Jon Gruden and Reggie McKenzie trading arguably the NFLs best defender Khalil Mack to Chicago is no longer this season’s most baffling personnel move. They have been supplanted by Jerry and Stephen Jones who initiated an embarrassing trade with Oakland for struggling WR Amari Cooper in exchange for a first-round pick in the 2019 draft. Third-rounder? Sure. Second-rounder? maybe. First-rounder? Are you freakin’ serious?
Gruden suddenly looks worlds more competent with THREE first-rounds and a load of cap space. While the current Raiders roster and fan base has to be demoralized knowing this season is officially a wash before Week 8, at least the organization has some semblance of a master plan.
Said McKenzie to reporters:
Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie: “This is where we get a great opportunity now. …We get to really build on what we have.” Three 1st-round picks in 2019. Cash and cap flexibility with Cooper, Mack gone. “We’re going to build this thing. We’ve got the ammunition to build this thing.”
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) October 22, 2018
It all makes a ton of sense if Oakland manages not to squander all this capital. A huge if.
As for Dallas, the only rationale is that they have some magical lens into Cooper that no one else has seen. Cooper is a fine but not elite talent who has slightly regressed since his first two seasons. As a rookie in 2015, Cooper showcased some flash and an ability to create separation. This continued in 2106 during Derek Carr’s MVP campaign. Last season Cooper’s receiving yards dropped to just 680 on the season even though he only missed two games. This season through six games, Cooper is averaging a measly 46 yards per game and has found the end zone just once. He’s also suffered two known concussions in the past two years. To be frank, I can think of 20-25 receivers off the top of my head I would prefer rostering over Cooper.
Cooper is only 24 and a newfound upward trajectory is always possible. But therein lies another issue; Cooper is on the fourth year of his rookie deal so the Cowboys will be faced with either picking up his $13.9 million fifth year option or signing him to an extension, both of which will have hefty cap ramifications.
Oh, and yet another issue, because Cooper is not a game-changing receiver on his own he needs an inventive system that will create mismatches to strive. And well, Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan’s offense has about as much creativity as a paperclip. Why the Cowboys believe this player is a worth first-rounder is honestly mind-boggling. But so is an owner doubling as GM. So is signing Greg Hardy. So is not replacing Garrett after so many years of disappointment.
The Cowboys are 3-4, two games behind Washington and tied with an Eagles team that has almost double the roster talent. If Jones and Jones believe Cooper is the missing ingredient to catapult them to NFC East supremacy, perhaps a coup is in order.
Jon Gruden has been torched all season for questionable personnel moves and a clear inability to inspire his current team. But for not letting the Joneses run amok and simply saying yes, you’ve got a deal, he and the Raiders are the clear winners of this very strange trade.