Lost in the Jalen Ramsey trade, the retirement rumors around Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford, and the questions of what Aaron Donald thinks about all of this, is perhaps the guy who remains the most valuable member of the Los Angeles Rams as of March 14, 2023. The 2021 Offensive Player of the Year. The Super Bowl MVP. The best day two or three draft pick on Les Snead’s resume. The one who helped McVay look like even more of a genius by exceeding all expectations as a rookie in 2017. And the highest paid player on the entire roster in 2023.
Has anyone checked on Cooper Kupp?
For all the insanity that is L.A.’s “Run It...Where?” campaign, Kupp has remained mostly silent. And why not?
The Rams signed Kupp to a three-year, $80 million contract in 2022 with enough money to guarantee that he’ll be respected among his peers for at least a couple more seasons. Kupp’s $27.8 million cap hit in 2023 ranks second behind only DeAndre Hopkins at $30 million, and Hopkins is going to be traded at any moment. That trade should include a contract re-do to bring down his cap number, leaving Kupp alone at number one.
Assuming, of course, that nothing changes for Cooper Kupp. You know what they say about people you Les-sume things...they get third round picks for Jalen Ramsey.
Happy to see so many guys earning what they have worked for!— Cooper Kupp (@CooperKupp) March 14, 2023
Les Snead has cited Stafford, Donald, and Kupp as “weight bearing walls” on the organization who won’t be going anywhere. Let’s take him for his word on that.
Even if we believe Snead, that doesn’t mean that we avoid asking the question, “Isn’t Cooper Kupp the most valuable asset on the entire roster?”
On Tuesday, the NFL’s top-ranked free agent receiver, Jakobi Meyers, signed a three-year deal with the Las Vegas Raiders. Yes, you heard that right..the top receiver on the market was Jakobi Meyers.
Hopkins will be traded and rumor has it that Brandin Cooks would like to be next. Last offseason, there were stunning trades of Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams that went unpredicted until the news broke. There are some rumors swirling also around Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy in Denver.
Meanwhile, the Jets reportedly won’t trade Elijah Moore, even if they do sign literally any receiver to appease Aaron Rodgers—a list that as of Tuesday morning included Allen Lazard, OBJ, and Randall Cobb.
The Cowboys restructured Michael Gallup to assure he won’t leave, and the Saints re-did the deal of Michael Thomas to assure that he won’t leave either. There are receivers in the draft, a crapshoot that could lead to anything.
Just ask Cooper Kupp.
In 2017, the Titans picked Corey Davis fifth, the Chargers took Mike Williams seventh, and the Bengals took John Ross at nine. That was a run on top-10 receivers like we rarely see. It took until Zay Jones at 37 and Curtis Samuel at 40 for the next two off the board, then not another until JuJu Smith-Schuster at 62.
Then it was five picks into the third round that Snead chose Cooper Kupp over the likes of Taywan Taylor, ArDarius Stewart, Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, Chad Williams, and Amara Darboh.
Today, Kupp has more than 650 more yards than Godwin, almost 1,100 more yards than fifth rounder George Kittle, and nearly 2,000 more yards than Mike Williams. Davis is almost certain to be the odd man out if and when Rodgers gets to New York. And somewhere on a distant track field, you can still feel the wind blow off of John Ross’s 40-yard dash.
If he were on the trade market, Kupp’s value would be immense. A player who transcends scheme and immediately elevates any quarterback who he plays with at a time when there are few options available even trusted to start. Though he missed eight games last year with a high ankle sprain, Kupp’s injury history isn’t worrisome and to what degree he would have been able to return to a good team will forever be a mystery.
There is no reason to trade Kupp for cap reasons—$3.4 million in savings this year, $9.7 million next year—so we can rule that out. Ramsey likely forced his way out because he wanted more money. Kupp just signed a massive contract less than 12 months ago. He seems comfortable. The only reason to entertain any talks would be if a team was offering a top-20 first round pick. Last year, the Titans got pick 18 for A.J. Brown, the Ravens got pick 23 for Hollywood Brown, the Chiefs got pick 29 in a package for Tyreek Hill.
But then the Rams would not have Kupp. It’s a real question how that team would get anyone to watch next season. We saw how bad things got in the second half of last season. It would have major implications on McVay and Stafford on offense. It just wouldn’t make any sense without a really good return and most importantly, Kupp’s blessing and request to make a change.
Until that happens, the Rams have to avoid exploiting a weak receiver market. And ultimately to give Kupp whatever he wants as a goodbye, whenever that time comes.