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Amari Cooper skips first day of minicamp, as he enters last year of contract

BEREA — Amari Cooper has been to five Pro Bowls, including last season when he was 10th in the NFL with a career-high 1,250 receiving yards. He’s due to make $20 million this season, the last of a five-year contract, and his salary ranks tied for 20th among receivers.

Cooper was a no-show Tuesday for the first day of mandatory minicamp as he seeks an extension. His agent, Chafie Fields, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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Coach Kevin Stefanski said the absence was not excused and there’s been a dialogue with Cooper’s camp. General manager Andrew Berry spent part of practice talking to owner Jimmy Haslam.

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“You really have to focus on the guys that are here,” Stefanski said. “These situations, I understand that they do come up. I’ll really leave all of that between Amari and Amari’s agent, AB and those type of conversations.”

Because Cooper is under contract, he’s subject to automatic fines for skipping mandatory minicamp, per the collective bargaining agreement. The maximum fine for the first day is $16,953, with $33,908 for the second day and $50,855 for the third day. The total for the three-day camp would be $101,716.

Notes: Jerry Jeudy misses minicamp practice with injury

Training camp is scheduled to start in late July, and the fines would continue if he held out. He also skipped the voluntary organized team activities ahead of minicamp.

Cooper will turn 30 on Monday. He had 72 catches, five touchdowns and a career-best 17.4-yard average last season despite playing with four starting quarterbacks.

The Browns traded for him during the 2022 offseason when the Cowboys no longer wanted to pay him $20 million a year. The Browns needed a No. 1 receiver and anticipated the wideout market exploding.

They were right.

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Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson last week signed a deal worth $35 million a year. Philadelphia’s A.J. Brown ($32 million), Miami’s Jaylen Waddle ($28.25 million), Houston’s Nico Collins ($24.25 million) and Indianapolis’ Michael Pittman Jr. ($23.3 million) also signed extensions in the last few months to pass Cooper.

The Browns also spent big money at the position, acquiring Jerry Jeudy from the Broncos in a March trade and quickly signing him to a three-year, $52.5 million extension.

Quarterback Deshaun Watson said Cooper deserves to be in the conversation for the top receiver in the league.

“He’s the best in the game, and I believe that,” Watson said. “He shows it each and every year. He shows it the last two years with different quarterbacks, so I think you’ve got to put him up there, if not the best.”

Cooper has been fantastic on the field and as a team leader in his two years with the Browns. He has 150 catches for 2,410 yards, a 16.1 average and 14 touchdowns.

In his nine-year career, he has 667 catches for 9,486 yards, a 14.2 average and 60 touchdowns.

Watson has grown close with Cooper.

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“Amari is our brother, our teammate, we support him and the decisions that he’s got to make for himself is on Amari,” Watson said. “But everyone in this locker room respect him and know exactly what he’s about, and whenever he gets back, he’s going to be ready to go.”

With an overhauled coaching staff remaking the offense in the offseason, Watson was asked what he and Cooper are capable of together.

“There’s no limit. There’s no sky for us,” he said. “We can be as good as we want to be, and that’s going to start with the work.”

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Cooper played in tight end David Njoku’s celebrity softball game Saturday in Eastlake but didn’t talk to reporters.

Watson said he will host throwing sessions between minicamp and training camp and expects Cooper to be on the receiving end of his passes.

“Oh, for sure,” Watson said. “Me and Amari, we talk all the time. We go different vacations together, things like that. So me and him are super tight with all the other receivers and guys, too, so he’s always around us.

“He was here this weekend with us and we had a good time seeing him.”

Berry was asked at the owners meetings in March about a potential extension for Cooper.

“Coop’s a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver,” he said. “He’s played really well for us the past two years. He’s a strong presence in the locker room. We love him. So players like that, you want to make sure that you can retain as long as possible and we’ll work through all of that at the appropriate times.”

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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