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Why The Dallas Cowboys May Be Unable To Keep Terrance Williams, Even If They Want To

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Recent contracts by other No. 2 receivers suggest Terrance Williams' second contract will be out of the Cowboys' price range.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Allen Hurns, the Jaguars' No. 2 receiver opposite Allen Robinson had a very good year in 2015. He finished the season with 64 receptions for 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns and as a result has been awarded with a new four-year deal worth $40M, $20M of which are guaranteed. With escalators, the deal could be worth up to $11 million per year.

Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweeted that the deal may have set the market for No. 2 receivers. Dehner adds that Marvin Jones, Detroit's No. 2 opposite Golden Tate, signed a five-year, $40 million with the Lions, also with $20 million guaranteed.

In December last year, Oakland's Michael Crabtree, the No. 2 guy behind 2015 fourth-overall pick Amari Cooper, signed a four-year, $34 million contract that includes $19 million in guarantees.

By comparison, the Falcons signed Mohamed Sanu to a relatively moderate 5-year, $32.5 million in March with "only" $14 million guaranteed. Sanu will play opposite Julio Jones as Atlanta's No. 2 guy.

So how does Terrance Williams compare to these four wide receivers? The table below summarizes how the players compare, both in performance metrics and in their contract value. For your convenience, the table is sortable (just click on the blue column headers).

Player 2015 Performance 2016 Contract
Name Age Exp. Targets Rec. Yards TDs Y/R Catch rate Annual Val. G'teed
Allen Hurns 24 2 105 64 1,031 10 16.1 61% $10.0 million $20 million
Michael Crabtree 28 7 146 85 922 9 10.8 58% $8.5 million $19 million
Marvin Jones 26 3 103 65 816 4 12.6 63% $8.0 million $20 million
Mohamed Sanu 26 4 49 33 394 0 11.9 67% $6.5 million $14 million
Terrance Williams 26 3 93 52 840 3 16.2 56% - - - -

Despite playing with a changing cast of QBs, Williams has the highest yards per reception of the group, even if his catch rate is slightly below that of the other four receivers on this list. But just how much were Williams' numbers affected by the QBs that threw his way? Not so much, as it turns out. Here's the passer rating of each QB throwing to Williams in 2015:

QB ATT CMP TD INT YDS YPA CMP% Rating
Cassel 32 20 2 2 290 9.1 63% 86.7
Moore 22 14 - - 1 248 11.3 64% 83.1
Romo 20 12 1 1 181 9.1 60% 85.6
Weeden 19 6 - - - - 121 6.4 32% 54.9
Total 93 52 3 4 840 9.0 56% 79.1

We need to exercise some caution not to over interpret these numbers due the small sample size for each QB, but overall, Williams performed consistently with Romo, Cassel, and Moore, while he never got anything going with checkdown Weeden, which strongly affected his catch rate.

Still, of the five receivers in the previous table, Williams had the highest yards per reception with 16.2 yards which is a slight dropoff from the 16.8 average of his first two years in the league.

Overall, Williams' 2015 numbers aren't that much different from the top guys in the previous table. His Y/R leads the receiving group, his catch rate is slightly lower due to the reasons outlined above, though his TDs dropped from eight in 2014 to three in 2015.

Williams' agent will likely make a very similar argument in the discussions about a possible contract extension with the Cowboys, and the numbers above suggest that Williams' market value will be in the range of $8.5-10.0 million per year with $20 million guaranteed.

If the Cowboys can swing a deal for anything below that, they'd be getting themselves a bargain. But do they even want to get into the market for a No. 2 receiver with such a price tag?

Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas thinks Williams' eventual asking price may be too much for the Cowboys.

The Cowboys have made huge financial investments on their offense with Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Tyron Smith, and they just drafted Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall. Jason Witten is among the higher paid tight ends. They have picked up the fifth-year option on center Travis Frederick's contract for 2017 worth $8.8 million.

Based on the contracts of Hurns and Sanu, can the Cowboys add another large contract to their offense for Williams?

Barring an injury or a completely miserable season, Williams is looking at a hefty pay raise in 2017. It just might not come from the Cowboys.

The Cowboys may be in a bit of a bind on this one. Outside of Dez Bryant, they currently don't have a tall, proven, outside receiver who can stretch the field vertically and who is under contract beyond the 2016 season. Which may be why they've beefed up their receiving corps with tall receivers who can play outside and perhaps replace the 6-2, 208-pound Williams:

Chris Brown: 6-2, 193
Andy Jones, 6-2, 214
Vince Mayle, 6-2, 224
Devin Street: 6-3, 200
Rodney Smith: 6-5, 220

Even Brice Butler (6-3, 215) would fit the bill, even if he, like Williams, is playing on the final year of his contract. Those are the guys the Cowboys will be looking at in camp and during the season as possible replacements for Williams. Because another solid year by Williams will likely push him out of the Cowboys price range, and even if they wanted to, they likely won't be able to keep him.