The Cowboys didn’t secure Amari Cooper before he hit the open market, at risk of another team poaching him.
But by Monday night, the receiver got what he’s long said he wanted: He’s staying in Dallas.
The Cowboys and Cooper agreed to terms on a five-year, $100 million extension, according to multiple reports. The deal surpasses Saints receiver Michael Thomas’ $96.25 million extension to become the richest receiver deal in NFL history. Cooper’s $20 million average annual salary slots second behind Falcons receiver Julio Jones’ $22 million.
In the 11 hours between Cooper hitting the market and cashing in, the receiver declined a pursuit from NFC East-rival Washington, per multiple reports. Cooper turned down an offer worth “significantly” more money with the Redskins, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Instead, Cooper succeeded both in cashing in and playing where he’s happy.
“I love being a Dallas Cowboy,” Cooper said March 6 on Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan. “I think about it almost every day. … Just the aura of being a Dallas Cowboy, you can’t beat it.
“I want to be a Dallas Cowboy for life.”
NFL:Winners and losers as franchise tag window closes, negotiating period begins
Cowboys:Miami Dolphins make Byron Jones NFL’s highest-paid CB
Cooper wasn’t the first young cornerstone the Cowboys locked down Monday. Dallas placed its exclusive franchise tag on quarterback Dak Prescott on Monday morning. The team also extended tight end Blake Jarwin, locking him in for four more years in Dallas. Under new coach Mike McCarthy, the core that fueled the Cowboys’ league-high 431.5 yards of offense remains largely intact.
In 2019, Prescott, Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott became the first trio in Cowboys history to have one player throw for 4,000 yards, another catch 1,000 yards and another rush for 1,000 yards. Receivers Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb complemented Cooper well. Cobb, who played for eight years under McCarthy in Green Bay, signed with the Texans on Monday night, according to multiple reports.
McCarthy said repeatedly he wanted to keep Cobb for his transition. But Houston was willing to reward Cobb’s strong 2019 season with a three-year, $27 million contract that included $18.75 million guaranteed, per NFL Network’s James Jones, Cobb’s former teammate in Green Bay.
“The goal is to have both of those guys back,” McCarthy said at the scouting combine last month. “Amari, having a chance to get through all the tape, he did a lot of great things and it really looks like he’s in sync with Dak. And I would even say Randall more so. I was very impressed with Randall last year.
“I thought he had a heck of a season last year in Dallas.”
The Cowboys could look to replace Cobb in a draft considered historically strong at the receiver position.
Locking down Cooper is a relief for multiple reasons. Looking forward, the Cowboys believe in the potential of a true No. 1 receiver who has raced to 5,097 yards and 33 touchdowns in the NFL before turning 26. Looking back, the team dealt its 2019 first-round draft selection to Oakland to acquire Cooper. The Cowboys didn’t intend to lose that capital for such a short stint. Cooper played under a $13.9 million fifth-year option in 2019. But the Cowboys knew he’d need a new deal. Owner Jerry Jones said he viewed Cooper as a key member of the team’s core going forward.
In 25 games since arriving in Dallas, Cooper has caught 132 passes for 1,914 yards and 14 touchdowns. At times, particularly on the road in 2019, he has been inconsistent. Still, chemistry with Prescott has helped Cooper register his best career numbers with Dallas. His 76.6 yards per game bests his Raiders’ mark by 15.4; and he’s caught 76.6% of Prescott’s targets, compared to 61.2% in Oakland.
Each contributed to Cooper’s desire to stay in Dallas.
“I want to be here,” Cooper said from Cowboys locker room in December. “I like it here. … My situation on the team, [Prescott] being the quarterback, the teammates, where I live. Everything.”
Monday night, he got his wish.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.
If you love talking football, we have the perfect spot for you. Join our Facebook Group, The Ruling Off the Field, to engage in friendly debate and conversation with fellow football fans and our NFL insiders. Do the right thing, sign up now!