What are the top priorities for the Cowboys this offseason?
Welcome to the NFL offseason. This is the time where we sit around and ponder what the Dallas Cowboys need to do in order to improve their football team. Over the next few months, there’s going to be a lot of things happening. Some new veterans will get signed in free agency, some old ones will get released, and a fresh new class of rookies will be joining the team in April. Each team has a lot to do and recently ESPN staff writer Bill Barnell looked at each NFL team and determined what moves they should make this offseason. Here are the top five moves he believes the Cowboys should make:
1. Release Sean Lee, Allen Hurns and Terrance Williams.While Lee is a Cowboys icon after nine years with the team, his role as an every-down linebacker was taken by rookie Leighton Vander Esch last season. Lee has a cap hit of $10.8 million, and by cutting these three veterans, Dallas would free up $14.3 million in cap space, pushing it to $59 million in total. After a decade of struggling with their salary cap, the Cowboys are finally in excellent shape.
The Cowboys aren’t boxed into a corner where they have to release players to save money, but it would still be wise to do so. Lee, Hurns, and Williams are all roster worthy, but when you compare their new roles to their cost – it just doesn’t make good business sense to keep them.
Lee was not only the top linebacker a couple years ago, but he was one of the top defenders. Times are different now. It turns out, Jaylon Smith is moving around extremely well and the new addition of Vander Esch has completely altered the linebacker depth chart. You just can’t fork out that kind of money for a backup. We shouldn’t rule out a pay cut that would keep Lee on the team for a smaller cap hit. For some great mentoring and a little insurance, he would be worth a small investment to keep around.
The wide receiver group has changed as well. Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup were new additions last season. They will be your starters in 2019. The team is still looking for other pieces, but the cap hit of Hurns and Williams don’t make them appealing candidates.
2. Work out an extension with DeMarcus Lawrence. The Cowboys can franchise Lawrence for a second time and will likely do so to ensure he stays in Dallas, but the long-term deal should come this offseason. After Lawrence broke out with 14.5 sacks on 26 knockdowns in 2017, he followed with 10.5 sacks on 23 knockdowns last season. He added eight tackles for loss against the run, which was three off the league-leading 11 produced by Luke Kuechly.
This one seems obvious, right? Recently, Dalton Miller from our own Talkin The Star podcast asked those on twitter if they could come up with any good reasons to not sign Tank.
Let me count thy reasons…
1. Because Taco is a rising star
2. Because Gregory is reliable
3. Because Armstrong’s arms are strong
4. Because Jaylon can rush the QB
5. Because another Watt brother will show up eventually
Oh wait, you said legitimate? Yeah, I got nothing.
— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) February 13, 2019
3. Extend Dak Prescott. The final year of Prescott’s four-year, $2.7 million deal is 2019, and while there were some concerns that he was regressing during the first half of 2018, his play once Amari Cooper arrived in town did enough to quell most of the discussion about the team letting him leave after his rookie contract expired.
Dak’s a playmaker and he’s the team’s new franchise quarterback. The only reason not to extend Prescott would be if the organization doesn’t feel like he’s the QB of the future. And let’s face it – the front office doesn’t see it that way. Whether fans agree on the investment or not, we should all brace ourselves for the inevitable.
And if you’re not a Dak believer just yet, look on the bright side – every young quarterback goes through growing pains, but Prescott’s gotten a lot of valuable experience under his belt so far. Things are only going to get better.
Seasons as a full 16-game starter after their first three years in the league:
Staubach = 0
Aikman = 0
Romo = 0
Dak = 3
Let’s not forget just how young Dak is and how he’s led this team to three-straight winning seasons. pic.twitter.com/kOuh8mNvFY
— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) February 5, 2019
4. Re-sign Amari Cooper, and get him some help. Of course, the Cowboys are going to re-sign Cooper after he transformed their offense in 2018. He won’t turn 25 until June, and though his numbers fell off during his final season and a half in Oakland, his Cowboys numbers prorate to a 94-1,289-10 line, which would be a natural growth progression from his 2015 and 2016 seasons.
The Cowboys committed to re-signing Cooper the moment they traded away a first-round pick to get him. The team gambled that what he had put on tape was more indicative to his Pro Bowl caliber play during his first two seasons versus his recent non-existence in Oakland. They guessed right. A move to Dallas brought back the old Amari and he revitalized the Cowboys offense down the stretch of the 2018 season.
As Marcus Mosher points out, finding star receivers isn’t easy.
Here is a list of the first WR picked in every draft since 2000.
The hit rate by the league is… not very good. pic.twitter.com/mpR1ma62Gs
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) February 14, 2019
Only five of the last 19 (26%) receivers selected first in the draft have played at a Pro Bowl level. Trying to drive yourself to the part of the draft to get the best receiver might’ve been challenging for the Cowboys had they not made the trade. And as you can see, the odds aren’t favorable that they’ll pan out. Amari Cooper was a sure thing.
5. Work on a deal for Byron Jones. If the Cowboys get all of the above done, they can take things slowly with Jones, who emerged as a star only last season after shuffling between corner and safety. Jones’ fifth-year option is a relatively modest $6.3 million, which is a bargain for a talented cornerback in the modern NFL. If the Cowboys don’t need to use their franchise tag for any of the players mentioned previously, they could theoretically go year to year with Jones, franchise him twice and pay only $45 million or so over the next three seasons. That’s just about what Trumaine Johnson got from the Jets in free agency last year.
Moving Jones to corner was a great decision and just like that – the Cowboys have a top corner. And because they were late in figuring that one out, his fifth-year option rate is discounted because he was a safety when they exercised it. That equates to a cheap 2019 price for a great corner. The Cowboys may work a long-term deal while he’s still affordable or they could try a “wait and see” approach so they have a larger body of work to evaluate from. Both sides have their own risks, but Jones is a “right-kind-of-guy” through and through. And when you couple that in with his talent, all things point to Byron getting a second contract in Dallas.
Do you agree with their choices? What Cowboys decision do you think belongs in the top five offseason move?