The end for Cooper is likely near.
Cooper is due $20 million in fully guaranteed money on the fifth day of the new league year, March 20. The Cowboys designed Cooper’s $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 to be 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.
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.
Cowboys close to a deal with Michael Gallup?
The Cowboys were never going to be able to keep Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson and Amari Cooper. Cooper’s $20 million salary, which becomes fully guaranteed if he’s still on the roster March 20, makes him the odd man out.
News of the obvious came Friday morning in a report that the Cowboys will cut Cooper before March 20 if they can’t trade him. (Spoiler alert: No one is picking up his contract as is.)
The Cowboys can re-sign free agents Gallup and Wilson for less than if they kept Cooper at his current price.
The team is moving toward the first part of the two-for-one.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Cowboys are “close” to a new deal with Gallup
Will the Cowboys continue their spending trend with free agent safety? - Matthew Lenix, A to Z Dallas
Yes or no on Malik Hooker?
Malik Hooker was a part of a wave of safeties that were added to the Cowboys’ roster in 2021, which included Jayron Kearse and Damontae Kazee, as well. The Cowboys were cautious with Hooker seeing as he was coming off of an Achilles tear, and he eventually worked his way into the safety rotation.
Hooker appeared in 15 games and logged 44 tackles on the season (tied for second-most of his career) while also hauling in his first interception since 2019. He’s set to hit free agency after playing out his one-year deal in Dallas, and Pro Football Focus sees him as the best bargain at the safety position.
“Safety isn’t a position lacking options in this free-agent class, which could lead to a player who hasn’t played in a full-time starting role since 2019 like Hooker being overlooked.
“Hooker delivered some strong performances for Dallas in his return from a torn Achilles injury that ended his 2020 season early. He has an intriguing combination of range in coverage with a willingness to add on in run support when playing closer to the line of scrimmage. Yet to turn 26 years old, Hooker will likely be forced to sign another one-year contract on the cheaper side this offseason, but there’s some upside for Hooker as a potential starter in that situation.”
The injury history of Hooker is what makes him affordable for the Cowboys. Even if they bring back Kearse. That fits right in with Cowboys’ executive vice president Stephen Jones and his conservative free agency approach of scrapping the bottom of the barrel for cheap roster additions.
“In general, from a money standpoint, if I’m looking into a crystal ball right now, I see most of our money that would go in free agency going toward our current players,” Jones said recently. “Doesn’t mean that won’t change. We might come across a value on a player that we say, ‘Hey, it’s just one we got to take.’ I don’t want to rule it out.
“But, in general, we go to our players and then we have to be efficient in the draft in terms of improving the team.”
Dallas Cowboys BREAKING: Jerry Jones to Skip Media Session Due to Medical Issue - Bri Amaranthus, Cowboys Maven
Jerry Jones to miss combine due to medical issue.
INDIANAPOLIS - After a one-year hiatus, the future stars of the NFL are here in Indianapolis to display their skill, speed and brains at the NFL scouting combine. But among the “stars’’ who will not make his usual “on the bus’’ media appearance is team owner Jerry Jones.
The Cowboys have informed us that Jones, 78, will be skipping his usual session due to a “minor medical issue.’’
While we hope for Jones’ full health, we also look forward to him eventually sharing his thoughts on an assortment of headline-grabbing Cowboys issues.
Last season, rookies make an immediate impact on the Dallas Cowboys and across the league. Now, the Cowboys are trying to find their “next Micah Parsons’’ and their “next CeeDee Lamb’’ and their “next Trevon Diggs.’’
How important is the defensive tackle position?
The NFL has evolved into a passing league. The times of the bruiser fullback and otherworldly defensive tackles are slowly fading away. While everyone is aware of the near extinction of the fullback, few discuss the effect of a passing league on the defensive tackle position.
Players like Randy White and Bob Lilly might not even be household names today. Aaron Donald is one of the exceptions, but the defensive tackle position has lost its prestige around the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys have yet to solve their issues at defensive tackle.
Eight years ago, Tyrone Crawford finished with 41 quarterback pressures, 24 tackles, two forced fumbles, and four sacks. 2014 was a good year for the Cowboys’ defensive tackle.
That 2014 season would be the last time the Cowboys had a player rank inside the top 32 defensive tackles by PFF grading. And this is only among players that play more than 500 snaps in a season, meaning that only roughly 64 players qualify in a given year.
It has been eight years since the Cowboys had an above-average defensive tackle by PFF grading. The Cowboys have, not coincidentally, finished as a top 16 defense against the run just three times in the last ten years, per rbsdm.com.
Will Schultz be more of a priority with Jarwin’s injury.
INDIANAPOLIS – It’s interesting the way the puzzle can slowly come together over the course of the week.
Stephen Jones raised a few eyebrows Monday afternoon — which feels like a lifetime ago in the non-stop world of the NFL Combine – when he suggested the Cowboys still may use their franchise or transition tag this offseason. The Cowboys’ chief operating officer was coy when asked if that was part of their plans in the coming days before free agency opens.
“Wouldn’t rule it out,” Jones said. “That’s in the strategy meetings.”
On the surface, that’s a surprising thing to hear from a team that’s currently well over the salary cap. NFL clubs like the salary cap because it gives them the ability to hang on to key players, but it’s not cheap. Specialists, i.e. kickers and punters, are the only players that can be tagged for less than $10 million.
The dots become easier to connect as the week goes along, though. Tuesday, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy confirmed that Blake Jarwin was one of eight players to have an offseason procedure, as the veteran tight end was sidelined by a significant hip injury for most of the second half of the year.
McCarthy also alluded to the Cowboys’ weakness at the position, noting that both Dalton Schultz and Jeremy Sprinkle are slated to hit free agency this month. If Jarwin is unavailable, the Cowboys are left with the inexperienced duo of Sean McKeon and Ian Bunting in way of depth.
“We don’t have great numbers there,” McCarthy said. “Sprinkle contributed this year and we’ve got Sean and Ian, two young guys we’re excited about. It takes more than one. We can’t have enough of them.”
Key offseason dates.
March 14-16: Two-Day Negotiating Period With Free Agents
Often called the “legal tampering period” in NFL circles, this is where all 32 teams can begin negotiating contracts with free agents across the league under the condition that deals can’t officially be finalized and announced until the start of the new league year.
The Cowboys have 22 players set for unrestricted free agency, most notably Gregory, Schultz, safety Jayron Kearse, Pro Bowl punter Bryan Anger, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and wide receivers Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson. Coming off a 12-win season, it’s safe to say all would get attention from other teams if they’re still out of contract when March 14 arrives.
The Cowboys are typically more opportunistic than splashy in free agency, and they’re likely to follow the same strategy this year. However, they’ve got some financial work to do first.
March 16: New League Year Begins
By 3 p.m. Central time, all 32 teams must be under the $208.2 million salary cap for 2022. According to Over The Cap, the Cowboys currently rank 28th in cap flexibility: currently $13.4 million over.
Now, that’s always a fluid projection. The club can drop below the cap threshold simply by restructuring Prescott’s contract for a second straight year. But they’ll have more work ahead to create space for re-signing players, signing outside free agents, and building a nest egg for the 2022 draft class.
How they make that space? Well, that’s generated plenty of speculation in recent days and leads us to our next date.
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