will likely
see Lamb face the opposing team’s best CB and almost constant
over the top coverage. Lamb will still get his targets and fantasy
points, but unless Gallup returns at full strength or they find
another dangerous target on the other side, Lamb won’t be a top-five
wideout. My top-five would be; Ja’Marr
Kupp and Tyreek
Hill. Lamb is close, No. 6 or No. 7, but he just misses.
Meanwhile, the biggest jump in fantasy value on the Cowboys should
end up being Wilson. The 2018 sixth-round pick out of Boise State
showed up well at the end of the season. Over the final two weeks
of the regular season and in the Wild Card game he averaged 7.3
targets, 5.3 receptions, one touchdown and 18.5 fantasy points
primarily as the slot receiver. As it stands right now, instead
of the No. 4 receiver as he was to start 2021, Wilson is likely
to start the season as the No. 2 wideout and stay there until
Gallup returns. Even then he is No. 3 and moves back to the slot
where his speed works the best.
Things can obviously change between March and September. Both
these teams still need to address their respective wide receiver
rooms during free agency or the April college draft. Cleveland
more so than Dallas given the expectation that Gallup will return
from his injury in a reasonable timeframe. It’s unlikely,
however, that either team will use a pick at the position until
late Day 2 or Day 3.
And in truth, the Browns need to find a franchise quarterback
… Mayfield isn’t the answer. If the Browns can improve
their quarterback play, Cooper’s value could skyrocket.