While we don't know yet who will make up the Dallas Cowboys' 2021 roster, we can project that roughly 20 or more of those players will be playing on either expiring or one-year contracts. While this will mean a very busy free agency period in 2022, there was a report this weekend that Dallas has no intention of trying to extend any of these contracts until after the upcoming season.
What makes this especially newsworthy are the names on the list of pending free agents. Several of these players are projected starters or key rotation players for 2021:
- WR Michael Gallup
- TE Dalton Schultz
- G Connor Williams
- DE Randy Gregory
- DT Brent Urban
- LB Leighton Vander Esch
- LB Keanu Neal
- S Malik Hooker
- S Damontae Kazee
That's just a sample; who knows how we might feel about some of these guys or others by the end of the season? But clearly, the Cowboys are going to be facing a potential mass exodus in 2022 and will have a lot of work to do to either retain or replace these players.
Be it WR Michael Gallup, DE Randy Gregory or any other impending unrestricted free agent, the Cowboys consider themselves closed for business on contract extensions before season, sources said. It is a prove-it year for many. They want that to play out. https://t.co/pRQXm77de9
Even for the most prolific of these projected free agents, the Cowboys desire to wait and see isn't that surprising. There are many factors which make it logical in each of these cases.
For Michael Gallup, Dallas already has significant resources tied up in their receivers. They may very well choose to cut or trade Amari Cooper after this year and re-sign Gallup, but seeing how those players perform in 2021 is the last big step before decision time.
Dalton Schultz and Blake Jarwin are now in an open and close battle for the long-term starter at tight end. If Jarwin ultimately holds onto the job, Schultz may be too rich to re-sign as a potential starter for other teams on the open market.
As much as we're all hoping and expecting from Randy Gregory in 2021, six years of unreliability simply can't be ignored. While the NFL's drug policy changes around marijuana alleviate much of the concern, Gregory still has to prove this is the end of his issues before the Cowboys can make any significant commitment.
Dallas already declined Leighton Vander Esch's 5th-year option for 2022, so clearly they're expecting him to prove something as well this year. Can the former 1st-round pick stay healthy and reemerge as a dynamic playmaker.
Remember, the Cowboys have been burned in the past by trying to get ahead of the market and extend contracts based on expectation. If you've ever bemoaned the contracts of players like Tyrone Crawford or Jaylon Smith, you can't really fault the team now for wanting to see it before they believe it.