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The pressure is on Michael Gallup to have a bounce-back season in 2023

After a disappointing 2022 season, Michael Gallup needs to show pre-ACL injury form

NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Amidst the comings and goings of personnel for the Dallas Cowboys in 2023, Michael Gallup has quietly gone without mentioning for much of the offseason. It’s funny to think how Gallup got to this stage in his career and how big of a season he’s about to enter.

When the team drafted Gallup in the third round of the 2018 draft, he found himself playing significant snaps with no other primary receiver to lead the way. Before the Cowboys traded for Amari Cooper in the middle of that season, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys’ passing game struggled mightily. However, Gallup showed flashes of his potential.

In his second season, Gallup made major improvements to his game. Though not having the fastest timed speed, or being very elusive after the catch, Gallup materialized as a terrific deep ball receiver. His strong hands, and excellent concentration, saw Gallup make frequent appearances on the highlight reel. Gallup finished his sophomore season catching 66 passes for 1,107 yards along with six touchdowns.

2020 was a miserable season for Gallup and the team as a whole. Around this time with the offense boasting three viable receivers, Gallup, Ceedee Lamb, and Amari Cooper, Gallup was the subject of several trade rumors. The team opted to stand pat and allowed Gallup to finish his rookie contract, but not before injuring his ACL late in the 2021 season. Despite a long road to recovery, the team still signed Gallup to a five-year, $57M contract.

With Gallup missing time during the early regular season, the offense once again sputtered through the air. Fans clamored for Gallup to return and take this offense to another level. Unfortunately, Gallup was unable to recapture his old form and his production plummeted. Even though he played in fourteen games, he saw career lows in yards, yards per reception, and average depth of target (ADOT). Thus far, the early returns on the Cowboys’ investment have not been good. The silver (and blue) lining is that Lamb was able to emerge as a true number one receiver.

Needing to remedy an obvious problem at wide receiver the team signed T.Y. Hilton late last season who at least provided some kind of vertical presence, a role that Gallup was once best at. Amid speculation of adding Deandre Hopkins via trade this offseason, the team ultimately acquired Brandin Cooks who was on their radar at last year’s trade deadline for a fifth-round pick in 2023 and a sixth-round pick in 2024.

Though it may not seem like it, Gallup could be in danger of falling out of favor with the team entirely if he has another down season. As we’ve seen with the Cowboys releasing Ezekiel Elliott, anyone can find themselves on the chopping block. Simply put, the Cowboys could be ready to part with Gallup early in his contract if he has another disappointing season. Let’s examine Gallup’s contract details.

Gallup’s five-year deal has an out after this season. If released after the 2023 season, Gallup would count for 13M of dead cap money that would be spread over the remaining years of the contract. It’s a hefty cost but certainly manageable. In fairness to Gallup, most players struggle in their first return to action following an ACL injury, but we’d be remiss to not notice the changes among the offensive skill positions.

First, the Cowboys drafted Luke Schoonmaker in the second round of the draft who is sure to see opportunities playing alongside an already formidable tight end group. Plus, the aforementioned trade for Cooks with CeeDee Lamb firmly entrenched as the top receiver. Harsh as it may seem, Gallup needs to exhibit significant progress from last season.

Otherwise, it would be hard to justify his salary for another season. Stephen Jones has already stated that Lamb’s new contract is on the radar for the club along with several others. Brandin Cooks also is under contract with the Cowboys for the next two seasons. 2023 is shaping up to be a big year indeed for Michael Gallup.

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