DALLAS â The Dallas Cowboys made a bold move for the present on Monday, trading a first-round pick for Oakland receiver Amari Cooper in Raiders Coach Jon Grudenâs latest play for the future.
The Cowboys gave up their top pick in the next draft in hopes of giving quarterback Dak Prescott another weapon just a few months after releasing Dez Bryant, the franchiseâs touchdown-catch leader, in a cost-cutting move.
Dallas (3-4) has struggled to score points while losing all four of its road games, including a 20-17 loss Sunday at Washington. Cowboys receivers have not made many big plays in their first season without Bryant and the retired tight end Jason Witten, the club leader in catches.
The Cowboys decided Bryant was not worth $12.5 million in 2018 after three subpar seasons since he signed a big contract following his only All-Pro year in 2014.
Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie said Stephen Jones, the Cowboysâ executive vice president of personnel, had called last week to say he would check in on Cooper on Monday and offered the first-round pick that the Raiders were holding out for before making a deal.
Cooper was the fourth overall draft pick by the Raiders out of Alabama three years ago. He started his career with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and had two 100-yard games this year but has had just two targets and one catch since the second of those games.
Cooper, who is 24 â five years younger than Bryant â was placed in the concussion protocol after leaving Oaklandâs last game against Seattle on Oct. 14.
Dallas receivers have just one 100-yard game combined through seven games, by Cole Beasley in a Week 6 victory over Jacksonville. The Cowboys are going into their bye week, and the Raiders are returning from their break to face Indianapolis at home Sunday.
For Gruden, dealing his most accomplished receiver does not compare to the preseason trade that sent the two-time All-Pro pass rusher Khalil Mack to Chicago. But it is another example of the Raiders (1-5) looking to the future.
Oakland figures to have a good shot at the No. 1 overall pick in 2019 and now has three first-rounders with the Cooper trade.
âThis is where we get a great opportunity to build,â McKenzie said. âWeâve got pieces now, but we can really rebuild on what we have. With this group, the coaches that Iâve got here, knowing where weâre heading schematically on both sides of the ball and special teams, weâre going to build this thing. Weâve got the ammunition to build this thing really well.â
Cooper is the third receiver who has started his career with back-to-back seasons with 1,000 yards receiving and 70 catches, following Odell Beckham Jr. and Marques Colston, but he has been unable to build on that success the past two years.
He has just 70 catches for 960 yards since the start of 2016 as his inconsistency has become a bigger problem. Cooper has been held under 30 yards receiving in 13 of his last 26 games. Cooper has 3,183 yards and 19 touchdowns in three-plus seasons.
The Raiders have now dealt two key pieces away from their 12-win 2016 team and appear to be in rebuilding mode now.
âItâs disappointing,â McKenzie said. âReal disappointing. It was starting to get that way last year when we somewhat took a nose dive, but I understand the N.F.L., the system will not allow you to keep them all.â
This is not the first time Jerry Jones, the Cowboysâ owner and general manager, has made a big trade for a former top-10 pick at receiver, and the other two attempts did not go well.
In 2000, Jones sent two first-round picks to Seattle for Joey Galloway before the first of three straight 5-11 seasons. Galloway, drafted eighth over all by the Seahawks in 1995, did not have a 1,000-yard season in four years with the Cowboys.
About this time 10 years ago, the Cowboys got Roy Williams from Detroit for three draft picks, including a first-rounder. His first full season with Dallas was his best, with 596 yards receiving and seven touchdowns.
The Cowboys made the playoffs once in two-plus years with Williams, in 2009, when they won their first postseason game since the last of five Super Bowl victories following the 1995 season. Williams was drafted seventh over all by the Lions in 2004.