The Athletic recently released their top 150 free agent rankings in 2022, and not so surprisingly, the Dallas Cowboys had several players land on the list. Of the Cowboys 21 pending free agents, seven ended up making the cut. Who are they and where were they slotted in the rankings?
He ranks seventh among all tight ends with 1,423 receiving yards over the past two seasons, and his 12 touchdowns are tied for sixth-most. Schultz is young and has not missed a game during the past three seasons. Schultz lined up as an in-line tight end on roughly 59% of his offensive snaps last season and can get it done as a blocker. Austin Hooper signed for $10.5 million two years ago. Henry and Smith got $12.5 million last offseason. That could be the salary range for Schultz.
Dalton Schultz is the second-ranked free agent tight end this year behind only Mike Gesicki. Not too shabby for someone who only earned a starting role the past few seasons with the Cowboys due to injuries to other players ahead of him on the depth chart.
He was extremely disruptive, finishing with six sacks and 17 quarterback hits in 12 games in 2021. But he missed time because of a calf injury. Gregory was a rotational player in 2020, and he was out of football in 2019. There’s no denying his talent, but Gregory has played more than 12 games just once in his career and will reportedly be coming off of offseason knee surgery.
Randy Gregory comes in as the sixth-ranked EDGE player on this list behind players like Von Miller, Chandler Jones, Harold Landry, and others. If not for his past off-the-field issues and injuries, he likely would’ve landed a little higher.
Gallup suffered through injuries in 2021, including a torn ACL in Week 17. He appeared in only nine games and had 35 catches for 445 yards. But from 2019 to 2020, Gallup’s 1,950 yards ranked 22nd among wide receivers, and his 15.6 YPR average ranked fourth among players with at least 100 catches during that span. Gallup projects as a field-stretching, outside starting wide receiver. Given that he’s coming off of a late-season injury, it’s tough to know how much interest Gallup will generate. Will Fuller got a one-year, $10.6 million deal last offseason. A similar deal could be in play for Gallup.
Landing in the top 50 isn’t bad considering all the bad luck that came Michael Gallup’s way in 2021. However, if he would’ve been able to stay healthy, playing all 17 games, he probably would’ve been ranked much higher. As it is, he’s the eighth-ranked WR on this list.
It’s tough to predict how the league will view him. Any team could have had Kearse last offseason, and he ended up signing with the Cowboys on a one-year, $1.13 million deal. But he performed at a high level and looked like one of the NFL’s most improved players. Kearse started 15 games and finished with 101 tackles. He missed just 3.9% of his tackle attempts, which was the second-best mark among safeties, and Kearse showed the ability to do a lot of different things, including get after the quarterback. He logged more than 400 snaps as a box safety but also played more than 150 snaps at slot corner and as a free safety. Kearse started just 12 games in his first five NFL seasons, but teams could be intrigued with his skill set after the way he performed last year.
Last year at this time there’s no way Jayron Kearse would’ve even been considered a top 150 free agent, but after an impressive 2021 season he finds himself well within the top 100. He just barely cracked the top 10 at the position though, coming in at No. 9.
He had an amazing rookie season in 2018 but battled injuries the next two years. The good news for Vander Esch is he stayed healthy for all 17 games last year, although he wasn’t a full-time player (played 58% of the defensive snaps). He is young and has impressive physical tools, but interested teams will have to do their homework, given the injury history.
Leighton Vander Esch comes in one spot behind Jayron Kearse and is the fourth-ranked free agent player at the linebacker position. He may have landed a little bit higher if Micah Parsons’ emergence in 2021 didn’t cause a decrease in his playing time.
He saw a bump in playing time and made the most of it, setting career highs with 45 catches for 602 yards and six touchdowns. Wilson lined up in the slot on roughly 85% of his snaps and ranked 34th out of 114 qualifying wide receivers in yards per route run.
Michael Gallup’s bad luck in 2021 was good luck for Cedrick Wilson. He was finally able to showcase his skill set due to a significant increase in playing time and could cash in free agency because of it.
He was the weak link on the Cowboys’ offensive line last year, but Williams has a couple things working in his favor. One, he’s young, so teams that liked Williams as a prospect back in 2018 could still be intrigued by his upside. And two, he’s started 51 games in four seasons. At the very least, given the OL need around the league, Williams should get a chance to compete for a starting job somewhere.
The 2021 season wasn’t very kind for Connor Williams and his ranking on this list all but confirms it. However, all it takes is one team to disagree, which could put him much higher in the 2022 free agent rankings, especially amongst offensive guards.