By TOM WITHERS – AP Sportswriter
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Browns weren’t willing to wait for the free hand or the NFL draft to get their No. 1 wide receiver.
Cleveland general manager Andrew Berry on Saturday fulfilled his club’s biggest need by agreeing to acquire Amari Cooper in a deal with the Dallas Cowboys, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on Saturday.
The Browns would send a fifth- and sixth-round draft pick for Cooper to Dallas in 2022, according to the person, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the teams can’t finalize the deal until the new league year begins Wednesday . ESPN was the first to report the proposed trade.
Cooper would pose a deep threat to the Browns and fill the void left when Odell Beckham Jr. forced his release last season. He would be a prime target for quarterback Baker Mayfield, assuming he returns as Cleveland’s starter after an injury-hit season.
The Cowboys were looking to take on Cooper, who signed a five-year, $100 million contract extension in 2019 and hasn’t produced like Dallas had hoped. He would likely be released if the Cowboys couldn’t reach an agreement, and the Browns took the opportunity to get the 27-year-old before he was put on the market.
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Cooper has spent the last four seasons with Dallas. He had 68 catches for 865 yards and eight touchdowns in 2021. A three-time Pro Bowler, he had five 1,000-yard seasons as a pro — two with Dallas, two with the Raiders and the season he split with both teams after the 2018 trade .
He would immediately move to the top of Cleveland’s depth chart, and his addition would likely push the Browns to focus on other freehand needs and perhaps a defensive player instead of a No. 13 receiver in this year’s draft.
After Beckham left in November, the Browns didn’t have an experienced receiver capable of stretching the defense. Also, wide receiver #2 Jarvis Landry suffered a knee injury in Week 2 and struggled for the remainder of the season. He posted career lows in catches, yards, and TDs while missing five games.
Landry’s days with Cleveland seemed numbered. Not long after they agreed to get Cooper, the Browns gave Landry permission to seek a trade, the person said. He is scheduled to earn $15.1 million next season and his salary cap is $16.379 million. So the Browns could save nearly $15 million on their cap by trading or firing Landry.
The five-time Pro Bowler played an important role in improving the Browns’ culture, and it’s not out of the question that he could stay if he restructures his deal.
Cleveland can add even more depth of reception through freelance agencies or in a draft full of talented prospects. At this point, her only other proven players at the position are Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz.
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