FRISCO, Texas – The joke has been repeated too many times to count, but that doesn't make it any less true.
Without a first-round pick in this year's NFL draft, Cowboys officials have quipped that they'll spend the evening watching Amari Cooper highlights. Whether or not they actually fire up Cooper's game tape remains to be seen, but it doesn't make the compliment any less flattering.
"It feels good. It's motivating, as well," Cooper said last weekend. "It makes me want to continue to put together some good games, to play good, to be consistent for the team and just kind of prove Jerry right."
It's still a small sample size, but Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones looks awfully right to this point. The Cowboys sent their first-round pick to Oakland in exchange for Cooper last October, and he played his way into the Pro Bowl in just half a season.
Over the course of 11 games with Dallas, Cooper finished with 66 catches for 896 yards and seven touchdowns, helping the Cowboys into the second round of the playoffs in the process.
While it might still hurt that they don't have their first-round pick, it seems doubtful their No. 27 selection would be capable of making a similar impact. That's an opinion chief operating officer Stephen Jones seemed to agree with.
"I think you'd be hard-pressed to find anybody that would've made a difference on our roster like Amari made last year and like we feel like he's going to make as me move forward," he said.
That does raise an important point, though. As helpful as Cooper's addition might have been, he's already in line for a pay day. The 2019 season will be the fifth year on his rookie contract and is scheduled to pay him $13.9 million in salary. By next March, the three-time Pro Bowler will need a massive contract extension.
As intriguing a conversation as it might be for Cowboys fans, Cooper said he's not sweating the situation too much. He said Saturday he's had a few talks with his agent, but his priority is more about his play than those discussions.
"I'm not really worried about it that much," he said "I'm more focused on actually playing and really earning the respect, and then the contract."
Fortunately for Cooper, it seems like he has already earned plenty of respect around the organization. The Cowboys traded for Cooper knowing he was headed into a contract year. Given the amount of success he has already had, the front office has not been shy about discussing their plans to pay him.
"That's probably part of the reason I'm not really worried about it," Cooper said. "They're active about it, like you said – they want to get it done. It's not a thing to where they're saying 'I don't know if we want to re-sign this guy.' So I'm not really worried about it."
Whenever he eventually gets his deal, Cooper will become one of the cornerstones of the Cowboys' roster – right along with Dak Prescott. With both quarterback and receiver expected to sign on for the long-term, the only question will be how much they can improve.
With his feet planted firmly in Dallas, Cooper is optimistic about the answer.
"We can go nowhere but up," he said. "We've been practicing, we've been throwing. I know him a lot more, I know how he likes to throw the ball, he knows how I like to run my routes. And so I feel like we're getting better.