The Dallas Cowboys have been hard at work filling roster spots with the 2021 NFL draft looming. The brain trust also managed to hammer out a long-term deal with franchise quarterback Dak Prescott, ensuring the identity of their offense for at least the next four years. While these are certainly achievements worth celebrating, the job is not quite done on the offensive side of the ball.
Wide receiver Michael Gallup is entering a contract year and will be playing to cash in on a large payday this offseason. After giving Amari Cooper a $100 million contract and drafting Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb at No. 17 in the course of 2 months last year, many have questioned if those moves spell the end of Gallup’s tenure with the Cowboys. There are plenty of solutions to the forthcoming Gallup riddle, but in the end, the best answer may be to just pay the man.
Gallup is entering his fourth season after being selected in the third round of the 2018 draft and he has been a force to be reckoned with ever since.
Gallup started half of the 16 games his rookie season, putting up 507 receiving yards and an impressive 15.4 yards per reception. 2019 was the coming-out party for Gallup as he exploded for over 1,100 receiving yards and six touchdowns on 66 catches.
In 2020, Gallup would play with four different quarterbacks over the course of just one season and still managed to be as efficient as ever, racking up 843 receiving yards and five scores. Fans may also remember Gallup making two crucial sideline catches in a win against the Giants last October when Andy Dalton took over late in the game for an injured Dak Prescott. His ability to track the football and make physically contested catches has made the lives of every quarterback he’s played with easier.
Having a talented second-read WR to line up on the outside of the formation has proven to be a very powerful asset in recent years across the NFL. Duos like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin with the Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster for the 2017 Pittsburgh Steelers, and the pairing of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs of the 2018 Minnesota Vikings gave the league fits with mismatches and dynamic play designs. Gallup and Cooper proved they can be just as much of a threat in 2019 when both men eclipsed 1,100 receiving yards.
Giving Gallup a new deal would have sounded out of the realm of possibility just two months ago, but could be plausible thanks to the NFL’s lucrative new TV deals set to drastically increase the salary cap soon. It’s unknown when that deal will impact future caps, but it could be massaged with a contract done the right way.
If the Cowboys would like to keep Gallup beyond 2021. they have two options; the franchise tag or a long-term agreement.
Over the Cap is projecting the 2022 franchise tag amount for the WR position to come in at just north of $19 million. That is a steep price considering the Cowboys’ WR1 is currently making $20 million per season on average, and that cap hit is likely not what Dallas would favor.
If Dallas plans on retaining Gallup beyond next season they would plan to go the long-term route to help the cap gymnastics and it would be better to extend him before he hits the free market. Several teams may be ready to hand Gallup a huge deal.
One issue is that Dallas already ranks sixth in 2022 salary for the wideout position and third projected for 2023. There’s a lot of work to do between now and then, but having the highest-paid wide receiver corp is certainly a hard decision to make.
Outside of letting him play out his deal and hitting free agency where he would enter the compensatory pick formula for 2023, the tag and a long-term deal, the only other immediate option is to trade Gallup to another team.
Dallas already refused to do last season when Gallup had more team control left on his contract. However, there are plenty of receiver-needy teams such as Baltimore and Pittsburgh, and a second-round pick or a defensive starter in return for the fourth-year WR would be hard to refuse.
Continuity is a very real and important concept in today’s NFL. Internally combusting the offensive tank the Cowboys will place on the field this fall by trading Gallup or letting him walk this offseason would not help much in the short term as the team searches for the ever-elusive Vince Lombardi trophy.
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