Amari Cooper has done his job since the Dallas Cowboys traded for him in 2018, filling the role of number-one receiver on the field and making the Pro Bowl twice. But with huge contracts come huge expectations, and that's led at least one source to claim that Cooper may be heading into a make-or-break season in 2021.
On this morning's Shan & RJ show on 105.3 The FAN this morning, host Shan Shariff said that Cooper is “on notice” this season. He said that he's he's heard “whispers” that the team is frustrated with Amari's perceived lack of competitive drive and occasional injury issues.
Cooper is one of a few players, including DeMarcus Lawrence, Trysten Hill, and Greg Zuerlein, to begin this year's training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list. He's still dealing rehabbing from offseason ankle surgery.
The soundbite with Shan's comments can be found here:
— Andre’ Jackson ✭2️⃣-1️⃣✭ (@therealdre_jack) July 30, 2021
As Shan brings out, there is a logical landscape that could lead to Cooper's release. Dallas will have two more years of CeeDee Lamb's rookie deal with a 5th-year option in 2024, plus the potential to re-sign Michael Gallup at a lower price than Amari.
At an average total compensation of $20m per year Cooper is currently the 4th-most expensive WR in football. He is scheduled to count $22 million against Dallas' salary cap each of the next four seasons.
It's not wild speculation to suggest that the Cowboys could consider cutting Amari after 2021. The dead money on Cooper's contract will drop to just $6 million next year, meaning $16 million in cap relief if Dallas were to release or trade him.
If the plan is to dump Cooper for Gallup then it's worth noting that most, if not all, of that money would go to Gallup's second contract. But with Michael two years younger than Amari and having a proven chemistry with Dak Prescott, Dallas could decide it's money better spent.
That said, this isn't a case of a player underperforming their contract. Cooper has had over 1,100 yards and not missed a game in the last two seasons for Dallas. For whatever criticisms there are of his personality or lack thereof, he's been a franchise WR where it matters.
This is a great problem to have for the Cowboys; the luxury of having to cut one great player to keep one you may like a little better. And of course, those “whispers” than Shan mentioned this morning may not have much substance to begin with.
Still, the idea that Amari Cooper could be in trouble after this season isn't outside the realm. He will have one of the ripest contracts on the roster for being a cap casualty and that's always a cause for concern.
Hopefully, his play in 2021 makes him indispensable.