Dallas Cowboys owner and de facto general manager Jerry Jones is frustrated with a whole lot of things after his team's disappointing opening-round playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Among the things disappointing him at the moment is wide receiver Amari Cooper.
"Amari Cooper should take half the field with him when he runs a route," Jones said during his weekly radio appearance, per The Athletic's Jon Machota. "A whole bunch of that defense ought to have to honor Cooper. He ought to be able to catch it in the middle when they're going with him. Others do. You throw to people that are covered all the time."
Cooper, whom the Cowboys acquired from the then-Oakland Raiders in exchange for their 2019 first-round pick during a midseason trade in 2018, is coming off his worst season as a Cowboy. He finished the year with just 68 receptions for 865 yards and eight touchdowns while playing in 15 of 17 games. (He missed two games due to a positive COVID-19 test while unvaccinated, then was limited in a third contest as he continued to experience symptoms after his return.) He was considerably more productive during previous seasons, totaling 224 receptions for 3,028 yards and 19 touchdowns in 41 games with Dallas prior to 2021.
Cooper signed a five-year, $100 million contract prior to the 2020 season, but of the $66 million remaining on the deal, only $6 million is guaranteed. Given Jones' apparent level of frustration with the wide receiver, it cannot be ruled out that the Cowboys would move on from Cooper and save $16 million against the cap in the process.
Doing so would be complicated, though. Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson are both free agents this offseason. Gallup tore his ACL toward the end of this season and might not be ready for the beginning of next year. Wilson could be elsewhere. Same with tight end Dalton Schultz. Letting Cooper leave would dramatically thin out Dallas' pass-catching corps, making it even more difficult to get the ball to CeeDee Lamb -- something the Cowboys already struggled to do in their playoff loss.
If Jones is this frustrated with Cooper, though, it should be noted that the team has several other high-priced players whose production does not match their contract status. Most notable among them is, of course, running back Ezekiel Elliott. Because the Cowboys re-structured Elliott's contract extension before it even kicked in, it is almost impossible to move on from him without an enormous financial penalty until 2024.
Dallas is currently over the cap for 2022. Many moves will have to be made to get their books in line, especially if they want to retain any of the free agents they have that are set to hit the market. Perhaps a surprising change or two could be in the offing.