Just over a week separates us from the beginning of free agency in the 2022 NFL season. The Cowboys are coming off of what was objectively an impressive season as they went 12-5 and won the NFC East. Putting that in larger context, though, the team was a massive disappointment down the stretch, especially given the performances that they got from some of their defensive talent like Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs.
Among the Dallas defenders who played well this season was Randy Gregory. The Cowboys took Gregory in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft and have stuck by his side through a number of off-the-field challenges. Many Cowboys fans are hopeful that Gregory will give the Cowboys a hometown discount of sorts in free agency, but this is a business after all and players have to look out for themselves.
“Many around the league” expect defensive end Randy Gregory to stay
One option for the Cowboys to pursue if they want to retain Gregory is to place the franchise tag on him. There are actually multiple candidates on the Cowboys that merit franchise tag consideration like wide receiver Michael Gallup (who the team is reportedly “close” on a deal with according to ESPN) or tight end Dalton Schultz.
Gallup and Schultz leapt to the forefront of the priority list this past week when word emerged that the Cowboys are likely moving on from wide receiver Amari Cooper. If they hypothetically got a deal done with Gallup and tagged Schultz that would leave Gregory vulnerable, but word from ESPN is that “many around the league” believe Gregory will stick around in Dallas.
The Cowboys planned for free agency with two franchise-tag candidates in mind: Schultz and edge rusher Randy Gregory. Schultz is the more likely option, but that’s the line of thinking. Still, they don’t want to lose Gregory, and many around the league expect him to stay. Up to three tight ends could be tagged: Schultz, Gesicki and Cleveland’s David Njoku.
In a vacuum the tag figure for tight ends is not intimidating as it sits at a friendly $10.8M for this season. The Cowboys would theoretically like to lock up Schultz to a long-term deal so the tag would in all likelihood be a placeholder of sorts until they hypothetically did so.
The tag value for defensive ends is just north of $16M which is obviously a larger figure and therefore would theoretically have the Cowboys’ foot on the gas towards locking Gregory up for something long-term. It is worth saying that all of these players in Michael Gallup, Dalton Schultz, and Randy Gregory were eligible for extensions a year ago and that if the team had any foresight they could have corrected this now-problem ahead of time. As our own Tom Ryle put it recently, this problem is entirely self-induced.
Retaining Randy Gregory becomes an even larger problem if the Cowboys also release defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.