The fantastical idea of trading Amari Cooper — now — apparently isn’t so fantastical.
In listing eight bold predictions for 2021 NFL free agency, sports media giant Bleacher Report included the Dallas Cowboys shipping away its Pro Bowl wide receiver in a financially-driven move following Dak Prescott’s $160 million contract extension.
Via BR columnist Brad Gagnon:
They likely realize they need to spread the wealth, and a Cooper trade would give them a tremendous opportunity to do exactly that.
Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb all scored five touchdowns while going over 800 yards and averaging at least 8.0 yards per target in 2020, but Gallup and Lamb are a hell of a lot cheaper. Other teams will value Cooper far more than Dallas needs to because of the presence of Gallup and Lamb, and the Cowboys can create $14 million in cap space by trading the soon-to-be 27-year-old.
Those savings along with a Day 2 draft pick should be all Jerry Jones needs, because there’s no way Mike McCarthy’s offense shouldn’t be able to excel still with Prescott, Elliott, Martin, Smith, Collins, Gallup and Lamb.
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Smoke or Fire?
Gagnon might be piggybacking off a recent report by the Dallas Morning News‘ Michael Gehlken, who noted that Dallas cracked an “exit door” for Cooper — in 2022 — after opting not to restructure his five-year, $100 million contract, inked last March.
But it’s interesting that Cooper’s potential departure is becoming a thing with the official start of free agency less than three days away. Where there’s smoke, in this sport, there’s typically fire.
“Can part ways in early 2022 with just $6M dead money vs. cap,” Gehlken said. “This one of big decisions looming at WR position. Michael Gallup in contract year.”
Per OverTheCap.com, restructuring Cooper would save $14,257,500 against the salary cap. As is, he’s scheduled to carry a whopping $22 million figure for 2021 — or 10.5% of the club’s overall payroll. His $20 million base salary is guaranteed.
The Cowboys’ leading receiver is under contract through 2024, his age-30 campaign. If the organization opts to move on, they must reach a decision prior to the fifth day of the 2022 league year, when Cooper’s $20 million salary for that season becomes fully guaranteed.
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L.P.’s Impending Return
Also noted by Gelhken: Longtime Cowboys long snapper L.P. Ladouceur is three games away from breaking future Hall-of-Fame tight end Jason Witten’s franchise record of 256 games played in a silver and blue uniform.
Ladouceur on Saturday — his birthday — became the first Cowboys player under contract at age-40 since 2008. That could change this coming week when the eight-year veteran is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
The final link to the Bill Parcells era, Ladouceur “plans to continue [his] career in 2021,” per Gehlken, though it’s unclear if Dallas anticipates parting ways after 15 seasons. He earned a modest $1.05 million base salary last year, counting just $887,500 (0.4%) against the cap.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL