The trades just keep coming in the NFL with the Browns pulling off the latest trade as they have agreed to a trade for Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper for just a 5th round pick.
Cooper signed a five year, $100 million contract with the Cowboys in 2020 that was always structured with a glass half empty approach to it. The signing bonus was low and the guarantee structure weak enough to allow the Cowboys to walk away after two seasons with minimal pain on their salary cap. The news that he was going to be cut leaked out a few days ago and that seemed to create enough of a buzz to get a 5th round pick rather than nothing for him.
Cooper was going to count for $22 million on the Cowboys salary cap this season and will now count for just $6 million in dead money, a savings of $16 million in cap space. The Cowboys are expected to re-sign Michael Gallup and use some of that newfound salary cap space on him. Dallas should have around $20 million in cap space right now.
The Browns have been desperate for wide receivers and decided to opt into Cooper’s $20 million salary for this season rather than chance losing him in free agency to another team. It is an interesting discussion about value in the NFL. On one hand the only risk they have with Cooper is the $20 million for this year, but that $20 million is the 4th highest salary for a receiver in the NFL at this time. If he plays well enough then they will need to pay $20 million next season, currently the highest salary for WR’s in 2023.
Had they signed him in free agency they certainly would have guaranteed him more money, maybe as much as $40 million, but a two year salary in the range of $32 to $35 million rather than $40. Given that Dallas was willing to do a deal for a 5th rounder also should have been an indication to Cleveland that there was a very limited market for him at this price.
Of course nothing prevents them from trying to negotiate a better contract with him. In fact I would not be surprised if they did something along those lines by guaranteeing him his 2023 salary in return for a salary reduction. If Cooper is not a top flight receiver they can always work on a cheaper contract in 2023.
Cooper will carry a $20 million salary cap charge in 2022, 2023, and 2024. Only this year’s salary carries any guarantee. The Browns will need to clear cap space to execute the trade as Cooper $20 million cap hit would put them about $3 million over the cap. The most logical move is to either release Jarvis Landry or to attempt to get him to take a pay cut. Landry counts for $16.4 million on the salary cap and they would free up $14.9 million with his release.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.