Browns Predicted to Part Ways With $100 Million Playmaker

Amari Cooper, Browns

Getty Wide receiver Amari Cooper of the Cleveland Browns sores a touchdown during a game against the Washington Commanders in January 2023.

The Cleveland Browns have amassed an impressive collection of talent over the past couple of years, though some subtraction is likely in the near future.

That is the theory of a handful of insiders close to the team, including Jared Mueller of SB Nation’s Dawgs by Nature. On Friday, June 2, Mueller cited sources who said that wide receiver Amari Cooper is likely on his way out following the 2023 season unless some major facts change on the ground in Cleveland before then.

“Unless he redoes his contract or has a monster year, this is Cooper’s last season with the Browns either way,” Mueller wrote.

Amari Cooper Has Been Great in Cleveland, but Tough Fit for Browns Long-Term

GettyWide receiver Amari Cooper of the Cleveland Browns runs with the football after a catch during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in September 2022.

Precisely what qualifies as a “monster season” was something Mueller left undefined, and considering Cooper’s play in 2022, the definition could be a moving target within the Browns front office as well.

Cooper was far and away Cleveland’s best option in the passing game last year, hauling in 78 catches for 1,160 yards and a career-high nine touchdowns, per Pro Football Reference. What’s more, the wideout put up those numbers with Jacoby Brissett and by far the worst NFL iteration of Deshaun Watson under center.

The former No. 4 overall pick in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft, Cooper will play the upcoming season at the age of 29. If he does so as the No. 1 option with a revived Watson throwing him the football then a fifth Pro-Bowl campaign is not out of the question for Cooper.

But there are three things working against the wide receiver playing out his contract in Cleveland, which ends after the 2024 season. The first is that he will carry a salary cap hit of nearly $23.8 million two years from now, as well as a $20 million base salary in each of the next two seasons, after the Browns restructured the final three years of his $100 million contract upon trading for him. Cleveland has been on a historic spending spree over the past couple of offseasons, but at some point the franchise must turn off the cash tap.

The second problem for Cooper is how well the Browns made out in the deal to acquire him from the Dallas Cowboys last year. Cleveland surrendered two fifth-round picks and a sixth-round swap in exchange for what came close to a Pro-Bowl campaign out of the receiver. Getting two great seasons out Cooper will be more than enough of a return to justify moving on from his prohibitive salary cap number in 2024, especially if the Browns don’t figure they can extend him at a feasible number beyond his current deal.

And finally, the mutual interest between Cleveland and free agent wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins could throw a wrench into the mix that ultimately renders Cooper the odd man out should the Browns add the five-time Pro Bowler to the roster.

Browns Unlikely to Carry Amari Cooper, DeAndre Hopkins Together Beyond 2023

Hopkins Bears 3 FA Fits

GettyWide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, formerly of the Arizona Cardinals, looks to the sideline during a game against the New England Patriots in December 2022.

Hopkins is older than Cooper, though moderately more accomplished over the course of his career, and has a longer history with Watson. The two were teammates between 2017-19 as members of the Houston Texans, during which time Hopkins earned all three of his first-team All-Pro selections.

Mueller contended Friday that Hopkins and Cooper offer teams similar talent and production projections over the next couple of seasons, but that Hopkins could possibly be had for less money.

“Like Amari Cooper, Hopkins is seen as a 1B/2A level receiver around the league,” Mueller wrote. “Unless a team comes out of nowhere or has an injury creating a huge need, Hopkins is unlikely to sniff a contract near what Odell Beckham Jr. received.”

The Baltimore Ravens paid Beckham $15 million on a one-year deal this offseason, with an incentive structure that can earn him more based on production.

The Browns probably can’t afford to pay both Cooper and Hopkins big money beyond the 2023 campaign and would likely have to choose. The flexibility they could work out in a free agent signing of Hopkins now would be much greater than anything they could do with Cooper’s contract in 2024.

It is also worth considering that Cleveland traded with the New York Jets for Elijah Moore ahead of this year’s NFL draft and also acquired wideout Marquise Goodwin on a one-year contract.

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