For four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Amari Cooper, the Dallas Cowboys got a fifth-round draft choice and a 10-pick improvement in their sixth-round draft selection in a trade with the Cleveland Browns that became official on Wednesday.
That’s more than the Cowboys got for right offensive tackle La’el Collins. Dallas released Collins last week, and reports indicated he was working out a new deal with the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
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Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy told the Dallas Morning News that while parting with the players was difficult, business is business.
“I mean, Amari Cooper is a fantastic football player,” McCarthy said. “He does some things clearly that put him with the best, particularly his quickness at the lateral release is about as good as I’ve ever worked with. That was a difficult, difficult decision. Same with La’el.
“You don’t want to lose those sort of players. But when you talk about competition, there is also competition and a challenge in the financial arena. You have to make business decisions that are in line with the dynamics of your cap.”
Before he was traded to Cleveland, the former Alabama All-American had been the Cowboys’ biggest salary-cap commitment for 2022 at $22 million. Collins came in at $14.934 million. By getting the two players off the books, Dallas shaved its cap commitments by $26 million.
The Cowboys still have $92.417 million in salary-cap commitments for 2022 for six players — quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott, left tackle Tyron Smith, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, guard Zack Martin and tight end Dalton Schultz. Dallas has $115.783 million to devote to the rest of its roster with Cooper and Collins off the books.
After trading Cooper with three seasons and $60 million left on his contract, the Cowboys signed wide receiver Michael Gallup to a five-year, $57.5 million contract extension.
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Cooper and Gallup were 1,000-yard receivers for Dallas in 2019. But a knee injury limited Gallup to nine games in the 2021 season.
The Cowboys also lost wide receiver Cedrick Wilson Jr. last week, when he signed as a free agent with the Miami Dolphins. Wilson had 45 receptions for 602 yards and six touchdowns as he stepped into the opening created by Gallup’s injury.
Second-year wide receiver CeeDee Lamb surpassed Cooper in 2021 to become Dallas’ top pass-catcher, and the Cowboys are counting on Lamb building on his 79-catch, 1,102-yard season.
“Look at his trajectory,” McCarthy said. “Look at what he’s done from Year 1 to Year 2. Now, he’ll have to take another step. It will be a different step for him because there will be more attention on him. He’ll be more of a focal point for the defense. But with that greater responsibility will come more opportunities for him to improve even more.”
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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.