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The future is darkening for WR Michael Gallup in Dallas

The veteran’s offensive role is at an all-time low.

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Michael Gallup has been a key offensive player for the Dallas Cowboys for most of his career. But with his role now down to an all-time low, Gallup’s future with Dallas beyond this season is looking highly doubtful.

A third-round pick in 2018, Gallup started contributing quickly. As a rookie he had 33 catches for 507 yards, outplaying veteran Allen Hurns and emerging as the third option behind Amari Cooper and Cole Beasley. In fact, other than his first game of that first season, Gallup was never targeted less than twice in any game.

Never, that is, until Weeks 12 and 13 of 2023. Gallup has only received one target in each of Dallas’ last two games. He hasn’t been injured but simply has fallen that far out of the offense in which he was once a prominent figure.

This isn’t some two-week anomaly but a sign of where Gallup truly stands now with the Cowboys. After averaging over 6.1 targets per game from 2018-2022, he’s only getting 3.9 this season. And since the bye week, it’s down to just 2.5 in the last six games.

Brandin Cooks’ arrival, and especially his increasing rhythm with Dak Prescott more recently, is part of this. We’re also seeing TE Jake Ferguson’s rise on offense, plus the logical way that Prescott keeps feeding CeeDee Lamb. But even when it comes to the table scraps in the passing game, Gallup is getting outworked by Jalent Tolbert, KaVontae Turpin, and others.

There was a time when, even with Lamb and Amari Cooper on the field, Prescott would still look for Gallup in clutch moments. The two had immediate chemistry in 2018 and you know Prescott would still love to use Gallup if he could. Earlier this year, Prescott even seemed to be forcing the ball at times to his fellow veteran to the detriment of the offense.

While scheme changes after Kellen Moore’s departure may be a small part of the issue, it’s evident that Gallup just hasn’t ever come back from his 2021 leg injury. He’s still just 27 years old but, unless one more offseason does the trick, it doesn’t feel like we’ll ever see him performing at the same level again.

During the 2022 offseason, Dallas made a questionable choice by trading away Amari Cooper and giving Gallup, fresh off a major injury, a long-term deal. But even at the relative bargain of just $11.5 million per season, cheap by WR standards, Gallup’s health has never allowed him to live up to it.

Unfortunately, even if Gallup can get back to his old self, he may not get a chance to do it in Dallas. 2024 will be the third season in the five-year deal that Gallup signed in 2022 and he’ll count $13.85 million against the Cowboys’ salary cap. For a guy who’s now bordering on being inactive for games, that’s just not going to fly.

Dallas isn’t prohibited by the dead money from moving on. They could do a clean break and cut him outright, which may only create $800k in cap relief but opens a roster spot and absorbs all of the dead money into one season. Or, and this is more likely, they’ll make Gallup a June-1st cut for $9.5 million in 2024 cap space but a $8.7 dead money hit in 2025.

Between Prescott, Lamb, Micah Parsons, and others, the Cowboys have some big salary cap fish to fry next year. Even if you just narrow the scope to wide receiver, that $9.5 million is a big chunk to help fund Lamb’s next deal. It may only cover about a third of what Lamb stands to get, but it’s far from nothing.

This last month of the regular season, plus whatever comes in the playoffs, are likely Michael Gallup’s final games with the Cowboys. Even if Dallas would love to give him one more year to stage a comeback, the salary cap doesn’t seem to allow for it. With younger options like Tolbert and Jalen Brooks on the rise, Gallup’s future appears to be elsewhere.

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