As Amari Cooper holds out of Browns minicamp, here’s a reminder of what has made him so great

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Over the past two seasons, Cooper has been the Browns’ most consistent threat in the passing game. Last season, the five-time Pro Bowler led the Browns with 72 receptions for 1,250 yards and scored five touchdowns. He set the Browns’ single-game receiving record with 265 yards in their regular-season win over Houston and became the first player in team history to achieve back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons.

But there’s more to Cooper. He’s his own harshest critic, a mentor in a receiver room filled with young players who idolize him. In a league known for mercurial pass-catchers, Cooper remains understated and underrated.

This was particularly evident on Tuesday, as Cooper’s absence and evident holdout became the story of the day.

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Often, when fans hear about players holding out, it’s dismissed as “diva” behavior, especially for multimillion-dollar earners. But Cooper is no diva, even in a position group often stereotyped as such.

As I wrote last year, Cooper is reserved. He enjoys discussing the mechanics and nuances of the game, which has led to some of my best interviews with him during his Browns tenure. He’s the type of player who hands the ball back to the ref after a touchdown. He’s started book clubs on his teams and plays chess in his spare time.

“I tend to believe how you carry yourself off the field translates on the field too,” receiver David Bell told last year. “He’s always looking out for us, whether it’s something big or something small, we can go to him with any problem. He’s like a big brother to us and he seems to have all the answers.

“That’s a correlation that translates to both his humility and you can see it in his play when he makes a big play. He doesn’t really do too much, just hands the ball to the official and it’s like he’s been there before.”

I’m reminding readers of this side of Cooper for a couple of reasons.

One, as he holds out, it’s important to highlight that his value goes beyond stats—which, again, have been impressive.

But in a year with so much change in the offense, and with choice routes becoming crucial, his mentorship, leadership, and reliability in the receiver room are undeniable and invaluable. He’s been there, done that, and players like Bell, Cedric Tillman, and especially Elijah Moore and Jerry Jeudy, who both hail from Cooper’s South Florida, are eager to learn from him.

And two, it’s worth moving past the assumption that this is “diva” behavior.

Skipping minicamp is a finable offense, and Cooper could lose $16,953 for missing Tuesday, $33,908 for missing Wednesday, and $50,855 for missing Thursday, totaling $101,716 if he misses all three days.

But it’s also worth examining the circumstances. The wide receiver market has exploded around Cooper, who has always been a value for the Browns at roughly $20 million a year, especially considering they only had to give up a 2022 fifth-rounder to the Cowboys to acquire him.

Earlier this month, the Vikings’ Justin Jefferson signed a four-year deal worth $140 million, making him the highest-paid receiver in the NFL and the highest-paid non-QB in the league.

The Browns have also been active in the market this year, extending Jeudy at a rate of $17.5 million a year after acquiring him in an offseason trade with the Broncos. That three-year extension is worth up to $58 million, including $41 million fully guaranteed.

Cooper is due to make $23.77 million in the final year of his contract. While he’s been remarkably consistent, he’ll turn 30 in six days, making this his last chance at a lucrative contract.

I don’t know how this will turn out. In the NFL, it’s hard for players to maintain leverage in these situations due to fines for missing mandatory practice days.

But what I do know is that Cooper has shown his value in Cleveland, and this is far from a theatrical move.