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The curious case of the Cowboys and Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, & Dalton Schultz

There doesn’t seem to be a good plan in place for the Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

It is only the first week of March and already this feels like one of the longest Dallas Cowboys offseasons in recent memory. The owner/president/general manager created a public feud with the head coach after going on the radio. A number of top contributors from last season are set to hit free agency in a week and a half. But at this particular moment, what we’d like to focus on is the latest Dallas Cowboys Catastrophe™️ that has been The Amari Cooper Saga.

On Friday it was reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, after it was originally reported on Thursday night by the local Dallas Morning News, that the Cowboys are likely going to be moving on from Amari Cooper this offseason.

The Cowboys can save $16M in salary cap space by moving on from Cooper and there is logic to that. It isn’t logic that has universal agreement, but you can have a conversation about why that isn’t totally unfounded.

Where the problem lies right now is in the follow-up plan that the Cowboys are discussing. Nothing about the way they are operating indicates that they have any sort of plan, on the contrary, it smells like they are living in the moment and acting on a purely reactionary basis as opposed to a proactive manner.

Nothing about how the Cowboys are handling Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, & Dalton Schultz makes sense

So the Dallas Cowboys want to cut Amari Cooper. Fine. Arguments can be made, but fine.

This is problematic because the Cowboys have two of their top pass-catchers set to hit free agency in wide receiver Michael Gallup and tight end Dalton Schultz. One report on Friday indicated that Dallas is “close” to a deal with Gallup, but another that followed noted that the team’s initial offer was not as high as Gallup’s representation expected.

It isn’t breaking news that this team is at a point where they sort of have to choose between Gallup and Cooper. When Cooper signed the deal he is on two years ago it was extremely obvious that in 2022 - where we are now, with Gallup’s rookie contract expiring - the team would be in a position to make a commitment to one over the other. Landing CeeDee Lamb in the draft a few months after Cooper took pen to paper added to the Cowboys’ depth. It is my opinion that the last two years have proven that Cooper is the top receiver on the team and that Lamb is currently not there.

If we are to believe that the Cowboys were pleasantly surprised by landing Lamb, then last offseason should have given them time to properly assess the situation in what was then the present and also the future that we now occupy. Releasing Cooper seems to be something they were clearly set out on doing, so why would they have not hedged their bet by extending at least one of Michael Gallup or Dalton Schultz?

By allowing Gallup and Schultz to play out their rookie contracts to expire in this specific moment, the Cowboys gave the two players that they reportedly want back more than Cooper all of the leverage in conversations (which is why their offer to Gallup was likely lower than his team was wanting). Neither Gallup, nor Schultz, has any reason to believe that the Cowboys won’t significantly raise whatever lowball offer they originally gave to them since they have told the entire world that they are planning on moving on from Cooper.

The entire thing reeks of an inability to project forward, a Stephen Jones specialty. When you look at how players like DeMarcus Lawrence, Ezekiel Elliott, and Dak Prescott have all gotten in the contract negotiations ring when Stephen and won without even taking him the distance, it isn’t difficult to discern how the team’s EVP would make a mistake like this.

Stephen Jones is the first to complain about how there is only so much pie to go around, but the thing is he waits until there is a shortage of ingredients to buy what he needs to make some. As a front office the Cowboys are constantly in positions where they have no ground to stand on and are forced to do something irresponsible that they then blame on the player after a couple of years. Look at Cooper for example.

The Cowboys are now framing all of this as Cooper being a player who makes too much money relative to production. Keep in mind they are the team who controls what his target share is and it is one that is dramatically lower than players who are paid at his level.

Feel disappointed in Amari Cooper if you will, but he is far from the problem that the Cowboys need rescuing from. They are an organization that chases their tail in every single instance of this variety only to complain about how it never stopped moving.

In a few weeks time the Cowboys are very likely going to have handed contracts to Michael Gallup and Dalton Schultz that feel like overpays. They will be overpays, but that is no fault to either player. They are doing what they can to make the most money possible. We can all empathize with that.

Where we have a right to be frustrated is with the Stephen Jones of the past as he is the one who made this bed that we all have to lie in. By procrastinating and putting these things off the Cowboys only created a situation that was untenable that they only exacerbated by revealing the true nature of. This situation would be volatile and difficult for them to win (the negotiations with Gallup and Schultz) regardless, but with every leak they have they put themselves more and more behind the eight ball.