Cowboys meet with Amari Cooper’s representatives at combine and reportedly want to sign him before free agency

Dak Prescott may be the headliner, but, for now, the Cowboys are shifting their focus on re-signing receiver Amari Cooper. 

On Thursday night, Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News reported that the Cowboys’ brass — which included team owner/general manager Jerry Jones — met with Cooper’s representatives in Indianapolis, the site of the NFL combine. During the meeting, it was understood that contract talks with Cooper and the team “now will intensify” between now and March 18, when Cooper is slated to become an unrestricted free agent. 

The Cowboys will reportedly not transition tag Cooper, which would give them the right to match any offer made to Cooper in free agency.

Further complicating things is the current CBA situation. If the NFL players vote in favor of the current CBA proposal, teams will lose their ability to designate two tags. And, given Prescott’s uncertain contract situation, the Cowboys need to keep their franchise tag, as it appears that they will have to — at least temporarily — use it on Prescott. 

“It removes a very strategic thing for us,” Jones said of the CBA situation, “and that is we only have one (tag) — we lose the transition. Strategically, that was really thought of a lot because with our negotiations with Dak and our negotiations with Cooper. … It’s what it is. We just have to figure out a way to do it.

“That was one of the reasons I’ve said was why I could have conceived not doing (the CBA). There’s no question it’s going to prove a bigger angst, but we’re going to be better off for it, and I think we’ll be better off for it as a team. But there’s a little more challenge here on our part to not have both tags. To be trite.”

A former first-round pick, Cooper was a Pro Bowler during his first two seasons with the Raiders before enduring a disappointing 2017 campaign. In 2018, he was in the midst of another disappointing season in Oakland before the Cowboys traded a first-round pick to the Raiders for his services. Cooper immediately returned to Pro Bowl form, catching six touchdowns in nine games with the Cowboys that season while helping Dallas advance to the second round of the playoffs. In his first full season in Dallas, Cooper earned his fourth Pro Bowl selection, as he led the Cowboys with 79 receptions for 1,189 yards and eight touchdowns. 

According to Spotrac, Cooper’s market value is currently about $98.6 million over five years for an annual salary of about $19.7 million. And while the Cowboys have a considerable amount of cap space, they’re going to need a large portion of that money for Prescott, whose market value is currently projected at about $165 million over five years. Prescott, however, may be asking for even more money, as there have been rumblings that the is asking to become the NFL’s first $40 million quarterback.

The Cowboys have between now and March 12 to place the franchise tag on Prescott. If they do, that would give them until 4 p.m. ET on July 15 to come to terms on a long-term deal. If he has to play under the tag, Prescott would make over $26 million guaranteed for the 2020 season. 

While Jones reiterated his desire to keep both Prescott and Cooper in Cowboys blue in 2020 and beyond, new Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy also expressed his desire to have both players back in the fold during his meeting with the media on Wednesday. 

“First goal is to get as many of those guys back as we can,” McCarthy said. “And then see what we can add.”

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