GLENDALE, Ariz. — Early in Cardinals coach Bruce Arians’ daily press briefing Sunday, he was asked when left guard and No. 7 overall draft pick Jonathan Cooper would start falling behind amid ongoing contract negotiations.
“Last week,” Arians replied.
It was only minutes later that Arians was “extremely pleased and happy” to announce that Cooper and the Cardinals had agreed to terms on a four-year contract.
“I just got word that Jonathan Cooper is done and is on his way,” Arians said after being handed a note from the team’s head of media relations. “He still missed time, but I’m a lot happier now.
“We’re excited to have him in and run the conditioning test … in front of the whole team.”
The Cardinals did not disclose terms of the deal, but the No. 7 overall pick is slotted at $14.5 million. Cooper was one of three first-round picks unsigned entering Sunday, with cornerback Dee Milliner of the Jets and guard Chance Warmack of the Titans being the others.
“We are very, very excited to come to terms with Jonathan,” general manager Steve Keim said. “Through the evaluation process, we thought he was a phenomenal talent. We were excited to add him to our football team.
“Early on, indications you get from rookies most of the time can have variances from good to bad. Early indications on Jonathan Cooper through OTAs and minicamp have been outstanding, almost to the point where I would say better than advertised.”
Cooper won’t make his training camp debut until Monday afternoon. He was en route to Phoenix on Sunday morning, and once he arrives he will have to take a physical and put pen to paper to make his deal official. He’ll then have to do the conditioning test, probably on Monday morning.
Cooper will have missed three practices. It was Cooper and agent Todd France who eventually flinched in negotiations with the Cardinals, not getting language they sought that would have allowed Cooper to make all his guaranteed money from the Cardinals in addition to new salary from another team were the Cardinals to cut him during his first three seasons.
“Once (draft pick Nos.) 1, 3, 4 and 6 made their decision, it made all of our decisions a little easier,” Keim said. “I think it comes down to a game of chicken half the time, and teams are waiting on each other and seeing who will bluff first or who will jump first. But in this case, we’re just glad it was only a few days before he agreed to the terms.”
Arians said Cooper won’t spend two days practicing in shorts, rather jumping right into practicing with pads. Arians was obviously not pleased that Cooper missed the start of camp due to a dispute over language in his contract, but he’s comfortable with Cooper getting started right away after participating in OTAs in the spring.
“He got a zillion reps,” Arians said.
Added Keim: “He’s a sharp kid. He’s already picked up the majority of our playbooks. There’s obviously a few wrinkles he’s going to have to make adjustments on, but we don’t feel that ‘Coop’ is going to be far behind at all.”
The 23-year-old Cooper, a consensus All-American at North Carolina last season, should immediately strengthen the offensive line, which has not impressed Arians so far.
“I’m very disappointed right now with the play up front,” Arians said. “Way too many mental errors. The physical part we’ll start seeing this afternoon.
“We’ve got to get better, and I think they’ve got enough pride that they’re going to fix it.”
Both tackle position on the offensive line are up for grabs, with Levi Brown and Nate Potter battling on the left side and Eric Winston and Bobby Massie on the right. Cooper figures to start at left guard, while veteran Daryn Colledge is slotted to start on the right side.