The trade winds started early. The NFL’s trade deadline is 4 p.m. ET on October 30, but the Dallas Cowboys made a move Mondsay for wide receiver help. First reported by ESPN’s Josina Anderson, the Cowboys traded for Oakland Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper for the cost of a 2019 first-round pick.
So, first: that’s a lot to give up for Amari Cooper. Cooper started his career with two-straight 1,000-yard seasons, but struggled last year and has yet to inspire in 2018. Charles Robinson of Yahoo reported the Cowboys were basically bidding against themselves by offering a pick that high — though he also reported Dallas was likely to use that pick on a wide receiver in the draft anyway. Cooper has a year and a half left on his contract — the rest of this season that won’t cost the Cowboys much and a fifth-year option in 2019 that will cost $13.9 million, which is currently the 13th-highest cap hit for a wide receiver in 2019 between DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones.
Dallas needed an upgrade at wide receiver and Cooper can certainly be that. The question will be about his usage. Cooper has been a receiver that performs better out of the slot — last year he had the 14th biggest difference between Football Outsiders’ DVOA out of the slot and outside. Of course, Cole Beasley is currently Dallas’s slot receiver and even Allen Hurns has been better out of the slot in his career — so now the Cowboys have three receivers who play better inside than out.
What is known is the Cowboys needed some help at outside. After taking the entire offseason talking about how there wasn’t a need for a true No. 1 receiver, they haven’t been able to figure out a useful rotation of receivers at all. There are not many quarterbacks who have been asked to do more with less than Dak Prescott. Per Next Gen Stats, only Josh Rosen has a lower expected completion percentage this season than Prescott.
The Cowboys do have an extra week to figure everything out — they’re on a bye in Week 8. Cooper’s Dallas debut will come in Week 9 on Monday Night Football against the Tennessee Titans.
Dallas will make this move in an attempt to get back into a NFC East race that doesn’t have a dominant team at the front. Per Football Outsiders, the Cowboys had a 22.5 percent chance at a division title after Sunday, which was the second-best shot.
This is a short-term move that does have some long-term consequences. The Cowboys will eventually have to make a decision on what to do with Cooper’s contract, whether they rework it before 2019 or not. Also, this lends itself to a decision around defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, who is already playing 2018 on the franchise tag. Cooper’s contract now takes up over $13 million that wasn’t on the books before and Dallas cannot simply replace Lawrence with a first-round pick if they let their top edge rusher walk in free agency.