One of the common thoughts prevailing throughout Cowboys Nation is that Dallas will be able to re-sign Michael Gallup in 2022 for less than they are currently playing Amari Cooper. But how likely is this given the wide receiver market and where Gallup may rank among next year’s free agents?
Many have floated this idea of releasing Cooper and holding onto Gallup in 2022. With CeeDee Lamb the assumed franchise receiver for years to come, the idea of having a cheaper WR2 in Gallup certainly makes good fiscal sense.
Between being two years younger than Amari and having a proven chemistry with Dak Prescott, Gallup has plenty of long-term appeal. But the reality of his impending free agency may not be as favorable for the Cowboys as you’re thinking.
As a member of the 2018 NFL Draft class, Michael is one of many players whose rookie contracts are expiring after this season. Most of them, like Gallup, will be unrestricted free agents. But the two 1st-Round picks of the group, Atlanta’s Calvin Ridley and Carolina’s D.J. Moore, had their 5th-year options picked up and won’t be hitting free agency until 2023.
Gallup is arguably the top WR from the class of 2018 becoming a free agent in 2022. In three years he’s totaled 158 catches, 2,457 yards, and 13 touchdowns. Moore and Ridley were the only two receivers in the class who clearly stand above him.
Of course, these aren’t the only potential free agents next year. Other receivers throughout the NFL have expiring contracts and some of them are big names; Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, Will Fuller, and JuJu Smith-Schuster just to name a few.
But even against them, Gallup’s production and youth keep him in the conversation. Guys like Adams, Robinson, and Fuller are finishing up their second contracts and are soon to hit 30. At just 26 next year, Michael will be one of the youngest receivers with a 1,000-yard season on his resume.
Also, you never know how the franchise tag could play into this. Robinson and Tampa’s Chris Godwin are already playing on the tag this year. However, it’s highly unlikely that the Cowboys would use the tag on Gallup given their other WR assets.
Another factor here is how the open market and general inflation could impact contract negotiations. Right now we have Amari Cooper signed at an average of $20 million per season, tied for third-highest among NFL receivers with Keenan Allen. But will that number seem so big next year and in years to come?
The highest average salary is the $27 million that DeAndre Hopkins is getting from Arizona, followed by $22 million for Julio Jones. And while those deals were signed before the revenue losses and salary cap reduction stemming from the pandemic in 2020, the NFL’s new TV deals are expected to get the league’s economy back to pre-pandemic levels next year.
Barring some extreme and unexpected financial issues for the league between now and next spring, Hopkins and Jones’ deals are going to be used to establish the price for the next crop of free agent receivers.
Even if Michael Gallup isn’t the top prize of the 2022 WR market, is his price really going to come down below $20 million per year?
If the Cowboys offense is as explosive in 2021 as many project then Gallup could go into the offseason with career highs in multiple areas. He’s already looking good based on the last three years and the next one could be better than ever.
The decision to drop Amari Cooper to keep Gallup won’t be about financial gain. Dallas would likely have to spend everything it saves by cutting Cooper on Michael’s next contract. If they go that route, the Cowboys will be doing it because Gallup is two years younger and seen as the best partner for CeeDee Lamb as starters for the future.
But it may be time to get this notion of Gallup being cheaper to keep out of your heads. The same reasons you like him are evident to 31 other teams, and some of them will be looking for WR help next season. Michael may very well be one of the most attractive and expensive options in 2022 free agency.