Guard Jonathan Cooper, the seventh-overall pick in the 2013 draft, was signed by the Cowboys after a workout yesterday. Dallas will be his fourth team since entering the NFL and battling several injury issues.
Originally drafted by the Arizona Cardinals, Cooper broke his lower leg in preseason of his rookie year and was placed on Injured Reserve. He struggled to find his footing after that, starting just two games in 2014 and nine in 2015. Ongoing injury problems cost him practice time and eventually his starting job.
Cooper was traded to the Patriots last March as part of the deal for defensive star Chandler Jones. Foot issues hampered Cooper's ability to compete during training camp and he eventually lost out to younger prospects for the starting jobs. New England released him in October and he was claimed by the Cleveland Browns.
After starting in two games for Cleveland, Cooper was released to make room for the return of Alvin Bailey from a suspension. He cleared waivers and was a free agent before drawing interest from the Cowboys.
The Cowboys' interest in Jonathan Cooper is twofold. They have some immediate concerns with Ronald Leary battling some back pain and La'el Collins working his way back from the IR list. Cooper has starting experience and could rival Joe Looney as the primary backup at guard. He should certainly be an upgrade over Ryan Seymour, who was signed from the practice squad last week.
Dallas' interest likely extends beyond just the next few games. Just a few years ago, Cooper was the highest-drafted guard of the last three decades. Just check out what his former Arizona QB, Carson Palmer, said about him after Cooper was traded to the Patriots.
“I hated seeing him go. (He’s) extremely talented.”
That alone is nice to hear from a veteran like Palmer, but Carson didn't stop there. This description of Cooper's playing style should really get Cowboys fans intrigued.
“To see him move, especially on the screens and inside, he’s so athletic for how big he is,” Palmer said. “He’s not really tall, but he uses it to his advantage, because he gets low, and he plays with great leverage. He’s really long, so he doesn’t get reached. I really, really liked having the chance to play with him for a little bit.”
Not only does Cooper have talent but his style fits very well with what Dallas asks of its offensive guards. If he can finally stay healthy, Cooper has a chance to find a long-term role on the Cowboys depth chart.
The idea of first-round reclamation projects, particularly offensive linemen, is no foreign concept in Dallas. Several years ago, Marc Colombo seemed like an injury-plagued bust for the Chicago Bears. Like Cooper, Colombo found himself as a free agent in the middle of the season.
Dallas brought in Colombo late in 2005, helped him rehab, and he wound up starting 72 games at right tackle from 2006-2010. Now the Assistant Offensive Line Coach for the Cowboys, Colombo will likely have some good advice for Jonathan Cooper as he similarly tries to restore his career.
To make room for Cooper, Dallas will likely release the aforementioned Ryan Seymour.