Today we start a series taking a look at the Dallas Cowboys' upcoming free agents. We’ll break down their 2021 campaign, look forward to what their market may look like in free agency, and ultimately decide if they will return to Dallas next season.
We start with a guy who saw his trajectory skyrocket upwards in 2021, wide receiver Cedrick Wilson.
Player: Cedrick Wilson
2021 Stats: 45 receptions, 602 receiving yards, 13.4 Y/R, 73.8% Catch%, 6 receiving TDs
2021 Review: Coming into the 2021 season, Cedrick Wilson’s role in the Cowboys offense was limited. Sitting behind Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michal Gallup, it just didn’t seem as if Wilson could get enough touches to make a true impact. However, after Gallup went down in the season opener with a calf injury, Wilson was thrust into action and finally had a chance to get some consistent playing time and show his worth.
The 26-year-old wideout made the most of his opportunity by posting the best statistical season of his career. Wilson’s 45 receptions more than doubled his previous career high of 17, and his 602 receiving yards blew his previous high of 189 yards out of the water. Pro Football Focus thought highly of Wilson’s play as well, giving him a 71.7 offensive grade for the season, 11 points higher than his 2020 grade.
Big time catch by Cedrick Wilson! That was clutch!!!! pic.twitter.com/a7Uy7IJXqj— Law Nation Sports (@LawsNation) October 23, 2021
Free Agency Outlook: For Wilson, he could not have hit the open market at a better time. When you look at his contract-year production compared to the wide receivers that became free agents last offseason, his performance stacks up pretty well.
Curtis Samuel - 77 catches, 851 yards, 79.4% Catch%, 1,051 YScm, 5 total TDs, 77.1 PFF Offensive Grade
(Signed a three-year, $34.5M deal with the Washington Football Team)
Nelson Agholor - 48 catches, 896 yards, 58.5% Catch%, 8 TDs, 73.8 PFF Offensive Grade
(Signed a two-year, $22M deal with the New England Patriots)
Kendrick Bourne - 49 catches, 667 yards, 66.2% Catch%, 2 TDs, 72.0 PFF Offensive Grade
(Signed a three-year, $15M deal with the New England Patriots)
Jamal Agnew - 13 catches, 89 yards, 65.0% Catch%, 56.7 PFF Offensive Grade
(Signed a three-year, $14.25M deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars)
Out of that group, the only player that definitively had a better contract year heading into free agency is Samuel. Despite dealing with an injury-plagued 2021 season, Samuel is clearly the most talented player in the group, so I wouldn’t expect Wilson to match his deal this offseason, but he certainly will use the other three players as comps. Spotrac has Wilson’s market value at $6.4M, and has his projected free agent deal set at three years, $19,394,196. That seems like a fair evaluation and is comparable to the deal Kendrick Bourne signed last year with New England, coming off a very similar season.
Cowboys Fit: If money wasn’t an issue, adding Wilson back to this offense next season would be very exciting. His arrow is clearly trending in the right direction, and he showed he is more than capable of being the team’s WR3 if Michael Gallup departs. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, money is going to be tight this offseason. With some key defensive and offensive players set to hit free agency, Dallas may have some other plans that take precedent over bringing back Wilson. It’s not like he’s going to break the bank, so if Dallas wants him back they should be able to get him back, but it’s very possible they prioritize retaining another pass catcher on the offense, tight end Dalton Schultz, over Wilson.
Final Verdict: With all the other needs to address on their team, a Wilson/Cowboys reunion may not be in the cards. If Wilson does depart in free agency, the Cowboys could turn towards bringing Michael Gallup back on a one-year deal or look towards the draft to find another wideout. Overall, after a solid season and putting some nice play on tape, there’s likely going to be a team out there that is willing to pay more for Wilson than the Cowboys are.
Contract Prediction: Wilson signs a three-year, $20M deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers