With free agency just over a month away, the rumors have been swirling about what the Dallas Cowboys need to do in order to get to even with the salary cap. Right now, the Cowboys are the third-worst in the NFL in terms of cap space at over $21 million over the cap.
America’s Team also has 24 free agents set to hit the market in March. That list includes key names like Michael Gallup, Connor Williams, Randy Gregory, Leighton Vander Esch, Dalton Schultz, and many more. Both Jerry and Stephen Jones have admitted that the cap struggles will lead to some very difficult decisions for the organization.
The latest rumors may see two of the Cowboys’ biggest stars cut in order to make room in cap space. According to Bobby Belt, a Dallas Cowboys insider for 105.3 The Fan, those two players are wide receiver Amari Cooper and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence – neither of whom are free agents. Belt says he has heard that this is a possibility from multiple sources.
Lawrence is a two-time Pro Bowler who has been with Dallas for seven years since the start of his career in 2014. Cooper is a four-time Pro Bowler who has been with Dallas since he came over from the Raiders in 2018. Both are fan favorites in AT&T Stadium.
Cowboys insider Bobby Belt reports that Amari Cooper and DeMarcus Lawrence could be cap casualties this offseason
The Jones family hasn’t been shy about their disappointment in Cooper’s production. It’s unsurprising that they are considering cutting him. Besides the lack of production, Cooper is also under a massive contract. In March of 2020, the wide receiver signed a five-year, $100 million contract. That means Cooper earned $20 million for 2021, making him the highest-paid receiver in the entire NFL.
Cooper had one of his worst seasons as a pro this year. Some say that’s because he wasn’t targeted as much as he should have been. Others point out his various drops throughout the year. The receiver himself complained about his lack of targets at one point this season.
So, why cut Cooper? Because while $6 million of what he would make in 2022 would go to the dead cap, according to Spotrac, the Cowboys could still save $16 million by cutting the receiver before March 20. That money could help save other key free agents.
Lawrence, on the other hand, is quite complicated. Money-wise, the pass rusher is expected to make $19 million in 2022. He has two years remaining on his current five-year, $105 million contract. The $19 million is his base salary, and with the way the Cowboys structured Lawrence’s deal, an additional $8 million will affect the team’s total cap for a $27 million hit in 2022.
In this case (similar to what the Cowboys did with Dak Prescott), the last year of Lawrence’s contract currently has him making zero dollars (otherwise known as a “void year”). This is done to be able to maneuver money if cap space issues arise.
If they choose to release him before June 1, the Cowboys could reportedly save $19 million, according to the Dallas Morning News.
If the Cowboys choose to cut DeMarcus Lawrence, the monetary situation would be quite complicated. Is releasing Lawrence this offseason even worth it?
Is that worth it to lose a fan favorite and key member of your defense? Even though Lawrence was only able to play in seven games due to injury, he was still an integral part of the Cowboys’ defensive turnaround. Fans love his larger-than-life personality and his eagerness to compete. He is a veteran presence that has helped shape younger players on the Cowboys’ defense.
Figuring out how to get even with cap space always involves tricky maneuvers from the front office. Most of them are quite confusing. Do you think it’s worth the money to cut Cooper and Lawrence? If the rumor is true, this will be a hard pill for Cowboys fans to swallow. But this isn’t even touching on the potential loss of key free agents. This roster may look very different next year.