It was easy to claim the Cowboys overpaid while the Eagles got a bargain back at the trade deadline. Now, a month later, it’s painfully obvious Dallas made the better deal.
The circumstances surrounding the trades may seem like ancient history but remain relevant because the Eagles were reportedly in discussions to acquire Amari Cooper, offering the Raiders a second-round draft pick for the two-time Pro Bowl selection. The Cowboys were willing to send a first, and the Eagles wound up with Golden Tate from the Lions for a third.
The Cowboys gambled. But they landed the far better player, not to mention somebody who was a better fit for their team — and suddenly are the clear favorite to win the NFC East.
Just how much better was the Cowboys’ move? The numbers aren’t even close. Cooper already has 30 receptions for 424 yards and three touchdowns in five games, which projects to a line of 96/1,357/9 over a full season. Tate is only three games in with the Eagles, but 11 catches for 97 yards and no trips to the end zone is still minuscule by comparison.
Yet, the disparity shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. The Cowboys desperately needed a wide receiver — they had nothing, certainly nobody in the mold of a No. 1. The Eagles, on the other hand, had far greater needs than another pass-catcher with Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor already on hand, and even if upgrading the receiving corps was a priority, they needed a vertical threat, not a possession receiver.
Nothing against Tate, who finished with at least 90 receptions and 1,000 yards receiving in three of the previous four seasons. He’s an excellent slot-type, good at working short and intermediate depths, great at picking up yards after the catch, incredibly tough.
Cooper is a game-changer. People forget because his last season-and-a-half in Oakland were miserable. The two years prior, his rookie and sophomore campaigns, the former fourth-overall draft pick averaged better than 14 yards per reception with over 1,000 yards in each. Beyond stats, his ability to spread the field commands extra attention from defenses. Watch Cowboys opponents double-team Cooper or shade a safety to his side and how dramatically that's opened up the entire offense in a short period of time.
Was it a costly trade? Absolutely. But Cooper is 24 and under contract through 2019, even if his deal requires renegotiating. He’s 6-foot-1 with 4.4 speed and tons of upside. And the Cowboys had all of the other pieces in place to compete this season — a dominant defense, an All-Pro running back and a franchise quarterback who needed help. It was well worth the risk.
The Eagles gave up less, and they got less — a 30-year-old impending free agent who’s a redundancy in their offense, on a team depleted by injuries. Sure, Tate was inexpensive by comparison. That doesn't mean it was a wise decision.
There’s simply no denying the Cowboys are getting the better end of these deals so far and almost certainly won the trade deadline. The only confirmation that’s left is an NFC East title.
They're well on their way.
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