Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is turning up the heat on himself as the team enters a crucial offseason.
As he's working on inking quarterback Dak Prescott to a long-term extension, Jones has now made it a priority to re-sign wideout Amari Cooper before free agency opens on March 18.
According to the Dallas Morning News' Michael Gehlken, Dallas spent part of its Thursday at the NFL combine in Indianapolis meeting with Cooper's team: "During the closed session, the team reiterated its desire to re-sign Cooper and quarterback Dak Prescott to long-term deals, the [source] said, and it was understood that talks with Cooper now will intensify before he's scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 18."
Gehlken suggested it's likely Cooper will remain in Dallas. The amount of money it will take to make that happen remains to be seen.
According to Spotrac's market value tool, Cooper is projected to sign for five years and $98.6 million, which would give him an average annual salary of $19.7 million per year. That would make him the second-highest-paid wideout in the league, behind only Julio Jones.
Cooper's last contract (four years, $22.7 million) made him the league's 45th-highest-paid receiver—a deal he wildly outplayed since moving from the then-Oakland Raiders to the Cowboys in October 2018.
In Dallas, Cooper has helped revitalize the passing game with Prescott, tallying 1,914 yards on 132 catches with 14 touchdowns in 25 games. The wideout previously had just 19 touchdowns in 52 games with the Raiders.
It's no surprise that the Cowboys became arguably the fiercest passing offense in the NFL last season with Prescott and Cooper as the main attractions. The team averaged 296.9 yards per game through the air, second only to Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
What's complicating matters as the two sides look to complete a new contract is the pending NFLPA vote on a new collective bargaining agreement. Should the vote pass, teams won't be able to use both a transition tag and franchise tag this offseason.
With Prescott most likely to receive the franchise tag if a long-term deal isn't reached by the March 12 deadline, Cooper could fetch far more money on the open market than Dallas would have available to allocate to him.
"It removes a very strategic thing for us," Jones told Gehlken, "and that is we only have one [tag]—we lose the transition. Strategically, that was really thought of a lot because with our negotiations with Dak and our negotiations with Cooper. … It's what it is. We just have to figure out a way to do it."