FRISCO, Texas – It's the time of year for a good self-scout.
As the Cowboys process a disappointing end to 2021, it prompts a lot of speculation about what lies ahead in 2022. This series looks to present, and hopefully answer, a lot of questions about what this team will look like in the coming year.
Today, we'll wrap up the series by taking a stab at how the Cowboys might add to their receiver room in 2022.
How Can The Lost Production Be Replaced?
We've already established that there are a lot of moving parts at play here. Two of the top four receivers are slated for free agency, and the second-leading receiver from last season is mired in speculation about an uncertain future.
It's hard to predict what's coming with certainty, but it feels likely that the Cowboys will be in need of a receiver this offseason – potentially several of them.
Free agency will be the first part of that. The Cowboys don't make their strategy a secret. They'll target a few of their own priority free agents to bring back on new deals, then they'll seek to fill the gaps in their roster with affordable free agents. The idea is to address the roster sufficiently enough to keep them from reaching in the draft.
Signing free agents might be easier said than done, though. Spotrac.com projects that Michael Gallup could a salary as large as $11-12 million per year, while Cedrick Wilson might be worth $6 million or more per year.
Given the Cowboys' track record with free agency spending, their options if they get outbid for Gallup or Wilson would likely be between players with injury concerns or limited starting experience.
This year's NFL draft class could offer more in the way of firepower. The early consensus seems to be that this year's crop of receivers is missing a seminal talent like Ja'Marr Chase, but it's got plenty of depth.
At the top of the crop, there are at least five prospects with first-round potential – the Ohio State duo of Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, Alabama's Jameson Williams, Arkansas' Treylon Burks and USC's Drake London.
As it stands in early February, it's hard to imagine the Cowboys using the No. 24 overall pick on a wide out – but that could change drastically in the coming weeks. If they want to draft a receiver with their first-round pick, one of those top talents should be available.
There will be plenty of other options, too. Our old friend, The Athletic's Dane Brugler, lists 14 wide receivers in his early Top 100 draft prospects for 2022.
Acquiring talent shouldn't be the issue. The Cowboys have done good work with receivers in the draft. Gallup and Wilson were 2018 draft classmates has been noted. CeeDee Lamb just appeared in his first Pro Bowl after the Cowboys drafted him 17th overall in 2020. It's also worth a reminder that Simi Fehoko – one of just two offensive players the Cowboys drafted last year – will be waiting for his shot at a larger role.
The big question is how steep will this challenge be? The Cowboys can find a replacement for Michael Gallup in the draft if he leaves. Same goes for Cedrick Wilson. Could they replace both in one draft class? Doubtful. And the issue gets even more concerning when you consider a future without Amari Cooper.
There's work to be done, no matter what. The Cowboys need to decide in the coming weeks just how much work they want to take on with their receiver group.