Ahead of each season, NFL teams are tasked with balancing a strong roster of players without exceeding the league’s salary cap. For the 2022 season, the salary cap is set at $208.2 million. This is a $25.7 million jump from 2021’s salary cap of $182.5 million. Below, we broke down the highest-paid Dallas Cowboys players.
Teams plan for the salary cap to increase each season as the NFL’s revenue increases. Since the salary cap was implemented in 1994, it has only decreased once. This happened in 2021 following a revenue decline due to the COVID season in 2020.
Even with the consistent season-by-season increase in the salary cap, teams that successfully manipulate the salary cap are able to pay players properly as it relates to the value they bring on the field.
Here are the 15 highest-paid Cowboys for 2022, going by cap hit, as well as some analysis about the value of each deal.
Quarterback Dak Prescott – $19.7 Million
Prescott suffered a season-ending ankle injury in week five of the 2020 season. Three different QBs would start for Dallas after his injury and they all struggled mightily. Dallas would miss the playoffs with a 6-10 record that season.
Prescott was back and better than ever in 2021, finishing seventh in passing yards, fifth in completions and fourth in touchdown passes.
Despite finishing ninth in passing attempts, Prescott ranked 20th in interceptions. His ability to serve as the backbone of Dallas’ offense while limiting turnovers is what led the Cowboys to a 12-5 record, good enough to take the crown as NFC East champions.
In March, Prescott restructured his contract to free about $15 million in cap room.
Running Back Ezekiel Elliott – $18.2 Million
Elliott has the largest cap hit of any NFL running back heading into 2022.
While he still ranked seventh in rushing yards and sixth in rushing touchdowns last year, his value diminishes considering Tony Pollard is a capable backup making significantly less money.
Pollard will only make a $1.1 million dent in Dallas’ cap this year. Last season, he only trailed Elliott by 283 rush yards despite playing two less games and getting 137 fewer touches.
Left Tackle Tyron Smith – $17.5 Million
When healthy, the eight-time pro bowler is certainly deserving of his salary.
But in sports, the best ability is availability. In 2020 he missed 14 games following neck surgery and an ankle injury kept him out for six games last year.
Only time will tell if Smith is going to be worthy of his cap hit this year as the 31-year-old enters his 12th NFL season.
Right Tackle La’el Collins – $14.9 Million
Dallas was able to sign Collins as an undrafted free agent in 2015 when off-the-field issues left him undrafted.
He had some good years for the Cowboys early on but things soured in 2020. After injuring himself in a car accident, Collins came to Cowboys camp out of shape. He later injured his hip and landed on season-ending injured reserve.
Primed for a comeback in 2021, Collins played in the season opener before being hit with a five-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Making matters worse, Collins reportedly tried bribing the drug tester.
Dallas opted to cut Collins in March, leaving $14.9 million of dead cap on the Cowboys books. He’s since signed with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence – $14 Million
In 2019, Lawrence signed a five-year, $101 million contract that would’ve made Lawrence the fifth highest-paid defensive player this season.
Luckily for Dallas, Lawrence eased some cap pressure when he signed a new team-friendly deal for three years, $40 million in March.
Lawrence, Micah Parsons and Randy Gregory make for a dominant pass rush trio heading into 2022.
Guard Zack Martin – $12 Million
When Prescott’s contract was restructured, Dallas also agreed to terms on a new deal for Martin that will free up $7 million in cap space. This is the third consecutive year Martin restructured his contract.
Martin was dominant in his eighth NFL season in 2021, earning first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors.
Tight End Dalton Schultz – $10.9 Million
The Cowboys 2022 franchise tag was placed on the former Stanford Cardinal.
Schultz will once again serve as Prescott’s top tight end option after posting career highs in receiving yards, receptions and touchdowns.
He will also be looked upon to groom 2022 fourth-round draft pick Jake Ferguson, a tight end from Wisconsin.
Cornerback Anthony Brown – $6.5 Million
Brown is entering the final year of his contract and his future with Dallas is up in the air.
He was a late round gem for Dallas in the 2016 NFL Draft. Despite slipping to the late rounds, Brown has consistently started for the Cowboys since his rookie season.
But if Dallas were to cut Brown, it would free up about $5 million in cap space. Dallas is deep at cornerback, making Brown expendable despite his solid play.
Cornerback Jourdan Lewis – $4.6 million
Lewis earned more playing time through his first five seasons and solid production has followed. In 2021, he posted career highs in interceptions and tackles.
Lewis is part of a deep core of cornerbacks on the Cowboys defense.
Wide Receiver Michael Gallup – $4.5 million
Despite an ACL injury in week 17 last season, Gallup inked a five-year, $57.5 million extension this offseason.
It’s unclear when Gallup may return to action, but according to the Mayo Clinic it normally takes nine months to fully recover from the knee surgery.
Gallup has been a constant in Dallas’ passing attack since his rookie year in 2018.
Here are five more contracts that round out the 15 most expensive Cowboys in 2022:
- Linebacker Micah Parsons – $3.8 million
- Wide Receiver CeeDee Lamb – $3.8 million
- Safety Jayron Kearse – $3.7 million
- Defensive End Dorance Armstrong – $3.3 million
- Defensive End Tarell Basham – $3 million