'Man, you're lucky': Amari Cooper 'elated' to start with Browns after trade from Cowboys
But Cooper is not taking for granted that he will become Watson’s go-to guy.
“He’s a great player. I’m a great player. We’re going to make it work by any means necessary,” Cooper said Wednesday at his introductory news conference. “But I think as far as being his No. 1 receiver, that has to be earned.
“You just can’t come out and say this is the No. 1 guy. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past. It has to be earned every day in OTAs, minicamp, training camp. I’m looking forward to going out there and earning the respect of Deshaun and allow him to say ‘I want to go to this guy. I’m confident in this guy.’ I know he’s going to come through for me, so I just have to go out there and prove it.”
A four-time Pro Bowl receiver, Cooper was acquired in a March 12 deal from the Dallas Cowboys, who sought to move him before his $20 million salary became guaranteed on March 20. The Browns traded for Watson, the Houston Texans' three-time Pro Bowl quarterback, on March 18 even though he faces 22 civil lawsuits from massage therapists alleging sexual misconduct or sexual assault.
With the NFL conducting its own investigation, Watson still faces a possible league suspension.
But after playing with Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott for nearly four years, Cooper said he was “elated” by the news that he would be catching passes from Watson.
Cooper, 27, the Oakland Raiders' fourth overall pick out of Alabama in 2015, was on vacation in Dubai when the Watson deal was announced. Cooper said there was a “huge time difference” and he was asleep when his phone started blowing up.
“My friends called me right away. I woke up, just saw a whole bunch of text messages and stuff like that. Guys were like, ‘Man, you’re lucky,’” Cooper said, laughing. “Some of my former teammates. I was like, ‘What?’ Then I checked social media, the news and found out that information.
“I was happy. I was elated.”
In his seven-year career, Cooper has gone over 1,000 receiving yards five times. He is one of only five NFL receivers — joining Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, Mike Evans and DeAndre Hopkins — to have at least 7,000 receiving yards and 45 receiving touchdowns since 2015. Cooper has 517 catches for 7,076 yards and 46 touchdowns in 108 career regular-season games.
“Coop’s been great. Very responsive to coaching,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said Wednesday. “Amari … he’s not the loudest guy in the room, but he’s very, very thoughtful, very, very intelligent. Has been productive really every year he’s been in this league, is a good teammate.
“Just watching him work there in the weight room and seeing him around his teammates, I think he’s a guy that really works hard. He’s not somebody that’s skirting around the work in any way.”
Signed to a five-year, $100 million contract extension with the Cowboys in March, 2020, Cooper will give the Browns the No. 1 receiver they lacked after Odell Beckham Jr. forced his way out of Cleveland in November. A week after acquiring Cooper, the Browns restructured his contract to create more than $15 million in salary cap space this season.
Traded by the Raiders to the Cowboys in October 2018, Cooper said he “actually loved” being in Dallas.
“I wouldn’t say I just wanted to leave, but at the same time, it’s never personal, it’s just business and that’s part of the business of being in this league,” he said. “Things like that happen all the time, players get cut, players get traded.
“There’s no player in the league who’s still in the league from 30 years ago. It all comes to an end at some point. With that said, I am excited about this new chapter, and I embrace it. I look forward to the future here.”
Cooper heard the speculation over his future in Dallas, so he wasn’t surprised by the trade.
“It’s not like back in the day. I had a coach when I was in Oakland who played wide receiver for 10 years, Rob Moore, he got traded. He didn’t even know about it because there was no social media, so guys were interviewing him and asking him questions and that’s how he found out,” Cooper said. “But it’s always something looming when you’re about to get traded or something like that, so you kind of know. So I wasn’t really surprised at all.”
Cooper said he’d met Watson before he arrived in Cleveland, but their interaction was limited to perhaps two Pro Bowls and a commercial they filmed together.
Starting over with another quarterback is just part of the transition for Cooper.
“Obviously when you come into a new environment, it feels like getting drafted all over again or feels like the first day of summer workouts in college,” Cooper said. “I’ve been in this situation before. It’s cool getting to know new people, being in a new environment, getting to explore a different part of the country that I’ve never been to.”
As for the cold weather, Cooper was greeted with snow for Tuesday’s first day of the offseason program.
“It’s football. That’s what we sign up for, it’s played outdoors,” he said. “I embrace it.”
Investing in their passing game with Cooper and three new quarterbacks, the Browns have their sights set on their first Super Bowl appearance. Cooper's teams are 1-3 in the playoffs, his only victory coming after the 2018 season when the Cowboys defeated the Seattle Seahawks in an NFC wild-card game.
Cooper is ready for the responsibility the Browns have put in his hands.
“Very exciting. I understand that that’s the reason I’m here, to help the passing game improve. And I take that on,” he said. “I feel it’s my responsibility to do that, and it’s no worry, I know what I can do. I’m excited about it. I can’t wait to go out there…. Just have to practice, just stay on top of things, to work on the tools in my tool bag to be that great wide receiver that they want me to [be].”