Amari Cooper Has Leverage Over Cleveland Browns And He Knows It

Amari Cooper wants a new deal, and right now, he holds the edge over the Browns.
Jan 1, 2023; Landover, Maryland, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Amari Cooper (2) runs after a catch against the Washington Commanders during the second half at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2023; Landover, Maryland, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Amari Cooper (2) runs after a catch against the Washington Commanders during the second half at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports / Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
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Amari Cooper is currently embroiled in a contract standoff with the Cleveland Browns, as the star wide receiver is entering the final year of is current deal.

Cooper has skipped all of the Browns' offseason activities to date, and if the two sides are unable to reach an agreement over the next month, he will almost surely hold out of training camp, too.

Cooper has certainly seen the plethora of other receivers land massive extensions from their respective teams this offseason, topped by Justin Jefferson's massive four-year, $140 million pact with the Minnesota Vikings.

As a result, Cooper wants to be compensated appropriately, which has put Cleveland in a rather precarious position.

The Browns know that there is one major difference between Cooper and the host of wide outs that landed new contracts over the last several months: those guys were all in their mid 20s. Cooper is 30.

For that reason, Cleveland is understandably reluctant to hand Cooper a lucrative long-term deal. A four-year contract for a receiver on the wrong side of 30 is probably not the best move, especially not when you are already paying $230 million for a quarterback who has played 12 games in two seasons.

The problem for the Browns is that Cooper has significant leverage here. At least for now.

Cooper is clearly Cleveland's No. 1 receiver. Remove him from the equation, and suddenly, the Browns' receiving corps become pretty thin. Yes, they acquired Jerry Jeudy via trade earlier this offseason, but Jeudy is unquestionably no better than a No. 2. The rest of the depth chart is filled out by names such as Elijah Moore, Cedric Tillman and fifth-round rookie Jamari Thrash.

As you can see, the Browns don't exactly have Houston Texans-level talent at the position.

Cleveland needs Cooper in the fold if it wants to have any chance of contending for a Super Bowl in 2024. Heck, one can even go as far to say that the Browns need Cooper if they want to make the playoffs.

Cooper surely knows this, which is why he is so steadfast in his demands to get paid.

It also doesn't help Cleveland's case that buzz is growing around the NFL about Cooper being underrated and fully deserving of a big paycheck.

Of course, there is only so long Cooper can maintain this stance. Yes, he can hold out of training camp, but will he really want to risk missing regular-season games?

Keep in mind: Cooper is currently slated to be a free agent next March. So, in a world where the Browns do not provide him with a new deal, the University of Alabama product will have to seek his next pay day elsewhere. Sitting out in 2024 would absolutely inhibit Cooper's chances of landing a handsome contract next offseason, especially given his age.

Cooper definitely has that in the back of his mind, as well. Or at least he should.

Leverage is a funny thing, because it can change depending on the day. Right now, there is no doubt that Cooper holds the cards. The Browns desperately need him, and they would obviously prefer to get him in camp as quickly as possible in order to get him reps to prepare for the regular season.

But it will also come to a point where Cooper will have to assess the situation and adjust on the fly. His clear leverage will only last for a period of time.

If this ends up dragging out into the regular season, the Browns won't be the only ones suffering. Cooper will absolutely lose some of his shine, as well.

The most practical solution seems to be a two-year deal with a lot of guaranteed dollars. Would Cooper go for that? Who knows. At the moment, he may very well be pushing for four years. Cleveland may ultimately grit its teeth and try to compromise at three. Maybe the two parties can formulate some sort of three-year pact with a lot of guaranteed money up front and the third year being heavily laden by incentives.

Whatever the case may be, I do think that the Browns and Cooper will find an agreeable path at some point in the coming weeks.

But there is no doubt that at the current juncture, it's Cooper who has the Browns back on their heels.

Matthew Schmidt