The Dallas Cowboys should have the league's best trio of receivers for at least one more season in 2021. But with last year's backups both free agents, that leaves depth issues that the team must address as our Position Preview series continues.
Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb; it just doesn't get better than that. Unless Gallup gets used in a trade this offseason this top-three will be back in 2021 and probably better than ever. Between Gallup playing in a contract year and Lamb's second-year development, opposing secondaries will be even more challenged than last season.
But as we also saw in 2020, injuries can smash even the best-laid plans. All it takes is a few bad plays for a luxury to turn into a liability, and that's why the Cowboys can't afford to ignore the rest of the WR depth chart.
2021 Wide Receiver Contract Statuses
- Amari Cooper
- Michael Gallup
- Stephen Guidry
- Jon'Vea Johnson
- Chris Lacy
- CeeDee Lamb
- Aaron Parker
- Free Agents
- Noah Brown (U)
- Malik Turner (R)
- Cedrick Wilson (R)
U = Unrestricted, R = Restricted, E = Exclusive Rights
The 4th and 5th receivers from 2020, Cedrick Wilson and Noah Brown, both have expiring contracts. Brown will be an unrestricted free agent with his rookie deal completing, and Wilson will be restricted as he's only played three NFL seasons so far.
Wilson's original rookie contract ended when the Cowboys made him one of their final cuts in 2019. He was re-signed later that season.
Though they only had 17 and 14 catches each in 2020, Wilson and Brown are now experienced players who've filled specific roles. Cedrick was also a return man and showed he could make an impact with his two receiving touchdowns in Week 3 against Seattle. Brown was also heavily involved in special teams and is a proficient blocker from the WR position.
The other free agent receiver, Malik Turner, had some offensive experience from his days in Seattle. However, Turner only worked on special teams in the six games he played for Dallas last year.
If those players exit this offseason, Dallas' remaining backup receivers are woefully inexperienced and unproven.
Only Chris Lacy, with three catches in 2019 for Detroit, has any regular-season playing time. Jon'Vea Johnson and Aaron Parker have only seen preseason and practice squad action, while Stephen Guidry opted-out of his rookie year under the COVID-19 policy.
So yeah, the Cowboys have some moves to make at receiver.
Given their limited exposure to the rest of the NFL so far in his career, Cedrick Wilson and Noah Brown could probably be re-signed for minimal cost. Dallas could also try to use Wilson's RFA status and give him the original draft pick (6th round) tender to keep him one a one-year deal.
However, getting Wilson signed up through at least 2022 would be a smart move on multiple levels. Not only does is he quality depth and an option in the return game, but he could provide insurance against Michael Gallup's free agency year.
Of course, Cedrick Wilson isn't the only option to accomplish these goals. Dallas could look at any number of potential bargain free agents, or they could spend a mid-round draft pick to add depth now and prepare for Gallup's likely departure.
We've seen Dallas spend 4th-round picks in the past on guys for this kind of role, such as Ryan Switzer, Isaiah Stanback, and Skyler Green. If they perceive immediate value in the return game and future potential on offense, the Cowboys may very well go that way in 2021 to replace Wilson.
It's always easier to find help the further down the depth chart you go. The Cowboys have the luxury in 2021 of not worrying about their top three receivers and only needing to use limited resources to fill out the position.
Cedrick Wilson and Noah Brown are certainly replaceable. But Dallas probably won't be able to do it with existing talent based on what we know of them.
That means some kind of moves, either re-signing these players or adding new ones, should be an item on their offseason to-do list.
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Other Cowboys 2021 Position Previews
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