Amari Cooper Voices ‘Wholehearted’ Desire to Re-Sign with Cowboys

Amari Cooper

Getty Amari Cooper

We knew how the Cowboys feel about Amari Cooper — he’s their No. 2 offseason priority behind Dak Prescott — but how does the impending free-agent wide receiver feel about Dallas?

“Like it’s home.”

Cooper told NFL Network’s Jane Slater that he hopes to remain with the Cowboys for the long haul, committing to the team which surrendered a first-round draft pick to pry him away from the Oakland Raiders in 2018.

“I do [want to stay in Dallas],” he said Thursday at the Pro Bowl, where he’s replacing Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans on the NFC squad, via Pro Football Talk. “I mean that wholeheartedly. I love Dallas. . . .I feel like it’s home. I want to live there for a long time.”

Whether he gets his wish obviously hinges on Dallas’ willingness to cough up a lucrative multi-year contract or, as a Plan B, apply the one-year (but still lucrative) franchise tag, projected to cost $18.491 million for 2020.

To that end, while Cooper is content allowing the process to play out, he admits an agreement isn’t on the horizon, 55 days before the 25-year-old is slated to test unrestricted free agency for the first time in his star-studded career.

“I haven’t talked to my agent about my contract situation,” Cooper said, via PFT. “We’ve talked about other things like Pro Bowl, things I have to do at the Super Bowl. I don’t want to rush it. I think it’s not something that’s imminent. So just taking it day by day.”

The club’s leading receiver this past season, Cooper battled through numerous lower-body injuries to deliver 79 catches for a career-high 1,189 yards (eighth-most in the NFL) and eight touchdowns, also a new personal best.

The Cowboys are expected to possess more than $81 million in available salary-cap space, enough to potentially pay Cooper among the league’s top WRs. He could meet or surpass the $96.25 million contract inked by New Orleans’ Michael Thomas last summer. It’s possible he also eclipses, in terms of annual salary, the three-year, $66 million deal that Atlanta’s Julio Jones received in September.

Leverage is working in Amari’s favor as fellow Cowboys wideouts Randall Cobb and Tavon Austin are, too, heading toward free agency, whittling the depth chart to Michael Gallup and … not a whole lot else.

But, financially, Dallas is caught between a rock and the hardest of places, with Prescott, cornerback Byron Jones and over 20 unsigned players scheduled to shop their wares on March 18. There’s only so much money to go around, and someone — they just don’t yet know — will draw the short straw.

“It’s going to be a tough deal,” Cowboys vice president of player personnel Will McClay said Wednesday, via USA Today. “It’s the NFL. You have your quarterback you have to pay, you have a receiver, you have good players. And when you have good players, you have to figure out how to pay them or how to survive.

“We’ve got to go through that whole process.”

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Byron Jones to Leave Cowboys, Land with NFC East Rival?

Reporting from the Senior Bowl, plugged-in NFL analyst Tony Pauline passed along a rumor that Jones could land with the Philadelphia Eagles, who are expected to aggressively pursue a corner this offseason. Pauline also mentions Denver’s Chris Harris Jr. as an option for the reigning NFC East champions.

“Word here in Mobile is that the Philadelphia Eagles will go hard after a cornerback in free agency. Chris Harris and Byron Jones are two of the names being thrown around, but I expect the Eagles to turn over every rock in free agency in an attempt to fill the position,” Pauline wrote. estimated Jones’ 2019 market value at $10.909 million, which would place him just beneath Pittsburgh’s Joe Haden ($11 million) as the NFL’s 17th-highest-paid CB in terms of annual salary. That likely represents the jumping-off point in impending negotiations.

And it doesn’t appear as if the Cowboys are willing to pony up. McClay cryptically discussed Jones’ standing with the organization, essentially confirming his lower placement on the proverbial totem pole.

“He’s a starting-caliber NFL corner. A really good player. We have to figure out his financial value and if it fits for us,” he said Wednesday, via the Dallas Morning News.

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL