Are the Cowboys devoting too much money the passing offense?

NFL roster building is a balancing act. With a limited amount of cash and draft resources available, teams like the Cowboys have to pick and choose where, and to what degree, they should invest. Some teams invest heavily on the defense. Others like to push resources to the offense. Some teams primarily invest in their lines while others like to pay skill players. As the saying goes, “different strokes, for different folks.”

With big contracts coming due for multiple ascending players on the Dallas roster, the Cowboys need to decide what kind of investors they plan to be.

Currently, the club has a significant percentage of their cap dedicated to the passing attack.Moving forward, will they continue to focus in on this specific area of the team or will they spread the wealth throughout the roster?

Paul Dehner Jr. at The Athletic was discussing this very topic being debated in Cincinnati. Joe Burrow is about to cash in on an enormous second contract and his top two downfield weapons, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, won’t be far behind him. All three rank at the top of their profession and at least two of the three are expected to reset the market (Burrow and Chase).

Dedicating that much money to the passing game comes at a cost. The salary cap isn’t quite as “zero-sum” as Stephen Jones makes it out to be, but money is finite and sacrifices will need to be made if these three players assume +30% of the Bengals cap.

The Cowboys are in a similar situation themselves.  Is it wise?

Decision time in Dallas

Like Cincinnati, the Cowboys have some contract decisions on the horizon.  They have financial decisions to make with quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receivers CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks and Michael Gallup.

Do they want to be a team invested most heavily in the passing game or will they decide to spread the wealth even if it means parting ways with a couple of the aforementioned players?

After their near-annual restructuring, Prescott’s cap hit goes from just under $27 million in 2023, to $59.5 million in 2024. Gallup is on the books for just under $6.8 million in 2023, but it jumps to $13.85 million in 2024. Cooks counts $6 million against the cap in 2023 and $10 million against the cap in 2024 (all numbers per OTC).

Playing on Year 4 of his rookie deal, Lamb is just under $4.5 million against the cap in 2023 but his picked up fifth-year option will run almost $18 million in 2024. Most will agree, his new deal will almost certainly give him a top-5 salary.

As if all that isn’t enough, WR DeAndre Hopkins recently came available and Dallas appears a possibility for his services.

This begs the question: How much money should the Cowboys dedicate to the passing offense?

Passing is still king in the NFL

No matter what Mike McCarthy says about the importance of the running game and the need for a balanced attack, he knows full well the NFL is a passing league.

Only eight teams in 2022 produced a higher EPA on the ground than through the air (adjusted for non-blowout situations) and for most of them, it’s because their passing game was terrible.

Not only do NFL passing attacks generally produce more expected points, but they also succeed at a higher rate. In 2022, 50 percent of the Cowboys’ passing plays were successful while only 45 percent of their running plays were. That’s common in today’s NFL.

Passing efficiency also has a higher correlation to winning than any other aspect of the game. Winning teams are usually the ones who win the passing battles (both sides of the ball).

Furthermore, passing offenses remain one of the most stable entities year-to-year, so it’s a safe way to allocate future funds.



Invest in the passing offense. Even if the Cowboys want to have a balanced attack in 2023, passing efficiency is arguably the most important part of today’s game.

Spending for the sake of spending isn’t advisable and at some point passing attacks are sure to see diminishing returns if they keep adding weapons.

Since the Cowboys are already three-deep at WR, perhaps the gains made on offense by adding another WR like Hopkins would be less than the gains made by upgrading a shallower position pool on the Dallas roster (but he’s a topic for another day).

The passing offense is the most impactful and it’s stable year-to-year. In other words, it has the highest yield while remaining the safest investment. Cincinnati shouldn’t think twice just like the Cowboys shouldn’t.

The good news for Dallas is they have their contracts tapered strategically. Lamb is about to command top-of-the market prices but Gallup and Cooks are about to fall off the books (2025). Prescott’s enormous cap charge in 2024 is sure to be dealt with between now and then (via an extension) so his number will be far more palatable when the three WRs jump up in price (2024).

Unbalanced rosters aren’t ideal but if a team is going to overload one facet of the game, it’s wise to make it the passing offense.

Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire