On Monday, the Dallas Cowboys traded for Amari Cooper, giving up a first-round pick for the inconsistent Oakland Raiders wide receiver in a deal that raised eyebrows over the cost.
On Tuesday, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett talked Cooper up in a radio interview with 105.3 The Fan, touting a bright future for the 24-year-old.
“If we were to get him in the draft next spring, you would say, ‘Boy, is there any receiver who is as good as a guy like Amari Cooper?'” Garrett said. “He’s not 28, 29, 30. You’re not paying for a guy for what he’s done for the past six, seven, eight years for another team. We feel like he has it in front of him and he can really benefit our team going forward.”
Cowboys passed on a first-round talent in April
The Cowboys had a chance at a guy whom many would rather have than Cooper in April’s draft when they passed on Calvin Ridley, who leads the Atlanta Falcons with six touchdown catches along with 392 receiving yards through seven games.
The Cowboys, of course, didn’t burn their first-round pick, selecting linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who looks like a core player on one of the NFL’s better defenses.
But the Cowboys’ biggest need during the draft was receiver, and that remains the case seven weeks into the season.
The question now is will Cooper fill that void, and was he worth the price?
Cooper made the Pro Bowl and eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first two seasons, but regressed in 2017 to 680 yards and seven touchdowns on 48 catches.
In six games this season, Cooper has 22 catches for 280 yards and a touchdown, numbers that would disappoint if he were a first-round rookie instead of a fourth-year veteran.
Garrett: Cooper’s production dip due to ‘environment’
Garrett addressed Cooper’s production dip, suggesting it’s more of a product of the Raiders than Cooper’s ability.
“Often times, the production of the receiver has a lot to do with a lot of things that are around him,” Garrett said. “Your numbers can be a function of what the environment is and how the team is playing in general.
“He’s not a perfect player, nobody is. There are certainly areas where he can improve. But there are so many positives about him.”
Are the Cowboys really the answer for Cooper?
What Garrett didn’t address there is that the Cowboys’ offense is a bigger mess than the Raiders’. Dez Bryant was a Pro Bowl talent until Dak Prescott took over. There’s nothing to suggest that the league’s 28th-ranked passing attack will be the cure to get Cooper back to Pro Bowl form.
In fact, it appears quite the opposite. Prescott has an accuracy problem and does not move the ball downfield with any sort of consistency. If Cooper couldn’t produce with the Raiders, there’s little to suggest he will in Dallas either.
Jerry Jones reached on win-now deal
But the Cowboys are desperate.
Face it. Jerry Jones is old. He wants to win now and add to his legacy a championship that does not have Jimmy Johnson’s fingerprints on it.
Taking chances on established players with upside is more attractive to an owner with a sense of urgency than the long-term potential of whatever a first-round pick in 2019 may promise.
And now Garrett’s doing the media tour defending the deal and promoting the upside of a player the Cowboys overpaid for in a trade. By a lot.
If Cooper doesn’t help the Cowboys turn things around for an unlikely deep playoff run, this deal may end up spelling the end for a coach who’s made a living skating on thin ice.
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