Dallas Cowboys 2022 Offseason Preview: Pending free agents, team needs, draft picks, and more

The Dallas Cowboys have team needs they must hit on with their draft picks because they have too many pending free agents to pay.

The Dallas Cowboys had themselves a season that I bet they weren’t expecting if you hooked their most important organizational pieces up to a lie detector test. But can the Cowboys use their pending free agents and draft picks to fill team needs in the offseason? And with a defense that was so dominant and not the offense, is all the help needed to score points or defend them in 2022?

Dallas Cowboys 2022 Offseason Preview

The Cowboys and their fanbase probably expected an uptick in defensive performance after the hilariously failed experiment with Mike Nolan’s defense in 2020. However, I doubt anybody expected this team to go from the 20s in defensive efficiency to the top three.

But 2021 could have been the Cowboys’ best shot at a championship. They got significant contributions from inexpensive veterans and their rookie class. Now, with negative cap space currently as they head into the 2022 NFL season, it could be challenging to find the coin to retain those inexpensive free-agent contributors.

Yet, keeping their coordinators might be their single most significant need in the offseason. Kellen Moore has some heat on him within the fanbase, but he is well-regarded by the league.

Dan Quinn has made a ton of fans out of Dallas’ fanbase. Given his head coaching history, Quinn would probably jump at the opportunity to be at the pinnacle of the profession once again.

The Cowboys have -$11.5 million in projected cap space

Source: Spotrac (as of Jan. 9) 

The Cowboys are an incredibly top-heavy roster. Their top four contracts will account for 48.75% of the total cap number for 2022. If we expand that out to the top six players, that number is 65.55%. That is a massive chunk of the pie in what is effectively just half of the starters on one side of the ball.

There won’t be a shortage of free agents heading into 2022, either. Some of the Cowboys’ most significant contributors will make money in the offseason, and it most likely will not be in Dallas.

Cowboys’ pending free agents

Dak Prescott’s safety blanket, Dalton Schultz, is a pending free agent. The only downfield threat in Dallas, Michael Gallup, is too. Connor Williams has started at left guard on and off for four seasons, but they’ll also most likely be looking for his replacement. Dallas’ WR4, Cedrick Wilson, is also a free agent after his fourth NFL season.

Defensively, Keanu Neal and Leighton Vander Esch don’t have contracts for 2022, nor should they be viewed as high-valued targets to retain. However, Brent Urban, Damontae Kazee, Malik Hooker, and Jayron Kearse are all pending free agents as well. That’s where their cheap contributions become scarce through a lack of funds. Kearse has been a massive difference-maker on the Cowboys’ defense.

Cowboys’ team needs

The Cowboys’ team needs are the same as they always seem to be. Dallas doesn’t covet some of the spots they most desperately need. Others, on the other hand, they put too much value in.

Cowboys’ top five needs in the 2022 NFL offseason

  • Free safety
  • Defensive tackle
  • Linebacker
  • EDGE
  • Offensive guard/tackle

Cowboys’ 2022 NFL Draft picks

The Cowboys have seven picks in the 2022 NFL Draft, with three falling inside the top 100. They’ll need another strong draft season under Will McClay because they won’t have much to spend on veterans in the offseason.

Here’s how the Cowboys’ 2022 NFL Draft picks currently stand according to the draft order:

  • Round 1 (Pick 24)
  • Round 2 (Pick 24)
  • Round 3 (Pick 24)
  • Round 4 (Pick 24)
  • Round 5 (Pick 24 & 33*)
  • Round 6 (Pick 24)

*Projected compensatory selection

Dalton Miller is the Lead NFL Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can read more of his work here and follow him @daltonbmiller on Twitter and Twitch.