Cowboys Hint at Signing Free Agent WR as Potential Amari Cooper Replacement

Amari Cooper

Getty Wide receiver Amari Cooper of the Dallas Cowboys is pursued by a San Francisco 49ers defender.

The Dallas Cowboys are going to be making significant changes this offseason, and wide receiver Amari Cooper’s future is up in the air.

It’s not clear if the Cowboys are currently looking to trade Cooper or keep him, but the speculation and external rumblings in 2022 have been that he’s simply too expensive. Dallas could save $16 million of Cooper’s $22 million cap hit by trading or cutting him before the March 21 contract deadline, Sports Illustrated reports.

Saving money is great, but the Cowboys will need to replace Cooper’s production. CeeDee Lamb has become the most dynamic pass-catcher Dallas has, but Cooper’s 2.6% drop rate is nothing to ignore, and his consistency at catching passes in traffic is vital.

In terms of looking for an option to fill that gap, Cowboys executive Stephen Jones made an interesting comment on February 28 while speaking to media at the 2022 NFL Combine. When asked about Cooper’s future, he actually brought up another receiver.

“It’s too early for me to address that yet,” Jones responded to the question about Cooper. “We’re continuing to have conversations. A lot of things affect that in terms of… We’ve obviously been so fortunate to have those three great receivers on our roster, and obviously that’s hard to keep doing under a salary cap. Certainly, Ced [Wilson] did a really nice job for us.”

Cedrick Wilson Jr. had a solid year in Dallas in 2021, and in terms of a cost-efficient option, the Cowboys probably can’t do better.

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Wilson Steps Up

The Cowboys needed offensive weapons to step up in 2021, and Wilson can say he did that. After just bringing in 22 receptions for 235 receiving yards in his first two seasons, the former Boise State standout put up 602 receiving yards and six touchdowns as the Cowboys’ No. 4 receiver behind Lamb, Cooper and Michael Gallup.

Gallup is expected to go elsewhere in free agency, but Dallas could look at Wilson as a solid No. 2 receiver to go with Lamb if Cooper does get traded or cut. Wilson would be a replacement in the sense that he’d be elevating into Cooper’s role.

It’d be interesting to see if his production would scale accordingly in a more prominent role. Wilson only had three drops in 2021 per PFR, and when he got on the same page with QBs Dak Prescott and Cooper Rush, it showed.

The 36-33 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders and the 20-16 win over the Minnesota Vikings stand out. In the first game, Wilson was targeted 10 times and brought down seven receptions for 104 yards. Against the Vikings, Wilson made the most of his three targets with three catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.

What if Cowboys Keep Cooper?

Even if Cooper stays, Stephen Jones’ comments made it seem like Wilson has a good chance to come back.

“He’s up,” Jones said about Wilson. “There’s some moving parts to that that we’ll have to continue to massage as we move forward.”

“Moving parts” seems to imply that the Cowboys are handling other business before Wilson, which makes sense. But even if Cooper does come back and they cut and trade elsewhere to open up cap space, Wilson could still stay.

Wilson played for $2.183 million in 2021, and while he’s shown he deserves more money, the Cowboys could get creative with void years, it’s hard to see a scenario where Wilson gets more than his Over the Cap valuation, which was just under $4 million in 2021.

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