Back & Forth: Projecting The Future At Receiver

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FRISCO, Texas - With the 2022 NFL Draft just more than a week away, this is time where NFL teams usually hit the pause button for a moment.

Of course, the door isn't closed, but this is the stretch of year where NFL teams, including the Cowboys, are knee-deep in preparations for adding a new draft class.

For the most part, the dust has settled for now, knowing it will pick up significantly on April 28, the start of the draft.

So let's look back at each position, with a free-agent recap, and look ahead to see if there's more left to do.

Today, we'll continue with wide receiver.

What Happened:

  • About a month after having successful surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, Michael Gallup signed a new five-year deal with Dallas in mid-March worth a reported $57.5 million.
  • Three days later on March 16, the first day of the new league year, the Cowboys officially traded Amari Cooper to the Browns for a 2022 fifth-round pick plus a swap of sixth-round picks by Cleveland and Dallas. Parting ways with Cooper saved the Cowboys $16 million in cap space this year.
  • After posting career highs in catches (45), yards (602) and receiving touchdowns (6), top backup Cedrick Wilson signed a three-year, $22 million deal with the Dolphins -- an obvious blow to the Cowboys' receiver depth.
  • Dallas pivoted a week later, signing four-year veteran James Washington to a one-year deal. Washington had 114 catches for 1,629 yards and 11 touchdowns in four seasons as a part-time starter with the Steelers.
  • The Cowboys also re-signed five-year veteran receiver/core special teams player Noah Brown to a one-year deal. Fellow backup/special teams contributor Malik Turner recently signed with the 49ers.

What's Next:

Cooper was such a focal point in the offense since 2018 that, despite the Cowboys' confidence in Lamb and Gallup moving forward, it's likely they aren't done addressing receiver depth this offseason (more on that below). For now, at least we have an idea of roles and expectations for the current depth chart.

Coming off his first career Pro Bowl appearance, Lamb moves into the No. 1 spot and will play more of the flanker role that Cooper previously occupied, head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters in March.

It's possible that Gallup will return from his knee injury by Week 1, or it could be a couple games into September. Once he's back, he'll be a primary option for quarterback Dak Prescott once again.

Washington will have a chance to compete for more playing time than he had in Pittsburgh, where he played just over 30 snaps a game last season and saw only 44 receiving targets, the lowest since his 2018 rookie season.

Feeling A Draft?

The Cowboys have drafted at least one wide receiver in nine of the last 12 drafts since 2010. Three times in the last four years they've drafted a receiver in the first three rounds. Safe to say receiver is a spot they'll strongly consider this year given their track record and their current needs.

Speaking Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan, Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones mentioned receiver and defensive line as two of the deeper positions in this year's draft.

As expected, Lamb has developed into a dependable starter since arriving as the 17th overall pick in 2020. But the Cowboys have also found success drafting receivers in the middle to late rounds. Gallup was a third-round pick in 2018. Wilson was a sixth-round pick in 2018. Brown was a seventh-round pick in 2017.

An early pick at wideout isn't out of the question, but the Cowboys are probably confident they can wait if needed and still find a talented player to develop.

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