Amari Cooper’s future in Dallas is very uncertain.
Cooper’s $20 million base salary does not become fully guaranteed until the fifth day of the 2022 league year. The Cowboys designed the $100 million contract in a way in which they could get out of the deal for a relative pittance after two seasons. If they cut Cooper, he would count $6 million against the salary cap, not $22 million. For a team that is projected more than $21 million over the cap, every dollar counts — especially with so many unsigned key free agents such as defensive end Randy Gregory, tight end Dalton Schultz, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and safety Jayron Kearse.
What other salary cap-saving moves could be next? Restructuring quarterback Dak Prescott’s deal could open up close to $15 million. But if the Cowboys cut Cooper, they could face a lot of turnover at the receiver spot in 2022. CeeDee Lamb is set, but Michael Gallup (who tore an ACL late last season) and Cedrick Wilson are set to be free agents.
“A lot of things affect [Cooper’s status] in terms of obviously we’ve been so fortunate to have those three great receivers on our roster and obviously that’s hard to keep doing under a salary cap,” Jones said. “And certainly Ced did a really nice job for us and he’s up. So there’s some moving parts there that we’ll have to continue to massage as we move forward.”
The Cowboys head coach spoke on Tuesday.
But the speculation of Sean Payton one day coaching the Cowboys has been well-documented here in the last few weeks and it came up again in McCarthy's press conference.
"It's a narrative I don't want to be a part of," McCarthy said. "I don't think anyone wants to be a part of it – on either side of the fence. In fairness to Sean, he's being asked the questions. Nothing good comes out of that." Payton, who was a former Cowboys assistant coach from 2003-05 under Bill Parcells, was the head coach of New Orleans and even won a Super Bowl, before suddenly announcing in January that he's stepping away from the Saints. That has led to plenty of speculation about Payton reuniting in Dallas, where he has lived in the offseason and has kept a good relationship with Jerry Jones and the Jones family over the years.
Immediately after the Cowboys' playoff exit against the 49ers, Jones was non-committal in talking about the future of any coaches, when specifically asked about McCarthy. That, along with the Payton news, led to speculation about Payton perhaps coming to Dallas at some point.
Stephen Jones’ comments were very disappointing.
If the Cowboys want to retain Cooper and/or Lawrence, then the decision doesn’t need to be one that they drag out at every chance they get (which is what they have been doing since the season ended). The writing on the wall very much looks like Stephen has convinced himself that Dallas needs to save money somewhere and that this might be where it has to come from. This is part of the unfortunate cycle that Jones has trapped the Cowboys in. The sequence is rather predictable at this point:
Wait too long to pay players by not being proactive and reading the market (Lawrence and Dak Prescott come to mind) Blink first when backed into the corner he painted himself in (Lawrence and Prescott are prime examples, Ezekiel Elliott also forced this hand) Complain about how there is only so much “pie” to go around and that when large chunks of it are going to certain players (the ones in steps 1 and 2) it makes team-building difficult
Move on from important contributors in the name of cap savings because the team needs space to sign their “value” players See new talent come in (which Lawrence and Prescott were once upon a time and where Micah Parsons will be someday) only to send us back to where we started
What do you believe is Dallas’ biggest need in free agency?
Re-signing or replacing pass-catchers like Gallup and Schultz will be difficult given the market and Dallas' cap situation. However, if the Cowboys can create some cap space, addressing the secondary will be feasible. The Cowboys were great at creating takeaways in 2021, leading the league with a whopping 26 interceptions. However, their pass defense was a boom-or-bust unit that too often gave up as many big plays as it created.
Dallas ranked 20th against the pass and 18th in passing yards allowed. Fortunately, some valuable budget options at cornerback should be available when free agency opens March 16. Seattle Seahawks cornerback Sidney Jones IV, for example, has a projected market value of just $4.25 million for a one-year deal, according to Pro Football Focus. That's a low price for a corner who allowed an opposing passer rating of only 84.3 in coverage last season.
San Francisco 49ers cornerback K'Waun Williams is another possible option. He's a versatile slot corner, and PFF projects him to earn a one-year, $2.5 million deal. Dallas should be able to find cornerback help at a fair price in free agency, and it needs to do exactly that.
Cowboys with offseason surgeries: Dak Prescott, Donovan Wilson, Michael Gallup, Chauncey Golston, Randy Gregory, Blake Jarwin, Brandon Smith and Darian Thompson.— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) March 1, 2022
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