There's no joy in Dallas these days, and mighty Jerry Jones is still swinging.
The latest target: Amari Cooper. During a Friday interview with 105.3 The Fan in which the Cowboys owner offered praise to quarterback Dak Prescott and coordinators Kellen Moore and Dan Quinn, Jones did not hide his disappointment in the four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver.
Cooper, as he did throughout the season, generated solid production in Dallas' wild-card loss to San Francisco last week (six receptions, 64 yards, one touchdown). The issue, it seems, is that he simply was not elite. Cooper, whose $20 million salary topped all wideouts, is being paid to produce more.
Jones was asked specifically whether Cooper and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, both of whom carry big price tags, would be on the roster in 2022. The frustrated owner narrowed his lengthy answer to Cooper, lamenting his impact in what was the league's highest-scoring offense.
"I don't have any comment on Cooper's contract," Jones said on Friday. "I thought that the way we were playing early when we did make something happen, I thought Cooper had a big part of it. And I'm not being trite. But how he fits in, he should take half the field with him when he runs a route. Not half -- half is an exaggeration, of course, but a whole bunch of that defense should have to honor Cooper. And he ought to be able to catch it in the middle of when they're going with him. Others do. You throw to people that are covered all the time in the NFL. You have to. Most people don't have the numbers of receivers we've had."
Cooper's numbers suffered a significant drop this season. He finished with just 68 catches for 865 yards and eight touchdowns. After exploding in Dallas following a 2018 midseason trade from the Raiders, Cooper averaged 85.5 catches for 1,151.5 yards in his first two full seasons with the Cowboys. That output netted him a five-year, $100 million deal before the 2020 season.
His 2021 decline, coupled with the structure of his contract, leave him vulnerable to an offseason exit. Cooper's dead cap hit drops from $28 million to $6 million when the new league year begins in March.
"The reason those contracts are being discussed is because they have two sides to them," Jones said. "One's got it coming, and the other one's got to pay it. And the one that's got it coming is going to go out and perform usually to the level of the contract. That's the way I think about those contracts. You don't just get up and take contracts or agreements with each other and just decide that because you've had a big (loss) at home that you're going to change directions.
"One of the things about contracts -- you know, we have 10 players, and this is the way it is around the NFL, we have 10 players that get two-thirds of the money. Ten that gets two-thirds of the money. And, so, you got to have a lot of other things that [are part of] the thought process when you're sitting here talking about somebody's contract."