Sunday, February 25

Amari Cooper trade grades: Cowboys settle for little, Browns get true No. 1 WR | Sporting News

The NFL 2022 offseason continues to produce big-name trades; the latest one reportedly has Dallas moving receiver Amari Cooper to Cleveland for a 2022 fifth-round pick and a swap of sixth-round picks.

It’s a move that — like some other trades this offseason — seems to favor one team over the other. In this case, it appears the Browns made a low-risk, high-reward move to acquire Cooper. The Cowboys, meanwhile, were forced into a trade that amounted to little more than a salary dump after signing Cooper to a five-year, $100 million contract in 2020.

MORE: Amari Cooper trade details

As is so often the case, only time will tell if this trade benefits one team more than the other, if at all. Until then, The Sporting News breaks down the initial grades for the Browns and Cowboys, and what’s next for both teams — and Cooper:

Amari Cooper trade grades

Browns receive:

  • WR Amari Cooper
  • 2022 sixth-round pick

Cowboys receive:

  • 2022 fifth-round pick
  • 2022 sixth-round pick

Browns grade: A-

The Browns have their new No. 1 receiver following the Odell Beckham Jr. debacle last year. Moreover, they get him incredibly cheaply, trading only a fifth-rounder and swapping sixth-round picks for a four-time Pro Bowler. Yes, Cleveland will have to pay Cooper $20 million in each of the next three seasons, but it can cut him at any time to mitigate that price point if the team feels his production isn’t worth it (he no longer has any dead money remaining on his deal).

Cooper, who turns 28 in June, had 292 receptions for 3,893 yards and 27 touchdowns in Dallas after the Cowboys traded a first-round pick to the Raiders for him midway through the 2018 season. The five-time 1,000-yard receiver has never had fewer than five receiving touchdowns in a season — a seemingly massive upgrade to the Browns’ receiving corps from 2021.

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The Browns have reportedly allowed Jarvis Landry (the only receiver with more than 35 receptions on last year’s team) to seek a trade. That will free Cooper up for more targets, though the Browns may want to further bolster their receiving corps so opposing defenses don’t key in on him. If Landry somehow returns to Cleveland in 2022, then they would form an imposing receiving tandem. Regardless, Cooper represents a talented (if inconsistent) target for quarterback Baker Mayfield, who suffered through injuries in a disappointing 8-9 season last year.

Speaking of quarterbacks, the Browns are reportedly mulling a trade that would send Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson to Cleveland following news he won’t face criminal charges amid sexual assault allegations. The Browns still have the draft capital to make a run at Watson, who may now consider waiving his no-trade clause for Cleveland with Cooper on board.

This move places the Browns $3.1 million over the cap, so additional cap management is needed. Expect roster moves to clear space for Cooper — and don’t be surprised if Cleveland attempts another splash move in the process.

MORE: Ranking the NFL’s top 50 free agents for 2022

Cowboys grade: D-

It seems the Cowboys — who risked receiving nothing at all for Cooper if they were forced to cut him following failed trade attempts — bought into the adage that something is better than nothing. As anyone who ever attended school could tell you, receiving a D is better than receiving a zero.

It’s true Cooper’s contract was a serious hurdle in trade negotiations with other teams. It’s also true Cooper had a relatively disappointing 2021 season, with 68 receptions for 865 yards and eight touchdowns.

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That said, receiving a Day 3 pick and trading up 10 spots in the sixth round is less indicative of Cooper’s worth and more emblematic of poor cap management by Dallas. Yes, the Cowboys free up $16 million in cap space in 2022, but they are still on the hook for $18.2 million for running back Ezekiel Elliott (although Tony Pollard, vastly cheaper and still on his rookie deal, had a higher yards-per-carry average than Elliott).

The hit Dallas’ offense suffers without Cooper is mitigated by the presence of receivers CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup. Whether they or quarterback Dak Prescott will be as successful without Cooper opening things up remains to be seen; Cooper represented an obvious upgrade for Dallas.

And, unlike the Bears — who traded an aging Khalil Mack for a second-round pick — there are no obvious replacements for Cooper that late in the 2022 NFL Draft, even with a deep receiver class.

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