Revisiting the Amari Cooper trade for the Raiders and Cowboys

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Marcus Mosher
·4 min read
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As soon as the Raiders traded All-Pro EDGE defender Khalil Mack just days before the 2018 season, it was clear that Amari Cooper would be next. Entering the fourth year of his rookie contract, it didn’t appear that the Raiders wanted to commit to him long-term despite 2,904 total yards in the first three years of his career.

So without much hesitation, the Raiders traded Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys, who were then 3-4 and going nowhere. In exchange, Dallas would surrender their 2019 first-round pick that was trending in the direction of a top-10 pick.

Instead, Cooper’s arrival in Dallas changed the entire season for the Cowboys. The team won seven of their final eight games and Cooper dominated. In his nine games with the team, he caught 53 passes for 725 yards and six touchdowns. He helped lead the team to the playoffs and played well there too, racking up 171 yards and one touchdown in two games.

Since being traded to Dallas, Cooper signed a five-year contract extension and has been worth every penny so far. He’s played in 40 regular-season games with the team, totaling over 3,000 yards and scoring 19 touchdowns. Only six other players have more receiving yards. Since being traded to the Cowboys, only four players have more receiving yards than Cooper (2,987):

1. Travis Kelce (3,339)

2. DeAndre Hopkins (3,320)

3. Stefon Diggs (3,023)

4. Davante Adams (3,021)

From the Cowboys’ perspective, things couldn’t have worked out better for them as they now have a bonafide No. 1 receiver who has produced with multiple quarterbacks in Big D. He’s been a total superstar and been everything they could have wanted in that trade.

As for the Raiders, the pick they ultimately received in return for Cooper wound up at No. 27. Cooper helped elevate Dallas’ offense and quickly changed that pick from a potential top-10 selection to the bottom of the first round.

The Raiders used that pick on strong safety Johnathan Abram and the reviews have been mixed so far. When he’s healthy, he is one of the most athletic and physical safeties in the NFL. No one hits harder than Abram and his energy and leadership bring life to the defense.

Unfortunately, injuries have been a problem for Abram early in his career. Since being drafted in 2019, Abram has played a total of 13 games in the NFL. He’s dealt with shoulder and knee issues and that isn’t all that surprising given his style of play.

What is more concerning is the lack of coverage skills. According to Pro Football Focus, Abram is currently the league’s lowest-graded safety, mostly due to a 31.4 coverage grade. Teams have learned that if you find No. 24 in the secondary, you can typically have a ton of success in the passing game.

And then there are the personal foul calls. No defender in the NFL has earned more personal foul calls than Johnathan Abram in 2020. For whatever reason, Abram can’t find a way to avoid critical penalty calls that extend drives and lead to points. He’s already been fined numerous times and the penalty yardage continues to rack up.

We are only two years into Abram’s career so it’s too early to call him a bust. But when you compare his play to what Amari Cooper has done in Dallas since being traded, it’s hard not to be a little disappointed.

Making matters worse is that the Raiders were forced to use several picks to try to replace Cooper and they haven’t even come close to doing so. They traded a third-round pick for Antonio Brown and he never played a down for the team. They traded a mid-round pick for Zay Jones and he’s just a complementary player. They spent a ton of cap space on Tyrell Williams and that move didn’t work out either.

Now, they are hoping that 2020 first-round pick Henry Ruggs can develop into a high-level starter, but no one is expecting him to even come close to the level of production that Cooper had with the Raiders. Over the last 40 weeks, the receiver position has been a major weakness for the Raiders.

Two-and-half years into the Cooper trade and this is only looking worse and worse for the Raiders. Hindsight is always 20/20, but trading away young Pro Bowl players for a single future draft pick might not be the smartest way to build a competitive roster.