FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys bolstered the depth in their offensive line room Tuesday afternoon, as they agreed to terms with veteran guard Jonathan Cooper on a one-year deal.
Cooper was the shortest-tenured player on the Cowboys’ long list of free agents heading into the new league year. After all, he wasn’t originally signed by the Cowboys until Jan. 4 of this year – three days after the regular season finale and 10 days before the playoff loss to Green Bay.
Despite that, Cooper presents one of the most intriguing prospects on the Cowboys’ roster for 2017. The four-year veteran has endured a disappointing career to this point, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that he was drafted No. 7 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft.
The Cowboys are undoubtedly hoping Cooper can re-discover the talent that made him such a highly-regarded draft pick coming out of North Carolina. Back in 2013, the Cowboys were highly interested in drafting him, though he was selected long before they came up on the clock.
Having been selected by the Arizona Cardinals, Cooper’s career was almost immediately derailed by injury, as he broke his fibula during his rookie preseason and was sent to injured reserve.
Cooper never seemed to recapture his old form after the injury, and in 2016 the Cardinals traded him and a second-round draft pick to New England in exchange for standout pass rusher Chandler Jones. The Patriots eventually cut Cooper in October of last year, and he was claimed by Cleveland – only to be waived during the final week of the season.
Fortunately for the Cowboys, if there’s any situation that can coax the first-round talent out of Cooper, it’s probably this one. He joins the offensive line room as the fourth first-round pick in the unit. Throw in La’el Collins, who would have been a first-round pick if not for unique circumstances, and that’s five first-round caliber talents in the offensive line room.
There will undoubtedly be speculation about what Cooper’s addition means for the makeup of the offensive line. With speculation that Doug Free might retire, it’s theoretically possible that Cooper could start at guard, freeing up the Cowboys to move Collins to right tackle if need be.
Before anyone gets too worked up about that, it’s worth noting that Cooper has started just 14 games in a four-year career and appeared in just five games during the 2016 season.
For the time being, it seems fair to consider Cooper as added depth – albeit highly intriguing depth.