Cowboys would be wise to pay Amari Cooper last

Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys have to pay a trio of offensive stars this year. Amari Cooper is terrific, but he should be last on the priority list.

Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper will eventually be paid by the Dallas Cowboys. It should be in that order, as well.

Dallas is having a high-profile summer. For months, there has been the continuous contract negotiations of Prescott, and now the Cabo-fueled holdout of Elliott. In the distance is Cooper, waiting to be paid after joining the Cowboys at midseason last year.

For owner Jerry Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones, the time has come to pay up. Prescott first, then Elliott.

Prescott will easily earn the biggest deal of the trio. Assuming he comes in between Carson Wentz and Russell Wilson, the former third-round pick is looking at somewhere between $32 and $35 million annually. Dallas needs to lock in that figure before moving onto the smaller contracts, giving it cost certainty.

As for Elliott, Dallas reportedly wants to keep Elliott’s money closer to Le’Veon Bell rather than Todd Gurley. Still, one source tells FanSided that Elliott is very likely to eclipse both. Once Aug. 6 passed, Elliott lost the ability to accrue a year towards free agency. There’s no reason for him to return without an enormous deal. In fact, there’s reason not to play without one, considering he could get injured without moving towards his all-important second contract.

Additionally, signing Prescott and Elliott shows the locker room a commitment to in-house, homegrown talent. This matters to players in the NFL.

All this leads to Cooper. After investing a first-round pick in the receiver, the Jones’ are committed to the receiver. With his rookie deal expiring after this season, the Cowboys have options once Jones and Elliott are signed. They can either pay Cooper at some juncture this fall, or tag him come February. The tag will cost more on Cooper than Elliott (approx. $6 million difference), but the latter is an elite player at his position. The former is in camp and dealing with a heel injury.

If both play 16 games this season, Elliott is certain to have a monster year. Cooper should be productive, but being an All-Pro or even a Pro Bowler is far from a guaranteed.

Of course, outside factors can play a part in the timing for all three. If Julio Jones and Tyreek Hill join Michael Thomas as members of the $100+ million club for receivers, Cooper’s number only rises. The Cowboys are taking risks by waiting on any of the stars, with the risks for Prescott and Elliott outlined above.

In a normal situation, Dallas would sign Prescott soon and then work on Cooper and cornerback Byron Jones. Sign one, tag the other. However, with Elliott demanding a new deal and potentially holding out into the regular season, Cooper and Jones take the proverbial back seat as seemingly content to ride out their rookie pacts.

The Cowboys know they have a bevy of contracts coming up. The first dominoes are Dak and Zeke.

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