Patriots

NFL expert believes the Patriots are the best fit for Amari Cooper

The Cowboys are reportedly likely to release Cooper when the new league year starts on March 16.

Amari Cooper is one of several notable free agent receivers this offseason. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper will hit the open market soon. Dallas will likely release the four-time Pro Bowler by the start of the new league year on March 16, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Friday.

As a big-name receiver becomes available, one expert believes that the Patriots should pick up Cooper to help fill their need at the position.

“I think this has New England Patriots written all over it because they really need someone who has No. 1-wide receiver capability in the form of Amari Cooper,” ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick said on Sunday’s “SportsCenter.”

While Cooper is a multi-time Pro Bowler, there are a couple of reasons why the Cowboys are reportedly releasing him. The most noteworthy is the cap savings created by the move. By releasing Cooper at the start of the league year, Cooper’s contract will only account for $6 million against the cap as opposed to $22 million if they kept him. Cooper was entering the third season of his five-year, $100 million deal.

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With that big contract comes big expectations, which Cooper didn’t live up to this past season. While his stats don’t look too bad on the surface (68 receptions for 865 yards and eight touchdowns), Cooper failed to record at least 60 receiving yards in nine of the 16 regular-season and playoff games he played in last season.

Riddick believes the Patriots are the right team to help Cooper get back to playing at the Pro Bowl-level he played at before.

“The issue with Amari is consistency,” Riddick said. “This issue with Amari is getting him to do this over 17 games. That’s two teams now that have said, ‘Look, you’re good, but you’re just not worth the money we paid you that was really based on projecting you to be a guy who was a 90-, 100-catch guy per year. He just hasn’t really been able to really dial in and tap into his athletic ability and his football-playing ability at that level.

“New England usually pulls it out of people in a way that many other people aren’t able to. Look, for Mac Jones, this would be the perfect kind of weapon he needs on the outside to go along with a very strong running game and one of the best receiving tight ends in Hunter Henry.”

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A potential pursuit of Cooper by the Patriots could happen for multiple reasons, the obvious being that they lack top-end talent at receiver. But on Saturday, Boston Sports Journal’s Greg Bedard reported that the Patriots are “much more likely” to address their need for an impact receiver by acquiring a veteran rather than drafting a rookie.

Cooper is still relatively young. The seven-year pro will turn 28 in June, making it possible that he could play with Jones at a high level for a few seasons.

There are of course some obstacles for the Patriots if they wanted to sign Cooper. It wouldn’t be a shock if he still commanded a high price tag on the open market. If he does, the Patriots would have to maneuver some cap space around in order to sign him. New England currently has less than $5 million in cap space, per salary cap guru Miguel Benzan.

With his release, Cooper joins a free-agent wide receiver market that already includes several notable names. While the two biggest names might not be as obtainable (Davante Adams and Chris Godwin), JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mike Williams, Odell Beckham Jr., Allen Robinson, Christian Kirk, and D.J. Chark will all likely become unrestricted free agents on March 16.

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