Browns Trade Pitch Reunites Deshaun Watson With Proven $40 Million Deep Threat

Brandin Cooks, Cowboys

Getty Wide receiver Brandin Cooks of the Dallas Cowboys.

The Cleveland Browns secured their last top-flight wide receiver via a trade with the Dallas Cowboys, and GM Andrew Berry could make it two-for-two in his dealings with ostentatious owner Jerry Jones.

Deshaun Watson recently took to the airwaves to recruit pending free agent wideout Tee Higgins of the AFC North Division rival Cincinnati Bengals. While that move has a small chance of success and might hinge on the QB agreeing to a pay cut, a trade to help the Cowboys clear some cash off of their books sounds more feasible.

Bleacher Report’s NFL Scouting Department compiled an offseason trade guide for both Cleveland and Dallas on Monday, January 29, in which it noted wide receiver Brandin Cooks as perhaps the Cowboys’ top trade asset as well as one of the Browns’ top trade targets. As a bonus, that deal would reunite Watson and Cooks, who spent a highly productive year playing together as members of the Houston Texans in 2020.

[The Cowboys] would save $4 million against the cap by trading away the veteran, and they paid a minimal draft cost for him last offseason anyway.

Some of Cooks’ best work in Houston came in 2020 when he had Deshaun Watson throwing him the football. Now the Browns are desperate to make sure that Watson proves to be worthy of the trade package and compensation they gave up for him. If reuniting the two would do the trick, it has to be a consideration.

BR’s pitch flips Cooks to the Browns in return for two fifth-round picks in 2024 (No. 134 overall) and 2025.

Browns Struck Gold by Trading With Cowboys for WR Amari Cooper

Amari Cooper, Cleveland Browns

GettyWide receiver Amari Cooper of the Cleveland Browns.

Dallas could actually save $8 million in 2024 by trading Cooks after June 1, adding another $2 million in savings in 2025 by waiting until summer to make the move.

Cleveland doesn’t need to hurry, as the franchise could easily wait for history to repeat itself.

“The Dallas Cowboys need to generate cap space and could look to do so by dealing one of their secondary wide receivers,” BR wrote Monday. “The Cowboys dealt Amari Cooper just two years ago to make room in the No. 1 role for CeeDee Lamb, and now, Lamb is extension-eligible.”

It was the Browns who benefited from Jones’ decision to deal Cooper. Berry picked up the team’s No. 1 wide receiver for the cost of just one fifth-round pick and a sixth-round pick swap in 2022.

Cooper has since led the Browns in receiving in two consecutive seasons, earning the fifth Pro-Bowl nod of his career in 2023 on the strength of 72 catches for 1,250 yards and 5 TDs, per Pro Football Reference.

Ironically, BR also listed Cooper as among the Browns’ top trade candidates in the 2024 offseason. The wideout’s expendability is tied only to the money he is owed on the final year of his $100 million contract, which carries a salary cap hit just shy of $24 million next season.

Cooper, however, has proven invaluable to the Browns. As such, dealing him is an unlikely outcome. But extending the 29-year-old receiver makes some sense, in that doing so will allow Cleveland to push off some of his cost to the future while keeping its top pass-catcher for whatever remains of the team’s contention window.

Brandin Cooks Can Help Deshaun Watson, Browns Offense Push Ball Downfield

Deshaun Watson cleared up his feelings on the Browns having success in his absence.

GettyQuarterback Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns.

Speaking of contending, not just for a return trip to the playoffs but also for the franchise’s first-ever Super Bowl appearance, Cooks would be an excellent addition to the identity the Browns hope to develop on offense.

Cleveland wants to pass the ball more and push those passes further downfield. The team had success playing that style under Joe Flacco for the last third of the 2023 campaign and will presumably try to replicate that success once Watson returns healthy from the season-ending shoulder surgery he underwent last November.

Cooks can certainly offer help in that regard. The 10-year NFL veteran has six 1,000-plus seasons on his resumé and has hauled in 57 career TD passes. He made 81 catches for 1,150 yards and 8 TDs with Watson as his QB in 2020. Watson led the league in passing that season, his third consecutive Pro-Bowl campaign, with 4,823 yards.

The Browns must consider their unfortunate salary cap realities, largely tied to Watson’s $230 million albatross of a contract that runs through 2026, before making any significant trades. Cleveland’s books indicate the franchise is $20.5 million in the red in 2024 as of Monday.

Even if Berry and company can land Cooks for a reasonable trade cost, his contract won’t come cheap. The wideout is entering the final season of a two-year, $39.8 million deal and carries a cap hit of $10 million in 2024.

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