The Cowboys are in a tough spot this offseason at wide receiver. Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson are both free agents, potentially wiping out the depth behind starters Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. With huge cap relief potentially gained from Amari’s contract, should Dallas consider releasing Cooper in a two-for-one deal to retain Gallup and Wilson?
As you probably know by now the Cowboys’ salary cap situation in 2022 isn’t pretty. Over The Cap currently has Dallas at about $21.5 million over next year’s cap, meaning restructures, releases, and even letting talent walk away will all be part of the team’s upcoming offseason business.
While Cooper and Lamb as your starting wideouts is a great place to start, the departures of Gallup, Wilson, Noah Brown, and Malik Turner would essentially empty the rest of the position. Dallas would be left with Simi Fehoko, who only appeared on seven offensive plays and had no passes thrown his way, and some practice squad guys as candidates for WR3 and other backup roles.
The overall pictures at wide receiver and the rest of the roster is going to force the Cowboys into some tough decisions and strategic moves. One idea that’s been floated around is releasing Amari Cooper to clear $16 million in cap space and then using that money to re-sign Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson; retaining two key receivers for the price of losing one.
From a purely financial perspective this could work out. According to Spotrac, Gallup’s estimated market value in free agency is around $11.8 million per year and Wilson’s is $6.4 million. With the first year of contracts generally having the lowest cap hits, keeping both at market value should come out fairly close to the $16 million you’d get back from cutting Cooper.
So yes, the math makes sense. But would it ultimately be the smartest way to handle the issue and the best thing for Dallas on the field?
A huge factor in this is Gallup’s late-season ACL injury. Injuring it in Week 17, Michael just had surgery on it in early February and will likely miss most if not all of the offseason work. Returning for the preseason is the current projection but any recovery setbacks could quickly impact the real games.
However, if Gallup’s fully healthy in 2022 then he and CeeDee Lamb would also be a great starting duo. Whereas Amari’s chemistry in the offense with QB Dak Prescott has at times been questioned, Gallup has proven the last few years to arguably have the best connection with Prescott and has been his favorite target in clutch moments.
Cedrick Wilson has been an exceptional depth player for Dallas in recent seasons. He’s proven he can step up when injuries have pulled him up into the top three. Having him officially take over as WR3 wouldn’t be a scary proposition.
Still, Amari Cooper is the most talented WR in this conversation and arguably on Dallas’ roster. He’s a four-time Pro Bowler and turns just 28 in July. He’s a top-notch route runner with the most reliable hands on the team; a weapon that Prescott and Kellen Moore need to do a better job of utilizing.
Another option Dallas has is to restructure Cooper’s contract, clearing about $12.6 million in cap space and keeping Amari in house for at least next year and probably longer. The Cowboys probably wouldn’t be able to keep both Gallup and Wilson at that point but could aggressively pursue one of them.
The Cowboys are reportedly committed to keeping Gallup next season. But that commitment seems rather hollow if it also means losing Cooper; robbing Peter to pay Paul in terms of your overall talent at receiver.
The three-headed monster of Cooper, Lamb, and Gallup has been Dallas’ best offensive advantage the last two years. Their goal this offseason should be preserving it and bolstering other parts of the offense, retooling the offense line and making sure they still have a tight end who can capitalize on the opportunity.
Every championship team usually has a component of the roster that gives them a competitive edge over most, if not all, of their fellow 31 teams. For the 2022 Dallas Cowboys, maintaining their strength and depth at wide receiver is where they can most easily outshine their NFL brethren.
That means finding a way to keep both Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup on the roster, not sacrificing one for the sake of the other.