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NFL free agency profile: Amari Cooper would give the Patriots an elite talent at the wide receiver position

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Related: Free agency profile: Deone Bucannon could be a low-risk, high-reward addition to the Patriots defense

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

With the Super Bowl in the rear-view mirror, the focus is now entirely on 2020. The next important point on the offseason agenda will be free agency, which starts on March 18 and projects to be a big one for the New England Patriots: not only does the team have 19 players whose current contracts will expire — including quarterback Tom Brady — it also will need to use its limited resources to build a foundation for the upcoming season.

Up until the start of free agency, we will therefore take a look at some players who might interest the Patriots. Today, the series continues with wide receiver Amari Cooper.

Player profile

Position: Wide receiver

Opening day age: 26

Size: 6’1, 225 lbs

Experience: Cooper originally entered the league when the Oakland Raiders selected him fourth overall in the 2015 draft. He immediately made an impact and posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons to open his career. However, the Raiders traded him to the Dallas Cowboys midway through the 2018 season in exchange for a first-round pick the following year. Cooper’s success continued in Dallas and as the team’s number one receiver he was voted to the Pro Bowl in both 2018 and 2019.

2019 statistics: 16 games; 116 targets, 79 catches, 1,189 receiving yards, 8 receiving touchdowns; 1 rushing attempt, 6 rushing yards

2019 salary cap hit: $13.92 million

Free agency status: Unrestricted

View from Dallas

We asked R.J. Ochoa from Blogging The Boys to share his thoughts on Cooper:

Extending Amari Cooper would hardly be a bad decision for the Dallas Cowboys, but it needs to be a careful one. There is a fear by many that the team feels committed to the idea because they traded a first-round pick for him less than two years ago, but while Amari has had spectacular moments, his finish to the 2019 season was a bit troubling.

The Cowboys have pushed a narrative that Amari wasn’t experiencing any kind of serious injury towards the final games of the season yet he found himself absent in big-time situations. Cooper has the potential to be one of the best wide receivers in the game, but with production being found by so many that are playing on rookie contracts, it’s hard to completely justify a huge deal when so many are needed on the team at the moment.

Patriots fit

Patriots fans probably remember Cooper best from his 2019 regular season game, when cornerback Stephon Gilmore essentially erased him from the contest and actually finished with more catches than the wideout: while he did not register a single reception, Gilmore came away with an interception while covering him. However, this performance that day is hardly indicative of what Cooper could be able to add to New England’s offense.

The 25-year-old is an elite talent, after all, and would help the Patriots improve one of the weakest parts of their aerial attack last season: production on the perimeter and in the deep parts of the field. He has a proven track record in both areas as evidenced by his 15.1 yards per reception last season, and has also shown that he is capable of adapting to a new scheme on the fly when he left Oakland mid-season to join the Cowboys via trade.

With only two wide receivers — Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry — as locks to make the team 2020, Cooper would instantly make the entire position a better one and in turn improve New England’s passing offense as a whole. He is a big play threat that is capable of winning one-on-ones not just due to his athletic skillset but also with exceptional technique and route running. Only the league’s truly elite defensive backs like Gilmore have been able to contain him on a play-to-play basis.

Verdict

The idea of adding Cooper to the Patriots offense certainly is an intriguing one, but there are two major questions the team will need to answer before possibly making a move: Is Cooper’s up-and-down play down the stretch in 2019 a reason to be worried, and is he worth a heavy financial investment considering the status of the team’s own free agents? If New England’s front office answers both questions positively, trying to get Cooper on board to pair him with the likes of Edelman and Harry would probably not be the worst idea — and maybe have a positive impact on Tom Brady’s free agency as well.