Oakland Raiders come out on top of Amari Cooper trade to Dallas

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 19: Amari Cooper
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 19: Amari Cooper /

The Oakland Raiders have traded away former first round pick Amari Coope r, and may potentially emerge as the winners from that deal.

Oakland Raiders HC Jon Gruden is apparently, a big fan of The Purge movie franchise, because he is busy slashing, gutting, and committing all kinds of random acts of cruelty to this entire roster.

Oh, the humanity of it all.

Actually, if we’re being a little more precise, he’s busy purging a good chunk of the players drafted by outgoing GM Reggie McKenzie – is there anybody out there who actually believes McKenzie is going to be with the organization after this season? Or at least, in the same position he’s in now?

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Doubtful. Very doubtful. And, pretty much, if you’re a Raiders player drafted between the years 2012 and 2018, and you’re still on the roster, you should probably start making plans to play elsewhere next season, as well.

Nobody on Oakland’s roster picked by McKenzie should feel comfortable at this point. Hell, at this point, McKenzie himself shouldn’t feel too comfortable, since Gruden would probably trade him for a ham sandwich, and a bag of chips right about now – and he might not even be that firm on the bag of chips.

The latest deal, of course, sent former first-round pick Amari Cooper to a desperate, receiver-needy Dallas Cowboys team. The biggest shock of the deal is that Gruden and the Raiders managed to pry a first-round pick out of their hands for the Alabama product.

Though Cooper burst onto the scene, putting up some incredible numbers in his rookie and sophomore years. With 155 receptions for 2,223 yards, and 11 touchdowns, it really looked like the Raiders had a star in the making in Cooper, and together with quarterback Derek Carr, one of the most potent passing/receiving duos in the league.

Then 2017 came, and the turmoil began. With an offensive coordinator in Todd Downing who didn’t know his butt from a hole in the ground, and had no business running an offense, as well as an injured Carr, who looked like a shell of the player who appeared to be ascending, and a true franchise quarterback, Cooper struggled. And he struggled badly.

Cooper posted numbers that were by far, the worst of his three-year career – 48 catches, for 680 yards. Though his seven touchdowns were the most of his young career. What makes those numbers look even worse though, is the fact that 11 of those receptions, 210 of those yards, and two of those touchdowns came in one game against Kansas City in a week seven game.

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And 2018 hasn’t started off any better, as Cooper has just 22 catches for 280 yards, and one score. It’s even worse than it appears at first blush, when you consider that 18 of those receptions, and 244 of those yards came in two games – against Cleveland and Denver.

It’s not entirely Cooper’s fault. Carr has continued his downward trajectory, rarely throwing the ball past the line of scrimmage – against Seattle over in London in their last game, only one of Carr’s 23 completions on the game traveled more than eight yards beyond the line of scrimmage. One.

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It’s kind of hard to let your receivers make plays in space, if they’re not getting targets (Cooper has just 32 targets on the year, and 22 of those came in the two aforementioned games with Cleveland and Denver).

Carr is not giving Cooper a chance to make plays. That much is clear. And that is on both Carr, and HC Jon Gruden, who hasn’t been working Cooper into the gameplan more, despite his loud, early season proclamations that Cooper would be the focal point of the offense, and the passing game would run through him.

Yeah, okay.

However, Cooper’s lack of production also falls partly on his own shoulders as well. The issue with drops that have plagued him since his rookie year – that really followed him from Alabama, truth be told – haven’t gotten any better. Year in and year out, Cooper has led the league – or has been very close to the top of the league – in dropped passes.

For whatever reason, Cooper has had a hard time proving consistent, and reliable. He’s dropped too many passes in big moments, that have helped kill momentum, or helped turn the tide of a game. It’s not something you can afford to have in your WR1.

Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders /

Las Vegas Raiders

Add to that, Cooper has always allowed himself to be overshadowed by guys like Michael Crabtree. Even though Cooper was ostensibly, the team’s WR1, Crabtree consistently outperformed him, coming up with the clutch catches in the biggest moments – the fact that Carr trusted Crabtree more than Cooper in those big moments was very telling as it was in its own right.

Cooper has plenty of potential, there is no question about it. He has the raw talent to be a very good receiver in the NFL. As of yet, it remains mostly untapped.

The question about Cooper’s passion for the game are as bogus, as they are ridiculous. There is nothing to them. You don’t work as hard at your craft as Cooper does if you don’t love it. However, questions about his mental ability to be a team’s WR1 seem particularly relevant. After all, it seems when the lights are brightest, Cooper fades away the most.

All of which, make it astounding – and shows how desperate Dallas was – that the Raiders were able to pry a first-round pick out of the Cowboys in exchange for Cooper, based mostly on the promise of what he could be. HC Jason Garrett, and OC Scott Linehan will now be tasked with getting more out of Cooper than the Raiders – either under Jack Del Rio‘s regime or Gruden’s – were ever able to.

There were some reports that the Eagles – who are in need of a receiver, and a spark in the passing game themselves – were already at the table, and were offering up a second-rounder for Cooper’s services.

Gruden held off, waiting for somebody to sweeten the pot. Dallas, perhaps trying to address their own need – and keep Philadelphia from addressing theirs – stepped up, and obliged.

That gives the Raiders now, threethree! – first-round picks in next year’s Draft. Depending upon where Chicago and Dallas finish the season – hopefully well out of playoff contention – the Raiders could be looking at picking three times inside the first 20 selections made. Maybe even better.

To have that much young talent, and impact players, at your disposal is a hell of a way to start retooling, and rebuilding your franchise – so long as Gruden makes sound, solid picks, rather than do something stupid with them.

And of course, when considering the fact that the Raiders fleeced Dallas in this deal, let’s also throw in the fact that Cooper wasn’t going to be with the Raiders long-term anyway. He was going to play out his fifth-year option next season (unless the team opted to cut him), and then walk out the doors with no compensation coming back.

Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders /

Las Vegas Raiders

Cooper was already believed to be looking for WR1 money sooner, rather than later – despite the fact that he hasn’t performed like a WR1, especially over the last two seasons. He hasn’t come close to playing at the level of say, Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham, or Julio Jones. He hasn’t even come close to playing at the level of an Adam Thielen, or a Cooper Kupp.

But, given the fact that Cooper shares an agent with Khalil Mack – and we saw how that contract situation played out – the idea that he was going to be a Raider for life was a total non-starter. They were going to have him for the balance of this year, and the 2019 season, and then he would have ridden off to greener pastures. Of that, there is no doubt.

Which makes dealing him now, and adding to that bountiful stockpile of early round picks smart. Very, very smart. This team isn’t going anywhere this year, but with an infusion of young, impact players next year, they could take a big step forward.

After that 2016 12-4, playoff campaign, it looked like the Raiders were ascending. They had a solid nucleus of young talent, and you hate to see that blown up. But, the truth of the matter is that the 2016 squad – though they played well – was held together with more bailing wire, and duct tape, than we wanted to see. There was a lot of smoke and mirrors involved with that team.

Change is tough. But, it can be the catalyst to bigger and better things. Whether this team gets there or not, is going to be on how Gruden uses that stockpile of early-round picks. Used well, this team can get to that brighter future sooner, rather than later. If he has the Reggie McKenzie success rate with draft picks, this team will dwell in the cellar, possibly until the next Ice Age.

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Though vastly talented, Cooper never truly established himself among the league’s elite receivers. And the Raiders were never going to pay him for underachieving. Yeah, he could go on, blow up, and lead the Cowboys to the playoffs. Maybe. Or, he could also just not stand out, and be a face in the crowd, as he was with Oakland for these past three-plus seasons.

At worst, even if he does revitalize this Dallas offense, it is still a win-win for both teams. Dallas gets the playmaker for Dak Prescott they needed, and the Raiders still get a first-round pick for a guy they were only going to have for another season anyway.

Though you hate to see somebody with Cooper’s potential go, you can’t help but think that the Raiders are coming out of this deal the big winners, as they now own three of the first 32 picks in the upcoming Draft.