The 2017 NFL season saw a new trend emerging and becoming a reality: trades of big-name players near the league’s trade deadline. This year, the trade of Khalil Mack from Oakland to Chicago was a huge move, but that happened prior to week one. Instead, the first big mid-season trade before the October 30 deadline was reported on Monday, as ESPN’s Josina Anderson broke news that the Dallas Cowboys have acquired wide receiver Amari Cooper — another starter that the Oakland Raiders have now traded away.
However, the compensation for Mack seemed to favor the Bears, as Chicago traded first- and sixth-round picks in 2019 and first- & third-round picks in 2020 in exchange for Mack, a second-rounder in 2020, and a conditional fifth-rounder that same year. Mack is a former Defensive Player of the Year who had three straight years of double-digit sacks prior to the trade; that makes that compensation package understandable, at the very least.
Flipping Cooper, however, appears to be a heist for Jon Gruden and GM Reggie McKenzie, however, as they are reportedly getting the Cowboys’ first-round pick in 2019. Cooper is hardly a franchise-altering player; if anything, he has been a serious disappointment over the past season and a half.
After starting his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2015 and 2016, Cooper’s 2017 was a massive dud. He caught only half of his 96 targets, posting just 680 receiving yards in 14 games. This season, he has a pair of big games, with 10 catches for 116 yards in week two at Denver and 8 for 128 and a score against Cleveland in week four. However, in the other four contests, Cooper has caught just four passes on ten targets for a miserable 36 yards.
Cooper’s game logs from that ugly 2017 season showed something similar. He had just two games with more than 70 yards receiving last year: an 11-catch, 210-yard, two-score day in week 7 and a three-catch, 115-yard, one-touchdown game in week 16. Outside of those two games, his numbers were 34 catches, 355 yards, and 4 touchdowns in 12 games. Again, the Cowboys just traded a first-round pick for that player.
In making this trade, Jerry Jones and the Cowboys’ front office have set the bar massively high for teams looking to acquire any significant players at the deadline. Rumors are swirling about Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson asking for a trade by the deadline; if Cooper comes at the cost of a first-rounder, imagine what Arizona could demand in exchange for one of if not the league’s best cornerback? GM Steve Keim could reasonably start the bidding at two first-rounders.
Making matters even worse for Dallas is the fact that Cooper only has one more year left on his contract, and it’s a doozy. This is the fourth year of his rookie deal, and the Raiders executed the fifth-year option on him this offseason. As the 4th overall pick in 2015, that means that Cooper’s option is worth a shade under $14 million for 2019. By comparison, Davante Adams’ contract will carry a cap hit of just $10.6 million next season.
All told, this looks like a hilariously bad deal for the Cowboys, while the Raiders suddenly find themselves with five first-round picks in the next two drafts. It took them trading one of the best defensive players in the NFL to do it, but after being offered a swap of Cooper for a first, Gruden and/or McKenzie should have only needed a grand total of half a second to agree.
Just don’t be surprised if this suppresses the top end of the trade market between now and October 30th.