The 2021 NFL Draft just concluded, but it's never too soon to look ahead to the 2022 roster and try to figure out what might be the needs of the team a year from now. Because the Dallas Cowboys more often than not go into free agency with one-year deals in mind, it means every year there will be a certain amount of turnover that takes place.
Team building isn't a year-to-year proposition. The scouting department and the front office takes a multi-year approach when it comes to addressing team needs in free agency and in the draft, most notably in the draft. Players they selected this year may not be year-one starters for the team, but perhaps are vying for a starting spot in year two.
Let's take a look ahead at some possible needs for the 2022 offseason.
1. Offensive Tackle
How many more years will we get out of Tyron Smith's neck and back? This is the question that will come up every offseason. And every offseason, the Cowboys will need to have a backup plan capable of playing at least three games for them in that season. Smith has missed at least three games a season since 2016.
La'el Collins showed some injury warts last year as well. The Dallas Cowboys are looking to get by with these two, hoping they'll return to an optimal level of health, but they hedged their bets by signing veteran offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe in free agency.
At some point they'll need a long-term option to replace Smith and 2022 might be the year to pull the trigger. But much of their need for offensive tackle will depend on how healthy Smith and Collins are in 2021.
No, not this again…
Unfortunately, yes. This again.
Another year has gone by and another NFL Draft where the Dallas Cowboys didn't or couldn't find a long-term answer at the safety position.
In free agency, the Cowboys went out and signed Demontae Kazee to play free safety in Dan Quinn's cover-3 scheme, but he's only on a one-year deal. He'll go to free agency again next year. If he has a bounce-back season and can stay healthy, will the Dallas Cowboys look to re-sign him next offseason? History says no.
Kazee and safety converted to linebacker Keanu Neal, have the looks of one-year signings that will bring a compensatory pick when they leave in free agency in 2022. So we'll get to spend another offseason evaluating safeties in free agency and the draft.
But will the Cowboys continue to look for a stop-gap answer or a long-term solution to the position?
3. Wide Receiver
This one comes down to what the Dallas Cowboys do with Michael Gallup. It's rumored that Gallup would like to stay in Dallas and continue his career, but so much of his future will depend on the price point. Gallup has been fantastic in his three years with the Cowboys, notching a thousand-yard season in 2019, and was on the cusp of one in 2020 despite playing with three backup quarterbacks for 11 games.
Noah Brown and Cedrick Wilson are in the final years of their contract. The Cowboys just spent a sixth-round pick on Stanford's Semi Fehoko, who has the traits to take over for Gallup if he were to depart in the 2022 offseason.
However, even if Fehoko is the plan as the WR3 for Dallas, they wouldn't go into the 2022 season with him as third on the depth chart unless he has a breakout rookie season. So, it's likely that they'll have to go into the 2022 NFL Draft looking for Gallup's replacement or another late-round flier to compete with Fehoko for snaps.
4. EDGE Rusher
Randy Gregory is going into the final year of his contract in 2021 and still a largely unproven player. Not from the sense that he can't play, but more from the sense can he give you high-level defensive end play for a 17 game season. He's the player I'm most intrigued to watch this Summer and Fall as he'll get his first full offseason with the team in what feels like forever.
Gregory had a solid second half of the season for the Dallas Cowboys and was good enough for the team to move on from Aldon Smith. But can Gregory put together a full 17 season and earn a long-term deal with the Cowboys? I think so, but it remains to be seen.
DeMarcus Lawrence will still be under contract in 2022, but if Gregory is unable to take a step forward to playing a complete season, then the Cowboys will have an edge rusher need opposite of Lawrence.
Sure, the team has Bradlee Anae and they just drafted Chauncey Golston, but neither player has played enough NFL snaps (Anae has just six defensive snaps) to project into the starting lineup.
Connor Williams is entering the final year of his rookie contract. He's been solid, but hasn't necessarily been so good that you feel like you have to bring him back. The guy that has competed for that job and will likely do so again this year, Connor McGovern hasn't really shown enough to think you could roll with him in 2022. So guard becomes a potential need for the Dallas Cowboys in 2022.
Barring health, the rest of the offensive line is in pretty good shape if Tyler Biadasz can take a step forward in 2021 and stay healthy himself. However, guard looks to be the place where the Cowboys could look to upgrade or add competition in the 2022 NFL Draft.