Why are the Raiders shopping wide receiver Amari Cooper? For a team in need of playmakers, it seems odd to want to get rid of a former No. 1 pick with the speed and skills he’s shown in his four NFL seasons.
In the Raiders’ only win this season, for instance, Cooper caught eight passes for 128 yards and a touchdown in a 45-42 decision over the Cleveland Browns. Cooper also had 10 catches for 116 yards in a 20-19 loss to the Broncos in September. The former Alabama All-America also had consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to start his career before slumping in 2017.
But recently, former NFL general manager Michael Lombardi said on The Ringer NFL Podcast that Oakland’s braintrust is willing to dangle Cooper in trade for a possible first-round pick because of what they perceive as his attitude.
“I don’t think they think Amari Cooper has got great passion for the sport,” Lombardi said this week. “I don’t think they think he loves football. That’s what I’m hearing coming out of that building. I think they’re worried about his contract moving forward. It doesn’t sound like they are interested in giving him that kind of deal so they’re going to tear this thing down.”
Lombardi’s reference is to new head coach Jon Gruden reportedly being interested in unloading key players – Cooper and safety Karl Joseph in particular – before the trading deadline to stockpile draft picks. Gruden already traded away the team’s best player, defensive end Khalil Mack, just days before the start of this season.
At 1-5, the Raiders don’t appear to be going anywhere but the AFC West cellar for now, so Gruden apparently wants to re-stock and start over.
So far, the Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys are among the teams rumored to be interested in making a bid for Cooper.
Before this season, Gruden said he was a big fan of Cooper and believed the wideout should be a large part of the offense. Yet in several games this season, the Raiders have used him very little. In three of six games, Cooper has been targeted three times or less. Quarterback Derek Carr, meanwhile, is completing passes at a high percentage, but most of his throws are for just a few yards past the line of scrimmage – not exactly Cooper’s strong point.
Cooper is due to receive $13.9 million next season in the final year of his contract with the Raiders.
The Raiders, who have a bye this week, return to action on Sunday, Oct. 28, vs. the Colts.