Cowboys ‘Likely’ to Cut $100 Million Star, Focus on Free Agent WR: Report

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones

Getty Cowboys owner Jerry Jones

As several reports have indicated, star receiver Amari Cooper’s days with the Dallas Cowboys appear to be numbered. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Cowboys are “likely” to release Cooper ahead of the start of the league year on March 20.

“Cowboys are ‘likely’ to release WR Amari [Cooper] by the start of the new league year, per league sources,” Schefter tweeted on March 4. “Cooper is due $20 million in fully guaranteed money on the fifth day of the new league year, March 20.”

According to Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson, the Cowboys decision makers believed they would have to choose between Cooper and free-agent receiver Michael Gallup. Cooper’s likely release means Gallup will be a major priority in free agency.

“Part of the plan here, I’m told from a league source, is buttoning up a long term deal for Michael Gallup,” Robinson detailed on Twitter. “Cowboys felt it was an either/or and are making Gallup the priority.”

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Cooper Has 3 Years Remaining on His $100 Million Contract

Dallas Morning News’ Michael Gehlken reported that the sense around the NFL is it “would be an upset” for Cooper to return to Dallas. Cooper is currently under contract with the Cowboys through 2024 as part of a five-year, $100 million deal.

The receiver is slated to make $20 million annually for the next three seasons, but the Cowboys have an out in Cooper’s deal this offseason. Dallas would still take a $6 million dead cap hit if they release Cooper, per Spotrac.

“Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup have all but certainly played their final game together in Dallas,” Gehlken tweeted on March 3. “There are still moving pieces for Cowboys, but the shared opinion from several sources at combine is it would be an upset if Cooper returns.”

Gallup Is Projected to Sign a 1-Year, $5 Million Contract

Pro Football Focus has Gallup ranked as the sixth-best free agent receiver and No. 28 overall player. Gallup is projected to sign a one-year, $5 million contract in free agency, a potential bargain likely due to his season-ending ACL injury. While Gallup is hoping for a lucrative long-term deal, Gallup told Heavy he is open to signing a prove-it contract.

“I think somebody could give me a long-term deal, and I think if I need to prove it again I’m pretty sure I can do that, too,” Gallup explained to Heavy during a February 9 exclusive interview.

Cooper is still producing at a high level notching 68 receptions for 865 yards and eight touchdowns during his 15 appearances last season. This came after two straight seasons with more than 1,100 receiving yards. By comparison, Gallup posted 35 catches for 445 yards and two touchdowns in nine appearance and is coming off an injury-plagued season.

Stephen Jones: ‘If You’re Gonna Pay Somebody a Lot of Money, You Want them to be the Best’

The Cowboys have been dropping bread crumbs that Cooper’s release was likely inevitable. While conceding that the team’s scheme played a factor, Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones hinted that Cooper needed more production to justify his $20 million salary.

“Well, it’s sometimes not all on the receiver, too,” Jones told reporters at the Senior Bowl on February 2. “It’s scheme, it’s getting the receiver the ball, the touches, the targets that he needs. But if you’re gonna pay somebody a lot of money, you want them to be the best at what they do.

“Whether that’s catching, whether that’s yards, whether that’s receptions, whether that’s touchdowns. Whether that’s throwing touchdown passes, winning football games, if you’re a quarterback. Whether it’s a running back, if you’re getting your touches and you’re scoring touchdowns and you’re running for yards, I mean all those things.

“If you’re a pass rusher, you want to be getting pressure and making plays, all those things relate to how a guy’s paid. And once you pay that player a lot of money, then with that comes high expectations. And they know that, these players know that, they compete at the highest levels.”

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