Extension for $100 Million Star Dubbed Browns’ Top Summer Priority

The Cleveland Browns have burned through cash like few other NFL teams in recent years, but salary cap tricks exist to push those bills several seasons down the road so as to remain competitive.

Although it may sound counterintuitive on its face, one such maneuver involves giving quality players like wide receiver Amari Cooper lucrative contract extensions. The basic idea is that Cleveland can structure the deal in a way that allows the organization to keep its best pass-catcher of the past two years while also bringing down his salary cap hit in the immediate — thereby allowing more space to add to an already-talented roster that hopes to compete for a Super Bowl in 2024 and 2025.

Ryan Fowler of Bleacher Report noted that advantage on Sunday, June 23, when he named Cooper the Browns’ “most important contract extension” of the summer.

Absent from mandatory minicamp, Amari Cooper has made his intentions clear to Browns GM Andrew Berry.

A 2024 season in which will be the final year of Cooper’s five-year, $100 million contract that he signed with the Dallas Cowboys, being compensated for his on-field [production] remains atop Cooper’s priority list. As it should for Berry.

As the wideout market continues to evolve as superstars put pen to paper, locking up Cooper for the long haul will also provide Berry with much needed cap flexibility down the road.

Cooper represents a $23.8 million cap hit for the Browns in the 2024 season.

Amari Cooper Has Been Browns’ Most Reliable Offensive Player Over Past 2 Seasons

GettyWide receiver Amari Cooper of the Cleveland Browns.

Cleveland’s bread and butter last season was its No. 1 ranked defense. Although, one could argue that the Browns’ reliance on their defense makes Cooper all the more valuable and affords him all that much more leverage.

Cooper caught 72 passes for 1,250 yards and 5 TDs in 2023, earning him his fifth career trip to the Pro Bowl. The year prior, Cooper hauled in 78 catches for 1,160 yards and 9 TDs. He led the team in all major statistical categories for receiving in both campaigns.

What is more impressive is that Cooper did so playing with backup quarterbacks across most of the last two years. Jacoby Brissett and Joe Flacco remain reasonable starters when called upon, though PJ Walker has never really been that and Dorian Thompson-Robinson has yet to prove he can be.

The Browns made arguably the worst deal in league history when they gave away three first-round draft picks, plus a whole lot more, to the Houston Texans just for the right to fully guarantee QB Deshaun Watson a contract of $230 million over five seasons. Watson has started just 12 games over the first two years of that deal and has been among the worst signal-callers in the league when he has played.

Meanwhile, the Texans have used the assets they received from Cleveland to quickly turn their franchise around, making the playoffs in 2023 and embarrassing the Browns in blowout home victory (45-14) on Wildcard Weekend.

Browns Need Amari Cooper’s Offense, Struggling With Terms on New Deal

GettyWide receiver Amari Cooper of the Cleveland Browns.

In short, the Browns and Watson need Cooper if the passing game has any hope of finishing in the top half of the league next season.

Tight end David Njoku made the Pro Bowl last year in a breakout campaign, and the Browns traded with the Denver Broncos for former first-round receiver Jerry Jeudy earlier in the offseason. However, that’s a thin group of pass-catching talent in a make-or-break year for Watson, which will be defined by big expectations for the franchise.

Beyond that, star running back Nick Chubb is likely to miss several games to begin the year as he continues to rehabilitate from a devastating knee injury he suffered early last season. The Browns need offense, Cooper needs a deal, and the fit works.

That said, Cooper is 30 years old and dealt with some nagging injuries of his own near the end of last year. Those factors could make for difficult negotiating conditions, as his play and offensive value afford him considerable leverage, but his age and injury concerns send some back the Browns’ way.

Brad Stainbrook of The Orange and Brown Report wrote on June 17 that Cleveland and Cooper are struggling to come to terms on a new deal. The issue isn’t over money, according to Stainbrook, but rather the length of an extension. As of last week, the Browns had yet to offer Cooper a contract extending beyond one additional season.

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