Evaluating future of Browns WR room: Is Amari Cooper part of the plan?

With record-breaking contracts being handed out to wide receivers across the NFL, we take a dive into the future of the position for the Cleveland Browns and whether or not star WR Amari Cooper will be extended or not.
Amari Cooper, Cleveland Browns
Amari Cooper, Cleveland Browns / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

It seems like every day a new record-breaking contract has been agreed to in the NFL, with a majority of them being signed by star wide receivers. The Cleveland Browns have one of their own, in need of a new contract to keep him in Cleveland, in 30 year old Amari Cooper. But after trading for and extending former first-round pick Jerry Jeudy, is Cooper still in the team's long-term plans?

There are two main concerns that I could see getting in the team's way from extending Cooper "long-term" in Cleveland. First, he is 30 years old. While he has shown no signs of slowing down, posting incredibly impressive numbers in his two seasons since coming to Cleveland totaling 2,410 yards and 14 touchdowns as a Brown, he's certainly older than some of these young playmakers that are landing these earth-shattering deals.

Second — the true record-setting amounts of money these players are starting to earn from their teams. Vikings star receiver Justin Jefferson is now the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL, signing a four-year, $140 million contract extension. Right now 19 receivers are getting paid more on an annual basis than Cooper, who has a base salary of $20 million for 2024.

Luckily for the Browns, they got ahead of the game with their extension for Jeudy, locking him up to a three-year, $52.5 million deal in March, shortly after they traded for him. Not that Jeudy's level of play would have put him anywhere near the level of guys like Jefferson, Jaylen Waddle, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Nico Collins, but he was a first-round pick and is still just 25 years old. Even after his new deal, Jeudy is now the 24th highest-paid receiver in the league.

What also works to the team's advantage is that Cooper is unlikely to demand that same level of pay on the open market, at this point, as well. Throughout his NFL career, Cooper has never had a base salary of more than $20 million per year. As great as he has been, and I truly believe he has been one of the most underrated wideouts in the NFL since entering the league, do we really think that now is the time that he starts to push towards $25-$30 million per year?

Even if he may not command it, is that something plausible for the Browns to even do? Now, I will never claim to be some sort of NFL salary cap expert. Those people are truly a special breed. But when you look at the other pieces on the Browns roster and, more importantly, at the other teams around the league, it certainly seems possible.

For Cleveland, everyone knows how much money they have invested in quarterback Deshaun Watson. Five years, $230 million guaranteed is no secret across the league and especially in Northeast Ohio. But so far, the Browns front office has found a way to make things work, moneywise.

Guys like Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward have already earned their big-money contracts. But in the wide receiver room, aside from Jeudy and his increasingly modest extension, past this season they will only have guys on rookie contracts. Elijah Moore is also scheduled to hit free agency after this season, leaving 2022 draft picks David Bell and Michael Woods, 2023 third-rounder Cedric Tillman, and 2024 rookie fifth-rounder Jamari Thrash all scheduled to make less than $2 million per year, if they were to make it to 2025.

What is really eye-opening is when you look at the list of the highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL as it stands right now. What you see is that five teams have two wide receivers each in the top 21 on the list (Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Texans, Chicago Bears, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers). With Jalen Hurts now making more per year than Watson, if the Eagles can pay him as well as his top two targets — A.J. Brown ($32 million) and DeVonta Smith ($25 million), can newly extended General Manager Andrew Berry emulate his former team and do the same with Watson, Cooper and Jeudy?

Ultimately, I think the Browns find a way to get it done. After extending Jeudy, Berry, and Head Coach Kevin Stefanski, I would anticipate them reaching a three-year deal with Cooper worth about $66 million, or about $22 million per year.

I think the Haslam's and the entire Browns organization realize that the time is now to strike if they want to compete for a Super Bowl. With Watson hopefully starting to come back into his own after his suspension and injuries, one more season with Amari Cooper may not be enough for this offense.

Regardless of what happens this season, heading into 2025 without a proven, veteran leader like Cooper would be foolish. He has not taken a step back whatsoever on the field, and with the type of receiver that Cooper is, there is no question that he can still be a bonafide No. 1 target.

Cooper, Jeudy, Tillman, Thrash and a 2024 offseason addition would be my early expectations for the wide receiver room for 2025. Elijah Moore could be brought back depending on his level of play this season, but the veteran duo of Cooper and Jeudy with a younger duo of Tillman and Thrash will likely be the core at the position moving forward.

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