The Dallas Cowboys may be coming off one of their most disappointing and embarrassing seasons in the Jerry Jones era, but that doesn't mean they don't still have a bright future ahead of themselves. The core of the roster is still really strong and with just a few good additions in the offseason they could be a team to be reckoned with in 2021.
Today I decided to put on my General Managers hat and share with you my 2021 offseason guide to fixing the Dallas Cowboys. Below I've identified the players I think the Cowboys should retain, free agents I think they should sign, players they should acquire via trade, and who I'd like to see them draft based on these offseason moves.
Let's get started…
3 Contracts to Renew, 1 to let go
Dak Prescott, Quarterback
Whether it's on a long-term extension or franchise tag, Dak Prescott won't be playing for anyone else but the Dallas Cowboys in 2021. It's fun to speculate otherwise, but it's in Dallas' best interest to retain his services to have any chance of any kind of postseason success in the near future.
Joe Looney, Center
Tyler Biadasz should be the Cowboys starting center in 2021, but depth behind him is a concern. Bringing back Joe Looney would no doubt ease those concerns if he doesn't receive a better offer elsewhere.
Aldon Smith, Defensive End
Unless Aldon Smith signs a big money contract with another team, Dallas is going to do everything within their power to retain his services. With him, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Randy Gregory the Cowboys would have some really good pass rushers in 2021.
One to let go: Chris Jones, Punter
The Dallas Cowboys found their new punter last season. Hunter Niswander's play in 2020 makes Chris Jones expendable and by making him a pre-June 1 cut the Cowboys can save $2 million in salary cap space.
Free Agent Moves to Make
Marcus Williams, S, New Orleans Saints
It's way past time the Dallas Cowboys invest in the safety position. Marcus Williams, 25, is exactly the kind of free safety Dan Quinn needs in his heavy Cover 1-3 scheme. Williams isn't going to be cheap to sign considering his youth and playmaking ability, however, the expenses justifiable considering he immediately upgrades and solidifies the backend of the defense for the foreseeable future.
Richard Sherman, CB, San Francisco 49ers
At 33, Richard Sherman may not be the playmaker he once was but he could be exactly what the Cowboys are looking for for the short term. They need a bridge player in the secondary while they rebuild the CB position and Sherman could provide just that. Considering his age and the fact he only played in five games last season, he shouldn't be too expensive to bring aboard.
Gerald McCoy, DT, Free Agent
Age (turns 33 February 25) and recent injury history could make Gerald McCoy a cost-effective free agent signing for the Cowboys this offseason. Much like Richard Sherman, McCoy could help Dallas' young DTs develop further while also providing much-needed depth at the position. If he can return completely healthy from his season-ending quad injury he's a pretty big upgrade as well.
2 Players to Acquire via Trade
Foyesade Oluokun, LB, Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta is currently a little over $23 million over the salary cap, meaning they are going to have to make some tough decisions to rectify that this offseason. One such decision will be letting go of players they would probably like to retain. Foyesade Oluokun is one such player. He is coming off a breakout 2020 season and is entering a contract year in 2021. With a lot of money already tied up in Deion Jones and another promising, young LB in Mykal Walker, Oluokun is likely the odd man out. With questions about how well Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch will fit in Dan Quinn's system, trading for a player who knows and fits said system already could be a win-win for all parties concerned.
Malcolm Brown, DT, New Orleans Saints
Like the Falcons, the New Orleans Saints are in terrible shape salary-cap wise, currently over $94 million in the hole. Teams like the Dallas Cowboys are going to try to take advantage of that by poaching players who will likely become salary-cap casualties. That's where Malcolm Brown comes in. He signed a three-year, $15 million contract in 2019 with the Saints so he will be entering a contract year in 2021. Because of that he will likely become expendable and the Cowboys should pounce on acquiring him via trade. He would be in immediate upgrade over Antwaun Woods in the middle of the Cowboys defensive line and instantaneously help improve what was the worst run defense in the league last season.
2021 Mock Draft After Offseason Moves
Round 1, Pick 10 – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The offseason moves I have the Dallas Cowboys making free them up to take the best player available with the 10th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. I initially was hesitant about adding a player like Kyle Pitts because I believed he was a luxury, but I'm now coming around to the idea. With Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson, and Dalton Schultz all entering contract years, Pitts provides much-needed depth to both positions for 2021 and beyond.
Round 2, Pick 42 – Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse
At 6'2″, 212 pounds Ifeatu Melifonwu is exactly the kind of tall, lengthy CB Dan Quinn prefers in his outside corners. With Richard Sherman's addition in free agency the Cowboys can rely on his veteran presence and leadership to help their young, talented CBs transition more smoothly into the NFL. Melifonwu and others can learn firsthand from someone who's excelled in the past in Quinn's system.
Round 3, Pick 74 – Jabril Cox, LB, LSU
After trading for Foyesade Oluokun the Cowboys have a capable starter if Jaylon Smith or Leighton Vander Esch struggle again in 2021, but it doesn't eliminate the need for more LB depth. Jabril Cox would be a great fit as a WILL LB in Dan Quinn's system. He is exactly the kind of LB who excels in space and coverage they are currently missing.
Round 3, Pick 100 – Talanoa Hufanga, S, USC
Donovan Wilson's play last season gives him a shot at the starting strong safety job in 2021, but with a new defensive coordinator that's not a guarantee. Drafting Talanoa Hufanga could change that as well. He would play that Kam Chancellor role as an enforcer in and around the line of scrimmage in Dan Quinn system. A role that fits him better than I think it does Wilson.
Round 4, Pick 115 – James Hudson, OT, Cincinnati
James Hudson is a project pick with the future in mind and that's okay if everything goes as planned and both Tyron Smith and La'el Collins return healthy for the 2021 season. Hudson needs a little more time to develop to fine-tune his skills, but he should be Smith's eventual replacement at LT in the not so distant future. In the meantime he can serve as the swing tackle.
Round 4, Pick 140 – Keith Taylor Jr., CB, Washington
My Dallas Cowboys CB makeover continues with the selection of Keith Taylor Jr., despite already adding Richard Sherman via free agency and Ifeatu Melifonwu through the draft earlier. Taylor is another tall, lengthy CB prospect who has experience playing both inside and out. With him, Trevon Diggs, and Ifeatu Melifonwu Dallas' CB position has a promising future.
Round 5, Pick 178 – Foyesade Oluokun, LB, Atlanta Falcons (Trade)
Considering Avery Williamson was traded for a fifth-round pick it's conceivable that's what it would take for the Cowboys to acquire Foyesade Oluokun, especially considering he's entering a contract year. He's an excellent special teams player and someone who can challenge, if not win, a starting job. After the season Dallas can let him walk and hopefully receive a compensatory pick in return or try to lock him up long-term depending on how his season goes.
Round 6, Pick 189 – Malcolm Brown, DT, New Orleans Saints (Trade)
Malcolm Brown is also entering a contract year in 2021 and will carry a price tag of a little over $6.4 million. I think with some finagling the Cowboys can absorb that cap hit or they could choose to try to extend him a couple years and spread it out. Like Oluokun, this could be a one-year tryout to see if Brown is worth extending long-term and at worse a player that could net them an additional 2022 compensatory pick.
Round 6, Pick 224 – JaCoby Stevens, S, LSU
JaCoby Stevens played a variety of roles during his time at LSU and could do the same with the Cowboys. I think he's kind of a hybrid S/LB defender and as such a player Dan Quinn could get creative with. He would not only add much-needed depth at both positions, but also be a core special teams player as well.
Round 7, Pick 236 – Lorenzo Neal, DT, Purdue
At this point in the draft I'm looking for traits to develop and Lorenzo Neal definitely has some intriguing intangibles. He's a natural athlete with good short area quickness and lateral agility. He needs to play with better leverage and pad level, but with better NFL coaching he could clean up those areas of his game quickly and become a good rotational piece to the Cowboys DL as a rookie.