As we’ve become accustomed to seeing, the Cowboys haven’t made many big splashes in free agency this offseason. Dallas still has $15M left in cap space, according to Over The Cap, but it seems unlikely they will use much, if any, of that money on remaining free agents.
Out of the moves Dallas did make, the most impactful was bringing back Michael Gallup on a five-year deal. The 26-year-old wideout got a five-year deal at $57.5 million, but only $23M of which is guaranteed.
While this may seem like a lot of money, if you dive into how the contract is broken down the Cowboys were smart in how they structured the deal. A little over a week ago our very own Tom Ryle broke down Gallup’s contract, showing it actually is a fairly team-friendly deal.
Here’s some of Tom’s insight on Gallup’s contract.
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.
While financially it might be a relatively team-friendly deal, there is still some risk in giving money to a player who played in just nine games last season and is coming off a torn ACL.
The biggest risk in the Gallup deal, outweighing the money and length, is that the Cowboys are banking on the fact that he can replace Amari Cooper’s production. While Gallup is very talented, it won’t be easy to replace Cooper. In seven NFL seasons, Cooper has caught at least 75 passes and eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards five times. Gallup has recorded just one 1,000 yard season and has never caught more than 66 passes in a season.
This angle of Michael Gallup’s TD grab is just gorgeous. pic.twitter.com/bXLULVoHWA— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) December 3, 2021
Dak with an absolute DIME to Michael Gallup pic.twitter.com/b6JaZ4uj1F— PFF (@PFF) November 26, 2021
Rolling the dice on Gallup has caused some to question Dallas’ decision to keep him over Cooper. Gallup was even named the Cowboys' “worst free-agent signing of the offseason” in a recent article by Alex Kay of Bleacher Report.
Here’s what Kay had to say about Gallup.
Michael Gallup is a talented receiver, but he is coming off a torn ACL and was far less productive over the past four years than teammate Amari Cooper.
Instead of parting ways with Gallup and retaining Cooper, the Dallas Cowboys traded the latter to the Cleveland Browns and kept the former on a five-year, $57.5 million deal.
While Dallas had the luxury of dumping Cooper because of the emergence of 2020 first-round pick CeeDee Lamb, its receiving corps is no longer one of the NFL’s deepest and most dangerous.
The losses of Cooper, fellow wideout Cedrick Wilson Jr. and right tackle La’el Collins have dealt major blows to an offense that ranked No. 1 in the league last year in yards and points and tied for second in passing yards.
It remains to be seen if these decisions will cost the club a chance to make back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since the 2006-07 seasons, but the departures certainly won’t help.
While Gallup is an exciting player, it’s hard to disagree with Kay’s point. The much safer move would have been to spend a little more money, keep Cooper and let Gallup walk in free agency.
We likely won’t know if the Cowboys made the right call choosing Gallup over Cooper for a few years, but there certainly is enough risk to have some cause for concern.