In this series, we are going to hit on each team and give you a brief rundown of how they look going into free agency, what moves are at their disposal, and what you might expect from the team.  NFL free agency begins during the legal tampering period on Monday, March 14, 2022, and then players can officially sign on March 16th.  All salary numbers within the article are courtesy of

With this article, we are going to explore all potential options for the Dallas Cowboys – some of which will be more realistic than others. 

Looking to see how other NFL teams should be handling their offseason heading into free agency? Check out our NFL Team Hub for a complete team-by-team breakdown!



Projected Cap Space: ($22,154,885)



The Cowboys are in the classic predicament of having a really solid team but needing to make difficult cap decisions just to maintain it. It puts into perspective how important it is to hit on picks like Trevon Diggs and Micah Parsons because, even with those cheap contracts keeping the defense afloat, there is over $20 million worth of work to do to clean things up. Here we’ll take a look at some options they have in terms of freeing up space, who to keep, and what to target in this year’s free agency/draft.           



Cap Maneuver Options


The most common way to generate money via restructuring is to convert base salary to signing bonus, which can then be spread out over the remaining years of the contract.  You can also potentially incorporate an extension to spread that money out further.  How favorable that is for both the team and player comes down to the long-term outlook for the player.  In certain circumstances, you may even have the leverage to ask a player to take less money.  




According to some sources, this one is already a foregone conclusion but it’s yet to hit the books.  The reality, though, is that it’s pretty simple.  You like Dak Prescott and plan to have him around for the long haul.  The salary cap is expected to spike in 2023 with new TV deals like the Thursday Night Football deal with Amazon.  So, you convert Prescott's base salary into a signing bonus and spread it out over the future.  They can save as much as $15-$16 million doing this.  Again, it might be a sure thing already.



This is where it starts to get tricky.  Amari Cooper is a good player, but it’s no secret that he hasn’t lived up to his contract and Cowboys brass isn’t pleased with it.  Right now, it’s a stalemate because Amari has very little leverage – each of his years moving forward only has $2 million guaranteed. So, they could cut him and save $20 million with $6 million in dead cap (which becomes $4 million and then $2 million in subsequent years).  On the flip side, you DON’T want to cut him but there are now rumors that he will be released if they can’t trade him or change their minds on a restructure.  The two sides seem pretty far apart but, technically, they could save $12.5 million with a restructure without Amari taking less money in the long run.








I'm lumping Zack Martin, Tyron Smith, and La'el Collins together not just because they are all linemen, but since they all agreed to restructure their contracts in this fashion last year.  Plus, all three played well in 2021 as each finished in the top 10 among all linemen in run-blocking grades, per PFF.  If the Cowboys really wanted to, they could free up as much as $21 million for 2022 by moving money into the future.  Kicking the can too far down the road can be a dangerous game, however, as guys like Trevon Diggs and Micah Parsons will eventually need to be paid as well. 



Just type “Zeke cut” into Twitter and you’ll see how many folks are misinformed on this.  There is zero cap benefit to cutting Ezekiel Elliott in 2022.  You would only do it if the roster spot was more valuable than the player - which it is not.  He can only possibly be cut starting in 2023, and even that would be painful as you’d have more dead cap than you are saving.  The options to free up money with him are to restructure – which would likely involve a commitment to keeping him for at least 2023 – or trading him.



A name that has come up alongside Amari Cooper’s in a lot of these discussions, Demarcus Lawrence has a $27 million cap hit this upcoming season – so he might not necessarily be worth that ding.  Like Amari, you can restructure him to the tune of nearly $12 million in cap relief but then you are committing money to him for years to come. Could be worth it to keep the band together. Cutting him would save $19 million in cap, but you’d then be speaking $19 million in dead cap over the next two seasons as well. 







As we mentioned, it doesn’t look like Cooper is willing to play ball – so they will at least attempt to seek a trade before cutting him.  Wide receiver contracts continue to grow, so it’s not crazy to think another team might be willing to take a shot on Amari knowing they can just cut him the following season with little dead cap if need be.  A post-June 1 designated trade would hypothetically save the Cowboys $20 million in cap space with only $2 million in dead cap in 2022 ($6 million total).




As we mentioned, you could potentially trade Zeke with a post-June 1 designation, which would free up $12.4 million in cap while eating $17,680,000 in dead cap over the next two seasons.  The problem with that is whoever trades for him would need to take on the rest of that contract, so the return you get back would not be as good as you might think. 






We talked about this above but this is starting to look like a reality, especially for Amari Cooper. Cutting Amari would only have $6 mil in dead cap vs. $19 mil for Lawrence.




Blake Jarwin has battled injuries, so it would hurt to give up on a guy that you haven’t really seen healthy in a while.  But at the end of the day, they might need every last dollar they can get and the question could boil down to Jarwin or Dalton Schultz.  Jarwin could be cut with $4.85 mil in savings and only $1 mil in dead cap in 2022.  




Incredibly similar story to Jarwin, really.  Injuries have kept Anthony Brown off the field, with the cornerback having broken his ribs on multiple occasions.  He’s also in a similar spot cap-wise to Jarwin, as he could be cut for $5 million with only $1.5 million in dead cap.  Fans want both players to take less money to stay with the Cowboys, but it’s really not always that simple. Would you do the same job for less? 




Greg Zuerlein being cut here wouldn’t just be a salary move, but he’s actually been pretty brutal in terms of performance.  Might be wise to take the ~$2.5 million they can save and look for a cheaper option. 


Important Free Agents



Randy Gregory is the biggest name in terms of impact.  Based on the number of moves they could potentially make above, I don’t think it’s as crazy as people think to bring him back on a market deal in the $12-13 million per year range.  Given the value of pass-rushing in this league, if they can’t bring Gregory back, I don’t see why they would pay some of these other free agents either unless they are incredibly cheap.    




This one might come off as a controversial opinion here, but I think Dalton Schultz outplayed his value in terms of salary last year – the same way Austin Hooper did on the high-volume 2019 Falcons.  In fact, Hooper is Dalton Schultz’s best comparable player athletically on  Schultz was a huge benefit of not being a focal point of this offense, as he did have 78 receptions for 808 yards but only 14 receptions for 137 yards came vs. man-to-man coverage.  He finished as the third-most productive tight end and I think it would be wise to let another team pay him and realize that was most likely the product of the offense, as the Browns found out with Hooper.



This one all boils down to replacement value.  Assuming Amari and CeeDee Lamb are back, Michael Gallup is the Cowboys' third wide receiver.  On other teams, he could be the second or even top wideout.  If someone wants to pay him that way, you have to try to find a cheaper third option. 




Jerry Jones publicly said he wants the offensive line to be more disciplined, which is essentially pointing the finger at Connor Williams.  He’s likely gone. 




As a first-round pick, the Cowboys could have had Leighton Vander Esch back this year for $9.1 million guaranteed – but they opted not to.  That looks like a decent call as he didn’t play up to that level.  If someone wants to pay him more than that, great, let him go.  If he wants to be back on a cheaper deal, he knows the defense and has shown enough.  

Honorable Mention Free Agents: 




Positions of Need in Free Agency/Draft

Tight End 

As mentioned above, I’m of the camp that the Cowboys can find a more affordable option at tight end than what Dalton Schultz offers.  Cowboys fans may groan at the idea but, if they keep Blake Jarwin for his blocking ability, they could supplement him with Evan Engram as a pass-catching tight end for fairly cheap.  This could alleviate some of the pain of losing Gallup as Engram can also play the slot.  If they want an every-down tight end that will be cheaper than what you’d have to pay Schultz, there are plenty of options old (like Rob Gronkowski, Zach Ertz, or CJ Uzomah) and young (like David Njoku, Gerald Everett, or OJ Howard).


Interior Offensive Line 

Connor Williams is likely gone at guard and Tyler Biadasz wasn’t exactly amazing at center, so they could certainly improve in this area.  Given the cap constraints, this may be a spot to target in the draft rather than free agency as interior linemen can be found.    



Pretty much all of their safeties in Jayron Kearse, Damontae Kazee, and Malik Hooker are all free agents – and none of them are particularly amazing either.  With more cap space, it would be easy to throw out names like Tyrann Mathieu, Jessie Bates, Marcus Williams, etc. – but they might not be able to go out and buy someone top of the line.  That said, someone like Jayron Kearse might be the better option over older guys like Devin McCourty or Kareem Jackson where you’d need to replace them soon anyway – even if they cost a little more. 

Looking to see how other NFL teams should be handling their offseason heading into free agency? Check out our NFL Team Hub for a complete team-by-team breakdown!



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