FRISCO, Texas — Next week, the Dallas Cowboys will begin training camp in Oxnard, Calif., with optimism that 2022 won’t end like 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016… you see the ‘image.
It’s been more than a month since the Cowboys had off-season work from their mandatory minicamp that turned out to be just a practice. Since then, the good news is that the Cowboys haven’t had a player with an off-court issue that could jeopardize their start to training camp.
But there have been stories that need to be addressed as the Cowboys head to California.
What’s next for Dalton Schultz? The tight end will play the season on the $10.9 million franchise tag after failing to agree on a long-term deal by the July 15 deadline. There was little hope of a deal being done before the Cleveland Browns signed David Njoku to a $13.7 million a year deal in May let alone after.
Schultz skipped the final week of volunteer-organized team activities and participated in a limited practice minicamp in hopes of kickstarting the talks. It didn’t really work. Because he signed the tender offer, he must report to training camp or he will be fined.
What’s best for Schultz is to have another productive season, which could happen given the status of the Cowboys’ wide receiver group, and see what happens in 2023. The Cowboys still could restore it to the franchise tag, which would cost over $13 million. . If they don’t, he’ll have a shot at getting into the open market and getting the long-term deal he wants.
Dak’s health issues behind him: A year ago, the Cowboys knew they had to watch quarterback Dak Prescott’s training camp work as he returned from a dislocated and fractured right ankle. Little did they know a strain of right latissimus would sideline him for most of training camp and all four preseason games.
The ankle is not a concern. Neither did his non-throwing shoulder after undergoing surgery in February. And neither is the calf strain that limited him last season.
“A few weeks and I’m in the best shape I’ve ever had,” Prescott told reporters during his youth soccer camp. “So, it’s time to speed up and go.”
The Cowboys will rely on Prescott like they’ve never relied on him before. No, not to run it a ton. They need him to raise the level of the game for those around him, especially at receiver and especially during Michael Gallup’s absence following knee surgery.
What else does the team need? Ceiling space is not an issue. The Cowboys currently have over $22 million in salary caps, but a portion of that is earmarked for practice squad, injury settlements, and incentives/escalators earned during the season.
Most of it will be postponed until 2023.
But back to the staff. Wide receiver is a position to watch, but a trade for a big name, like Deebo Samuel or DK Metcalf, is unlikely. What about signing a veteran, like Julio Jones? He is a little old (33 years old) and injured lately. Pass rusher? Line up with all the other teams in the league. Linebacker? They have added depth parts but will not be in the market for a starter. Backup Center? Matt Farniok enters camp as Tyler Biadasz’s replacement. Guard Connor McGovern could take a look, and sophomore center Braylon Jones has fans in the building.
Injury Updates: Gallup was thought to be a bit ahead of schedule when minicamp ended, but he’ll likely miss at least a few games in September. That was always the thought even before he re-signed a five-year deal in March. He’ll likely start training camp on the roster physically unable to perform, which isn’t too much of a concern. If he is on this list to start the season, it would be a concern as he would miss at least the first four games.
Linebacker Jabril Cox is also coming back from a torn ACL in his right knee. He was moving well in June and it is believed that he will be able to train at the start of camp. Rookie linebacker Damone Clark will open camp on the non-football injury list after undergoing neck surgery in the spring. If he plays at all this season, it won’t be until November.
Kick Battle: Nothing is as exciting as a kicking competition in training camp. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but there will be plenty of eyes on Jonathan Garibay and Lirim Hajrullahu at Oxnard.
Last year’s kicker Greg Zuerlein didn’t kick a single kick in 2021 training camp because he had just undergone back surgery.
Hajrullahu started a game for the Cowboys last year, scoring his five extra points with seven touchdowns. In two games with the Carolina Panthers, he made 4 of 5 field goal attempts, 8 of 8 in extra points and 12 touchdowns in 17 kickoffs.
Garibay, undrafted from Texas Tech, has displayed a strong leg in the offseason program and enters camp as the clubhouse leader.