Cowboys WR Projected to Receive $12.5 Million Contract in 2023

Jerry Jones

Getty Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones speaks during a preseason practice.

The Dallas Cowboys now have to look forward to the 2023 regular season, and that starts with moves through free agency, trades and the NFL draft.

Dallas fell to a 19-12 defeat to the San Francisco 49ers, exiting in the Divisional Round after a strong 31-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the previous week. Now, it’s time to reevaluate.

One name worth looking into is wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. The 33-year-old pass-catcher joined the Cowboys towards the end of the regular season on a very cheap deal, but Spotrac is now projecting a two-year, $12.5 million deal for Hilton this offseason.

Spotrac bases their projection on deals from other recent veteran contracts for Emmanuel Sanders, A.J. Green and Marvin Jones. However, after Dallas was able to sign Hilton for a $850,000 deal for five games, it seems like a very pricy deal.

There’s also the added factor that Hilton did not have a team in 2022 until Dallas came calling. Spotrac may project Hilton for a contract worth $6.25 million a year, but it’s hard to say that would be a smart investment.

Hilton Does ‘Mercenary’ Work for Dallas

When Dallas was looking for wide receiver help coming into the final weeks of the season, Odell Beckham Jr. was the expected reinforcement. However, Beckham’s recovery and demands led to the Cowboys and other NFL teams leaving him out of the picture.

Enter Hilton. The four-time Pro Bowler essentially played for $170,000 a game, which would equate to a $2.9 million deal per year. When factoring in his 10 catches over his five appearances, he averaged $85,000 a catch.

That being said, the cost per catch is an unfair representation of Hilton’s production for the Cowboys. PFR shows that Hilton was targeted just 15 times, plus Hilton averaged 15.8 yards per catch, a very solid return.

Bringing Hilton to Dallas was never about the long-term possibilities, but he did contribute. The issue becomes the price, as the Cowboys have not seen the value Spotrac projects. If Hilton wanted to return for something in the $2-3 million range, it may make more financial sense.

Cowboys Facing Cap Space Conundrum in 2023

Part of the issue with adding any new contracts to the 2023 salary cap is that there simply isn’t much space at the current juncture. Spotrac states that Dallas has $1.85 million in cap space as things currently stand.

That means that even a cheap deal for Hilton would be tough to afford, but Dallas is expected to open up space through player releases and contract restructuring. Dallas’ six highest-paid players currently account for a whopping 62.5% of the team’s salary cap space.

Cowboys QB Dak Prescott alone will account for 21.46% of the space, or $49.13 million in cap hit. Restructuring Prescott’s deal would free up the most money, but Prescott’s deal has $89 million in dead cap entering the 2023 NFL year, and that amount be due at some point. Offloading to later years could put the Cowboys in an even tighter spot in the future.

Running back Ezekiel Elliott has already expressed his willingness to take a pay cut, but exactly how much of his $16.72 million cap hit will be deferred or cut off remains to be seen.

No matter what Dallas elects to do to make space, adding any form of offensive weapons will take considerable changes to the roster and contract situations.

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