Earlier this week, my partner, Steve Corkran, looked at Miami putting the franchise tag (at the whopping price of $16 million) on wide receiver Jarvis Landry and how it could eventually cost the Raiders with Amari Cooper.
As Steve and I often respectfully do, my opinion differs on this one. I don’t necessarily think the Raiders should be thinking about Cooper in terms of a long-term deal. Not yet, at least. Cooper first must prove himself to old/new Oakland coach Jon Gruden.
Landry has earned himself a new deal. Cooper has not, and it could be interesting this May to see how the Raiders react.
Like all 2015 first-round picks, Cooper – the No. 4 pick of that draft – Cooper will be subject to a fifth-year option. Teams face a May deadline on whether they will exercise Cooper’s 2019 option year. If not, Cooper can be a free agent after this season. The Raiders easily exercised Khalil Mack’s 2018 option last May. Mack is s superstar. It was a no-brainer decision.
The Cooper decision shouldn’t be that easy. Why? He’s struggled much of his first three seasons. We all know the Cooper story. He was great in the first half of his rookie season and he was great in the first half of his second season. He swooned in the second half of both of those seasons. He was maddeningly inconsistent the entire 2017 season. He dropped way too many passes and he disappeared often. Cooper’s numbers in 2017 were this: 48 catches, 680 yards and seven touchdowns. He had two games in which he surpassed 100 yards. He did have his moments. But he was pretty blah most of the season, adding to the worrisome slumps he had to end his first two seasons.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said Cooper was hurt all last season. But Cooper never appeared on any injury reports. It seems like a lot of excuses have been made for Cooper.
There is no doubt, the Alabama product can be a productive NFL player. He has made plays and he will turn 24 in June; he has a chance to be great. Also, like with Carr and his 2017 slump, common sense is that Gruden will be able to help Cooper snap out of it and find a solution to become a consistent playmaker.
But the problem is, the Raiders have to make the Cooper fifth-year option decision way before the seasons. If they do exercise the option, Cooper will have to be made the average of the top 10 receivers in the NFL. In other words, the dude wild be pricey. With Carr’s deal, an expected long-term deal for Mack and other costly deals, carrying Cooper at a big number may be a lot for Oakland to justify.
Now, if Oakland doesn’t exercise Cooper’s option, it doesn’t mean he will be gone after the 2018 season. They can always see how he does in Gruden’s system and then extend him. The risk is, Cooper could decide to test the market if he had a big season and if the Raiders don’t give him the franchise tag.
If Cooper flounders again, the Raiders will be happy to let Cooper walk.
If the decision were mine, I wouldn’t give Cooper the fifth-year option. I’d make him earn a new deal with some pressure and see how he responds.