2022 NFL Offseason: Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys (Last Year: 12-5)

2022 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
WR James Washington, DE Dante Fowler, OLB Anthony Barr, K Lirim Hajrullahu.
Early Draft Picks:
OT Tyler Smith, DE Sam Williams, WR Jalen Tolbert, TE Jake Ferguson, OT Matt Waletzko, CB Da’Ron Bland, LB Damone Clark, DT John Ridgeway. Cowboys Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
WR Amari Cooper, WR Cedrick Wilson, OT La’el Collins, G Connor Williams, DE Randy Gregory, LB Keanu Neal, S Damontae Kazee, K Lance Zuerlein.

2022 Dallas Cowboys Offense:
Dak Prescott has proven that he can be a great producer when everything around him is perfect. However, his play plummets when things go awry, whether that would be multiple injuries to the receiving corps or offensive line. With that in mind, Prescott will certainly be tested during the 2022 season.

Prescott enjoyed some terrific blocking last year, but that won’t be the case this season. Dallas lost two starting offensive linemen: Connor Williams and La’el Collins. Both will sorely be missed unless first-round pick Tyler Smith performs well during his rookie campaign. Smith can play right tackle and guard, but it sounds like he’ll begin at the latter position, filling in for Williams. As for Collins’ replacement, it’ll be Terence Steele, a mediocre blocker at best.

The remaining three blockers will return for another year, though there’s concern with two of them. Left tackle Tyron Smith has a dubious injury history; he has failed to play a full season since 2015, missing 20 games in the past two seasons. Center Tyler Biadasz isn’t very good, as he’s been a pedestrian replacement for Travis Frederick. At least there’s Zack Martin, who is one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL.

The receiving corps is diminished as well. This is because both Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson are now with the Browns and Dolphins, respectively. CeeDee Lamb figures to have a great season, but he and Dalton Schultz are Prescott’s only reliable targets. Michael Gallup is a quality No. 2 when healthy, but he tore his ACL late in the year and likely won’t be 100 percent at any point in 2022. If Gallup spends half of the season on the PUP list, Dallas’ second receiver will be James Washington, who is just an inconsistent deep threat. The Cowboys also have Jalen Tolbert, a third-round rookie.

Dallas’ running game won’t be as great as it was in the past either. Ezekiel Elliott has been on the decline in recent years, and things won’t improve for him because of the diminished offensive line. It could be argued that home-run threat Tony Pollard is the better option.

2022 Dallas Cowboys Defense:
Dallas’ pass rush was one of the primary reasons the team won the division last year. The Cowboys had the No. 7 pressure rate in the NFL, but as with certain aspects of the offense, it’s reasonable to expect this to be in decline in 2022.

The Cowboys have two players who are capable of putting intense heat on opposing quarterbacks: DeMarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons. Lawrence didn’t even play in the first half of the 2021 season, but he’s expected to be on the field for all of 2022. Parsons, meanwhile, took the league by storm as a rookie, logging 13 sacks while winning the Defensive Player of the Year award. The reason for the expected regression, however, is the loss of Randy Gregory, who signed a huge contract with Denver this spring. Gregory will sorely be missed unless either Dante Fowler or second-round rookie Sam Williams can adequately replace him. That may happen with Williams eventually, but probably not immediately. Fowler is not a good player, so the Cowboys should not expect much from him.

The Cowboys did far less to upgrade their interior defensive line, which was seen as a weakness heading into the offseason. A fifth-round selection on John Ridgeway won’t do the trick, so Dallas’ run defense, which was the ninth-worst in the NFL last year, won’t be better.

Dallas also spent mid-round selections on linebackers, including Damone Clark. The LSU product is very talented, but fell to the fifth frame because of his back injury. He may never pan out, but there’s a chance he might. Dallas will need him or 2021 fourth-round pick Jabril Cox to step up because besides Parsons, who spends a lot of time on the line of scrimmage, the team doesn’t have much at linebacker. There’s Leighton Vander Esch, but he has been in decline because of his neck injury.

The secondary, meanwhile, remains unchanged. The Cowboys will need better play from Trevon Diggs, an interception machine who surrendered way too many big plays in 2022. Diggs, Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis are a mediocre group of cornerbacks, and they won’t be able to contend with Philadelphia’s enhanced receiving corps.

Safety Jayron Kearse was the best player in Dallas’ secondary last year, and there’s no reason for him to regress at all. He’ll start next to Malik Hooker, who will have a larger role in 2022. That could be troublesome, given his extensive injury history.

2022 Dallas Cowboys Schedule and Intangibles:
The Cowboys signed Greg Zuerlein recently, but he didn’t exactly pay off for his new team. Jonathan Garibay, an undrafted free agent rookie, will be Dallas’ new kicker unless CFL kicker Lirim Hajrullahu is more impressive.

Bryan Anger maintained the league’s top net punting average last year.

Dallas did well on special teams, scoring a touchdown while failing to give up a score.

The Cowboys have a mixed schedule. They have some easy games, including matchups in the NFC East, but they also have to battle the Buccaneers, Bengals, Rams and Packers.

2022 Dallas Cowboys Rookies:
Go here for the Cowboys Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2022 Dallas Cowboys Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2022 Dallas Cowboys Analysis: The Cowboys will not be as good as they were in 2021. Their offensive line, receiving corps and pass rush will all be worse this season. Dallas can now be considered a mediocre team, so it will be much more difficult for it to win the NFC East, especially when considering that the other three teams in the division have improved.

Projection: 8-9 (2nd in NFC East)

2021 Projection: 6-11. 2021 Actual Result: 12-5.
2020 Projection: 8-8. 2020 Actual Result: 6-10.
2019 Projection: 7-9. 2019 Actual Result: 8-8.
2018 Projection: 5-11. 2018 Actual Result: 10-6.
2017 Projection: 11-5. 2017 Actual Result: 9-7.
2016 Projection: 10-6. 2016 Actual Result: 13-3.

NFL Draft Team Grade: A- Grade

Goals Entering the 2022 NFL Draft: The Cowboys lost some important players this offseason, as Amari Cooper, La’el Collins, Connor Williams and Randy Gregory are all gone. These players will need to be replaced somehow. Fixing the offensive line is especially important, as we’ve seen Dak Prescott struggle when he’s missing personnel up front.

2022 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Cowboys had three prospects in mind for the 24th-overall pick – Zion Johnson, Kenyon Green, Treylon Burks – but all of them were plucked off the board before they could pick. Determined to upgrade the offensive line, Dallas still selected Tyler Smith. He was a fine selection, but I wonder if it would have been better to draft Jermaine Johnson and then use the second-round choice on a blocker rather than Sam Williams. I like Williams, but Johnson is a special talent who happens to have much higher upside than Smith.

Still, I don’t mind what the Cowboys did. They obtained a pair of promising prospects to begin the draft while filling big needs in the process. They continued this trend with their mid-round selections as well. My two favorite picks were Jalen Tolbert, a receiver with big-play ability, and Matt Waletzko, an offensive lineman with some upside.

Aided by some terrific fifth-round picks, used on Damone Clark and John Ridgeway, the Cowboys’ overall draft grade must be positive. The draft board didn’t fall their way to begin the weekend, but they still did a good job of acquiring talent and filling needs.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

24. Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa B Grade
This is a fine pick, but why not Jermaine Johnson to replace Randy Gregory? The Cowboys had to be a bit depressed with their top three options – Zion Johnson, Treylon Burks, Kenyon Green – all off the board, but Tyler Smith is a solid tackle who should be a decent replacement for the departed La’el Collins.

56. Sam Williams, DE, Ole Miss – A- Grade
This is going to sound familiar. The Cowboys just drafted a talented front-seven player with character issues. They’ve done this many times, and Sam Williams is the latest such selection. Edge rush was a big need, and Williams will fill it well, provided he can stay out of trouble.

88. Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama – B+ Grade
The Cowboys needed a receiver after losing Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson this offseason. Jalen Tolbert is a solid pick in this range. He has a wide range of outcomes in his career, as he has big-play ability, but didn’t face much competition at South Alabama.

129. Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin – B- Grade
I mocked Jake Ferguson to the Cowboys, but in the fifth round. He makes sense for them despite this being a bit of a reach though. Dallas fears that it’ll lose Dalton Schultz after this season, so Ferguson could take over as the starter in 2023 and beyond, assuming that he doesn’t flop.

155. Matt Waletzko, OT, North Dakota – B+ Grade
The Cowboys are really making sure that they’re shoring up their offensive line. Matt Waletzko is someone I’ve had in the fifth and sixth round of my mock drafts, so he definitely fits the range. This is a solid pick.

167. DaRon Bland, CB, Fresno State – B Grade
This may seem like a bland pick for the Cowboys (sorry), but it could help their secondary, which needed to improve. DaRon Bland, a fast corner, is someone I had in the sixth round, but a slight reach like this in the middle of the fifth round isn’t a big deal.

176. Damone Clark, LB, LSU – A+ Grade
Love it! Damone Clark would have been a second-round prospect if it weren’t for spinal surgery. Those are two scary words, which is why he dropped three rounds. Clark may never play in the NFL, but if he can make it back from injury, he could end up being an excellent player for Dallas.

178. John Ridgeway, DT, Arkansas – A Grade
The Cowboys are on fire at the end of the fifth round. John Ridgeway is someone I slotted in the third- or fourth-round area, so I love this value. Ridgeway is a big player who can help stop the run, which is essential against Philadelphia.

193. Devin Harper, LB, Oklahoma State – B+ Grade
It’s no surprise that the Cowboys are addressing their need for linebacker depth. Devin Harper seems like a decent choice here in the sixth round, as I had him in this range in my updates.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The Cowboys enjoyed a great regular season, but suffered an embarrassing defeat right away in the playoffs. This was nothing new. The Cowboys will somehow have to avoid this from happening yet again in 2022.

Offseason Moves:
  • Cowboys sign DE Dante Fowler
  • Cowboys sign WR James Washington
  • Browns acquire WR Amari Cooper from Cowboys for draft picks

    Team Needs:
    1. Right Tackle: It’s unclear why Dallas cut La’el Collins.

    2. Defensive Tackle: The Cowboys were weak to the run last year, as the 49ers showed us in the playoff game. A major upgrade is needed in the defensive interior.

    3. Linebacker: Sticking with the theme of bolstering the middle of the defense, Dallas will need to find linebacker help, especially if Leighton Vander Esch departs via free agency.

    4. Cornerback: Trevon Diggs made so many big plays last year, but Dallas had issues on the other side of the field at the same position.

    5. Tight End: Dalton Schultz was a beast last season, but he’s going to be a free agent in March. Franchised Dalton Schultz

    6. Guard: Connor Williams is another important free agent Dallas will need to retain.

    7. Wide Receiver: Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson and Noah Brown are all set to hit free agency, so Dallas will need to retain a couple of them. Re-signed Michael Gallup; signed James Washington

    8. Safety: Dallas will need to re-sign one of Jayron Kearse or Damontae Kazee. Re-signed Jayron Kearse

    9. Punter: Bryan Anger led the NFL in net punting average last season, but he’s an impending free agent. Re-signed Bryan Anger

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2022 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Anthony Barr, OLB, Vikings. Age: 30.
      Signed with Cowboys

      Anthony Barr is a well-rounded linebacker who excels at stopping the run. He turns 30 this offseason.

    2. Dante Fowler, DE/OLB, Falcons. Age: 27.
      Signed with Cowboys

      Dante Fowler’s 11.5-sack season in 2019 is looking like a major fluke. Fowler has notched a total of 7.5 sacks in the two years since.

    3. James Washington, WR, Steelers. Age: 26. — Signed with Cowboys (1 year)

    Dallas Cowboys Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. La’el Collins, OT, Cowboys. Age: 29.
      Signed with Bengals (3 years)

      La’el Collins is one of the top right tackles in the NFL. It’s unclear why the Cowboys cut him.

    2. Dalton Schultz, TE, Cowboys. Age: 26.
      Franchised by Cowboys

      Dalton Schultz wasn’t even projected to be Dallas’ top tight end heading into 2021, yet he was spectacular. Just 26, the future is extremely bright for Schultz.

    3. Bryan Anger, P, Cowboys. Age: 32.
      Re-signed with Cowboys (3 years, $9 million)

      Bryan Anger was the league leader in punting average this past season.

    4. Connor Williams, G, Cowboys. Age: 25.
      Signed with Dolphins (2 years, $14 million)

      Connor Williams is coming off his best season, as he proved to be a major strength at guard for once. He’s only 25, so he’ll continue to improve.

    5. Jayron Kearse, S, Cowboys. Age: 28.
      Re-signed with Cowboys (2 years, $10 million)

      Jayron Kearse was a surprise performer in 2021. He was a stellar force in the secondary in all regards, particularly in coverage.

    6. Randy Gregory, DE, Cowboys. Age: 29.
      Signed with Broncos (5 years, $70 million)

      Randy Gregory is an amazing force when on the field, but it’s been proven that it’s extremely difficult to count on him remaining out of trouble.

    7. Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Cowboys. Age: 25.
      Re-signed with Cowboys (1 year)

      It appears as though the one team that removed Leighton Vander Esch off their draft board was correct in doing so. Vander Esch has struggled through injuries thus far in his career.

    8. Greg Zuerlein, K, Cowboys. Age: 34.
      Signed with Jets

      Greg Zuerlein used to be known as one of the top kickers in the NFL, but he has failed to connect on better than 83 percent of his field goals in three years.

    9. Michael Gallup, WR, Cowboys. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Cowboys (5 years)

      Michael Gallup is extremely talented and young, but he tore his ACL in Week 17, so he may not be able to play in 2022.

    10. Cedrick Wilson, WR, Cowboys. Age: 27.
      Signed with Dolphins (3 years, $22.8 million)

      Cedrick Wilson played well in place of Michael Gallup whenever Gallup has been out of the lineup.

    11. Dorance Armstrong, DE, Cowboys. Age: 25. — Re-signed with Cowboys (2 years, $13 million)
    12. Damontae Kazee, S, Cowboys. Age: 29.
    13. Keanu Neal, LB, Cowboys. Age: 27. — Signed with Buccaneers
    14. Carlos Watkins, DT, Cowboys. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Cowboys
    15. Malik Hooker, S, Cowboys. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Cowboys (2 years, $8 million)
    16. Ty Nsekhe, OT, Cowboys. Age: 36.
    17. Malik Turner, WR, Cowboys. Age: 26. — Signed with 49ers
    18. Brent Urban, DE/DT, Cowboys. Age: 31.
    19. Corey Clement, RB, Cowboys. Age: 27. — Signed with Ravens
    20. Maurice Canady, CB, Cowboys. Age: 28.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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