Browns should do everything to keep Amari Cooper in Cleveland long term

Amari Cooper needs to stay in Cleveland
Amari Cooper, Cleveland Browns
Amari Cooper, Cleveland Browns / Richard Rodriguez/GettyImages

News broke Tuesday that wide receiver Amari Cooper was absent from Cleveland Browns minicamp. Unlike OTAs, these practices are mandatory so Cooper is subject to a fine. There's speculation that his absence is related to his contract as he's entering the last year of his deal.

Cooper is due a $20 million base salary this year but nothing is guaranteed with two void years starting next year. Now while the Browns can't afford to hand out yet another $20 million per year contract, they'd be smart to ensure Cooper's in the building till at least 2025.

The veteran isn't a wide receiver that is easily replaceable. In terms of the franchise records books, Cooper has had the best two-year run out of any Cleveland wide receiver in team history. He's the only Browns receiver to record back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons recording 150 catches, 2,410 yards, and 14 TDs in his two seasons with Cleveland. The 2,410 receiving yards would be the most by any wide receiver in the AFC North in the past two years.

Cooper isn't just a top wide receiver by divisional standards either, he was statistically a top 10 in the NFL last year. According to Pro Football Focus among wide receivers with at least 100 targets, Cooper was 3rd in yards per catch (17.2), 3rd in contested catches (16), and 10th in receiving yards (1,309). These stats are even more impressive considering that for the past two years, Cooper has played with five different starting quarterbacks. So he isn't a product of the system, he is the system.

His value to the Browns only increases when looking at his production compared to the rest of the wide receiving room. Comparing his stats to team totals as a whole, Cooper had over 30 percent of the team's receiving yards, contested catches, and receiving touchdowns. These percentages aren't the normal average of a typical WR1 either. If you compare those numbers to another elite wide receiver the past two years like Ja'Marr Chase, you'll see Cooper surpasses him in each category by at least six percent.

This isn't to say The Browns have no offensive talent outside of Cooper. David Njoku is coming off a top-10 season as a tight end and has proven himself as a legitimate receiving threat. Still, no other offensive skill player has proven himself as a legitimate receiving target.

Sure Jerry Juedy just got a multi-year extension but he's two years removed from his best season, which was shy of 1,000 yards. Then you have Elijah Moore who the Browns aren't confident in him enough to even talk about an extension. Behind them are young draft picks who have yet to cement themselves as long-term starters: David Bell, Cedric Tillman, and Jamari Thrash.

The WR corps in Cleveland on paper looks great going into 2024 but the story immediately changes without Cooper. Sure one or two guys could develop and be a star in 2025, but why risk it this year when Amari Cooper has proved he is the best receiver the Browns have ever had in the building? Is a five-year full guaranteed contract the answer? No, but the Browns have to make sure Cooper is here for the long run, or at least for the 2024 season.

In contract disputes, we have seen players get so frustrated that instead of playing out their deal, they request a trade. They can't risk taking the field without their best wideout, especially in a year where star Quarterback Deshaun Watson needs all the help he can get to be playoff hopeful. Cleveland's best weapon needs to be on the field for the brown and orange.

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