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The Dallas Cowboys will enter the start of the 2022 regular season with one proven wide receiver on its roster.
As the Cowboys look to carry the momentum they established during the 2021 season with their first NFC East crown since 2018, they do so with a receiving corps worse than the prior year.
Which is why Dallas should target a veteran wide receiver in free agency.
As we enter offseason activities for NFL teams, there’s a number of notable receivers left on the free agency market. Those names include the likes of Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., Emmanuel Sanders, T.Y. Hilton and former Cowboys receiver Cole Beasley.
Due to Michael Gallup’s recovery from an ACL injury, the Cowboys enter 2022 with CeeDee Lamb as the only established healthy wide receiver on the roster. Rounding out the remainder of the Cowboys’ depth chart at receiver is James Washington — who disappointed as a second-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers — and rookie third-round pick Jalen Tolbert.
In other words, Dallas will replace multiple-time Pro Bowler Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson — who ranked fourth on the team in receiving yards last season — with a veteran washout and a rookie receiver.
Yet, despite Dallas’ uncertainty at one of the most important positions in football, Cowboys Stephen Jones appeared to rule out the idea of adding a veteran receiver to mix — despite the plethora of talent that is still available in the free agency pool.
Jones stated the following just prior to the NFL draft in April.
Via Mike Fisher of Sports Illustrated:
“I know Amari was a great player for us,” Jones said of the traded-away Cooper, “but this might allow CeeDee (Lamb) and Michael (Gallup) to step up and play an even bigger role. And who knows what their upside may be?”
While it’s great that the Cowboys have faith in their current receiving corps, it’s undeniable that the receivers outside of Lamb and Gallup aren’t proven. It further complicates matters that Gallup’s recovery from an ACL injury will require him to miss the first two or three games of the season, as noted by Jones.
Considering the Cowboys are a team targeting a Super Bowl run after years of coming up short in the postseason, why would you rule out possible help at the position? Especially when there’s a number of viable options that could help you reach that goal?
It’s true that the Cowboys aren’t exactly rolling in available cap space money at the moment. According to Spotrac, they have slightly under $11 million in available cap space (based upon their top 51 player contracts). That leaves Dallas with the money available to sign one or two noteworthy veterans in free agency prior to the start of the season.
It’s also worth noting that all of the aforementioned veterans have baggage of their own. Jones is 33 years old coming off of the worst season of his career. Beckham is coming off of a torn ACL in the Super Bowl and won’t be ready at the start of the season, making a signing with Dallas unlikely prior to the start of the season.
Meanwhile, Sanders, Beasley and Hilton are all on the wrong side of father time, with all three receivers being at least 32 years of age.
But one could argue they’re all better than what the Cowboys have slotted in at the No. 2 receiver position to begin the season.
For perspective, Washington posted a 50.5 receiving grade last season, according to Pro Football Focus. That ranked as the worst receiving grade of any wide receiver with at least 40 targets last season.
While it’s true that the Cowboys play in a weak division and a weak conference overall, shouldn’t Dallas be taking advantage of the situation by getting better and not worse?
The Philadelphia Eagles serve as the Cowboys’ biggest rival in the NFC East, having made it to the postseason last year as a wild card. Despite ending last season as a fringe playoff contender, one could argue the Eagles are a better team than the Cowboys entering the 2022 season.
Philadelphia swung a major trade for A.J. Brown during the 2022 NFL draft and recently signed former Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry in free agency.
In other words, the Eagles went through the 2022 offseason improving their playoff-level roster. Meanwhile, the Cowboys feel like they gutted their playoff-level roster by placing too much confidence on potential contributors in veteran washouts like Washington and rookies like Tolbert.
As an NFL team, you never rule out the idea of adding potential help to your squad. Even the Seattle Seahawks — who are clearly in a rebuilding mode — haven’t ruled out the idea of adding another quarterback to their less-than-stellar situation.
Yet, here are the Cowboys, ruling out the idea of adding a veteran receiver when seemingly every NFL contender has added one this offseason.
Signing a veteran receiver won’t immediately make the Cowboys the team to beat, but it will certainly cover up some of the holes they have on their roster.
If the Cowboys hope to not only contend in the NFC, but want to hold off the Eagles for supremacy in the NFC East, they should leave their short-sighted thinking at the door.