Offseason | 2021

Roster Reset: Take Two For The Receiving Trio?

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The free agent signing period is not over by any means, but it certainly has gotten quieter both with the Cowboys and around the league. The focus is shifting now to the NFL Draft, which is scheduled for April 29-May 1.

While it's still possible to see more moves between now and the draft, the bulk of the player movement has already passed. With that being said, let's take a quick look at each position on the roster and see where things stand heading into the draft later this month.

Today, we focus on the wide receiver position.

What Changed?

When you look at the wide receiver position on the roster, nothing really changed. The team brought back Noah Brown on a one-year deal and they applied the original round tender to Cedrick Wilson, which prevented him from hitting free agency. Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb are all still on the same contracts that they were on last season.

What has changed in the big picture is that Dak Prescott has been signed to a long-term deal, and therefore will be the quarterback throwing to the above-mentioned players, which is good considering they've all shown flashes of terrific chemistry catching passes from him. Prescott's guaranteed future with the team and his return (along with Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, and Zack Martin) means that we might actually see the potential of the Cowboys' dynamic receivers for a full season. If we learned anything from last year, it's that three playmaking receivers can't make plays if they don't have a great quarterback and a good offensive line blocking for him. Nothing's changed in terms of the Cowboys' three best receivers, but the pieces might finally be in place to unlock them.

What's Here?

Cooper, Gallup and Lamb should represent one of the five best receiving trios in the NFL without much debate. It was almost a year ago when Cooper proclaimed that the three could all record 1,000-yards receiving in the same season with the Cowboys. That would undoubtedly result in an MVP-caliber season from Prescott, and perhaps the league's top offense. Cooper, if he can stay healthy, is an All-Pro-caliber No. 1 receiver. Lamb proved to be every bit the playmaker that the Cowboys hoped when he slipped to them in the 2020 NFL Draft. And Gallup is a tremendous athlete with a knack for making bigger plays in bigger moments. Not to mention the fact that both Brown and Wilson both displayed that they are capable weapons for Prescott to find in the open field. As far as wide receiver talent goes, the Dallas Cowboys have an embarrassment of riches.

What's Next?

On one hand, it seems that the only thing that's next for the wide receivers is to fast forward to Week 1 so that we can watch them make plays. It's hard to imagine any scenario where they draft a wide receiver in the first three rounds of the draft. It's always possible they take advantage of some overlooked prospects in the sixth and seventh rounds, but those players would be fighting for a roster spot once training camp comes around.

But on the other hand, there is one storyline that has been brought up a few times outside of The Star, if not explicitly discussed within its walls. Whether before the draft or after, there is some logic to entertaining the notion of trading Gallup. The fourth-year receiver is entering the final season of his rookie contract and will command a new deal in 2022 that better reflects his talents.

In the wake of the Prescott contract, creating cap space will be a semi-regular discussion going forward. The thinking behind trading Gallup would center on the combination of a few truths. Dallas has two other elite (or potentially elite) receivers on the roster already. If Dallas got a second- or third-round draft pick in return they could draft a receiver who will make what Gallup has made for the past three years and avoid having to work out a new deal. And even if that new receiver (or Brown or Wilson) were not as good as Gallup is now, perhaps, the thinking goes, Gallup's talents would never translate into comparable production considering the role he will play alongside two other great receivers. Perhaps, you don't need such a talented receiver in that role if there are only so many targets to go around.

The flaws in this logic are somewhat obvious. Even if Gallup's role is small and realistically his targets are low, you still want the most talented possible receiver catching those targets. A lesser receiver might do much less with those targets, which would mean less touchdowns and less first downs. The beauty of having Lamb, Gallup, and Cooper is that there will almost always be a mismatch somewhere to exploit.

If Gallup has a great year and the Cowboys lose him to a team in free agency in 2022 then there will be fans saying that they should have gotten something for him when they had the chance. But there is no question that the goal and expectation for 2021 is to make the playoffs and contend for a Super Bowl. There isn't much of an argument that those goals will be more attainable without Gallup on the roster this year.

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