The pre-free agency period had a couple big pieces of news this past weekend, right up until Tom Brady slammed his fist down and upended the entire chessboard. But, both involved Dallas wide receivers, and both are intertwined. The Cowboys moved Amari Cooper (and a sixth-round pick) to the Cleveland Browns for a fifth-round pick and a sixth-round pick. Let’s get the boring part out of the way first: per Spotrac, Amari Cooper carries a $6 million dead cap figure for the Cowboys and a $20 million cap hit for the Browns. As I was writing this, the Browns released Jarvis Landry, freeing him up to go elsewhere. Cooper also becomes the highest cap figure on the Browns. The second deal, coming on the heels of this one, was the Dallas Cowboys re-signing pending free agent Michael Gallup to a five-year, $62.5 million deal.
First, let’s take a look at the Cleveland situation. The Browns releasing Jarvis alongside trading for Amari Cooper (and franchise tagging David Njoku) signals, to me, that the Browns are looking to rebuild their wide receiver corps while keeping it as a tertiary portion of their offense. If you believe in vacated targets, then do I have news for you. The Browns have 168 targets up for grabs between Odell Beckham, Landry, and pending free agent Rashard Higgins. I would imagine a major chunk of those go to Amari Cooper, but given the target distribution in the offense, I’m not as bullish on Cooper as many.
The Cleveland Browns simply do not throw to wide receivers, with the position garnering 50.1% of the targets last year, and 53.1% in 2020, their first year under Kevin Stefanski. Last season, Jarvis Landry led the way for the Browns, snagging 33% of their wide receiver targets, the 27th-lowest target rate for the most targeted wide receiver in any offense. That’s not exactly conducive to wide receiver production. The Browns had the fifth-fewest pass attempts in each of the last two seasons, and they threw to the wide receiver the fourth-fewest times last year, and their WR1 had the fifth-fewest targets for a WR1 in the league.
It all points to Amari Cooper being a decent backend WR2 or a high-end WR3 for me. Not only do the Browns fail to throw the ball to the wide receiver with any sort of sustainable peace, the Browns also don’t throw to the wide receiver with touchdowns on the line. Baker Mayfield tied with Jared Goff and Sam Darnold for 23rd in pass attempts inside the ten-yard line. Of these pass attempts, just fifteen went to wide receivers. So, I’m not bullish about Amari Cooper.
But the wide receiver room that he leaves behind in Dallas? I would like a piece of that, please, and thank you. The Cowboys let Cooper walk because they have their WR1 in the building already, and it’s CeeDee Lamb. People worry about target share with Lamb, which is nonsense because target share is dictated not only by your talent level but also the talent level of the players around you. You’re nicking CeeDee Lamb for playing with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Well, Cooper is gone, and Cedrick Wilson likely exits stage left as well. That leaves the Cowboys with Cooper, Gallup, and Dalton Schultz. Call me crazy, but that sounds like three guys that, if healthy, can average 130 targets over 17 games, each.
I’m all-in on CeeDee Lamb this season, which makes sense, since he was a top-12 WR for me last season, as well. Lamb was my favorite wide receiver in the 2020 class, as well. So, let’s just say that I am very excited about this coronation. Lamb had a weird 2021 season, where he had massive games (80 points in three games in weeks 5, 6, and 7) surrounded by mediocrity (7.6 points each in weeks 4 and 8). This was because of his highly irrational target distribution, which would peak, then valley, seemingly at random. With no more Amari Cooper and a healing Michael Gallup to start the year, the Cowboys don’t have the luxury of toying with CDL’s targets.
That brings us to Michael Gallup and Dalton Schultz. Gallup is… too soon to say. He tore his ACL at the end of the 2021 season, and he’s expected to make a full recovery. But if we hear bad news, I’m out for 2022. I’ve played this game enough where we wait around for a couple of weeks for a guy to recover from an offseason injury, which becomes eight weeks, which becomes a wasted roster spot. Keep an eye on Gallup and hope for a strong recovery.
We talked about Schultz on the most recent Patreon episode, and Walker Kelly had it right when they said that Schultz is going to go around TE10, and he is the best bet to finish around TE10. He’s going to be a consistent weekly presence in your lineups, and if you can get him in the second half of your drafts, then gobble him up everywhere.