It’s tempting to look at areas of abundance and attempt to diversify your assets to be better in other areas. That is where the idea that comes from the “trade Michael Gallup” camp comes from. It’s completely understandable. The amount of depth the Dallas Cowboys have at wide receiver is pretty enviable. With Michael Gallup heading into the final season of his rookie deal and with perceived needs at other spots, particularly on defense, in theory, it makes sense.
But let’s talk about why the Cowboys shouldn’t trade Michael Gallup.
Though the Cowboys were struggling to win games at the start of the 2020 season. Much of that because the defensive side of the football struggled to get stops, and the offense was turning the ball over early in games. However, the Cowboys’ offense was on a torrid pace, with Dak Prescott under center despite the Cowboys’ injuries along the offensive line.
Michael Gallup, in particular, was on a great pace in the first five games of the season. Before Dak Prescott’s season-ending injury, Gallup had caught 17 passes on 28 targets for 348 yards, was averaging 20 yards per reception and had scored one touchdown. Over the course of a 16 game season, that would project out to 54 catches on 90 targets for 1,114 yards receiving and three touchdowns.
I expect that touchdown pace would have improved as teams began focusing on CeeDee Lamb more in the red zone area.
After Prescott went down, he caught just 42 passes for 495 yards and averaged just 11.79 yards per reception. He had a higher reception pace over the final 11 games, but his yardage pace dropped off considerably with Andy Dalton, Garrett Gilbert, and Ben DiNucci under center.
Of Gallup’s 843 yards receiving during the 2020 season, 41% of that yardage came in the first five games of the year. Even after crediting the 65 yards receiving, Gallup was the beneficiary after Andy Dalton came in at the end of the Giants game. Gallup still accounted for 33% of his production on the season, with Dak Prescott under center.
The reality is, with Dak Prescott under center, Michael Gallup is a 1,100-yard receiver. Over a 24 game span that extends from week 13 of 2018, Gallup’s rookie year, through week five of 2020, his 16 game receiving pace is 65 receptions on 111 targets for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns. That’s 17 yards per reception. That also doesn’t include the two playoff games where he caught eight passes for 137 yards and a touchdown, including a go-ahead score at the end of the half against Seattle in the 2018 Wild Card round or the 118-yard day against the Los Angeles Rams the following week.
Gallup is one of those players that is deceptively good at getting open down the field. He doesn’t have the elite speed of a Tyreek Hill or the dominant catch radius of a DeAndre Hopkins, but he’s very good at getting open deep. We saw it in week one when he beat Jalen Ramsey, the best cornerback in the NFL, down the sideline and looked to have put the Cowboys in a great position to potentially take the lead. The refs saw Gallup push off and not Ramsey grabbing, and the big-time reception came back, and the Cowboys went on to lose in week one of last year. However, that play alone is enough to keep Gallup around, with Dak Prescott coming back from injury in 2021.
Sure, if you don’t move Gallup, the best you can hope for in the 2022 offseason is that he gets a big-time contract on the open market — which I think he will — and the Cowboys get the benefit of a third-round compensatory pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. It’s always better to have better players. Could they get by with Cedrick Wilson as the number three wide receiver in 2020? Sure, and he might even be really good. However, we know that Michael Gallup is really good, and he provides a vertical threat that helps open up the passing game in the short to intermediate part of the field for the Dallas Cowboys.