News & Analysis

Amari Cooper is more than worthy of his $100 million deal with the Dallas Cowboys

While we here at PFF are well aware of the sunk cost fallacy, that doesn’t mean Jerry Jones and company would take any less hell from Dallas Cowboys fans if they let Amari Cooper walk in free agency a year and a half after trading a first-round pick for him. It was a deal that was necessary from an optics perspective and also to maintain any shot of contending for a Super Bowl in 2020. Even though the $100 million price tag is striking at first, there’s a lot of data suggesting he’s more than worthy of that dollar figure in today’s market.

With Amari Cooper, the Dallas Cowboys have a receiver who they can count on to consistently beat man coverage. This value can’t be understated. Cooper earned the fourth-highest grade of any wideout in the NFL when facing man coverage last year. He was quite simply Dallas’ only reliable option against man coverage in 2019.

Player Grade vs. Man
Amari Cooper 89.1
Randall Cobb 71.7
Michael Gallup 70.8
Ezekiel Elliott 62.1
Jason Witten 57.6

On 207 routes against man in 2019, Cooper caught 18 passes that went for 15-plus yards — the most of any player in the league. And that’s with four drops mixed in as well.   

Mike McCarthy’s offense in Green Bay was known for its isolation routes. The receivers who had success in his system were crisp route-runners like Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and, most recently, Davante Adams. Pure deep threats and big-bodied contested-catch guys never quite hung on in Green Bay. Cooper fits that route-running mold to a “T.” There’s zero reason to think his production will do anything other than increase next season if he stays healthy in a McCarthy-coached offense.

Dallas fans don’t need PFF to explain how big of an impact Cooper has had on the Cowboys offense. They've seen firsthand how explosive the team has been since the trade and how much Dak Prescott’s performance has improved since. For those less familiar, I’ll put some numbers to just how big of a difference Cooper has made.

Comparing the year and a half prior to Cooper’s arrival to the year and a half after, here are some key offensive metrics for Prescott and the Cowboys offense.  

Stat Pre-Amari Post-Amari
Prescott Passing Grade 73.1 75
Prescott Passer Rating 86.9 100.8
Prescott YPA 6.8 8
EPA/Play -0.011 0.092
EPA/Play Rank 13th 4th

The key here is that top line. We’ve really not seen a massive improvement from Prescott from a grading perspective since Amari’s arrival — meaning he’s largely the same level of passer he’s always been. Cooper has made Prescott's life massively easier, and the Cowboys offense has improved by leaps and bounds because of it.

Getting a deal done wasn’t as cheap as it might have been had they ponied up earlier, but it was still a worthwhile investment for the Cowboys offense.

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