The Dallas Cowboys entered the 2020 offseason with a host of in-house free agents and that meant they needed to prioritize signing those players they felt were most important for their future -- one that will include Dak Prescott as the franchise quarterback. Building around Prescott was paramount, and so while the Cowboys saw key defenders such as Maliek Collins and Robert Quinn sign elsewhere, in addition to losing offensive starters Randall Cobb and Jason Witten, re-signing Cooper was never in doubt.
In the waning hours of the first day of free agency's legal tampering period, theto a five-year, $100 million contract extension. The massive deal comes with $60 million guaranteed and will keep Cooper with the franchise through the 2024 season.
Below you will find a breakdown of Cooper's free agent timeline leading up to this decision and a scouting report breaking down what Dallas can expect to get from him over the course of his contract.
Scouting report on Cooper (pros and cons)
- Route-running phenom
- Exceptional football IQ
- Elite quickness and deception technique(s)
- Above-average speed
- Consummate pro
- No off-the-field issues/suspensions
- Abnormal athleticism
- Inconsistent hands
- Durability concerns
Friday, Feb. 21: It's unlikely a new collective bargaining agreement will be ratified before the start of the new league year on March 18, let alone eight days prior when the tag deadline arrives, but it would create ripples in the Cowboys free agency blueprint if it does. For one, it would mean they don't have access to both tags, as mentioned above, and if one has to be used on Prescott -- Cooper would hit the open market. That would make it more difficult for them to re-sign him, considering he'd be able to negotiate with other clubs unencumbered.
Tuesday, Feb. 11: The two sides want a deal done, but March 10 is barreling down the 'pike and there has been zero progress toward that goal as the Cowboys remain all-in on using Prescott as the skeleton key to unlock everything else they need to do in free agency. It's one reason their plan is to likely tag Cooper, but the other reason revolves around their valuation of him, so the tag might not simply be a placeholder.
Cooper himself said -- despite a career-best season --, and that might make amicable to playing 2020 under a tag (if its available) to boost his value that much more for talks in 2021 with teams if it comes to that. At 25 years of age, he could still cash in big a year from now.
Wednesday, Jan. 22: The front office in Dallas knows where its bread is buttered. With Lawrence now anchoring the defensive line for the next half-decade and Elliott doing the same in the running back room, it's time to pay the piper who stands behind Travis Frederick. It's no surprise they're more pressed to secure Prescott than Cooper, and until they do, talks with Cooper will likely not gain traction. But while this is justified, time waits for no man, and only an exclusive franchise tag at $18.49 million would absolutely guarantee he's in Dallas this season.
And not to sound like an echo chamber here, but that's if it's not used on Prescott. If it is and a CBA miracle prevents access to two tags in 2020, Cooper's phone will be ringing off the hook as he hits the open market, and the Cowboys will officially be in a bidding war -- something they're loathed to participate in for any player.
Best case, they'd like Cooper around for years to come. Worst case, if they lose him, they'd like it to be by choice and would love two first-round picks as compensation if another team wants him that badly.