The chances of Amari Cooper hitting free agency grew with the passing of the new collective bargaining agreement, but the Dallas Cowboys are still working hard to retain their receiver.
With the CBA going into effect this season, teams are allowed to use only one tag instead of two under the previous agreement.
Quarterback Dak Prescott will receive the exclusive franchise tag from the Cowboys, according to David Moore of the Dallas News. Per Ed Werder of ESPN, this would be worth $33 million for the 2020 season if the two sides can't agree on a long-term deal.
This puts Cooper at risk of leaving in free agency, but Dallas will reportedly try to secure him on a long-term extension before making any other moves.
"The focus is getting Amari Cooper done then likely franchise-tagging Dak," Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported.
Per Rapoport, the team was reportedly waiting to see if the CBA was passed before working harder on a deal, clearly hoping to use the transitional tag on the wideout before it was disallowed.
According to Moore, there is no guarantee Cooper gets signed by the Cowboys, but "negotiations are encouraging and the odds of him agreeing to a long-term contract in the next few days is much greater than Prescott."
Though a bit inconsistent, there is no denying the offense has been better with Cooper on the field. The team averaged 20 points per game without him in 2018 and then 22.1 per game after the midseason trade. The unit greatly improved in 2019, with an average of 27.1 points per game.
The 25-year-old also earned his fourth Pro Bowl selection in five NFL seasons last year while totaling 1,189 yards and eight touchdowns on 79 catches. This could not only make him a priority for the Cowboys but also a top option for teams if he hits the open market.
Troy Renck of ABC Denver 7 reported the Denver Broncos would be interested if the receiver becomes a free agent. Patrik Walker of CBS Sports listed the Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals as options. The Washington Redskins could also target him, per Peter Hailey of NBC Sports, while Ralph Vacchiano of SNY believes the New York Jets might also get involved.
On the other hand, Vacchiano noted the asking price of "Odell Beckham Jr.-like money" could cause complications, as he seeks $18 million-20 million per year.
NFL squads could instead look for cheaper options in a deep draft class, per Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports:
Charles Robinson @CharlesRobinson
Flip side for #Cowboys, I’m not sure Amari Cooper is going to have a raging high end market in free agency. It only takes one suitor, but teams are projecting a little soft on paying elite WR money levels with the draft depth at the position. Cooper’s best deal may be in Dallas.
That might give Dallas the chance to re-sign Cooper even if he does become a free agent. At the very least, it's clear the team is trying hard to secure a long-term deal with the talented player.