This will be a pivotal offseason for a Dallas Cowboys team that could challenge for NFC East supremacy and make a postseason run in 2023.
The Cowboys started the offseason with -$7 million in cap space. But after restructuring a handful of contracts and releasing Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas now has $26 million in cap space.
Below are the 10 Cowboys players with the biggest cap hits, plus who might be at risk of a contract restructure or release to create some wiggle room.
Dak Prescott: $26.8 million
Who would’ve guessed the Cowboys fourth round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft would one day become the team’s largest cap hit.
While that’s great for Dak, it wasn’t as positive for Cowboys fans last season. The turnover bug bit Prescott over and over in 2022, as his 15 interceptions were the most in football.
One thing fans can be excited about is that Dak and the Cowboys restructured his deal to create more cap space this offseason. Talk about a team player.
DeMarcus Lawrence: $17.1 million
Injuries limited D-Law to seven games in 2021, but he came back strong in 2022. Lawrence played in all 19 games last season and his contributions earned him a spot in the Pro Bowl.
Lawrence’s six sacks weren’t the most impressive, especially considering three of them came in Week 3 vs. the New York Giants. Instead, Lawrence is a difference maker when it comes to controlling the line of scrimmage. Lawrence’s 65 tackles were the most in his nine year career; not bad for a 30-year-old.
Zack Martin: $11 million
Death. Taxes. Zack Martin making the Pro Bowl and All-Pro team.The 2022 season was business as usual for Martin. Not only did he receive the two aforementioned honors, he also didn’t miss a game and was on the field for 98% of Dallas’ offensive snaps. Pretty impressive for a 32-year-old.Martin is certainly worth his hefty cap hit.Plus, like Prescott, Martin also restructured his contract to create more cap room/
Tony Pollard: $10 million
Pollard was an unrestricted free agent earlier this offseason. But the Cowboys opted to give Pollard the franchise tag, which earn him more in 2023 than he made in his previous four NFL season.
The 25-year-old set career-highs in these categories in 2022: rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
Stephon Gilmore: $9.9 million
To acquire Gilmore, the Cowboys sent a 2023 fifth-round compensatory pick to the Indianapolis Colts. Gilmore is a former Super Bowl champion, a two-time All-Pro and a five-time Pro Bowler.
He’s a bit long in the tooth at 32-years-old, and 2023 will be his 12th season. But Gilmore’s still got gas in the tank. His 79.1 PFF grade was ninth-best among CBs last season.
Tyron Smith: $8 million
Unfortunately, Smith doesn’t have the same durability as Martin. In 2022, Smith played in just four regular season games. In the last three seasons, the 32-year-old missed 33 total games.
Luckily, Smith agreed to a restructured deal to stay in Dallas. So Cowboys fans will be treated to at least one more season of the future Hall of Famer.
Dorance Armstrong: $7.2 million
On the surface, Armstrong had a great 2022 campaign. His 8.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss both ranked as the second-most on the team.
But eight of those sacks came in Week 12 or earlier. In Dallas’ final six regular season games and two playoff matchups, Armstrong scored half a sack.
He was only on the field for 47% of the Cowboys defensive snaps last season despite missing no games. It’s odd that Armstrong is such a costly salary cap hit, yet he doesn’t get much run in Dan Quinn’s defense.
Michael Gallup: $6.7 million
Gallup suffered a torn ACL at the end of the 2021 season and his knee was surgically repaired in the offseason. This clearly slowed the WR down in 2022, as the veteran had just 424 receiving yards and averaged 30 yards per game.Luckily, Gallup is only 26-years-old so it wouldn’t be far fetched to think he can bounce back in 2023. That will likely save him from being released this offseason, but if he isn’t productive next year, it could be his last in Dallas.
Gallup is another player that took a restructured deal to open cap space.
Jayron Kearse: $6.1 million
Kearse had a strong 2022 campaign with 77 tackles, seven tackles for loss and five pass deflections. But his backup Donovan Wilson season was just as good, and Wilson could be signed to a cheaper deal as he’s a free agent.
Plus, Wilson is a year younger than Kearse. It’s unlikely Kearse gets cut in favor of Wilson, but it’s certainly something ownership should consider.
Jourdan Lewis: $5.8 million
Lewis was having a solid season until a Week 6 injury ended his year. That allowed rookie DaRon Bland to emerge as a solid slot CB; the role Lewis previously filled.
Lewis is only 27-years-old and his cap hit isn’t outrageous. But considering he’s a free agent after next season, it’s possible Dallas could trade or cut Lewis to recoup his cap hit.