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INDIANAPOLIS – So what the hell are the Dallas Cowboys doing ahead of the free agency launch on March 16th? What will they do with more of their important pass-catchers whose future is uncertain?
After four days at the NFL scouting combination in Indianapolis last week, let’s see if we can explain a confluence of events on wide receiver and tight-end specifically.
Amari Cooper is expected to be released
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Friday that the Cowboys “likely” will release Cooper. This should not come as a surprise considering all the explanations that have been available to the readers. The Cowboys never restructured Cooper’s contract last year, a sign that they would be willing to move on from the wide receiver of $ 20 million a year after the second season of the $ 100 million contract he signed in 2020.
“Many things affect [Cooper’s status] in terms of course we have been fortunate to have the three amazing recipients [CeeDee Lamb, Cooper and Michael Gallup] on our list, and of course it’s hard to keep doing under a salary cap, ”said Executive Vice President Stephen Jones last week.
Had the Cowboys restructured Cooper’s deal to create extra attic space a year ago, they would have made it harder to move away after 2021. Instead, they chose to rework other contracts, including Ezekiel Elliott’s setback, to make more room.
The design of Cooper’s contract made it essentially a two-year deal. By making sure that Cooper’s $ 20 million base salary in 2022 was guaranteed on the fifth day of the league year, they spent themselves $ 6 million. If they decide to release Cooper, they’ll open up $ 16 million in the cap room. The Cowboys are currently expected to be more than $ 21 million above the ceiling.
A trade remains an option even though the Cowboys have not yet given him permission to seek a trade. But why should a team give up a choice when it knows it can get Cooper within a few weeks if he gets cut without rejecting a choice? A pay cut is an option, but again, it seems unlikely. Cooper enjoys playing in Dallas. He said on 105.3 The Fan that he wants “to be a Dallas Cowboy for life.” He knows he’s in a good situation. How much would he be willing to give up to remain a cowboy?
the bet: Cooper is released.
Michael Gallup is close to signing again
Close is always in the eye of the beholder, but the Cowboys have some optimism they can keep Gallup on a long-term deal.
Gallup is due to undergo an anterior cruciate ligament surgery in early February, and the hope is that he is ready for combat action in September, though that could be optimistic.
It’s a fast timeline.
– Stephania Bell (@Stephania_ESPN) March 5, 2022
One thing to know: The Cowboys can not keep Cooper at $ 20 million and keep Gallup. It’s one thing or another.
What do the Cowboys favor? Rehabilitation Director Britt Brown for one. Players have a huge respect for Brown’s work. They know he has their best interests at heart and has a track record of getting players healthy. Would Gallup go to another team with an athletic coach he does not know to recover? Doubtful, unless the money for a new team is so peculiar that he has no choice but to go. But how many teams will make an unusual offer to a receiver who comes after an injury and who has a 1,000-yard season?
Brown’s work also gives the Cowboys confidence that Gallup will make a full return, even if he misses a game or two this season.
the bet: Gallup is re-signed.
This was to happen before Tuesday and cost the Cowboys about $ 11 million. The money is fully guaranteed and hits the salary cap immediately. It could also affect Cooper’s decision. More than $ 20 million above the ceiling, the Cowboys must be below the ceiling by March 16th. Can they carry Cooper’s $ 22 million cap figure? Yes, but it would probably force them to recast some other contracts that they might not want to recast.
The Cowboys could sign Schultz to a long-term deal, but the brand gives them at least the time they would have until June 15 to figure one out. If Schultz hits the open market, he will likely get a deal worth more than $ 11 million annually. By tagging him, the Cowboys retain one of quarterback Dak Prescott’s trusted playmakers and could potentially tag him again in 2023 if needed.
“He has evolved into the safety valve for Dak in critical situations, similar to a trust that Tony Romo had with Jason Witten,” said former Cowboy and current ESPN analyst Marcus Spears.
the bet: Schultz is tagged.
The tight end was operated on in the hip last month, which is likely to keep him out for part of the regular season. It is possible that he will never return.
The Cowboys signed Jarwin to a four-year deal worth as much as $ 22 million by 2020, but he has been injured in each of the past two years with a torn ACL by 2020. He is set to earn $ 4.25 million this season, but he could accept a reduced salary with the option to make money back based on incentives.
Brown factors here too. Jarwin has worked a lot with him the last two seasons and trusts that he will get him right. But if the hip does not respond to the surgery, Jarwin’s career could be over. Even if the Cowboys cut Jarwin, they would still owe him money because he’s injured. They would get some space, but not as much as they could have if they were healthy.
When Mike McCarthy discussed the close ends last week in Indianapolis, he did not mention Jarwin’s name, which seemed ominous.
the bet: Jarwin accepts the pay cut.
Among the combine talk last week was how well Wilson would fare in free agency, which was not good news for the Cowboys.
Several sources believe Wilson could stand in line for a deal that averages $ 6 million to $ 8 million a year. Cowboys might be able to make the low end of the market work, but not the high end, even if they cut Cooper. (This is on the assumption that Gallup will be retained.)
Wilson looks set to become this year’s Kendrick Bourne. He signed a $ 15 million three-year deal with the New England Patriots last year despite never getting more than 49 passes in a season. Wilson had career highs in catches (45), yards (602) and touchdowns (six), while at times filling in for Gallup, Cooper and Lamb last season.
the bet: Wilson lands a major deal elsewhere.