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Dallas Cowboys Full of Questions, Concerns at Wide Receiver

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys WR Position

Leading up to the March 9th start of NFL free agency, we will be looking at all Dallas Cowboys players under contract for 2017 and how much of the salary cap each position is taking up.

Previous Articles: SPECIAL TEAMS | RUNNING BACKS | SAFETIES | TIGHT ENDS | LINEBACKERS | GUARDS & CENTERS | DEFENSIVE TACKLES | OFFENSIVE TACKLES | DEFENSIVE ENDS | QUARTERBACKS | CORNERBACKS

Cowboys Capology: Receivers

The receiver group is arguably the toughest for the Cowboy's 2017 salary cap. Dez Bryant alone counts $17 million; the highest cap hit after Tony Romo of any player. They are also about to lose Terrance Williams and Brice Butler, creating holes that have to be filled. That's even more money Dallas will need to spend at an already expensive position.

Before we dive into the specifics, let's look at the NFL's 2017 salary cap. The league announced that the cap would be set at $167 million for the upcoming season. Even though this is still a $10 million increase from last year, it's a few million short of what many were projecting.

Confirmed 2017 Salary Cap = $167 million
Cowboys 2016 Cap Rollover = $2.4 million

Dallas Cowboys 2017 Salary Cap = $169.4 million

Now, using that number as our foundation, let's look at how much the Cowboys' receivers are scheduled to cost against the 2017 salary cap.

Dez Bryant, Lions

WR Dez Bryant (Tim Heitman - USA TODAY Sports)

Dez Bryant

2017 Cap Hit: $17 million

With the biggest cap hit in the entire NFL for his position, Dez has a lot to live up to on the field. 2016 was overall a down year for the franchise receiver; a mix of big and quiet games. The big change at quarterback certainly contributed, but seven NFL seasons have clearly taken a physical toll on Bryant as well.

Dallas could free up a lot of cap space by restructuring Bryant's contract. However, as I wrote about last month, there is tremendous risk in modifying Dez's deal based on his slowly declining play and injury issues. Even with about $12 million to potentially gain from restructuring Dez, the Cowboys need to strongly consider preserving their future flexibility to move on from Bryant if needed.

For now, the Cowboys have to hope for the best with Dez.  They will hope that better health and a full offseason with Dak Prescott as the starting quarterback will allow Bryant to return to franchise form next year.

Cole Beasley

2017 Cap Hit: $4 million

After leading the Cowboys in catches and yards last year, Beasley has emerged as one of the best salary cap bargains on the roster. He has replaced Jason Witten as the team's "security blanket" receiver, showing a great chemistry with Dak Prescott in 2016 in critical moments.

Not only does Beasley' own modest contract help our cap, but his big role in the passing game relieves any pressure to spend big on free agent Terrance Williams or his replacement. Dallas can afford to wait for a bargain, or perhaps use a draft pick, because that player will not have heavy expectations right away.

Lucky Whitehead

WR Lucky Whitehead

Lucky Whitehead

2017 Cap Hit: $618k

Is trouble brewing for the Cowboys' current return man? When Dallas signed a return specialist in January, we speculated as to what this meant for Whitehead's future. He is certainly not guaranteed to return.

Still, Whitehead has a minimal cap hit, versatility, and experience. With other holes to worry about in their receiving group, I expect Dallas will retain Lucky at least through the preseason. He will likely be fighting for his job, though.

Andy Jones

WR Andy Jones (Paul Spinelli via AP)

Andy Jones

2017 Cap Hit: $465k

The undrafted free agent was one of the stars of Cowboys training camp but failed to live up to that hype in the preseason. Jones had a few drops and did nothing to challenge for a roster spot. After a year on the practice squad, he returns and has at least one Cowboys insider projecting that he will be a factor in 2017.

Bryan Broaddus on Twitter

I believe drafting and Andy Jones are a priority. https://t.co/A1E4mVHcDA

While counting on Jones to be one of your top three receivers isn't realistic, hopefully he's developed enough to replace Brice Butler at the fourth man.

Shaquelle Evans

2017 Cap Hit: $540k

A 4th-round pick by the Jets in 2014, Evans missed his rookie year with a shoulder injury. He was waived at final cuts the following season and then spent the year on the Jaguars' practice squad. He did not make final cuts with Jacksonvile either, eventually spending about a week with the Patriots.

It's unknown what's stopped Evans from impressing teams so far in his career. The Cowboys will hope that he can gain some traction in their training camp this year, as roster spots are definitely available in Dallas.

Quincy McDuffie

2017 Cap Hit: $465k

As was said when Dallas signed McDuffie several weeks ago, his experience as a returner could be trouble for Lucky Whitehead. He led the nation in kickoff return average as a senior in college and led the Canadian Football League in kickoffs last year. Given his limited projected upside as a receiver, special teams appears to be the focus in his joining the Cowboys.

Uzoma Nwachukwu

2017 Cap Hit: $540k

Undrafted in 2013, "E.Z." spent two years on the Texans' practice squad. He has since bounced from the Dolphins to the CFL to the Seahawks. Dallas signed Nwachukwu, a Texas native and former Aggie, to a futures deal last January.

Brice Butler, Packers

WR Brice Butler

Free Agents

Brice Butler - Some thought that Butler would have a breakout year, especially once Dak Prescott became the starting quarterback. However, Butler's production dropped steadily and he was barely a factor in the offense. There is no reason to think that he'll return.

Terrance Williams - I wrote last week about how this year's crowded free agent market at WR might keep Terrance with the Cowboys. I think Dallas would be fine with him to keep the same place in the offense going forward, but only if his salary is commensurate with his supporting role. They are certainly not going to get into bidding war to keep Williams around.

2017 Salary Cap Impact

Total Receiver Cap Hit = $23.6 million
Percentage of 2017 Salary Cap = 13.95%

Whether or not the Cowboys do anything with Dez Bryant's contract is the biggest question. They could free up close to $12 million by restructuring him but have to think about the future as well. Right now, with only about $9 million cap space, Dallas may not have any option but to restructure Dez.

The next question is how much they will spend to replace Terrance Williams. While he was only the fourth option in the offense last season, Jason Witten and Dez Bryant are both on the decline. The next receiver we add may need to be able to step into a bigger role, especially if Bryant has one of his routine injury issues.

Coming off rookie deals, neither Williams or Brice Butler cost the Cowboys much more than the league minimum last year. Re-signing Williams or replacing him will mean a significant salary increase at the WR2 position.

The good news is that there will be plenty of options out there in free agency, which should help to keep the market price low. Dallas may be able to get a veteran like Kenny Britt or Torrey Smith for about $3-4 million per year.

The rest of the WR depth chart will likely be filled out with rookies or guys like Andy Jones. Dallas might bring in one more veteran on a minimum contract for insurance, but he would be competing with the young guys for a roster spot.



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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2 Comments
  • Travis Diggs

    I think it’s time to get faster in the receiving core and that includes the tight ends(especially the te’s). We have to let Terrance Williams, Brice Butler, and Whitehead ALL walk There are Alot of options in the draft and Free agency. I seen a rumor mill talking the cowboys are interested in Desean Jackson and Kenny Britt, Jackson isn’t even close to our price range and Britt is probably a upgrade over Williams but I’m looking at Zay Jones in the second round We could definitely use a upgrade in the receiving core and I hope its coming

    • Jess Haynie

      “We gotta get speed. Demon speed. Speed’s what we need. We need greasy, fast SPEED!”

Dallas Cowboys

5 Winners from Dallas Cowboys OTAs and Minicamp

John Williams

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Cowboys en Español: Caras Nuevas, ¿Tenemos Cornerbacks?, Adiós Ware
James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys have completed the offseason part of their practices and are now eyeing the start of training camp in Oxnard, California on July 26th. The offseason stuff doesn't necessarily show what a team thinks about a player near as much as training camp, so I won't look at any losers because these practices have varying personnel at times.

That being said, there certainly were some winners during the offseason.

1. Jaylon Smith, Linebacker

Every day removed from his injury in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl is another day closer to potentially seeing the All-American linebacker that would have been a top-10 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

With the knee injury, there's always been some doubt about Jaylon returning to that level of play, but as offseason practices wore on it was becoming clear that he's much healthier and much more mobile than he was in 2017.

Both of those things are strong signs in the right direction for the third year pro.

After sitting out his rookie season to rehab and then having some good moments and some really bad moments in 2017, it sounds like he's making progress to be a difference maker in 2018.

During OTAs and minicamp sessions that were open to the media, Jaylon was seen running with the first-team defense every time they took the field. Now, some of that is due to the Cowboys limiting the snaps of veteran All-Pro Sean Lee and rookie first round pick Leighton Vander Esch, who came up with a sprained ankle, but the fact that Smith's snaps weren't limited should only be seen as a good sign.

We still have a long way to go until the Dallas Cowboys strap it on for their week one matchup with the Carolina Panthers, but Jaylon Smith is on an excellent trajectory.

Anyone with a Clear, Eye, View can see that.

2. Anthony Brown, Cornerback

One of the bigger surprises during the offseason practices so far has to be Anthony Brown, and not Jourdan Lewis, running with the first team nickel defense.

Jourdan Lewis proved he was a really good corner in his rookie year, both in the slot and on the outside, while Anthony Brown struggled at times. Knowing that new Defensive Backs Coach and Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard prefers his corners to be tall, long, and strong has led to some speculation that Lewis may not be a fit in Richard's scheme.

That's certainly a possibility. The more realistic possibility is that Brown, with more seniority, was getting the opportunities first as is often the case with Jason Garrett coached teams during the offseason.

While Brown is a pretty good slot cornerback in his own right, this might only be temporary.

Understanding Cowboys Remaining Offseason "To-Do List"

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

3. Michael Gallup, Wide Receiver

As I read reports from OTAs and minicamp practices, one thing that stood out is that Michael Gallup was winning and winning a lot.

When asked in a mailbag who had been building the best rapport with Quarterback Dak Prescott, Bryan Broaddus from DallasCowboys.com had this to say:

"Bryan: That’s a great question. The guys that come to mind for this [sic] me are Michael Gallup and Blake Jarwin. Those guys have found ways to generate space and have been reliable catching the ball when it’s thrown in their direction."

Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com

Just a few days earlier Broaddus stated that Cole Beasley and Gallup were the only ones getting open with any consistency.

Now, it's still early and it's padless practice, but that's an encouraging sign for the third round pick out of Colorado State.

Typically it takes a year for wide receivers to adjust to the NFL game, especially with how much press coverage is played by NFL defensive backs. One of the byproducts of Kris Richard's existence as the defensive backs coach is that they're playing more press coverage. He's teaching his DB's to be more aggressive and more physical at the line of scrimmage.

For Gallup and the rest of the wide receiver group, that can only help them as they get ready to face opposing defenses. One way to disrupt timing-based routes or an offense that relies on separation and yards after the catch is to disrupt the receiver at the snap. Every practice, these guys are working to beat the press.

As a rookie wide receiver, this can only benefit Gallup -- in particular -- as that will be a big transition from college where defenses are playing off the line of scrimmage against the countless number of spread offenses that exist.

The fact that he's already winning reps during practices against some pretty good corners is a great sign for the Dallas Cowboys.

He may not be a starter in this offense right away, but I doubt it takes long before he's cemented himself in three and four wide receiver personnel groupings.

4. Chaz Green, Guard

I'm sure you aren't a fan of seeing Chaz Green's name anywhere near a "winners" list. As bad as the Atlanta Falcons game was for him, we can't ignore the fact that Green got a lot of first team repetitions during OTAs and minicamp while Zack Martin negotiated his contract extension.

Either that means the Dallas Cowboys haven't given up on their third round pick from 2015 or they're trying to get as many practice snaps out of him as possible to be able to make a clearer decision regarding his future with the team.

Getting to play with the ones is encouraging, but he still has a lot to prove during training camp to keep a spot on the roster. Green's going to get a long leash as a former premium draft pick. We'll see if he takes advantage of it.

5. Jihad Ward, Defensive Tackle

Maliek Collins hurt his foot -- again -- and David Irving was dealing with off the field stuff -- again -- leaving Jihad Ward with a lot of opportunities to play against the first team offensive line as the three-technique defensive tackle.

On June 4th, I asked Bryan Broaddus from DallasCowboys.com who his biggest surprises on offense and defense were during OTAs:

Bryan Broaddus on Twitter

Cedrick Wilson and Jihad Ward https://t.co/kgcgJkTj3U

If Broaddus is encouraged by Ward's progress, I am too.

He's going to have a lot of opportunity to get a strangle hold on the 3T defensive tackle spot with Maliek Collins not set to be back until late in training camp, and David Irving suspended the first four games of the 2018 season.

The Dallas Cowboys liked Ward coming out of college and had him just behind Maliek Collins on their 2016 NFL Draft Big Board.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

There's still a lot of practice reps that have yet to take place, but the Dallas Cowboys have gotten some encouraging contributions from these players. As we look to training camp, who will you be watching to see if the stand-out and can make the Dallas Cowboys 53-man roster?



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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Roster: Who Are the “Best” Players on the Bubble?

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Roster: Who Are the "Best" Players on the Bubble? 1

It may still seem very far away, but the days of NFL clubs holding 90 players on their roster are numbered. By September 1st, each team will cut down to 53 players, thinning the roster following training camp. For the Dallas Cowboys, this is surely going to leave some talented players off the 2018 squad, as the team is once again entering Oxnard with a deep group.

We all have our "pet cats" that we'll root for to make the roster however possible. Be it a wide receiver like Noah Brown, now stuck behind a wave of new pass catchers, or a cornerback like Marquez White, the roster crunch for the Cowboys will come at a cost to some.

Forecasting exactly where the team will "go long" and where they'll be short on numbers is hard to predict without the team back on the field, but here is my initial look at some players that Cowboys Nation may have to move on from.

Cowboys Roster: Who Are the "Best" Players on the Bubble? 2

Dallas Cowboys CB Marquez White

Cornerback Marquez White

Previously in this offseason, I wrote about how Cornerback Anthony Brown may be one of the Cowboys better all-around players to miss this year's cut. With a strong showing in front of new Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard at OTAs and mini camp, Brown feels well on his way to earning a spot with the Cowboys, leaving Marquez White in a precarious situation.

White spent his rookie season in Dallas on the practice squad, a sixth round pick out of Florida State. Sliding in the draft because of his rawness as a prospect, White has the ideal size and length to play anywhere in Richard's defense if given the chance.

Getting this chance may come difficult to White though, as Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie are slotted to start on the boundary for the Cowboys at cornerback. Not as well suited to compete in the slot against both Brown, Jourdan Lewis, and Duke Thomas, White's time with the Cowboys could be limited.

Moving on from White would be an important vote of confidence in the rest of the secondary for the Cowboys. Teams around the league would waste no time recalling their initial draft grades on White to potentially add the CB to their roster.

Defensive End Charles Tapper

The Cowboys have very much so built their roster with a "what have you done for me lately?" type approach, and for Charles Tapper this answer is disappointing. Constantly dealing with injuries since entering the league in 2016, Tapper has appeared in two games and recorded one sack.

Tapper couldn't escape this year's offseason program without another setback, suffering a concussion that kept him out of workouts. Even without assuming that the Cowboys add a reinstated Randy Gregory to their roster, the team is prepared with more proven options at right defensive end.

Rookie Dorance Armstrong, FA signing Kony Ealy, and last year's first-round pick Taco Charlton are all capable of playing this spot. Doing so with more availability than Tapper may be all this group needs to earn their spot over the third-year draft pick out of Oklahoma.

Cowboys Roster: Who Are the "Best" Players on the Bubble?

Guard Marcus Martin

Yesterday here at Inside The Star, I wrote about how the Cowboys potentially keeping more offensive linemen compared to recent years could be bad news for the team's tight ends. Logically, this also means that some of the Cowboys embarrassment of riches on the OL will be looking for a new job.

With starting experience as a member of the 49ers, Marcus Martin was brought in as insurance for the departed Jonathan Cooper, prior to the Cowboys drafting Connor Williams. With Williams expected to start immediately at left guard, Martin has a long way to go in holding his spot over the likes of Kadeem Edwards and Damien Mama.

The Cowboys value Edward's swing ability, although Martin is capable of lining up at center along with guard. At any interior position, he may have more experience and skill than Mama, but if the Cowboys feel certain about their five starters they can afford to keep a cheaper player like Mama compared to Martin.

A free agent signing like Martin not making the Cowboys roster would only solidify the team's status as the best OL in the game, with Offensive Tackle Cam Fleming being their other veteran FA signing.

Running Back Bo Scarbrough

Bo Scarbrough and the Dallas Cowboys is a fun concept, but it may be just that as the roster trims in Dallas. The star running back out of Alabama fell all the way to the Cowboys final pick in the seventh round at this year's draft, joining Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and now Darius Jackson in a loaded backfield.

Scarbrough stands out as a back with true power and finishing ability, but he'll have to do so on special teams to justify a roster spot. Simply playing as a short yardage back won't be enough for Scarbrough to survive in a RB room full of complete play makers, yet still reliant on a true workhorse back.

Wide Receiver Deonte Thompson

When the Cowboys drafted both Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson, they created a logjam at wide receiver. Through competition, the team is hoping their best five/six receivers for Dak Prescott to throw to will reshape this offense.

The latest signing as an outside receiver with over-the-top speed, Deonte Thompson was brought in by the Cowboys in free agency via the Buffalo Bills.

Thompson's ability to impact a game with this speed is enough for him to secure a spot in Scott Linehan's offense. Without a strong showing in camp and the preseason though, its realistic to see Thompson losing out on this spot. The Cowboys have already seen what players like Noah Brown and Lance Lenoir can do, which fills up their depth chart at WR when adding Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

By taking a look at where the Cowboys have depth to spare -- prior to any actual roster battles taking place next month -- it's easier to understand the types of decisions that lie ahead for this team.

All of the players listed above will have their opportunity to prove me wrong and earn their spot with the team, capable of helping in a big way. Regardless of how this list was constructed, going from 90 players down to 53 will be as difficult as ever for Dallas in 2018.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Roster: Who Are the “Best” Players on the Bubble?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Report: QB Dak Prescott Signs Multi-Year Deal With Campbell’s Chunky Soup

Kevin Brady

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Jekyll or Hyde: Year 3 "Prove It" Season For Dak Prescott? 1

Being the Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback comes with its challenges, but it certainly comes with its perks as well. One of those perks is the opportunity for endorsement deals, and income outside of his football salary.

Dak Prescott is embracing those perks now, reportedly signing a multi-year deal with Campbell's Chunky Soup through 2020. Prescott will continue to endorse Chunky MAXX, Campbell's protein soup line.

Brandon George on Twitter

Cowboys QB Dak Prescott has re-signed a new multi-year deal with Campbell's Chunky Soup through 2020. This is the first QB multi-year deal for Chunky Soup since Donovan McNabb in 2001. He'll continue to promote Chunky MAXX, the protein-packed line of soups, this year, per Edelman

Campbell's Soup has had some legendary football related commercials throughout the years, none more memorable than those with former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and his mother.

In fact, Dak Prescott is the first NFL quarterback to sign a multi-year deal with Campbell's Chunky Soup since those McNabb commercials.

Hopefully, Dak Prescott can continue to "prove it" on the field and still be the Cowboys starting quarterback throughout this entire Campbell's deal.



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