A little more than two months after Dallas shipped Cooper to Cleveland for the moderate price of a fifth-round draft pick and a sixth-round swap, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram recounted some inflammatory words Jones had uttered, which were directed at the four-time Pro Bowl wideout.
“Owner Jerry Jones, however, doesn’t believe the team will take a step back at the top of the [wide receiver] group. Jones told the Star-Telegram that CeeDee Lamb will be an upgrade over Cooper as a true No. 1 receiver in the Cowboys’ offense,” Hill wrote on May 26.
“Jones said he was [not] trying to slight Cooper, whom the team traded in March in part because his production didn’t match his $20 million practice tag,” Hill continued. “But Jones acknowledged Cooper had his issues and that Lamb has the makings of more a complete No. 1 receiver in ‘production, in the huddle and off the field.'”
Then, during a press conference on July 26, Jones spoke again to Cooper. This time, he attacked the wide receiver’s durability in comparison to the level of salary he currently commands.
When you get in that [financial] spot, I can tell you, your standards go up. Your bar is higher. Your conduct is higher. Your attention to the team is higher, not just your own performance, but everything when you have that kind of responsibility, when you have that much of the financial pie.
What I’m trying to say is those decisions were made more about availability than ability. They were made as how you arrived at not being available at times. … But more important than anything is these decisions that we made, I made, relative to top players not being here had everything to do with their availability and my concern about their availability.
The latest Browns news straight to your inbox! Subscribe to the Heavy on Browns newsletter here!
Browns’ Cooper Takes High Road in Response to Slights From Jones
Cooper’s reaction to Jones’ initial comments was a sort of passive-aggressive defiance via social media a few weeks later.
The wideout posted a photo to his Instagram page of him route running in a Browns uniform. The caption was two simple words: “Just watch.”
Cooper also spoke on the radio recently, with Dallas The Ticket 96.7, during which he took the high road by complimenting his former teammate Lamb.
“CeeDee is a playmaker, you know,” Cooper said. “He’s been ready. He’s going to make the play when his jersey number is called, and I can’t wait to see it happen. He’s a playmaker. He can go up and get it after the catch, no matter the situation.”
Cooper Will Be QB Deshaun Watson’s Top WR Target With Browns
Jones’ comments about Cooper’s availability don’t hold much water when looking back on what has been a successful, and largely durable, career.
Cooper has played seven years in the NFL between the Las Vegas Raiders (formerly of Oakland) and the Cowboys. During that time, he has appeared in at least 14 regular season games each campaign, per Pro Football Reference.
The wide receiver appeared in nine games for the Cowboys after being traded there by the Raiders in 2018, after appearing in six contests for Oakland that year. Over the next three full seasons with Dallas, Cooper has missed just two games. Both of those occurred last season and were related to a positive COVID-19 test.
Cooper will earn $60 million over the next three years, though the Browns restructured his contract to make the salary cap hit less onerous in 2022. He joins three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson as trade additions to the roster this year, and will likely prove Watson’s top target in the passing game once they both hit the field together.
Rookie David Bell will make a case for the No. 2 spot at wide receiver, while Donovan Peoples-Jones is expected to round out the starting lineup at the position. Anthony Schwartz is likely to be the fourth wide receiver on the depth chart and the first in off of the bench on Sundays.