Why Darius Slay is bad news for Amari Cooper and the Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles made a big move to acquire Darius Slay, which is very bad news for Amari Cooper and the Cowboys.

After missing out on Byron Jones and Chris Harris Jr. in free agency, the Philadelphia Eagles pivoted quickly to acquire cornerback Darius Slay from the Detroit Lions.

They’ve also made slay the highest-paid corner in the league, with a three-year, $50 million deal ($16.67 million average, usurping Jones’ deal with Miami).

Slay had a relatively down year in 2019, as he battled a hamstring injury off and on and wound up missing two games. But he is a rare corner who travels all over the field with an opponent’s No. 1 wide receiver, both outside and in the slot.

In his first game against the Eagles last year, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper had five receptions for 106 yards (21.2 yards per catch). He didn’t do as well in the second game against Philadelphia (four catches for 24 yards in Week 16), perhaps as a nod to being a little banged up, but Dak Prescott targeted him 12 times in that game.

The Cowboys signed Cooper to a five-year, $100 million deal this week. But as a practical matter it’s a two or (fairly likely) three-year commitment, with his 2022 salary guaranteed for injury at signing and becoming fully guaranteed on the fifth day of that league year.

Purely based on past matchups, the Eagles found the perfect target to become their No. 1 corner.

A small sample of two games is definitely worth noting, as is Cooper’s general inconsistency as he regularly faces the opponent’s best corner. But the difference in his numbers over five games against the Eagles in his career (four as a Cowboy, with at least 75 yards three times) and the two against Slay when he was a Lion are striking.

The Eagles were significantly in on Jones, and they were one of many suitors for Harris. But the front office was surely looking closely at Slay, with a good idea what he has done to shut down Cooper. Cooper’s positive impact on Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott since arriving in a trade from the Raiders has been significant.

Philadelphia needed a No. 1 corner, independent of any other factors in play on who it had on its radar. Assuming they didn’t sign Cooper themselves, and he didn’t land elsewhere outside the NFC East (Cooper reportedly turned down an offer from Washington), finding someone who can neutralize the Cowboys’ top wide receiver surely became a factor.

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Limited as they might be, the numbers say Slay is up to that task in a significant way.

For the next three years, that’s bad news for Cooper, Prescott and the Cowboys.

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