Around the NFL  

 

Cowboys acquire WR Amari Cooper from Raiders

Print

Jon Gruden's teardown of GM Reggie McKenzie's progress continued Monday with another bombshell.

The Oakland Raiders agreed to trade wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys for a 2019 first-round pick, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday. Both teams later confirmed the deal.

There are two sides to this deal: First, the ramifications of another trade within a Raiders organization that has turned in a different direction under Gruden in his first year. After Gruden kicked off the season by sending Khalil Mack to Chicago, he's followed suit by jettisoning another young, talented McKenzie pick.

"I hate to see good players go," Gruden said in a statement to ESPN's Chris Mortensen. "I was on the practice field when Reggie came to me and said Cowboys would do this for a No. 1 and I said let's do it. We now have five No. 1 picks in the next two years so I'm excited about that."

This time, though, the haul seems a tad better. After two straight seasons of 72 or more receptions, 1,000-plus yards and five-plus touchdowns, Cooper has struggled to regain his form. Last season, he dealt with running routes in an offense that was hindered by a back injury to Derek Carr. This season, he's dealt with an offense that's been unimaginative and, more often than not, lifeless.

Cooper's numbers have reflected that downturn. In the last two seasons combined (20 games), he's caught 70 passes for 960 yards and eight touchdowns. Plenty of teams would still take that type of production, but that's not worth a first-round pick, even with two Pro Bowls under his belt.

Which brings us to the second side of the deal. Dallas, still in contention for the NFC East in 2018 but lacking a go-to receiver in the wake of the departure of Dez Bryant, sends a 2019 first-rounder to Oakland (which now has three of them in 2019) for who the Cowboys likely see as their No. 1 receiver for years to come. Cooper has that potential, without a doubt, and has shown the ability to produce when in an offense that isn't disjointed or downright dysfunctional.

But sending a first on the eve of Week 8 does seem desperate. In terms of the long game, Cooper is probably worth it. But that also includes banking on whether he can establish a rapport with Dak Prescott (or, perhaps, whoever succeeds him at the position), and on Cooper returning to his 2016 form in a new offense.

It also speaks to the warmth of the seat upon which Jason Garrett sits.

In the immediate, Cooper heads a group that suddenly is pretty balanced. The fourth-year wideout joins Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley and rookie Michael Gallup. Hurns weighed in on the trade, telling NFL Network's Jane Slater that Cooper is a "great addition. Dude's a baller."

Cooper should also help Dallas -- which cut receiver Brice Butler to make room, Slater reported -- create more opportunities in the passing game. According to Next Gen Stats, Cooper's 3.8 average yards of separation per target (fourth-best in the NFL among receivers with 30-plus targets) is a full 1.6 yards higher than the collective average posted by Cowboys receivers, which is the worst in the NFL.

In theory, a receiver with more space should yield more production. Dallas is hoping that's the case in 2018 and beyond. The receiver is under contract through 2019 on a fifth-year rookie option that's scheduled to pay him $13.9 million.

McKenzie, meanwhile, was open about the deal, even as it seems as though this year's personnel moves have, as NFL Media's Jim Trotter said on The Aftermath on Monday, wasted the last five years in Oakland. The bulk of those years included work done by McKenzie, turning a moribund franchise into a 12-4 team and legitimate Super Bowl contender before their hopes were cut down by a broken leg suffered by Carr.

"We made a trade today to the Dallas Cowboys," McKenzie said in an impromptu session with reporters, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal's Michael Gehlken. "It's a trade that we feel it was an opportunity that I couldn't pass on to get a first-round pick. In this business here, I thought that was invaluable for me. It was something I felt like I had to do."

Read between the lines there, and through the multiple refusals to comment from within Oakland's locker room, as you see fit. McKenzie, who denied rumors of Gruden trying to push him out -- "we work together very well," McKenzie said, per The Athletic's Vic Tafur -- went on to explain he received plenty of offers from teams in a process that he said "got a little haywire."

NFL Network's Michael Silver reported the Philadelphia Eagles were also bidding for Cooper, offering a second-round selection for the receiver last week. In the end, Cowboys VP Stephen Jones dialed McKenzie and made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

"He wanted the player, and he gave me the pick," McKenzie said. "That's what it came down to."

It appears there were other factors involved with the Raiders' decision to part ways with Cooper.

The Raiders are now equipped with three first-round picks in the 2019 draft as Gruden aims to remake the Silver and Black in his image, scowl and all. He'll also have $74 million in cap space entering the 2019 offseason, stocking him with ammunition to make as many moves as he sees fit.

This likely isn't the end of the in-season reshaping, either. Rapoport reported Monday every Raider is available except for one: Carr. And based on how this Oakland season is trending, at least one of those first-round picks will be rather high in the draft order.

The league's oldest roster will soon become one of its youngest as a rapid change picks up speed with each month that passes.

Print