Amari Cooper

Ex-Raiders guard Kelechi Osemele calls Amari Cooper trade 'the dagger'

Ex-Raiders guard Kelechi Osemele calls Amari Cooper trade 'the dagger'

The 2018 NFL season was rough on former Raiders guard Kelechi Osemele.

On the way to a 4-12 record, head coach Jon Gruden brought about significant change to Oakland's roster, particularly through two major trades involving two of the most talented players on the team.

Prior to the start of the season, defensive end Khalil Mack was shipped to the Chicago Bears in exchange for a bevy of draft picks.

A couple weeks later, the fire sale continued, as standout receiver Amari Cooper was traded to the Dallas Cowboys for a 2019 first-round pick.

Losing Mack was hard enough on the veterans still on the roster. But the subsequent trade of Cooper increased the pessimism within the locker room.

"It was so unbelievable, it would have been like if an alien had landed on the field," Osemele recalled on Bleacher Report's The Lefkoe Show. "People were just shocked, like what the hell is going on right now."

Osemele went on to reveal that the trade was never communicated directly to the players despite occurring during practice.

"That for sure was like the dagger," Osemele said of finding out Cooper had been traded. "You could feel it. Like, people were talking about it in the locker room, like, 'Yo, I guess they're like really rebuilding.' You just, like, knew at that point."

[RELATED: Report: Amari Cooper has 'shockingly high' contract demands]

The Raiders slogged to a 4-12 finish, tied for the worst record in the AFC. Several of the picks they received in exchange for Mack and Cooper were put to use during last month's draft, and the players they used those selections on will play a major role in ushering in Gruden and new general manager Mike Mayock's renewed vision for the team.

Of course, Osemele won't be a part of that vision. He was traded, along with a sixth-round selection to the Jets back on March 9 for a 2019 fifth-round pick. 

Osemele will get his first opportunity to face his former team when the Raiders play at the Jets in Week 12.

NFL rumors: Ex-Raider Amari Cooper has 'shockingly high' contract demands

NFL rumors: Ex-Raider Amari Cooper has 'shockingly high' contract demands

Amari Cooper fit the logo on his helmet after being traded from the Raiders to the Cowboys last season. The wide receiver simply turned into a star in Dallas. 

The 2015 first-round draft pick hauled in 53 receptions for 725 yards and six touchdowns in nine games with the Cowboys. He even added 13 receptions and a touchdown in two playoff games. Through six games as a Raider in 2018, he was a completely different player. 

Cooper only had 22 receptions for 280 yards and one touchdown for the Silver and Black last year. Sometimes a change of scenery is all a player needs, but a hefty bank account helps, too. 

To remain with the Cowboys when he becomes a free agent after the 2019 season, Cooper's contract demands have been "deemed shockingly high," Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort-Worth Star Telegram reported on Tuesday. Hill also states the Cowboys recognize the floor of Cooper's contract should be at least $16 million per season. 

This begs the question, would you rather pay Amari Cooper the big bucks or shell out for new Raiders receiver Antonio Brown? 

The Raiders acquired Brown from the Steelers in March for a 2019 third-round draft pick and a 2019 fifth-round pick. They also immediately gave Brown, who turns 31 in July, a new three-year contract worth more than $50 million.

While he's now in his 30s, there's a strong argument that Brown has been the best wide receiver in football for the past six seasons. Since 2013, he has 686 receptions for 9,145 yards and 67 touchdowns. Brown's also made six straight Pro Bowls and was named a first-team All-Pro four times in the last six years.

Cooper, six years younger than Brown, has been highly inconsistent throughout his career. He's shown his star power with both the Raiders and Cowboys now, but is yet to establish himself as a top pass-catcher in the league. But with his age and natural talent, that could happen sooner rather than later. 

[RELATED: Brown, Carr building rapport in Raiders' offseason program]

The Raiders turned Cooper into the No. 27 pick in this year's draft, which they used on safety Johnathan Abram. They also completely overhauled their receiving corps with Brown and Tyrell Williams, among others.

Negotiations between Cooper and the Cowboys will be worth watching for Raiders fans, especially if Brown and quarterback Derek Carr find an instant connection this season.

Jon Gruden: Khalil Mack trade catalyst for Raiders' big 2019 offseason

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AP

Jon Gruden: Khalil Mack trade catalyst for Raiders' big 2019 offseason

PHOENIX – The Raiders spent big in free agency, and acquired superstar receiver Antonio Brown without sacrificing significant draft capital. They still have all four picks in the top 35 of the 2019 NFL Draft, positioning themselves to expedite a long-term rebuilding process if they acquire the right talent.

That wouldn’t be possible without Khalil Mack.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden traded the All-Pro edge rusher for a compensation package including two first-round picks. And, you know, they didn’t pay out boatloads of cash.

The trade was widely panned – criticism came strong and steady from this website – because Hall of Fame talents simply aren’t dealt. They’re drafted, developed, re-signed or franchise tagged until production dips.

The Raiders took a different tact. Before rebuilding the roster, they stripped it to the studs. Gruden doesn’t look back at the decision with regret, and doesn’t care what people think about it now.

He’s primed and ready to use the assets acquired to improve a deficient Raiders roster.

“I don’t have time to think about who thinks it’s right or wrong,” Gruden said Tuesday at the NFL owners meeting. “We didn’t have much of a choice. If we did come up with the money we’re talking about (to pay Mack), we would not have the men we’re talking about now. We would not have Trent Brown. We would not have Antonio Brown and Lamarcus Joyner or Vontaze Burfict or Tyrell Williams.

"We would not have any of them. We would not have the three-first round picks that we’re talking about. You have to consider all of it and digest it for yourself.”

That’s a hefty comment to digest, and one that’s partially true. The Raiders certainly could’ve paid Mack, and acquired high-priced talent in free agency. But they couldn’t have done as much, and time will tell if what they acquired with Mack-trade assets were worth a significant loss.

It wasn’t something Gruden envisioned doing when returning to the Raiders, but he believes it necessary to attain and sustain success.

“I’m not going sit here and say that I didn’t cry for three days,” Gruden said. “I wanted to coach Mack, and Mack knows that. I wish him the best. But we have a lot of work to do with this football team. That trade allowed this acquisitions that we’re talking about today to even happen.”

[RELATED: Raiders' decision on Lynch likely made after NFL draft]

The Amari Cooper trade played a part in this as well. The Raiders moved him to the Dallas Cowboys for a first-round pick, and didn’t have to pay him huge sums in this offseason -- or the next.

Gruden absorbed short-term pain for possible long-term gain. Those are tough choices that can be made with Gruden’s unprecedented job security. There’s no worry of being fired two years into a 10-year deal, and working with an owner in Mark Davis committed to letting him run the show.

The Mack and Cooper trades can't be graded just yet, which is why they remain talking points today. A's or F's are coming soon, as the Raiders turn salary-cap space and draft picks into a foundation for sustainable success.

“We made some trades people didn’t like last year, but it was all part of the assembly process,” Gruden said. “It’s painful to lose Jared Cook and Kelechi Osemele and Mack and Cooper. It’s painful and I hate it. It’s part of the assembly we have decided upon, one that we believe gives us the best chance to win. We needed the free agents we signed. We need these draft choices. We have to keep building and keep digging and we’ll get what we deserve in the end.”