Cowboys Cooper Commitment: Why Dallas is Double-Checking Its Amari Plan

Mike Fisher

FRISCO - The Dallas Cowboys' front office has made no secret of its claim of admiration for Amari Cooper, labeling him the team's "No. 2'' offseason priority (behind only quarterback Dak Prescott. So why do there seem so many questions - even from here inside The Star - about Cooper's future in Dallas?

After all, he is now a perennial 1,000-yard-receiving season guy and a perennial Pro Bowler and 2019 was his best statistical campaign of all, as he posted career-high marks in receiving yards (1,189) and touchdowns (eight).

And yet ... There are the weird home-and-road splits, the semi-disappearances in some cold-weather games, the injury issues (was Amari "injured'' or "hurt''?!) and maybe most of all, his absence on the field in the all-important Week 16 loss to the Eagles, when the now-mostly-ousted coaching staff opted to rotate/bench him in a clutch moment.

Amari's desire to be here is clear.

"I want to be here,'' Cooper told us recently. “I like it here, plain and simple. I like my situation on the team. (Dak Prescott) being the quarterback, my teammates, where I live, everything.''

It is indeed Dallas' plan to re-sign one of their very best players. "The answer to that,'' owner Jerry Jones said at season's end, "is 'yes.''

But is there another "desire'' problem? There are people inside the building who worry that Amari's level of "desire'' doesn't mesh with the idea of paying him $20 million APY ... or maybe even of tagging him at $16 mil to $18 mil for 2020.

NFL.com has posted a column from an author who suggests "top landing spots'' for Amari Cooper, who of course was Oakland's 2015 first-round pick. He writes about the Cowboys being the top bet (of course, as Dallas can use one of the aforementioned tags on Cooper to keep him if negotiations go sour).

But he also writes there, "New coach Mike McCarthy loves a talented playmaker on the perimeter and will make it his mission to get that competitiveness and fire out of Cooper.''

As his No. 2 team to chase Cooper, the author mentions the Philadelphia Eagles and notes that Amari's "production doesn't always match his crazy ability.'' He lists the Buffalo Bills as the No. 3 possibility and then gets to the Denver Broncos, where he said Cooper "would do well in a situation where he doesn't have to be the No. 1 guy.''

Finally the author links Cooper with No. 5 possibility the Arizona Cardinals. And again, his touting of Cooper comes with a slap, as he writes, "Cooper can run any route, and his physical ability is off the charts, but he really needs to learn how to play the position in all aspects, from blocking to competitiveness to playing every down full-out.''

So Amari Cooper is plagued by a lack of "competitiveness and fire,'' an inability to be "the No. 1 guy'' and ignorance as how to "play the position in all aspects, including (again) 'competitiveness'?""

We could try to dismiss this criticism by noting that the author is the former NFL quarterback David Carr. Whose brother is Derek Carr. Who plays for the Raiders team that gave up on Cooper and in the process seemingly spread rumors about his "lack of desire.''

Or we can report an inside-The-Star truth: There are Cowboys decision-makers who are raising some of the same questions that Carr is noting. That Amari's flaws - to put them into one sentence, "a passive-aggressiveness off the field and a lack of aggressiveness on it'' - are very real.

And that before the Jones family starts writing checks of $16 mil or $18 mil or $20 mil to Amari Cooper, many of those involved would like to get some answers to these very real questions.

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