OXNARD, Calif. -- A year ago at this time, the Dallas Cowboys were in the midst of selling a wide-receiver-by-committee approach as they held a training camp without Dez Bryant for the first time since 2010. Meanwhile, Amari Cooper was up the California coast with the Oakland Raiders.
It took only seven games for the Cowboys to realize their error and trade for Cooper. All he did was help turn around the season and make it to the Pro Bowl.
Now the Cowboys are doing what they can to make sure Cooper is a long-term fixture like Bryant was in becoming the team's all-time leader in touchdown receptions.
The price will be high, and the Cowboys have already given up a first-round pick to the Raiders just to get Cooper. On Wednesday, Cooper was enjoying his first off-day of training camp when he happened upon social media and saw that the New Orleans Saints had signed wide receiver Michael Thomas to a $100 million extension that included $61 million guaranteed.
"It was a big contract, yeah," Cooper said after Thursday's walk-through. "I mean, good for him."
And it could be good for Cooper, too. He is set to earn $13.9 million on the fifth-year option of his rookie deal, and the Cowboys have had talks with his agent, Joel Segal, who visited camp this week.
Will Thomas' deal impact Cooper's?
"I mean, I don't know if it will," Cooper said, before casually adding, "Hopefully," to a round of laughter from the reporters surrounding him.
As much as the newfound wealth would affect Cooper's family for generations to come, he is the last person to be caught up in the back-and-forth of the talks. He told Segal he does not want a play-by-play of the discussions. When the deal is close or even done, then he wants to know.
"Yeah, I'm just not anxious about the contract," Cooper said. "For some reason, it's just not on my mind. I'm more interested in about just playing football."
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett says he did not notice any contract talks affecting Cooper in the offseason program, and that has continued through three padded practices of training camp.
"He wants to make sure he's doing everything he can to get himself right to be the best player he can be," Garrett said. "Obviously, there's a business side of football. We all understand that, but his focus is what he needs to do on the field to get better. I think he's embracing the opportunity to be with us through the offseason and through training camp to lay the foundation. Obviously, he was very impactful for us last year, but that was half a year coming midyear."
Cooper caught 53 passes for 725 yards and six touchdowns in nine games with the Cowboys. He was added as an alternate to the Pro Bowl. He had two games with at least 180 receiving yards, including a 10-catch, 217-yard, three-touchdown game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys were 3-4 without Cooper but 7-2 with him.
If he could do that with limited work, imagine what he could do with more time.
"I'm still getting acclimated and comfortable on that," said Cooper, 25. "It's a lot I can learn and get better at -- that's why I'm here."
There is a lot the Cowboys can still learn about Cooper. While they moved him around the formation some following his acquisition, the plan is to do more with him this season. So far in camp he has lined up everywhere, including at least once in the backfield.
"I like to be moved around a lot because the defense can never know or expect me to be in just one place," Cooper said. "They can't really key on me. I can be freed up."
Cooper and quarterback Dak Prescott have used the offseason to improve their chemistry, spending time together in July in San Diego for workouts. In camp, Cooper said, almost all of Prescott's passes in his direction have been completions, although there was one time he slipped and another time when cornerback Chidobe Awuzie broke up the throw.
If the expectations of what type of contract he will receive are high, so are the expectations for the season.
"Amari can do whatever he sets his mind to," receivers coach Sanjay Lal said. "He's that gifted. Not just physically but mentally. With Amari, it's can he do everything at an elite level? That's where the mind discipline comes, because he has the talent to be elite in every aspect of his game."
It is that same mind discipline that helps him avoid discussion about his contract or anybody else's contract.
"I mean, I don't follow it," Cooper said. "I just have social media so it follows me."