Per Spotrac, the dead-cap cost for cutting Cooper is $2.4 million, but his cap hit for 2016 would have been $5.3 million. So the Eagles actually gain $2.9 million in cap room by releasing the 28-year-old.
On Tuesday, Cooper spoke about his release on Twitter:
The last 2 days have been tough but I'm very thankful for the opportunity the Eagles gave me. I love you philly!!! Onto the next chapter.— Riley Cooper (@RileyCooper_14) February 9, 2016
Although he appeared in all 16 games for Philadelphia this past season, Cooper logged only 21 receptions on 41 targets for 327 yards and two touchdowns.
The Eagles had given Cooper a new five-year contract in February 2014, and he had a career-high 55 receptions in the season that followed.
But after Chip Kelly was fired as head coach prior to the end of an underwhelming 2015 campaign, Cooper was in danger of being let go. It makes sense for Philadelphia to release him since it profited off the move and could well find a superior wideout through the draft or free agency.
CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora wondered whether the move was the start of a trend as the Eagles try to retool their roster under a new coaching staff led by Doug Pederson:
Eagles announce the release of Riley Cooper. Interesting. Is the purge of the "Chip guys" upon us?— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) February 8, 2016
Cooper has flashed the ability to make big plays and boasts a massive 6'4", 230-pound frame, yet he has struggled to remain consistent in six seasons as a pro.
Depending on what happens with other teams in terms of cap casualties, Cooper's prospects on the open market actually seem rather promising.
The free-agent pool of receivers this offseason is rather thin as it stands. Save for Chicago Bears star Alshon Jeffery, there are few other top-tier options. The best playmakers whose primes haven't expired include Travis Benjamin and Marvin Jones.
Cooper may have to play under a short-term, prove-it deal this coming season, but a fresh start may suit him well.
On the other hand, it has to be a bit discouraging to potential Cooper suitors he couldn't carve out a bigger role last year. Philadelphia featured drop-prone Jordan Matthews, unimpressive first-round pick Nelson Agholor and few others of note in the receiving corps.