- Amari Cooper was on his way to becoming a star receiver after his first two seasons. Rediscovering that level of ability could do wonders when his fifth-year contract option is up.
A handful of news, notes and rumors less than 18 hours removed from the seventh Sunday of the 2018 NFL season.
1. In yesterday’s Sunday Rundown, I cast skepticism over the Raiders’ ability to get a first-round pick for Amari Cooper—and here we are with the Cowboys leaving nothing to chance (word is, Oakland had multiple second-round offers) to land a potential star receiver with whom Dak Prescott can grow up. And I say potential star because that’s exactly how Cooper was viewed coming out of his first two years, in which he had 155 catches for 2,223 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Like others in the building, Cooper benefitted from the hard-pushing ways of ex-offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and hasn’t been the same since his departure after the 2016 season. Cooper wasn’t a great worker under new OC Todd Downing last year, and he’s only been better in spots under head coach Jon Gruden this year, so the hope here for Dallas is that they can light fire underneath him. He’s still only 24 years old, and work habits weren’t a problem for him at Alabama, so it’s fair to think he might take this chance to grow up a little. If he does, there could be a lot of money waiting for him on the other side of the $14 million fifth-year option he’s set to play on in 2019. And if it works out that way, it sure should make Cowboys receivers Cole Beasley and Michael Gallup better.
2. As for the Raiders’ end of this, it’s time for people to finally listen to what Gruden’s been telling us for a few months now—he believes the roster needed to turned over, not tweaked. In August, he described to me the roster he found upon arrival in Oakland: “We were gutted. We didn’t have a linebacker that we knew of on the team. Our secondary, I think they’re all gone. I didn’t know who the right tackle was, Donald Penn was hurt. We needed depth at all positions. … There’s no one left here from the ’13 draft class, not a player. And we haven’t gotten enough out of our 15, 16 or 17 classes, at all. We gotta generate some competition and some depth and find some guys.”
Clearly, Gruden thought the Raiders were at least two years away. And if they weren’t going to sign a holding-out Khalil Mack at $23 million per, or an underachieving Cooper in the $15-$20 million per range, then those guys weren’t going to be around when the team would be in position to contend anyway.
3. Here’s one pro scouting director’s take on Cooper, having evaluated him this year: “Like, not love. Could run the route tree but wasn’t dynamic in any area. Didn’t feel like he could consistently be counted on to get open. Wasn’t a consistent natural hands guy, and didn’t feel like he would take over a game. More good No. 2 than No. 1.” I followed up and asked if he saw a different player in Cooper’s first two years, and the answer was yes.
Another pro scouting director was a tad sunnier, texting: “Potential to be a No. 1, but hasn’t played to that. His past drops and injuries have been the biggest concerns.”
4. The Cardinals can ask for the moon and the stars in a trade for Patrick Peterson if they want, based on who he is as a player and his money, but I don’t think the team is motivated to move him. Peterson has always been inconsistent in the run game, but he’s still an excellent coverage player with the size to match up with anyone. At 28 years old, he still has two affordable years ($11.25 million in 2019, $12.55 million in ’20) left on his deal. It’s understandable why Arizona would be reluctant to move him, and maybe now even moreso in the wake of his trade demand going public. We mentioned in MMQB this morning that the Saints have been looking for a top-shelf corner, and Peterson certainly fits that bill.
5. The Chiefs are another team that’s a logical landing spot for Peterson, given that they were already gearing up to fork over draft capital for Earl Thomas, before Thomas went down. But the hope there is some improvement for a shaky defense will be internal too. We mentioned a couple weeks back how much they like what they’ve seen from outside linebacker Breeland Speaks and Derrick Nnadi. Now, they’re expecting undersized but dynamic third-round pick Dorian O’Daniel to make his presence felt at linebacker. He was a piece of the team’s effort to get younger, faster and tougher on that side of the ball, and he was in on four tackles on Sunday night against the Bengals.
6. With the bullet seemingly dodged on Sony Michel, who reportedly had no serious knee damage, it will be interesting to see if New England moves now on an early-down back for depth. With Michel out of Sunday’s game against the Bears, James White played more in the traditional tailback role, finishing with 19 touches. Ideally, the Patriots would always have someone on hand to do the dirty to free the staff to use White all over the place, and limit the mileage on his body too. Mike Gillislee is one option out there.
7. I’d caution anyone throwing dirt on Blake Bortles now to look at how last year played out after the former first-round pick was benched. That said, it makes sense to look at his contract now, and what the Jaguars did to protect themselves. The team is paying him a shade over $20 million for this year, and his guarantee is $26.5 million. That means the Jaguars would have to pay $6.5 million after the year to get rid of him, though the team would likely get at least some of that back, since he has offset language in his deal.
8. Next Sunday is two days ahead of the trade deadline, and so GMs will have their eyes on a number of teams that might be wavering on whether or not it’s time to be a seller. The one obvious example is Denver. The Broncos travel to Arrowhead, and a bad loss could move GM John Elway to make some of his aging veterans available, with some teams believing opportunity may exist to poach Demaryius Thomas, Chris Harris or Bradley Roby.
9. If the Rams defense is going to hold opponents to 10 points and sack their quarterback seven times, look out. We’ll see if that holds up over the next few weeks—Los Angeles has the Packers, Saints and Chiefs between now and Thanksgiving. So we’ll know more soon.
10. Monday Night Football. Cameras everywhere. Odell Beckham’s first game since Giants owner John Mara called him out, and reeled his apology back in via Facebook Watch. My popcorn is prepared.
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