Rather than cash in immediately, Amari Cooper will bet on himself, but there is a method in not wanting to be the NFL’s highest paid wide receiver.
Shortly after appearing at a kids’ football camp on behalf of Gatorade for its “Beat the Heat” program on Monday morning at The Dallas Hockaday School, Cooper went on the TV show First Take and was asked if he wants to be the NFL’s highest paid wide receiver.
He said, “Not now.”
About 40 minutes later, I asked Mr. Cooper why he would say such a thing.
“What I really meant to say was I just have so much more to prove,” he said. “I think I am just scratching the surface. I think people have not seen half of what I can do on the field. I have so (many) more great plays. I have so much more good football ahead of me. My best football is ahead of me.
“I just turned 25 years old. A lot of the great receivers in this game are older than I am. I just have so much in store. That’s what I meant by, ‘Not now.’”
Along with Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, Cooper’s contract is a point of interest for the Cowboys and their flock of fans. Mr. Cooper is entering the final year of his rookie contract that will pay him a little more than $14 million per season.
Taking into account what Cooper said, he can drive his price to the top of the market. Given Jerry Jones’ love of wide receivers, he will only be too happy to make Amari the highest paid receiver in the game, and to heck with the salary cap.
That’s Stephen’s problem.
Considering how long Jerry has looked for his next Michael Irvin, it is only ironic that he found his next Playmaker not in the form of a loud, boisterous personality like Eighty-Eight, but rather the chess-playing, book-reading Cooper who compares himself to Kawhi Leonard.
AMARI COOPER AS KAWHI LEONARD
Since the Dallas Cowboys traded a first round draft pick to the Oakland Raiders last October, Cooper has been a mostly quiet guy with the media. He is respectful and professional, while not exactly chatty.
He has been compared to Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors, who recently led that franchise to their first ever NBA title. Kawhi is a notorious recluse who says less than nothing off the floor, but on it his game is as rock-concert loud.
“It’s not my first time hearing that,” Cooper said. “A lot of people have compared me to him. I don’t know him personally, but from afar he seems like the type of guy who lets his game do the talking. From a guy who doesn’t talk much, you never really know much about him. He’s mysterious. You don’t know how motivated he is to win.
“But I can see it. I saw that after he won a championship. He was elated. He kinda let his emotions show a little bit more. Because only then was he satisfied. It didn’t matter to him what he was accomplishing during the regular season, or during the playoffs, you can tell he was not content with that until he got the whole job done. From that standpoint, we are related.”
The irony is that Cooper may ultimately be the best wide receiver the Dallas Cowboys have had since Michael Irvin retired after the 1999 season.
Since then, Jerry has brought in Antonio Bryant, Keyshawn Johnson, Terrell Owens, Roy Williams and Dez Bryant to find the Cowboys another Playmaker.
Bryant’s mouth wasn’t worth it, and his game wasn’t close to Irvin. Keyshawn was at the end. T.O. had a big mouth and attitude, but he was not worth the headache. Roy Williams was a bust of an acquisition. Dez is the closest, but his overall high-end production didn’t last.
Cooper, right now, is Jerry’s best chance to be his new Michael.
The longer Jerry waits to pay Amari, and he plays at the level he did since he became a Cowboy, the better the odds that Mr. Cooper will be the highest paid receiver in the game.
“I’m more focused on how I play. The type of work I put in. I want to play well. Everything starts with that,” Cooper said. “If you play good football you are going to be around for a long time. I want to be a Dallas Cowboy for a long time.”
He’s betting on himself he will, and that he doesn’t need to be the highest paid receiver in the game right now.