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 continue this look at the Cowboys' receiver corps by looking at the depth chart beyond the duo of Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb.
How Might The Cowboys Fill Out Their WR Depth Chart?
As we detailed on Monday, the Cowboys are facing a decision about Amari Cooper.
Frustrating as it might be, there's no way to know how that situation will work out just yet. But on the flip side, the front office needs to make a decision by March 20 – which is just more than a month away. We shouldn't have to wait too long for clarity.
In the meantime, Cooper is one of just three receivers under contract, along with CeeDee Lamb and Simi Fehoko. Regardless of what happens at the top of the depth chart, the rest of it needs plenty of work with Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson, Noah Brown and Malik Turner all slated to hit free agency in a month.
Gallup and Wilson, the two 2018 draft picks and close friends, are the most fascinating angle here. There has been speculation about Gallup's future dating back to last year, when he was asked repeatedly about it heading into a contract year.
In a heartbreaking turn, injuries robbed Gallup of the opportunity to maximize his earning potential. A calf strain suffered in the season opener forced him to miss two months. He then tore his ACL during the Jan. 2 loss to Arizona, just before the postseason – while catching only his second touchdown of the season, at that.
Gallup had surgery last week, and it'll be a busy offseason of rehab for him. Even still, with 193 career catches for 2,902 yards and 15 touchdowns under his belt, it's easy to guess the injury won't prevent Gallup from being one of the better receivers on the market this spring.
For his part, Gallup has said he'd like to remain a Cowboy – though he admitted that's not entirely up to him.
"I hope I'm a Cowboy in 2022," he told The Draft Network last week. "I can't say that I will be with any certainty. I would definitely like to be a Cowboy. I love it down here in Dallas. We will see what happens ultimately."
Wilson is in a similar situation after enjoying the best year of his career. With Gallup injured for half the year – and with both Cooper and Lamb missing time – Wilson had more opportunities than ever in the starting lineup.
The former Boise State standout made the first four starts of his career in 2021, nabbing 45 catches for 602 yards and six touchdowns – all of those career highs by a wide margin. His contributions on special teams, and occasionally as a passer, only served to highlight his versatility and value.
In a perfect world, the Cowboys could find a way to retain both homegrown talents. But without much in the way of salary cap space, that seems daunting. The harsh reality is that both players' futures in Dallas could be tied to Cooper, and the amount of cap space he currently commands.
Perhaps it's possible that Gallup's injury would allow the Cowboys to re-sign him on a smaller-than-anticipated deal. And it's also not a stretch to think that they have a place a higher value on Wilson's role than another team might.
Still, the nature of free agency makes it feel unlikely that both players will still play for the Cowboys two months from now. It might be a situation of determining the bigger priority.
There's a bit less intrigue around Brown and Turner, simply due to their placement on the depth chart. Retaining Brown on his restricted free agent tender was one of the Cowboys' first moves last March, and he maintained his regular role as a useful blocker and occasional contributor in the passing game.
Turner was one of the more surprises of the season, as he stood out in training camp, missed the early part of the season and returned to prove useful as a reserve receiver and special teamer. He shined late in several blowout games, and he also blocked a punt.
The Cowboys' hope is undoubtedly that Fehoko improves enough in Year 2 to grab one of those jobs. The rookie was a healthy inactive for much of last season, but the front office clearly thought enough of his potential to keep him around.
Still, it's hard to imagine either Brown or Turner did enough to price themselves out of town. It feels like a good guess the Cowboys could afford to retain either one of them, or both, provided they want to.
It's a lot to unpack, but this is a position group with a lot of potential for turnover. Even if they do manage to retain some of this talent, it's a solid bet the Cowboys' receiver room will have a few new faces in 2022.