Money wasn’t Amari Cooper’s motive.
In his first interview since re-signing with the Cowboys — almost five months ago — the star wide receiver admitted he took less to stay in Dallas than defect to a bitter NFC East rival.
Cooper inked a five-year, $100 million extension at the onset of free agency, a pact that included $40 million guaranteed at signing. This made him the NFL’s second-highest-paid receiver — and it was his second-highest known offer, falling short of the Washington Football Team.
“I just like everything about being a Dallas Cowboy,” Cooper told reporters Tuesday, via the Cowboys’ official website. “I love the culture that we’ve created here and just the atmosphere both inside the building and outside of the building, in terms of being in the city of Dallas and the surrounding areas. I guess that would be the same reason why I was willing to take less money to stay here.
“That coupled with fact that I had the privilege of being able to play on a different team, I understand that every the culture isn’t the same. Every city isn’t the same and every team isn’t the same. Me being able to see that while being on another team and to have the opportunity to be on a team that I really love, I wouldn’t trade that for a little bit more money.”
Multiple reports indicated after he put pen to paper that Cooper rejected “significantly” more money from Washington, which submitted a proposal “in the $22 million-per-year range” that would have “put him right there with Julio [Jones]” as the league’s richest wideout.
WFT head coach Ron Rivera later confirmed the free-agent pursuit.
“We were in it, talking about a substantial amount of money,” Rivera said in April. “At the end of the day, he made a decision, and we have to respect it. He would have made a great addition.”
The long-term extension will carry Cooper through his age-30 season, meaning he’ll get another bite at the proverbial apple. Soft-spoken and rarely generating headlines, Cooper broke character by repeatedly declaring over the past year his interest in remaining a “Cowboy for life,” which should have tipped off Rivera and his surrounding brain trust.
Across 25 games with the silver and blue, following his October 2018 arrival from the Raiders, Cooper has recorded 132 receptions for 1,914 yards (14.5 yards per catch) and 14 touchdowns — and two Pro Bowl trips. He led the team last season with 1,189 yards and eight scores on 79 grabs, making all 16 starts despite battling multiple lower-leg and foot injuries.
Cooper remains the Batman to Michael Gallup’s Robin and the linchpin to the sport’s top-ranked passing attack, which was further bolstered with first-round rookie WR CeeDee Lamb.
The hype is high. The expectations, higher.
“You have to draft the best player on the board — everybody understands that,” he said Tuesday. “I think he’s a great receiver. And I think with me and Michael Gallup going for 1,000 yards last season, I think the expectation is to have three 1,000-yard receivers this year.”
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