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Next Man Up

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Next Man Up: Door wide open for Jalen Tolbert


Like many teams around the league, the Cowboys sent a strong message in free agency. However, it wasn't in the form of adding a lot of players or keeping the majority of their own. What seems clear for the Cowboys is their willingness to give opportunities to younger players on the team.

This roster is loaded with players still on their rookie contracts that haven't had that breakout season just yet. Could it be this year? The Cowboys can only hope, especially considering they signed just one player (Eric Kendricks) in free agency and currently have just six picks in the NFL Draft later this month.

So the Cowboys have to lean on some of their previous drafts and free-agent signings to help fill out this roster.

Today, we'll start the series with wide receiver Jalen Tolbert.

  • Name: Jalen Tolbert
  • Position: Wide Receiver
  • Experience: 3rd Year
  • Games Played/Starts: 25 / 7
  • Years Left on Contract: 2
  • Key Stat: Both of Tolbert's touchdowns in 2023 occurred on the road against division teams – Philadelphia and Washington.

The Past: A third-round pick in 2022, Tolbert made little impact on the team during his rookie season. He was inactive for more than half of the regular season games and had just two catches for 12 yards. Tolbert saw a bigger jump this past season, not only playing in all 17 games but also had seven starts when the team went to a three-receiver spread. He started to cut into Michael Gallup's reps and was used a key piece in the offense. Tolbert caught 22 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns and definitely had the trust of Dak Prescott, who threw in his direction several times in key moments.

The Present: The opportunity is now for Tolbert, who should be the clear-cut No. 3 receiver on this team behind CeeDee Lamb and Brandin Cooks. The Cowboys waived Gallup in March, paving the way for Tolbert to have a bigger role in the offense. Even if the Cowboys add a receiver in the draft, it's unlikely they would be able to unseat Tolbert's role right away. He'll have the chance to get plenty of reps in training camp and probably would get some in the preseason, giving him more chances to shine.

The Future: The wide receiver position isn't easy to evaluate. There are question marks with each of the top three. CeeDee still needs a new contract and Cooks is on the last year of his deal and Tolbert still hasn't shown the consistency for the Cowboys to count on as a regular contributor. And that's where Tolbert has the chance to change the narrative. If he can step up his game this year, he can help the Cowboys in their decision-making at wide receiver, especially with Cooks likely being a UFA next March.

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