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Eagles sign Riley Cooper to 5-year deal, possibly set bar for Golden Tate contract

Tate probably wants a bit more than Cooper, but how much more will he really be worth on the open market? And should the Seahawks even be willing to pay it?


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The Eagles signed Riley Cooper to a 5-year, $25 million contract that Rotoworld called an "overpay" but said was "team-friendly." Hmm. Here's what OtC had to say:

To me what is more interesting about the deal is what this might say about the receiver market. The contract itself is very team friendly. In essence this is a two year $9 million contract where Cooper has to prove he belongs as a secondary target. In terms of annual value Cooper ranks well behind Brian Hartline ($6 million) and Danny Amendola ($5.7 million) the two who seemed to be the standard bearers for the secondary WR’s last year. His guarantees are about what Amendola received.

Rotoworld's argument was that Cooper fails to get separation and that his "ugly racial slur from last summer" would have made it "unlikely he would have been welcomed into another locker room."

That last bit seems like an "overpay of opinion."

There isn't a locker room in America that has been free of "ugly racial slurs" and I can't recall a single incident during the season where Cooper's incident was cited as a distraction in Philly's locker room. Now, some people would say that Philadelphia is a "special kind of city" but the Eagles entered the season with a black quarterback, two starting black receivers, black offensive coaches like Duce Staley and Ted Williams, black fans -- I don't think anyone is here to defend what Cooper said, but certainly forgiveness is an option and one that was clearly utilized in this case. Less than a year ago there was speculation that Cooper would be released and now he's got a five-year deal with Philadelphia.

Let's not assume that he couldn't have commanded just as much or more on the open market, or that he wasn't very productive this season.

Cooper caught 47 passes for 835 yards and eight touchdowns. He was especially productive with Nick Foles as the quarterback (wait, is that racist?) and he had 27 catches for 521 yards and six touchdowns in the final eight games of the year. He also had six catches for 68 yards and a touchdown in Philly's playoff loss to the Saints.

So, how should this effect the Seahawks?

Name Age Catches Yards TD AV
Riley Cooper 26 47 835 8 7
Golden Tate 25 64 898 5 9

Advanced Stats

Name Catch% Drops DYAR DYAR Rank DVOA DVOA Rank Missed Tackles YPC
Riley Cooper 57% 4 218 19 22% 11 4 17.8
Golden Tate 66% 3 200 25 13.7% 19 21 14.0

ProFootballFocus seems to prefer Tate, ranking him 22nd in their WR ratings (tied with Doug Baldwin and Dez Bryant) compared to Cooper at 42nd. However, FootballOutsiders ranks Cooper higher in DYAR and DVOA. They clearly both have their advantages and differences.

As noted many times here on Field Gulls before, Tate is one of the most elusive players in the NFL and he's among the league leaders in missed tackles over the last three years. He led NFL receivers in that category last year with his main competition, Percy Harvin, out for most of the year. Cooper on the other hand is four inches taller, carries more weight, and is likely a better red zone option than Tate.

But Tate is also one of the premier punt returners in the NFL and will likely carry that tag with him in the years to come. Cooper had one kickoff return last year for -4 yards. (I'm assuming an onside kick recovery or something but still, jokes are fun.)

Both players were of near-equal value over their first two years in the league. In year three, Tate had a bit of a breakout (688 yards, seven touchdowns) while Cooper remained a non-factor. In many respects they were of near-equal value in 2013, depending on what you're looking for in a receiver, but Tate is likely going to command a bit more money due to having the additional value of returning punts, being one year younger, being a Super Bowl winner (yes, this matters), and not having any off-field controversy that I can think of since DonuteGate nearly four years ago.

However, should we consider him to be that much more expensive than Cooper? I don't think so.

With all due respect, Tate is still an atypical receiver and likely won't ever fill the role of a "number one" that we've come to expect from number one receivers. Cooper on the other hand seems like he may be more likely to put up those 1,000 to 1,200-yard seasons; He was basically on pace to do so in the games with which he was paired with Foles. Yes, Jeremy Maclin is supposed to return next season (if he re-signs, which he hasn't yet) but Maclin likely is the one that needs to adjust to the rise of Cooper, not the other way around.

Seattle's number one receiving option is Harvin, and it seems like the number two is Doug Baldwin. While Tate struggled in the postseason (eight catches for 61 yards), Baldwin took over (13 catches for 202 yards.) Additionally, Jermaine Kearse had seven catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns in the playoffs and Sidney Rice should conceivably be had at a one-year "prove it" deal not unlike what Maclin is expecting in Philadelphia.

The team may want Tate to stick around, but I don't believe this gives him any leverage. I may want to send 10 OkCupid messages and get eight responses, but it doesn't mean I'll get one.

Given the reported $132-$133 million salary cap for the upcoming season, and upwards of $140-$150 million over the next two seasons, there is little reason to think that the Seahawks can't now afford Tate while also extending Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and even re-signing Michael Bennett, but it doesn't mean that they should. The money that Tate wants could just as easily go to someone else and a certain redundancy with Harvin makes it seem unlikely to me that they'll stretch to make a deal happen with Tate.

The offer I'd extend to Golden wouldn't be much different than the one that Cooper signed. They aren't very similar as players, but they are similar in several other areas, like: Production, offensive situation, and 2-3 years of being almost a non-factor until "serendipitous" production in a contract year.

A 5-year, $30 million contract with $13 million guaranteed is about what has been suggested already and I can't see now after the Cooper signing why it should go any higher than that. If Tate wants to test the open market, he can go do that, but given that we've seen the first "number two" contract signed, I don't think he's going to be any more satisfied after he talks to some other teams.

Otherwise, it's time to lock it up.