The Dallas Cowboys struck gold by acquiring Amari Cooper from the Oakland Raiders in a midseason trade. Jerry Jones received plenty of flak for forking over the team’s 2019 first-round draft pick to land Cooper, but the Cowboys owner and general manager got the last laugh as Cooper dominated in nine games played, registering 53 receptions for 725 yards and six TDs. The Cowboys were 3-4 before acquiring Cooper, but rolled to a 7-2 record with him in the lineup and ultimately won the NFC East to secure their second division title in three seasons. They also captured their first playoff victory in four years.
While Oakland may reap the benefits of the Cooper trade in the future, the Cowboys are already happy with their return on investment.
After adding an impact piece via trade during last season, could the Cowboys follow it up this offseason by trading for a prominent player? Let’s examine three potential offseason trade targets for “America’s Team.”
1. Cameron Brate
Adding another tight end to the mix is imperative for the Cowboys, who failed to muster ample receiving production from the position in 2018. Blake Jarwin, an undrafted free agent who latched onto the roster prior to the 2017 campaign, led the team’s tight ends in receptions (27), yards (307) and TDs (3) last season. All three of his scores came in the regular-season finale against the New York Giants when he exploded for 119 yards. Jarwin had just five catches for 32 yards in two postseason contests, indicating his performance against the Giants may have been an anomaly.
Jason Witten ended his retirement after sitting out the 2018 season, rejoining the Cowboys on a one-year, $5 million deal. But he will be 37 by the start of next season and the Cowboys can’t rely on him to dominate like he did in previous years.
Striving to attain better results at tight end, the Cowboys should look into acquiring Cameron Brate of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brate signed a six-year, $40 million extension last March, but saw his numbers take a huge dip in 2018. After totaling 591 receiving yards in 2017, Brate posted just 289 yards in 16 games last season. His teammate and fellow tight end O.J. Howard managed 565 receiving yards, despite missing the final six contests of the season, as foot and ankle injuries landed him on season-ending injured reserve following Week 11. Howard, 24, is the better and younger player than Brate, who turns 28 in July.
The Buccaneers could explore the market for Brate, hoping to rid themselves of his hefty contract, which runs through 2023. Brate has proven to be dependable in the receiving game. Even in a down season last year, he still corralled six TD receptions. In fact, he has amassed 20 TDs over the past three seasons. The Cowboys need a tight end who can excel over the middle of the field, and should make a play for Brate if Tampa Bay opts to shop the tight end.
2. Karl Joseph
The Cowboys have a dire need at strong safety. Oakland Raiders safety Karl Joseph, whose name came up in plenty of trade rumors last year, is a player worth targeting. He was selected in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Joseph was tabbed by Oakland’s previous regime and has no direct ties to Jon Gruden, Oakland’s head coach who has full control of the team’s roster management and personnel decisions.
Gruden and Jerry Jones agreed to terms on the Cooper trade last year, and the two famed football figures could gather again for another notable deal. Gruden has successfully stockpiled draft picks for the Raiders–who have three selections in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft–and may seek more future selections as he attempts to rebuild the franchise.
The asking price for Cooper turned out to be quite high. While the Raiders are unlikely to demand a first-round pick for Joseph, they won’t just give him away following the best season of his short career. Joseph finished the season as the Raiders’ highest-graded defender, according to Pro Football Focus.
#Raiders highest graded defensive players for the 2018 season:
Karl Joseph 74.5
Erik Harris 73.5
Jason Cabinda 73.5
Maurice Hurst 72.4
Johnathan Hankins 66.5
— PFF OAK Raiders (@PFF_Raiders) February 4, 2019
There’s a chance Gruden’s outlook on Joseph changed and he is no longer interested in jettisoning the 25-year-old. While Joseph was benched at the beginning of the year and saw just 11 snaps through the first eight weeks of the season, he ultimately emerged as the team’s most dominant defensive player by season’s end. Gruden could, however, opt to sell high on the strong safety, which would put Dallas into the discussion for the safety’s services.
3. C.J. Prosise
The Cowboys need to address their running back depth. Superstar Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in rushing last season, a feat he also accomplished in his rookie campaign (2016). But Dallas must lessen Elliott’s workload. He had the most rushing attempts (384) in the NFL last season and logged the fifth-most catches by a running back (77).
He also played 89.2 percent of the offensive snaps in the first 15 contests–before sitting the regular-season finale for rest purposes. Problem is, the Cowboys have not run the ball effectively without him. Backup Rod Smith averaged a paltry 2.9 yards on 44 carries for a grand total of 127 yards in 2018. The only other running back to receive a carry was Darius Jackson, who rushed six times for 16 yards in Week 17–the only contest he was active.
In search of a tailback who can ease some of the burden off Elliott, the Cowboys should go after C.J. Prosise, a member of the Seattle Seahawks’ loaded running back corps, which includes lead-back Chris Carson, 2018 first-round pick Rashaad Penny, Mike Davis (an unrestricted free agent) and J.D. McKissic. While the Seahawks have not provided any indication they are giving up on Prosise, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, the halfback could certainly use a change of scenery due to the many mouths Seattle has to feed in its backfield.
Staying healthy has been an issue for Prosise, who has appeared in only 16 of a possible 48 games. Prosise played both receiver and running back in college and has demonstrated his expertise catching passes out of the backfield when active. In his first NFL start back in 2016, Prosise caught seven passes for a team-high 87 yards and added 66 yards on the ground in a road victory over the New England Patriots. That game is practically ancient history by NFL standards, but it did illustrate Prosise’s ability to shine when healthy.
Because of Prosise’s injury history, the Cowboys won’t have to give up too much to acquire the former Notre Dame star. In trading for Prosise, the Cowboys would hope to gain a talented receiving tailback who can complement Elliott in the backfield and handle carries when called upon.