Free Agency Tracker | 2022

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Mick Shots: Why Would Anything Surprise You?

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FRISCO, Texas – Real cute on the part of the Denver Broncos after Randy Gregory's about-face with that Tweet.

Surprise!

In the infamous words of the late Tom Landry when he really didn't want to answer a direct question, he'd say, "No, not really."

Why, it's the hate-season, er, sorry, the offseason. When very little can be trusted and a game of Liar's Poker is played, not to mention this game of media generally throwing mashed potatoes at the wall, just hoping something will stick in an out-of-breath rush to be first rather than to be accurate.

Happens every springtime, or at least at the start of the next NFL league year, which finally took place Wednesday when these unrestricted free agents could actually sign on the dotted line to make all these reported agreements official and all these arranged trades can become official and teams struggling to get under this year's $208 million salary cap actually have to be under.

So surprised Gregory, after six years of Cowboys' loyalty to a struggling young soul who was their 2015 second-round draft choice, reneged on his word to owner Jerry Jones to return to the franchise that put up with his multiple suspensions and extended a contract with an advance during one of his latest suspensions to help finance what seems to have become a successful recovery?

Kidding me?

No surprise whatsoever. Wasn't born yesterday.

Now for the misconceptions floating around.

First, that the Cowboys snuck in at the last minute this clause to the contract that Gregory would have to return money if suspended by the NFL for whatever reason. Seriously, his agent Peter Schaffer wasn't born yesterday, either. He's smarter than that. He's done business previously with the Cowboys. That clause has always been in Cowboys' contracts, with the exception of Dak Prescott's latest.

Plus, players suspended by the league don't get paid. See La'el Collins, circa 2021. And once a player is suspended, teams have a right to recoup that prorated portion of their signing bonus. See why Collins fought last year's six-game suspension so hard, and any suspension also wipes out any future contract guarantees.

Then this idea Gregory was insulted by the clause, as if the Cowboys didn't trust him. Ha, they trusted him enough to see him through his sea of personal setbacks.

Then this notion that owner Jerry Jones and COO Stephen Jones didn't get on the phone with Gregory to negotiate. They did, and is why the Cowboys were offering the five-year, $70 million deal with $28 million guaranteed, exactly the same as Denver's. I'm told after changing his mind, neither Gregory nor Schaffer would get back on the phone with the Cowboys. When has Jerry not talked someone into a business deal.

Oh, and let's not act as if the Cowboys have saved so much salary cap space they can now splurge on some other unrestricted defensive end. Or linebacker. The way the Denver contract is structured, Gregory's 2022 cap charge is just $6 million, based on his reported $10 million signing bonus ($2 million a year over five) and $4 million base salary.

So surprised? Not on your life. Hey, this shot's not as if Gregory jumped out of some cake singing "Happy Birthday," you know. Not sure Gregory wanted to come here in the first place but didn't have the nerve to turn Jerry down.

  • Just Business: The Cowboys didn't want to restructure DeMarcus Lawrence's contract … again. They didn't want to cut him, either. All to reduce his $27 million cap hit. And Lawrence wasn't kosher with taking a pay cut. So, the two sides met in between. Instead of Lawrence having to play for a non-guaranteed $19 million base salary in 2022 and a non-guaranteed $21 million in 2023, a total of $40 million in the final two years of his five-year $105 contract, Lawrence agreed to a three-year, $40 million deal (same total), but the difference being the Cowboys guaranteed $30 million of that total, like $30 million more than he had guaranteed in the previous last two years of his deal. Plus, instead of having to get paid weekly for 18 weeks on that $19 million base, the Cowboys compensated by paying him a $12 million signing bonus upfront – money in his pocket – and guaranteed his 2022 base salary of $3 million. That's $15 million guaranteed up front in one year. Remember, too, the Cowboys still must account for his $9 million previous restructure bonus and the final two years of his prorated previous signing bonus ($8 million a year), meaning instead of his 2022 cap hit being $27 million, it lowers to $14 million. The Cowboys also fully guaranteed Lawrence's 2023 base salary of $15 million, and to help with spreading out his signing bonus, added a voidable 2025 season. To me, guaranteed money is better than more non-guaranteed money.
  • Galluping Along: So, re-signing wide receiver Michal Gallup to a five-year contract, actually $57.3 million but up to $62.5 million thanks to $58,823 bonuses for games played, or an extra potential of $1 million a year if playing all games in a season. Best for Gallup, not only did he receive a $10 million signing bonus, not bad for a guy coming off ACL surgery and unsure if he will be ready to play before October this coming season, but also guaranteed a total of $23 million – his 2022 base salary of $2 million, the 2023 base of $11 million and $4 million of his $8.5 million base in 2024 if on the roster. Fair deal.
  • Dynamic Duo: Troy and Buck back in the saddle, but just over at ESPN for Monday Night Football, the network finally making what we've seemingly known official at the start of the NFL's new league year on Wednesday for Troy Aikman and Joe Buck. Heck, ESPN had to do something big to counter the Mannings' gig on ESPN2 that became uber-popular on Monday nights. Maybe the only surprise was this coming from Troy last week on an unscheduled visit to 96.7 The Ticket here in Dallas where he's been doing a weekly segment for years. Aikman said Fox, after 21 years, never really entered the negotiations. "It was kind of strange how the negotiations went six months ago when we couldn't really reach what I felt was a fair value. Then I was able to negotiate an option in six months which allowed me to be a free agent, and Fox never jumped in the game. They stayed where they were and never made an offer." Now that surprises me.
  • New Year Shorts: Juist remember, if the Cowboys either trade or release starting right tackle La'el Collins, and by doing either assumes they believe Terence Steele is ready to become a step-in starter, they will have to account for $13.95 million of dead money, either all this year or part this year and the rest next year … Malik Hooker became cap friendly when signing his two-year, up to $7 million package with the Cowboys, which only counts $2.5 million against the cap for a potential starting free safety. And let's not forget the Cowboys still have safety Donovan Wilson under contract, and looking at you Israel Mukuamu … Thought this was funny, since sometimes you can never trust what an agent says, that Alan Herman, agent for defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis, has accused the Commanders (might be the first time I've typed that) of lying when saying they would not cut Ioannidis and did so on Wednesday for cap reasons when they had no trade takers. Heck, of course they said that. Who in their right mind would trade for a guy knowing he was going to be released?

This week's last word goes to me, and my last word, though not promising, on Randy Gregory. Wonder if he thought he'd be worth more than $14 million a year, which is essentially what Denver and the Cowboys thought he is worth, not only over the five-year deal, but also over the three years of the Broncos' guaranteed money, $42 million. And Denver could get out of the deal with minimal dead money after that 2024 season for a cap charge of just $4 million.

Why, the Raiders extended defensive end Maxx Crosby for four years, $95 million, and $53 million of that guaranteed, and then signed unrestricted free agent defensive lineman Chandler Jones for $51 million over three years.

Just think someone got in Randy's head.

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