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5 draft picks who can replace the Cowboys 5 potential biggest free agent losses

There are a lot of good players in the upcoming draft who can help backfill some of the potential Cowboys free agent losses.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 05 Notre Dame at Florida State Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys are expected to get dinged pretty hard in free agency this offseason. There are several players hitting the market, and we know that the front office is not going to be shelling out a lot of money to hang on to all 0f them. That means the team will need to look to the draft to find quality replacements to help mitigate these losses. Can replacements be found? If so, who are they?

Today, we’ll identify the team’s five most valuable free agents and suggest five draft prospects who best replicate their skills, and at what point of the draft they’ll likely be available.

Randy Gregory

Games started last season: 11

The veteran edge rusher is the team’s most important free agent because he plays such a critical position. Premium edge rushers are gold. Gregory is coming off his strongest season in the NFL. He had a six-game stretch this year where he was absolutely dominating, averaging a sack per game. Gregory did cool down late in the season, but he’s still an important piece to any defense.

Replace with: Jermaine Johnson, Florida State

There are edge rushers to be found throughout the draft, but to find someone of Gregory’s caliber means the Cowboys would need to act early. The good news is one of them might still be available at pick 24. FSU’s Jermaine Johnson has many similar traits as Gregory. He’s got great length and attacks the QB’s hand/ball when he gets home, he’s relentless in pursuit, and uses power and good ankle flex to get around the edge.

When to pull the trigger: First round

After Kavyvon Thidodeau and Aidan Hutchinson, it’s hard to know when the next tier of edge rushers will be selected. There’s a good chance a good one will make to pick 24. Johnson is a possibility; however, his recent showing at the Senior Bowl definitely boosted his draft stock.

Dalton Schultz

Games started last season: 15

It’s a shame the Cowboys only got two good years out of Schultz on his first contract, but considering he was a fourth-round draft pick, it’s hard to complain. And we have to admit, those two years were pretty darn good, capping it off with a 78-catch, 808-yard performance where he found the end zone eight times. He became one of the most reliable safety nets for quarterback Dak Prescott, and as much as fans would be perfectly fine in paying for that security, the more practical business move may be to look to the draft to find a suitable replacement.

Replace with: Cade Otton, Washington

Watching the tape of Huskies tight end Cade Otton just screams Dalton Schultz. He’s a very effective in-line blocker, but doesn’t wow you with great athleticism as a receiver. However, he finds the holes in coverage, has reliable hands, and plays the plain-yet-efficient Schultz role very well. He even does a great holding the block long enough to successfully sneak away as a receiver and is a pesky fighter of yards just like Schultz.

When to pull the trigger: Third round

There are no elite tight ends in this draft class, so the top ones shouldn’t come off the board until Day 2. Whether it’s Otton or Wisconsin’s Jake Ferguson, the Cowboys should be able to find a decent tight end in round three or four.

Michael Gallup

Games started last season: 8

From the moment Gallup was selected in the third round of the draft, he’s been an overperformer. He put together a 1,107-yard season in his second year in the league, which just so happens to be five yards more than CeeDee Lamb’s Pro Bowl season this year. While Gallup has been an important part of the offense, his numbers have dropped since the arrival of Lamb. And to add insult to injury, his free-agent value dropped a bit after he suffered a knee injury late in the year. Despite all these blemishes, teams should recognize Gallup’s value and he should still land a decent paycheck in free agency.

Replace with: Alec Pierce, Cincinnati

The beauty of the Gallup third-round steal in 2018 was that the Cowboys got themselves such a well-rounded receiver at a bargain price. The same could happen if they drafted the Bearcats’ Alec Pierce. Like Gallup, he does so many things well. He’s got size, speed, and is very crisp out of his breaks. But the most impressive Gallup-like quality is how he exhibits great body control, high points the ball, and wins on contested catches.

When to pull the trigger: Third round

There are going to be some talented wide receivers still available when round three rolls around. That serves as even more reason to not use extra cap space to keep Gallup on the roster. Like they did when they drafted Gallup, the team can supplement his services at a low cost with a player like Pierce.

Connor Williams

Games started last season: 14

After a promising third season in the league, Williams had all kinds of problems in 2021, which isn’t ideal for a contract year. He struggled to hold his own against strong defensive tackles and was never able to correct his compulsive holding problem. It was so bad at times that he was even benched midseason in favor of the other Connor, Connor McGovern. And while Williams’ contributions were viable at times throughout his four years in the league, the Cowboys should now look to hit the reset button at the left guard position.

Replace with: Ed Ingram, LSU

From strictly a skill-level perspective, the Tiger’s Ed Ingram is a talented player who is capable of being a starting guard in the NFL. He did run into some trouble that got him suspended a year at LSU, but what he’s done on the football field has been impressive. Ingram is an agile player who does a great job pulling and getting into the second level. But what separates him from Connor Williams is that Ingram also is a powerful run blocker who will flatten people if they get in his way.

When to pull the trigger: Second round

This draft class is loaded with guard talent as well as tackles who will transition to guard in the NFL. Similar to what they did in 2018 to land Williams, the Cowboys should be able to capitalize on the depth of the guard draft class by waiting until Day 2. Ingram could end up being a nice draft steal.

Jayron Kearse

Games started last season: 15

Jayron Kearse was the Cowboys' best free-agent investment last season as this low-cost safety ended up leading the team in tackles. Such a productive season will land him a nice payday in free agency as the traveled veteran just turned 28 on Friday. While it would be great to have Kearse back in Dallas next season, that may be hard to do if he gets a big offer. And for those crossing their fingers that Kearse might take a discount, keep in mind, this is the absolute best opportunity for this former seventh-round player to cash in on all his hard work. For that reason, the Cowboys need to be prepared to look elsewhere in finding a hard-hitting safety.

Replace with: Brian Asamoah, Oklahoma

Technically, Asamoah is a linebacker, but he plays like an All-Pro safety. He’s got great athleticism, remarkable closing speed, and thrives close to the line of scrimmage when his responsibility is simplified. Like Kearse, he’s a physical player who makes sure his opponent feels it when he brings him down.

When to pull the trigger: Third round

As linebackers go, he doesn’t have great size or top-shelf diagnosing skills so he’ll fall down the ranks a bit. But as a hybrid-type who Dan Quinn loves to use, this could make Asamoah a nice find at a much more affordable draft price.