Once the Dallas Cowboys drafted CeeDee Lamb two years ago, the team pretty much knew they were going to pick a winner between Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup in the 2022 offseason. The way that Cooper’s contract was constructed, along with Gallup’s rookie deal finishing in 2022, meant a choice had to be made. Sure, through manipulations of the salary cap, it was conceivable to keep both, but that is a lot of capital for the wide receiver position, and somewhere down the line you would expect they would extend Lamb, so the position of keeping all of them was untenable.
The problem for most Cowboys fans was that sentiment had settled on keeping Cooper and letting Gallup leave in free agency. That felt like the default position since last year given Cooper was already under contract for 2022 and beyond and Gallup was not. Add in Gallup’s ACL tear at the end of the 2021 season, and it seemed like a sure thing it would be Cooper who stayed.
The Cowboys brain-trust didn’t share that sentiment. They were determined to move on from Cooper and re-sign Gallup. Someday in the future, we’ll probably get a better understanding of why the Cowboys soured on Cooper. They are now the second franchise that has moved Cooper for reasons that are unclear, and the fact that the rest of the NFL wasn’t that excited to trade for the wide receiver is very curious.
Yes, his contract was probably a big issue, but teams have overlooked that before if they really like a player. That didn’t happen here, and it had nothing to do with the Cowboys leaking the idea of cutting Cooper. They had already gauged the interest, and saw it was lacking, so they tried to do what they could to force some kind of trade and they finally got it.
So the Cowboys executed their plan by trading Cooper and then re-signing Gallup for five years and $62.5 million, but only $27 million is reportedly guaranteed. How did the analysts at ESPN grade the deal?
The deal: Five years, $62.5 million
This is a relative bargain for a high-level talent. Yes, Gallup’s an injury-concern high-level talent, because of a torn ACL in Week 17, and his first year on the deal is compromised somewhat. But players can usually regain their full explosion within eight to 12 months, and since the wide receiver market might blow past $15 million per year in the next few days, securing Gallup at a reasonable cost will be a good long-term play.
Meanwhile, Gallup gets the security of a hefty signing bonus at a vulnerable time. The Cowboys believe there’s untapped potential with Gallup, and now that Amari Cooper is off to the Browns, he will be showcased more. — Fowler
While the $12.5 million a year shocked some Cowboys fans, it’s really a pretty reasonable level of compensation for Gallup’s talent. The ACL injury does makes things a little murky for the start of 2022, but as mentioned the wide receiver market will probably explode in a few days and Gallup's deal will seem relatively sane. We also haven't seen the particulars of the deal yet, so the Cowboys may have protected themselves long-term and it seems that way with only $27 million guaranteed.
UPDATE: Todd Archer has just posted the details of the contract. Not bad numbers for the team.
Take 2: Michael Gallup contract breakdown: The base value of the deal is $57.5 million over 5 years. In addition to a $10 million signing bonus, Gallup will receive base salaries of $2 million ('22), $11 million ('23), $8.5 million ('24), $10.5 million ('25), $10.5 million ('26).— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) March 14, 2022
The Cowboy still need to fill out their receiving corps. Either through free agency or the draft, they’ll need a little more help, especially if Cedrick Wilson leaves in free agency. Fortunately this draft class of receivers is pretty deep.
What this means for the 2022 draft: With Cooper shipped to Cleveland, re-signing Gallup crosses wide receiver off the Cowboys’ list of early needs in the 2022 draft. Gallup and CeeDee Lamb form a solid nucleus, but don’t sleep on a pass-catcher being added outside of Round 1. Remember, the Cowboys drafted Lamb with both Cooper and Gallup already on the roster. If a top-tier receiver prospect falls in the first round, the Cowboys could bypass other needs — like linebacker, pass-rusher and even the offensive line — to round out the wide receiver corps. Life with the Cowboys is always exciting, and receiver is very much still in play throughout the draft. — Miller
The Cowboys could go with a first-round talent, but the educated guess says that is unlikely now. You can’t shut that door as the Lamb example teaches us, but the odds are the Cowboys will draft a receiver on Day 2 or even Day 3, and they will likely try to pick up a bargain free agent receiver in the coming weeks.
While there is talk that Gallup will be ready to start the year, the Cowboys have to have a contingency plan in place in case he can’t, or isn’t really up to speed come September. Lamb is now being asked to be WR1, but Gallup will also be asked to expand his game.
Gallup is as good as any at catching contested balls along the sideline and going deep, but the Cowboys will need Gallup to show consistency. He will need to catch the 10-yard in and make something out of it. He will have to be ready to convert first downs on a three-yard slant. These are the everyday plays Gallup will need to make to effectively replace Cooper and raise his game to the level the Cowboys offense, and Kellen Moore, will need.