Jason Garrett defends Cowboys trading first-round pick for Amari Cooper

The Dallas Cowboys made a trade and criticism quickly followed.

Now, the team is defending its decision to ship its 2019 first-round selection to the Oakland Raiders for receiver Amari Cooper.

“Well, obviously it's a big decision,” head coach Jason Garrett said Tuesday in a radio interview on 105.3 The Fan. “We talked about it a lot, at all levels of our organization. I do believe we've done a good job selecting guys in the first round and they’re cornerstone players on our team. And we really believe that Amari can be that kind of a guy.

“Again he's 24 years old. He has a lot of ability to play his position. We believe he’s the right kind of guy. We think he has a bright future. The value for a player like that at his age, that's really what it costs you. It costs you a first-round pick.”

In particular, critics have pointed out that Dallas had a chance to draft receiver Calvin Ridley – whom the Atlanta Falcons eventually selected with the No. 26 selection – when the team had the No. 19 pick and instead opted for linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who has been an instant contributor.

Cooper is a two-time Pro Bowl selection who excelled in his first and second seasons but has been inconsistent over his last two years as the Raider offense has struggled.

“If we were to get him in the draft next spring, you would say: ‘Boy, is there any receiver who is as good as a guy like Amari Cooper?’ ” Garrett continued. “He’s not 28, 29, 30. You're not paying for a guy for what he's done for the past six, seven, eight years for another team. We feel like he has it in front of him and he can really benefit our team going forward.”

So far through six games in 2018, Cooper has caught just 22 passes for 280 yards and one touchdown.

Dallas has the NFL’s 29th-ranked passing offense with just 183.1 yards per game.

“Your numbers can be a function of what the environment is and how the team is playing in general,” Garrett said. “He's not a perfect player, nobody is. There are certainly areas where he can improve. But there are so many positives about him.”

Cooper, who was the the No. 4 pick in 2015, is set to make $13.9 million in 2019 after Oakland exercised his fifth-year option before the season.

Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.

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