Jimmy Smith is putting Amari Cooper in his crosshairs.
The legendary former Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver, who spent his first two NFL seasons (1992-93) in Dallas, takes no umbrage with Cooper’s inarguable ability.
It’s the $100 million Cowboys star’s work ethic — or lack thereof— that rubs Smith entirely the wrong way.
“I just wish there was a little more effort on Amari Cooper’s part,” Smith said recently on FanSided’s The Matt Lombardo Show podcast.
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Smith is one of the best wideouts in NFL history, a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion and the 1999 league receptions leader. In other words, he knows a thing or two about playing the position.
And Smith does not believe that Cooper’s stat line last season — a team-leading 92 catches for 1,114 yards and five touchdowns across 130 targets — exonerates his (perceived) laziness nor justifies the $20 million per year he’s raking in as the sport’s highest-paid pass-catcher.
“[Cooper] is a guy who is so talented, but the lack of effort really, really gets under my skin,” he told Lombardo. “Especially for what he’s getting paid.”
Cooper did well to succeed despite losing franchise quarterback Dak Prescott for much of the 2020 campaign. But his success was due in part to fast-ascending then-rookie CeeDee Lamb, who finished second on the Cowboys with 111 targets, 74 receptions, 935 yards, and four TDs.
“He’s going to be one of the top receivers in this league,” Smith said of Lamb. “He has a passion for the game, had a good feel for positioning in the slot, as a rookie, and he’s going to get better.”
Lamb, the No. 17 overall pick of last year’s draft, quickly overtook veteran Michael Gallup in the WR pecking order, creating doubt (and endless rumors) as to Gallup’s future in Dallas. It’s a matter of when — not if — Cooper meets the same fate, Smith believes.
“He’s going to make guys who are making more money than him expendable,” he said. “That’s what’s going to happen.”
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Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News reported in March that Dallas kept open an “exit door” with Cooper by opting not to restructure his megadeal this offseason. Per OverTheCap.com, redoing Cooper’s pact would have saved $14.257 million against the salary cap. As is, he’s carrying a monster $22 million figure for 2021 — or 10.5% of the club’s overall payroll. His $20 million base salary is guaranteed.
Cooper is signed 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 his $20 million salary for that season becomes fully guaranteed.
“Can part ways in early 2022 with just $6M dead money vs. cap,” Gehlken noted. “This one of big decisions looming at WR position. Michael Gallup in contract year.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL