The Dallas Cowboys traded for Oakland Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper on Monday, giving up a first-round draft pick in order to add another weapon to their struggling passing game.
The trade gives Oakland three first-round picks in 2019, as the franchise looks to rebuild under new head coach Jon Gruden.
Cowboys Struggling in Passing Game
The Cowboys have been saddled with one of the worst passing attacks in the NFL so far this season, ranking 29th in yardage per game through the air. The primary issue has been a lack of big-play talent since Dez Bryant was released during the offseason. While Cole Beasley has 33 catches for 350 yards so far this year, no other wide receiver has more than 13 catches.
That�s where Cooper could make a difference for Dallas. While he only has 22 catches for 280 yards and a single touchdown so far in 2018, the 24-year-old has shown the ability to be a No. 1 option in the past, as he went for over 1,000 yards receiving in his first two seasons.
�I hate to see good players go, but I was on the practice field when [Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie] came to me and said the Cowboys would do this for a No. 1 and I said, �Let�s do it,�� Gruden told ESPN. �We�re going to try to build this thing the right way. We now have five No. 1 picks in the next two years, so I�m excited about that.�
The Cowboys paid a steep price to get a receiver whose numbers have fallen significantly over the past two seasons, but McKenzie said that a first-round pick was what he needed to get in order to let Cooper go.
�I think he�s a first-round player, that�s why I had to get that first-round pick,� McKenzie said on Monday. �Now, has he been inconsistent? Absolutely. But, has he shown greatness? Absolutely.�
Cooper Could Help Dallas Evaluate QB Needs
Dallas may also be able to get more out of Cooper than the Raiders were seeing. Last year, Cooper�s deep play ability was limited in part due to offensive changes that had to be made after quarterback Derek Carr suffered a back injury. This season, Gruden�s play calling has rarely sent Cooper deep down the field.
If it turns out that Cooper can get back near the level he produced at during his first two seasons, that would be music to the ears of Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. Adding a deep threat to go alongside Beasley in the slot could open up the passing game and make life easier on Dallas� other major weapon, running back Ezekiel Elliott. It could also encourage more aggressive play calling from head coach Jason Garrett, who has faced criticism at times for his conservative style.�
It will also allow the Cowboys the opportunity to get a better read on whether Prescott will be their quarterback of the future. Following a stellar rookie campaign in 2016, the 25-year-old hasn�t been able to recreate the same production over the past season-and-a-half. If that trend continues even as more pieces are brought in, the team might start considering the idea that Prescott is part of the problem rather than the solution.
While Cooper should help Dallas open up their offense a bit, the move isn�t expected to turn them into a Super Bowl contender. William Hill lists the Cowboys as 50/1 underdogs to win a title this year, though the wide open nature of the NFC East means that Dallas � currently at 3-4 on the season � could still contend for a playoff spot.