Wide receiver has been one of the most discussed positions for the Dallas Cowboys this offseason. Their most notable move was trading Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns, a move that seemingly left them with a void to fill at the position, but none of the resources to do so quickly. The Cowboys waited until the third round to draft Jalen Tolbert, seeing many names at the position getting picked before the 24th overall slot used for Tyler Smith.
The Cowboys also lost Cedrick Wilson in free agency to the Miami Dolphins, and they don’t expect Michael Gallup to be ready for the start of the season. While Cowboys fans are familiar with the names they’ll be relying on to step up, the average fan browsing depth charts before a fantasy draft would be pretty uninspired by the Cowboys receiving corps. It’s a position group that fits their current trend of evaluating last year’s draft class and the nine rookies they took this April to see where their next core of starters will come from.
The team brought in four new undrafted free agent receivers this year, but one name from last season should have a leg up on the competition for the final roster spots. Texas Tech’s T.J. Vasher fell out of the 2021 draft because of a knee injury, but the Cowboys kept him on the roster as he continued to rehab last season. Now, the Cowboys will have a chance to see their investment in the 6-foot-6 receiver pay off at a time where help at the position is needed.
Vasher has the vertical ability to be the type of red zone threat the Cowboys lost in Cooper, plus the speed and quick-twitch to be an option in the slot. His competition to keep a roster spot includes Noah Brown, Simi Fehoko, and the other UDFAs like Ty Fryfogle out of Indiana.
The Cowboys also don’t view free agency as a time to add guaranteed starters, meaning James Washington will have to earn his snaps but is currently expected to help ease the loss of Gallup when the season begins.
The Cowboys are no stranger to waiting out a return on investment from an injured player, even doing so with a draft pick this year in Damone Clark. Vasher being an undrafted player makes any production the Cowboys get from him a welcome surprise, but he did put up 1,983 yards and 21 touchdowns in 37 games at Tech.
Vasher dealt with numerous injuries throughout his college career, making his durability a concern, but if he’s able to consistently practice through training camp there’s a clear path for him to become a “pet cat” of fans and coaches alike. Vasher didn’t handle returns in college, but the Cowboys also have a glaring opening at punt returner, needing CeeDee Lamb as their top receiver.
If Vasher can work with John Fassel on any special teams role, including punt returns, his natural skills as a receiver could make him valuable in more than one phase. This is always a goal for any UDFA player, but Vasher’s year of experience around The Star and understanding of Kellen Moore’s offense are significant advantages over the field.
This is a pivotal year for Moore and Mike McCarthy and their futures with the Cowboys. As they look to build a young depth chart that can keep this team in contention, the pressure to do so while proving they’re the right coaches for Dak Prescott is palpable. The decisions they’ve made at receiver this offseason are even more questionable when considering this sense of urgency from the staff, unless they truly know something we don’t yet.
A small part of this equation could be Vasher, a potential UDFA gem from last year that has a better chance to prove it in 2022.