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Progress Report: Big Contract, Big Year For Amari


(Editor's Note: NFL rosters change wildly from year to year. This year will be no different, as the Cowboys seek to upgrade their roster via free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft. Still, a large percentage of their roster is already in place, and they'll have plenty of work to do to improve last season's 6-10 record. In the coming weeks, the staff of will evaluate those players who are already under contract, examining their past performance and future outlook. Today, we continue the series with wide receiver Amari Cooper.)

The Good: It wasn't a Pro Bowl season, but statistically 2020 was the best of Cooper's two-and-a-half years in Dallas to date. In his first season of a five-year, $100 million deal, Cooper became just the fourth player in Cowboys history to reach 90 catches. He had 92 for 1,114 yards and 5 touchdowns, becoming the first Cowboys player to reach 90 in a season since Dez Bryant in 2012 and 2013. He caught 71.9 percent of his 128 receiving targets, the best percentage of any Cowboys wide receiver, according to Pro Football Focus. Cooper also reached the 1,000-yard mark for the fifth time in six NFL seasons despite constant changes to the quarterback position last year, starting with Dak Prescott's season-ending ankle injury in October. The Cowboys started four different quarterbacks (Prescott, Andy Dalton, Ben DiNucci, Garrett Gilbert) and Cooper caught at least one pass from all four. Cooper also has been durable, appearing in all 41 games since arriving from Oakland in the middle of the 2018 season.

The Bad: A year ago, it would have been the discussion around Cooper's home/road splits. In 2019, for whatever reason, he was considerably more productive at AT&T Stadium. Cooper didn't think it was much of a trend, and indeed, his 2020 stats were pretty consistent regardless of venue (48 catches for 468 yards and 2 touchdowns on the road; 44 catches for 646 yards and 3 touchdowns at home.) If there's an area for improvement this year, it revolves around the entire offense. The Cowboys led the league in drops last season (31), though Cooper only had four drops out of those 128 targets, according to STATS. The offense ranked 29th in red zone touchdown percentage (50%) and 31st in goal-to-go touchdown percentage (62.1%). A healthier group should help, too – the offense played without Prescott, tight end Blake Jarwin and offensive tackles Tyron Smith and La'el Collins for most of the year.

Best Of 2020: Best game? Probably Cooper's season-high 121 yards in a 37-17 blowout win over the Eagles that kept the Cowboys' playoff hopes afloat heading into the regular-season finale. Cooper averaged a whopping 30.3 yards on six receptions thanks to a season-high 69-yard catch and run from Dalton. Best catch? Cooper's one-handed grab against the Falcons for a 58-yard gain during the Cowboys' wild Week 2 comeback win.

Contract Consideration: Cooper's 2020 production is exactly what the Cowboys envisioned when they signed him to the largest contract for a receiver in franchise history. He has a $20 million base salary in 2021, according to Spotrac, but the Cowboys could create much-needed cap space by restructuring his contract —converting a portion of the base salary into signing bonus and reducing this year's cap hit — similar to the way they reworked deals for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and DeMarcus Lawrence last summer.

What's Next: In January, Cooper had minor clean-up surgery on his ankle that shouldn't impact his offseason work. There are more significant injury situations to monitor on the Cowboys' roster, but Prescott, Jarwin, Smith and Collins are all expected to be ready for next season. A healthier offense will make Cooper's job much easier, and fellow wideouts Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb should continue to improve.

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