When the Cowboys were unable to land Sammy Watkins in free agency in March and released Dez Bryant in April, the team made a decision to go with a committee of receivers to get the job done.
Their belief in the committee lasted seven games.
The Cowboys aren't giving up a first-round pick for Cooper to be part of a committee. The Cowboys hope he develops into a Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Terrell Owens or Michael Irvin, who served as the Cowboys’ No. 1 receivers for the bulk of Jerry Jones’ tenure as owner and general manager.
The Cowboys had hoped Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Deonte Thompson, Tavon Austin and Michael Gallup would be enough to make up for the absence of Bryant. Beasley is the only receiver with more than 13 catches this season, leading the Cowboys with 33 receptions for 350 yards and two scores.
Williams is on injured reserve -- and suspended -- because of a foot injury. Hurns had his best game of the season Sunday against the Washington Redskins but has 13 catches for 158 yards and a touchdown. Thompson has not made an impact and struggled making contested catches. Austin is out for multiple weeks with a groin injury but is not an every-down receiver.
Gallup has shown the most promise, with a 49-yard touchdown against Washington, but he is prone to rookie mistakes.
When Jones arrived in 1989, he had Irvin already on his roster and saw him develop into the heartbeat of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl teams of the 1990s and a Hall of Famer.
Until this season, Jones has had a fondness for No. 1 receivers.
Jones gave the Seattle Seahawks two first-round picks in 2000 for Joey Galloway, who was hurt in his first game and never had a 1,000-yard season for the Cowboys.
In 2004, Jones traded for Keyshawn Johnson, who had 1,820 yards and 12 touchdowns in two seasons in Dallas.
In 2006, he signed Terrell Owens, who topped 1,000 yards and had at least 10 touchdowns in each of three seasons in Dallas.
In 2008, he gave up first-, third- and sixth-round picks to the Detroit Lions for Roy Williams, who produced 75 catches for 1,126 yards and 12 touchdowns in two full seasons in Dallas.
In 2010, he traded up in the first round to draft Bryant, who averaged 932 yards and nine touchdowns in eight seasons.
With the passing game struggling mightily this season, the calls for the team to re-sign Bryant grew louder -- but never really from inside the building. Jones went so far as to say on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas that it would not be in the Cowboys’ best interest to bring back the franchise leader in touchdown catches.
On Monday, Jones made another move for a No. 1 receiver.
Cooper is just 24. His production has fallen the past two seasons and he had just 22 catches for 280 yards and a touchdown in the first six games with the Raiders. The Cowboys will hold the fifth-year option on Cooper’s contract next year for nearly $14 million.
Cooper's ledger includes good and bad stats, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
He's catching 73 percent of his targets this season.
In the two games during which he was targeted at least 10 times, he had at least 100 yards receiving.
He has been used inside and outside with 31 percent of his routes coming from the slot.
He has been targeted on only 15 percent of his routes this season, which is the fourth-fewest for receivers with a minimum of 30 targets. He has had just two targets on 28 routes in his past two games.
His 22 career drops are third-most since he entered the league in 2015.
He has only six targets of 15-plus yards this season, which is tied for 83rd in the league.
In preparing to play against Cooper last season, Jason Garrett called him a “great football player.”
“Obviously, highly regarded coming out, and not a surprise to anybody who’s studied him that he was going to be this good this quickly,” Garrett said. “Really a complete player. Does everything you would ask a receiver to do. Great route-runner. Got great speed, quickness, acceleration. Can catch the ball, run after the catch. He’s just a really good football player. Well trained at Alabama, obviously, but transitioned smoothly and doesn’t surprise us one bit that he’s been the impact player that he’s been over the first couple years.”
The Cowboys now need Cooper to do what the committee couldn’t.