Amari Cooper won’t be suiting up for the Dallas Cowboys, following a bombshell trade that sent the four-time Pro Bowl receiver to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday in exchange for a 2022 fifth-round pick and a swap of sixth-rounders, but that’s not the only move made by the club over the weekend. Prior to setting Cooper free, ending weeks of speculation on if they would (and should) or not, the Cowboys parted ways with another starter and a former starter — releasing kicker Greg Zuerlein and waiving injured tight end Blake Jarwin.
The moves will initially save the Cowboys roughly $5 million toward their 2022 salary cap, but that’s assuming Jarwin does not file for injury protection which, if awarded, will negate the team’s savings for waiving him. That is to-be-determined, following initial consideration of simply reducing Jarwin’s pay following a rare hip surgery that might keep him off of the field until 2023 — at the earliest — but the departure marks the end of a once promising trajectory for the talented young tight end.
Jarwin, who earned the role of starter following the second departure of future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten, was on the path to being a dominant playmaker for the Cowboys before suffering a torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season, and his return to the field in 2021 was met with more injury that resulted in only five starts — a combined six starts two seasons into a three-year, $24.25 million contract signed in 2020.
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As for Zuerlein, who was also set to enter a contract season after signing a three-year deal 2020, the writing has long been on the wall for the veteran kicker, even though special teams coordinator John “Bones” Fassel hoped it wouldn’t be. But when the Cowboys signed Chris Naggar to the roster in early February, it was clear they were looking to either create competition for Zuerlein this offseason (at minimum) or to move on completely.
It turns out it was the latter.
Zuerlein battled his own string of recent injuries that helped cost him consistency and the Cowboys a victory on more than one occasion last season, and it was veteran kicker Lirim Hajrullahu brought in time and again to help keep Dallas from sinking in times when Zuerlein was not available. Zuerlein finished the season with a career-low PAT percentage (87.5%) and missed five of his 14 field goal attempts from 40 yards or greater — a bad look for a kicker nicknamed “The Leg” because of his boot strength. It’s unclear if the Cowboys will add competition for Naggar via the 2022 NFL Draft, but Zuerlein must now find a new NFL home.
Additional releases included running back Ito Smith, wide receiver Robert Foster and former Cowboys fourth-round pick Reggie Robinson, the latter having found difficulty moving from collegiate cornerback to safety in Year 1 under a now-fired defensive coordinator in Mike Nolan, before being moved back to cornerback by Dan Quinn with little success.
The housecleaning has begun in Dallas, with some big names being swept out of the door.