The Dallas Cowboys made the decision this offseason to move on from Amari Cooper, which made re-signing unrestricted free agent Michael Gallup a priority. There was a lot of concern in the fan base when his new five-year, $57.5 million dollar deal was announced. He is coming back from a season-ending torn ACL. Recent reports are that he is not expected to be ready for the start of this season. It all added up to create an image of a bad deal for the team.
Now the actual details of the contract have been revealed by PFT. And this turns out to be much better for the Cowboys than feared.
Even before the specifics were known, it was expected that this was actually a three-year contract in the sense that Dallas could get out of it at low cost after that. Structuring contracts that way is standard practice throughout the league. That part is exactly correct, as the Cowboys could release him in 2025 with only a $4 million dead money hit and $9.5 million in cap savings. But the way this one is structured, it is more like a two-year deal.
There are two things that make this feasible for the team. First, the fully guaranteed money is low, and only applies for the first two seasons. He received a $10 million signing bonus, which is prorated at $2 million annually for the five years. That is the possible dead money hit. His base salary for 2022 and 2023 is fully guaranteed. It is only $2 million this season, which is why his cap hit is only a little over $4.5 million. The 2023 base salary is $11 million. That means the real guarantee is only $13 million in addition to his signing bonus.
But the team also built in a bit of insurance for injury. $1 million of his salary each year is in the form of a per game availability payment. In other words, any game he is unable to play, the team saves $58,524 in salary. There is also a workout de-escalator of $500,000 per year which is not expected to come into play, but reflects how many players last year elected to stay away from team facilities in the wake of the COVID situation.
That $1 million is twice what teams that include an availability clause usually get back. It reflects the uncertainty over his recovery as well as a nice bit of motivation for him to work hard at overcoming the injury.
His 2024 base salary is $8.5 million. $4 million is guaranteed for injury, and the other $4.5 million becomes fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the league year. That means the team could move on from him that season and still save $5.5 million in cap space. It would entail $6 million in dead money, but it is still a net gain. They could also count him as a post-June 1 release the way they did La’el Collins, and the cap savings after that date would go up to $9.5 million, although the extra $4 million would not be available before then.
As in the vast majority of NFL contracts, the $57.5 million total price tag is deceiving, and would only be a factor if he plays out the entire contract. We know from history that this is unlikely in Dallas. But, if Gallup does finish out his contract, the final two years would be a bargain for Dallas. If they are keeping him for those final two years, that means he is playing well. And they would have him at $10.5 million in 2025 and 2026. Based on the current WR market, that price would be a deal. By 2026, that will be extremely team-friendly.
We have been extremely critical of how Stephen Jones has conducted contract negotiations, driven largely by how he bungled the Randy Gregory deal. We should be fair and acknowledge that this was a very smart contract that gives Gallup a nice payout of $23 million no matter what, while keeping the contract from being a long-term millstone that hampers future contract decisions.