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Cowboys 2022 Free Agents: Who Stays & Who Goes?

While the Cowboys are still licking their wounds from Sunday's untimely playoff exit, many are already turning their attention to the upcoming draft and . Dallas has numerous players with expiring contracts in 2022, making for potentially high roster turnover in a critical offseason.

There's plenty of room for debate on who the most important of the upcoming free agents is. On pure talent, most would defer to WR Michael Gallup and DE Randy Gregory as the top players from each side of the ball.

But if you factor in positional need based on the players still under contract for 2022, Gallup's value takes a hit with and already in place.

Meanwhile, guys like and Jayron Kearse suddenly become more significant without any clear replacement options on the roster.

There will be plenty of time for those conversations in the coming weeks and months.

For now, let's just look at this by position and see how many players the Cowboys could be looking to replace.

Running Back — Corey Clement

Third-stringer Corey Clement showed some good things in limited carries, spending most of the year rightfully buried behind Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard.

He also returned kicks and worked on coverage units, playing the third-most special teams snaps on the team.

Clement's work on special teams makes him an attractive candidate to return next year. However, he only got the job in 2021 after was lost to .

Assuming Rico is on track to return next year, Dallas may let Corey look for work elsewhere.

Wide Receiver — Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson, Noah Brown, Malik Turner

Dallas may have Cooper and Lamb locked up for next year but you can't say that for the rest of the WR Corps. The next four names on the are all unrestricted free agents in 2022.

Obviously, the first concern is Gallup.

He's arguably had the most chemistry with Dak Prescott of any receiver since he joined the team. Unfortunately, Gallup is now looking for a new contract within months of a devastating late-season ACL injury.

Complicating matters is Cedrick Wilson, who is also a .

Dallas could operate just fine on offense next year with Wilson as WR3 but, after flashing his talent plenty of times over the last few years, Cedrick may finally get bigger opportunities elsewhere in the league.

has been around a lot longer than most would've expected from a former 7th-round pick.

He's lasted this long on his niche abilities as a blocker and special teamer but never really became a factor on offense.

The new prospect du jour, Malik Turner, had a couple of nice moments this year but probably not enough that Dallas would trust him as their third receiver.

Still, I could easily see him brought back to compete and provide depth.

Tight End — Dalton Schultz, Jeremy Sprinkle

Since Blake Jarwin's week 1 injury in 2020, has been taking advantage and emerged as one of the more productive tight ends in the NFL.

He's hitting free agency with momentum and could quickly soar out of Dallas' price range.

Thankfully, Jarwin still has two years left on his deal and is a solid Plan B for 2022.

Dallas also has Sean McKeon as an intriguing TE2 prospect for next year. But if the Cowboys are more interested in keeping Schultz, then they could save $4 million of Jarwin's $6.25 cap hit by releasing Blake and allocating that money toward keeping Schultz.

Jeremy Sprinkle was a low-cost veteran addition last year for blocking and special teams purposes.

If the team likes him then they can probably re-sign him easily, or they shouldn't have to work hard to replace him.

Connor Williams
G Connor Williams

Guard — Connor Williams

Connor Williams, the most-penalized player on the league's most-penalized team in 2021, is a huge question mark this offseason.

After high marks for his development in 2020, Williams failed to sustain that momentum and even got himself benched during the season as Dallas assessed Connor McGovern's potential.

Williams eventually got his job back due to McGovern struggling but still enters free agency without much leverage.

I expect Connor to not be re-signed as the Cowboys make the offensive line a focus of the offseason, but the lack of in-house options does leave him a little hope.

Offensive Tackle — Ty Nsekhe, Mitch Hyatt

Neither of these guys is consequential to next season.

Ty Nsekhe was a band-aid this year, both for health issues with the unit and for Terence Steele's issues playing on the left side.

The Cowboys have bigger concerns with the declining health and performance of their starting tackles and neither Nsekhe nor is in a position to help there.

Hyatt, as only an Exclusive Rights Free Agent, will probably return as a camp body.

However, I expect we'll see bigger moves and investments at offensive tackle this year that will make him and even Nsekhe irrelevant.

Defensive Tackle — Carlos Watkins, Brent Urban

Both of these veterans will have a hard time getting new deals with the young core of talent Dallas has assembled at defensive tackle.

Having Neville Gallimore, Trysten Hill, , and all signed up for 2022 makes these older players expendable.

Randy Gregory Eats on Thanksgiving vs Washington
Cowboys DE Randy Gregory

Defensive End — Randy Gregory, Dorance Armstrong

Randy Gregory has been waiting a long time to get a real NFL payday and it may finally be here. He also may be the most likely candidate to get the franchise tag from the Cowboys in 2022, provided they can afford to pay it.

Gregory is the biggest x-factor of this free agency bunch.

He's only 29 and has low mileage after his past suspensions. But the rest of the NFL knows this and will be in hot pursuit.

Dallas is going to have to get creative with the cap to keep him.

The fiscally conservative move might be to let Gregory go and hope for a nice compensatory pick, then re-sign .

While he doesn't pose the same level of threat to opposing offenses as Gregory, Armstrong did show up this year and could remain a solid pass-rushing option at a much lower salary.

Linebacker — Keanu Neal, Leighton Vander Esch, Luke Gifford, Francis Bernard

Neither Keanu Neal nor did enough this year to feel safe now.

While there's no shame in being lost in ' shadow, the veterans didn't capitalize on his presence or pass-rushing duties.

Vander Esch did pick up his game late in the year, ending it with an exclamation point in a strong performance against the 49ers. But after Dallas chose not to pick up his 5th-year option and made 2021 a “prove it” year, it's hard to say that the former first-rounder proved enough.

Neal was an intriguing player this year as a former safety converting to linebacker, but the play-making ability just wasn't there.

A second season in the new role could do him good, and two bouts with COVID during the year certainly didn't help matters.

and are both solid depth players and special teamers who could easily be brought back. Luke is a and Bernard is an ERFA, making his return almost a given.

Cornerback — Maurice Canady

After some hype during training camp as one of the team's top corners, Canady never really materialized in the regular season and eventually went out with a concussion in Week 6.

Cornerback is one area that Dallas appears set for 2022 and I imagine Canady will be looking for work elsewhere.

Cowboys' Jayron Kearse Ready for Matchup With 49ers Tight End George Kittle
Cowboys S Jayron Kearse

Safety — Jayron Kearse, Malik Hooker, Damontae Kazee

Jayron Kearse walked in and became the team's best safety and even a defensive leader in 2021.

His value may be affected by the return or departure of as , but he's done everything he can do to earn a new deal with the Cowboys.

and Damontae Kazee are less secure in their positions.

They got outshined by Kearse and have younger prospects like and Israel Mukuamu already under contract.

They'll likely have to accept less lucrative deals to stick around.

Punter — Bryan Anger

Bryan Anger didn't just provide an upgrade at punter this year; the veteran made the and gave Dallas one of its best punting seasons in a long time.

The Cowboys will likely bring him back as long as his big season doesn't drive his price up too high.

Long Snapper — Jake McQuaide

had a clean season as the new long snapper and helped Bryan Anger accomplish big things.

I expect Dallas will keep him in place with a new deal and focus their attention on and the kicking woes.

Jess Haynie
Jess Haynie
Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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Jeff Tuggle

The only thing clear or significant about Williams is his time is over in Dallas. If not then the front office deserves what it gets. Urban was on a low cost deal and needs to be brought back. He’s been consistently good against the run in his career. And the only run stopper Dallas has. Gallimore is certainly not a run stopper and Osi while just a rookie struggled there and is undersized does have room for improvement. As for Canady, that was a smoke screen from the organization just as with Nashon Wright. Looking good against people now working at Home Depot is different that lining up against real NFL talent. Canada is at best a 5th corner on most any squad. And Wrigt has shown nothing. Except for inept, unaware play on special teams. What a 3rd round pick…no talent, average at best athletic ability, and little feel for the game.

Mike r Croft

Come on man, that play on special teams could happened to anyone.

Xavier

Your assessments on these players seem spot on.

Anthony Little

Randy gets franchise bring back Kearse Gallup ced Wilson keep Dalton and neal get rid of Connor he freaking flat out sucks need to get new linemen dak d law Amari better redo their contract so everybody else can come back

94Cowboy

Overpaid Zeke, Overpaid Dak, Locked up 75% of salary cap in only 7 players… now cowboys are flat broke and will be outbid for Gregory, Gallup, CWilson, Schultz, VanderEsche and Kearse…. hired washed up Mike McCarthy and built a stadium thats a DUD….. thats all

vincent maldonado

get rid of jerry jones and all his family and put some one who knows what needs to be done, jerry is DONE stupid old man,its all about him and his greed fuk him

Justin

I think you can tier the guys together based on how you want to resign them.

Tier 1(Must Re-Sign)
Gregory, Kearse, Anger

Tier 2(Luxury but not necessity)
Schultz, Armstrong, Neal, LVE, Hooker, Kazee, Gallup, Wilson

Tier 3(Take it or Leave it)
Williams, Turner, Brown, Sprinkle, Nysekhe, Watkins, Urban, McQuaide

Tier 4(Easily replaceable)
Clement, Hyatt, Bernard, Gifford, Canady

Daddy Francis

Tell dak take a pay cut

Jack Kennedy

50%

lonewolfz28

Let’s see:
Clement – Agreed. And in addition to what you mentioned, they have Ito Smith and JaQuan Hardy on the PS. They also have Ralston and Olonilua returning at FB/Power RB that could help fill his role.

At WR – Mostly agreed, but I have a higher opinion of Turner’s ability to step up to #3 if needed. I would absolutely love for them to re-sign Wilson, with the standard disclaimer, at the right price. Gallup would be nice on a lower, prove your health, type deal. But, I think he ends up riding out most of FA while getting healthy and then signs a nice deal somewhere at the start of camp for someone very WR needy. We also have Brandon Smith who looked good in limited flashes off the PS and Vasher who was stashed on IR so he’d have a chance to develop. There’s also Fehoko who will likely step into the Brown role.

TE – Agreed, plus we’ll have Ralston and Olonilua who may step into an H-Back role. As for blocking, they seem to love their extra OL as blockers inline and in the backfield. I just don’t see the need for a dedicated blocking TE like Sprinkle. Would absolutely love to retain Schultz, even if it meant trading Jarwin. Probably wouldn’t get much, but with as many holes as we’ll likely have, every pick and dollar freed up counts.

G – I disagree on the lack of in-house options to replace Williams. I posted a long breakdown on the OL in another article. Basically, I’d move La’el back to LG and let him compete with McGovern, Farniok, and possibly even Alarcón. Make Steele the starter at RT.

T – Agreed.

DT – Agreed, although I’d try to re-sign one or both at a reasonable price as Bohanna still needs improvement and none of the rest are very good against the run. We don’t have much waiting in the wings as run stoppers either. Ideally, if Quinn takes a HC job, we’ll get a DC that places a little more value in a big run stopper or two on the DL.

DE – There is no way I would tag an unreliable DE like Gregory. He’s always been about “potential”. He has proven that his biggest potential is to do something boneheaded at the worst possible time. Let him walk and enjoy the 3rd or 4th round comp pick in 2023. As for Armstrong, agreed.

LB – Agreed on all counts.

CB – Yup. I was one of the people with higher hopes for him. I was wrong.

S – Agreed. Hooker was a big disappointment. Kazee is a gambler that loses more than he wins. Let him follow Quinn again.

P – Pretty sad that the only player deserving of a game ball in the wild card game was the punter. Would love to see him back, if the price is right. If not, Niswander was stashed on IR and is a very good Plan B.

LS – Yup. But, he wouldn’t keep me from bringing in an UDFA for competition since he is 34, after all.

Can’t wait for an article on possible cap casualties. Currently, $21.3M over per Spotrac, $23.1M per Over The Cap.

melissa Smith

do NOT lose Dan Quinn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! it is all down hill if that man leaves the cowboys…..also……the head coach MUST GO. soryy pal…. please learn how to use 14 seconds on a time clock!!!! YOU LOST THAT GAME NO MATTER HOW YOU TRY TO SPIN IT! YOU, YOU, YOU LOST THAT GAME

Timothy king

I like your analysis, however I’m gonna throw my 2 cents in after reading all the comments. I think the 2 must signs now that Quinn will be back are Kearse (even though I had huge hopes for Donovan Wilson after his 2020 season) but Kearse just did everything we could ask for out of a SS and should have been a pro bowler. However it’s nice to know we still have Wilson under contract after seeing what he can do in 2020. The other one imo is Dalton Schultz. Dak ain’t going anywhere and the connection him and Schultz have made over the last 2 years has been incredible. Then in the next tier I would go Gregory and Gallup. I love Gregory, but he’s 29 and most likely will be looking for that big contract knowing that most people don’t break the bank after the age of 30, and idk if we can afford that, and if not I’m happy knowing we will get a 3rd or 4th for him. And Gallup of course for obvious reasons, however I think a team will end up giving him a pretty big contract that we can’t compete with. And of course I want Angler back, but idk enough about punters and their contracts. After that I would want Ced Wilson back for the right price, but like you said, we could easily fill that wr3 void via FA or draft. And at LB I’m happy letting them all walk knowing we will have Cox coming back healthy. And for the love of all things good please let Connor Williams Walk, lol. If McGovern can’t fill his shoes we could get a 3rd or 4th rd pick or a cheap veteran to take his spot. He’s got talent, but those penalties…. Or move Collins to LG and start Steele at RT. It’s gonna be a tough off-season given the status/uncertainty and contracts of Tyron Smith , Collins, Zeke, etc… And for the people talking about the last play, yes, dumb mistake. However that didn’t cost us the game, their were many other moments that did. Even if he would have got the snap off we would have needed a miracle play. So I’m not putting to much stress into that. I’m not gonna lie, would have LOVED to snag Sean Payton, but Jerry said it won’t happen, but a man can still dream, lol. As for all the other players they are expendable and for the right price (veteran minimum) I wouldn’t mind bringing back Watkins, Brown, Turner, Clement, Armstrong and maybe throw in Gifford.

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