Amari Cooper Contract: Impact of Saints WR Michael Thomas’ New Deal

We’ve talked all offseason about a potential new contract for Wide Receiver Amari Cooper, who is playing 2019 on the fifth-year option from his original rookie deal. But with the whopping new contract that the New Orleans Saints and Michael Thomas just agreed to today, the price tag may have just gone up for the Dallas Cowboys.

Thomas got a five-year, $100 million deal with $61 million in guaranteed money from New Orleans. It is the biggest contract ever for any offensive player outside of quarterbacks.

Some might quickly dismiss a comparison between Cooper and Thomas, trying to discredit Amari as not being on the same level. But before you make that mistake, consider the following.

Since entering the NFL in 2015, Cooper has been to three Pro Bowls. Thomas has been a Pro Bowler twice in his three professional seasons.

Amari Cooper is 14 months younger than Thomas, still just 25 years old.

Thomas joined a WR factory in New Orleans, with the privilege of catching balls from Drew Brees. Last year, Cooper was brought in and became difference-maker for the Cowboys offense.

So let’s not kid ourselves; Amari Cooper can point to his resume, youth, and importance to Dallas and then point to the contract that Michael Thomas just received. It’s really not an unreasonable comparison.

The $20 million per year that Thomas’ contract just established bumps the bar up for the WR position. The previous high was $18M/year established by Odell Beckham’s contract.

After them, the average is a little over $16 million from the Brandin Cooks, Mike Evans, and DeAndre Hopkins contracts.

Amari Cooper isn’t exactly hurting for cash in 2019. His fifth-year option is paying out $13.9 million for this season alone, making him one of the higher-paid receivers in NFL even without a new deal.

That’s probably a big reason why, thankfully, there is no holdout issue going on right now between Cooper and the Cowboys.

With Dallas hitting a financial wall right now trying to deal with new contracts for Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, and others, there is some comfort in the situation with Amari. The leap from what Cooper currently makes to what he’s wanting won’t be severe.

The jump from Amari’s current cap hit to Michael Thomas money is roughly $6 million.  Dallas just cleared $5 million off the salary cap by releasing WR Allen Hurns, and can save another $7 million by cutting Tyrone Crawford.

There are other moves the team can make to get all of their young talent signed up for the next several years. It’s more doable than some media outlets would lead you to believe.

The Cowboys are going to have to get creative, and pay what these young talents are due, if they have any hopes of winning a Super Bowl with this roster.

I wrote yesterday about how Ezekiel Elliott’s value to the Cowboys is higher than other NFL teams because of our offensive focus on the RB position. The Patriots can afford to use a stable of journeymen running backs because they have Tom Brady; the Cowboys don’t have that luxury.

Keeping Dak Prescott’s supporting talent is critical to any championship hopes for Dallas. A huge part of that, as we witnessed with last season’s turnaround, is keeping Amari Cooper.

We saw in 2017 what happens when the Cowboys don’t have an elite player at receiver. Dez Bryant‘s name was bigger than this game at that point, and teams became more focused on stopping Cole Beasley. The results weren’t pretty.

Dallas needs Amari Cooper to open things up for Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb.  They need a consistent threat at receiver to help their question-marked group at tight end.

They need players who can shed coverage quickly and run consistent routes to help Dak Prescott get the ball out quickly. Cooper does that about as well as anyone in the league.

Amari may not ever put up the same stats as Michael Thomas because they play in different systems with different quarterbacks. Drew Brees throws the ball more often than Dak Prescott and is one of the most accurate passers in history; the volume just isn’t going to be the same.

But stats are the wrong comparison. Impact is what matters, and we saw the dramatic effect that Cooper had on the Cowboys in 2018. Three Pro Bowls in four years is hard to deny, as well.

So yes, financially difficult as it may be for Dallas, Amari can reasonably ask for a contract close to Michael Thomas’ new deal. If it does come in under, it will likely be somewhere between Thomas and Odell Beckham money at over $18-$19 million per year.

The Cowboys knew this day would come quickly when they gave up a 1st-round pick for Cooper last year. They’d have never made that trade if they weren’t prepared to pay up now.

A new deal for Amari Cooper is coming. It’s just a matter of time, and hopefully it’s before some other NFL receiver raises the bar again.