Amari Cooper

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Dak, Garrett & The Draft: The Top 3 Cowboys Questions About Amari Cooper Trade

October 23, 2018 - 10:27 am
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FRISCO (105.3 THE FAN) - It's a "who you know'' business. And one of the reasons the Dallas Cowboys are paying sticker price in the trade for receiver Amari Cooper is because they are confident in who, and what, they know.

The research on what became the swapping of a 2019 first-round pick to Oakland began last week and intensified on Sunday morning -- even before the 20-17 Sunday afternoon loss in Washington, a game that dropped Dallas to 3-4 and increased the view that QB Dak Prescott's offense lacks (among other things) weaponry.

What happened to the eight-month-long stance that "We don't need a No. 1 wide receiver''? It was trashed, as it should've been all along, when on Monday morning COO Stephen Jones called the Raiders to inform them that they'd get their asking price in exchange for Cooper.

Is the 24-year-old Alabama product, the fourth player taken in the 2015 NFL Draft, that level of player? Our guy Bryan Broaddus says absolutely so, on DallasCowboys.com calling Cooper "a No. 1 receiver. He has the traits.''

Is this acquisition a "test'' for Prescott? Quite the contrary; it's an endorsement of him. It means a financial commitment (Cooper only makes $700,000 this year, but his number is $13.9 million in 2019 and Dallas will surely attempt to negotiate a long-term deal for him) that lessens Dallas' ability to "buy'' a veteran QB next offseason. The move also obviously eliminates the idea of using a No. 1 pick in 2019 on a QB because, well, Dallas no longer owns such a pick.

Jerry Jones is on-record multiple times here on 105.3 The Fan in expressing his "love'' for Prescott and his future, often telling us things like, "I have tremendous confidence in Dak. I feel good about our future. ... One of the strengths of our team as far as I can see into the future is Dak Prescott."

This trade doesn't negate that view. Rather, it reinforces that view.

Is this acquisition an "insult'' to the coaching staff? Quite the contrary there, too. ... at least temporarily. As I've said on the air, it represents a "go-for-it'' commitment from the Joneses to provide coach Jason Garrett with more ways to win. As Garrett said on Tuesday morning on 105.3 The Fan, "I'm really excited about Amari ... He's had good seasons very early on in his career. We feel like he's a very physically talented guy. He's big. He's fast. He's quick and explosive. He has play-making abilities. ... He's 24 years old and I feel like he has the physical ability to help us, and he's absolutely the right kind of guy we want to bring to our football team."

The organization is together on this from top to bottom (well, not all the way to the bottom as it regards Brice Butler, the guy cut while still aboard the trip-from-Washington team plane). Jerry's history of buying star receivers remains intact. Stephen was the point man. I'm told personnel guru Will McClay was doing Sunday morning research. The Cowboys have deep connections with Oakland, and Garrett's staff has roots that knot all over Cooper's history.

Cooper's coordinators in Oakland were Greg Olson and Todd Downing, Both of them used to work under Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, a fact that figures to aid Cooper's learning curve as he arrives here at The Star today and begins practicing Wednesday and Thursday before Dallas takes its bye weekend. One of Linehan's top assistants now is tight ends coach Doug Nussmeier. Nussmeier was Alabama's offensive coordinator in 2012 and 2013 when Cooper was there.

"We know people at Alabama [and Cooper] is really highly regarded by people who've been around him on a daily basis, both as a player and as a person,'' Garrett said, adding, "It's a big decision. We talked about it a lot at all levels of our organization.''

Nussmeirer will be a key to making this work, and joins assistant offensive line coach Marc Colombo as a young staffer gaining respect inside the building. And those sorts of names, along with Cooper, represent Cowboys "change'' for now ... pending Dallas pulling itself out of its rut in a way that can save Garrett from being "Red Man Walking,'' which I've reported has been his hot-seat status since well before this season began.

Will it work? By giving Oakland exactly what it asked for, the Cowboys didn't "win the trade.'' But, Garrett argues, "The value of a player like that, for his age, that's really what it costs you. It costs you a first-round pick.''

To me, a playoff berth fully justifies the move. It'll mean Cooper was worthy, it'll mean Dak is worthy, and it'll serve as a feather in the caps of the beleaguered tandem of Garrett and Linehan. Short of that, the Cowboys will still argue that Cooper is simply "our 2019 No. 1 pick'' -- indeed, Garrett essentially referred to Cooper as exactly that, a first-round "cornerstone'' -- and they'll look at the recent history of failed first-round receivers as evidence that it was worth paying for the real deal. (Consider all the names: In addition to Calvin Ridley, a Dallas consideration a year ago, as Broaddus and my guy Shan Shariff note, we're talking 2018's DJ Moore, 2017's Corey Davis, Mike Williams, and John Ross and 2016's Corey Coleman, Will Fuller, Josh Doctson and Laquon Treadwell -- none of them in Cooper's league in terms of accomplishments.) And Amari Cooper will be a Cowboy long-term ... something that will not necessarily be the case for some of the very people who are so connected to him here, some of the very people who supervised his acquisition.