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3 Free Agent Targets for the Dallas Cowboys Offense

John Williams



Opposition Outlook: TJ Yeldon Will be a Problem for the Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys are likely in the time of the offseason where they begin studying this year's group of free agents to see who could be a fit for the 2019 season. With a new offensive coordinator and a mandate for an upgrade to the offensive system, it's likely they could go out and pursue several players who could step in and make an immediate impact for a team on the verge of Super Bowl contention.

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about several under the radar offensive players, but could be targets for the Dallas Cowboys. Last week, I covered the defensive side of the football. This week, I'm going to give you three that could immediately slot into roles for the Dallas Cowboys this season.

Jared Cook, Tight End

It's no secret that the Dallas Cowboys will be approaching the offseason looking to upgrade their tight end group. Cowboys Executive Vice President Stephen Jones has already said as much. With the insane depth of talent at the tight end position in the NFL Draft, it's likely that's where the Cowboys will look to improve that area of the depth chart.

But as we know, the Cowboys also love to use free agency to fill any glaring holes before the draft so they don't feel forced to make an addition where they don't feel comfortable.

Just last April, Jason Witten announced his retirement just before the second round. Pretty much everyone assumed they would use one of their second or third round picks on a tight end to fill the Grand Canyon-like hole at tight end. While they did draft Dalton Schultz, they passed on the opportunity to take now Baltimore Ravens Tight End Mark Andrews with the 81st pick. The choice they used to take Michael Gallup. Instead, they later drafted Dalton Schultz.

Well, this free agency, they'll have an opportunity to address the tight end position before they get to the draft and the top name on the list is Oakland Raiders Tight End, Jared Cook. Cook, you'll remember caught the pass from Aaron Rodgers in the 2016 divisional round matchup that led to Mason Crosby's long field goal to beat the 13-3 Dallas Cowboys.

In 2018, Jared Cook led the Oakland Raiders in receptions, targets, yards, and touchdowns. Even prior to the deal that sent Amari Cooper to the Cowboys, Cook was leading the team in several, if not all of those categories. On the season he caught 68 passes on 101 targets for 896 yards and six touchdowns. Among tight ends last season he was fifth in the NFL in receptions, fifth in targets, fourth in yards, and fourth in touchdowns. All at the age of 31.

He's a player that could help the Dallas Cowboys at tight end, even if it was only as a stop-gap or competition for Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz. He's a veteran presence that still has something to offer as a receiver.

Devin Funchess, Wide Receiver

It was a disappointing season for the former second round pick of the Carolina Panthers, Devin Funchess. With no one standing in the way of him taking over as the lead receiver for Cam Newton, Funchess posted disappointing numbers catching only 44 passes on 79 targets for 549 yards and four touchdowns.

After having over 800 yards and eight touchdowns in 2017, many expected that Funchess would take a step forward this season. He didn't.

Over the final six games of his season, he saw only 24 targets and caught just eight passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. That's after averaging 4.5 receptions on 6.9 targets and catching three touchdowns during the first eight games of the season. 81% of his receptions and yards came over the first eight games of the season and then he just dropped off.

Some of that could be due to Cam Newton's injury, but I think the more likely scenario is that Funchess took a back seat to rookie first round pick D.J. Moore, who finished the season with 788 yards on 55 receptions and two touchdowns. Moore had much more of his production over the second half of the season.

He's an outside receiver that gives the Cowboys some size with his 6-4, 225 pound frame. He'd be red zone threat and with his experience outside, you could use Amari Cooper in the slot on three wide receiver sets.

Funchess may not be an exciting name for the Dallas Cowboys, but he's potentially cheap and is still a very young player who has four years experience in the NFL.

T.J. Yeldon, Running Back

If the Dallas Cowboys do look to give Ezekiel Elliott a four or five-year extension this offseason or next, then they need to get serious about preserving him. In Ezekiel Elliott's two 16 game seasons, he's averaged 367 touches per season. In 2017, when he only played 10 games, he was on pace for 428 touches on the year. Yes, he's capable of shouldering that workload and is one of the elite runners in the NFL, but if you're going to hand him a ton of money, you need to take care of that asset and not run him into the ground.

Enter T.J. Yeldon.

There are several running backs this free agency that are intriguing players and could be good fits for the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars Running Back T.J. Yeldon is one of those guys. He's a do-it-all runner who does his best work as a receiving back.

As a runner, Yeldon had a success rate 48%, per Football Outsiders. Success rate measures the frequency that a player is gaining the expected yards based on down and distance. For reference, Ezekiel Elliott had a success rate of 50% and the league leader in success rate, Gus Edwards, was successful on 63% of his runs.

Yeldon averaged just under four yards per carry on 104 carries and caught 55 passes for 487 yards and five total touchdowns. Yeldon worked primarily as a backup to Leonard Fournette, but filled started four games filling in for Fournette due to injury.

Yeldon would be an upgrade to Rod Smith in terms of running and receiving and would allow you to scale back on Ezekiel Elliott's touches -- especially receptions -- allowing him to stay fresher in games and throughout the season.

With several really talented running backs available in free agency, it's likely that Yeldon could be without a home through the early stages of free agency and be willing to take a back up role somewhere.

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We're about 30 days from the start of NFL free agency and the Dallas Cowboys will likely be players in some sense. We know they like to bargain hunt in the free agent market, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them make a big splash and a few medium-sized splashes as they look to put this team over the top heading into the 2019 season.

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

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Dallas Cowboys

Should Cowboys Address TE Need Via Free Agency?

Mauricio Rodriguez



Should Cowboys Address TE Need Via Free Agency?

A season after Jason Witten's retirement, the Dallas Cowboys still have a need at tight end. Replacing a future Hall of Famer is no easy feat so it's only logical that it would take longer than a season to feel good about who's in at tight end.

The Cowboys currently have two tight ends who could be pretty serviceable going forward. Fourth round pick Dalton Schultz did a very solid job as the team's TE2, specially toward the second half of the season. He turned into a pretty good run blocker and despite only racking up 116 yards in 12 catches, he's a guy the Cowboys' offense could use even more in the future.

Also on the team is Blake Jarwin, who functioned as the Cowboys' main tight end for most of 2018. His performance against the New York Giants in week 17 made us wonder whether or not he could be an important target on the Cowboys' offense.

These two could very well have more in them than what we've seen. With a new offensive coordinator in town, tight end is a position the Cowboys could start using way more. As Bobby Belt pointed out on Twitter a few weeks ago, Scott Linehan's offense doesn't benefit tight ends very much. Before we give a verdict on what Schultz and Jarwin can do, I'd like to see them work with Kellen Moore's offense.

Bobby Belt on Twitter

One thing you consistently see when Scott Linehan takes over an offense is a drop in the starting tight end's production. Randy McMichael, Byron Chamberlain, and Jason Witten all saw drops in yards per catch, receptions per game, and yards per game once Linehan took over.

Here's the thing. If the Cowboys are not taking a tight end in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, are they really upgrading what they already have? I'm not sure we'll be convinced about that if they draft a player for the position until the third or fourth round. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating for the Cowboys drafting a TE in the second round, because I believe there are more pressing needs on the team. However, signing a veteran free agent might be the better option for upgrading the position.

Should a veteran TE be an option?

This year, there are quite a few interesting names in the tight end market. Veterans such as Jared Cook, Tyler Eifert and even Antonio Gates will be looking for a new team pretty soon. I know, that would be "getting older." But it could also mean getting better. Building a solid TE committee with a veteran leading Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz could be the way to go for this football team.

Should Cowboys Address TE Need Via Free Agency? 1

TE Tyler Eifert (Aaron Doster / USA TODAY Sports)

Eifert is a great tight end... when he's on the field. Durability is his biggest weakness, as he hasn't played more than 10 games since 2016. The Cowboys could take a risk on him and constantly rotate him with Jarwin and Schultz. It may be a huge risk, but it could pay off big time. If the price is right, Eifert should be targeted by the front office.

The 2018 Oakland Raiders had a season to forget, winning only four games. Even still, Jared Cook's season was impressive. He finished the year with 896 yards and multiple 100-yard games. The biggest issue with Cook is his age. He turns 32 in April. But hey, he's literally coming off from a career year.

Jesse James is a younger guy who could also be worth it. He's not an a potent receiver, but he gets it done in the passing game and is one hell of a blocker. James could be a legit, cheaper option for the Cowboys in free agency.

There are a lot of names out there the front office could look at. Charles Clay was just released by the Buffalo Bills and Nick Boyle will be looking for new job after new arrivals pushed him out of the Baltimore Ravens' roster just to mention a few names.

We'll see what the front office's plans are soon enough, but right now, I'd say tight end is a need the Dallas Cowboys should at least try to address in free agency instead of the NFL Draft.

Tell me what you think about "Should Cowboys Address TE Need Via Free Agency?" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Cornerback

Jess Haynie



Byron Jones

Unlike other positions on their roster, cornerback appears ready to off the Dallas Cowboys stability in 2019. However, that doesn't mean the team can just ignore it this offseason. There are still a few decisions to be made.

Thanks to a shrewd move in April of last year, Dallas will be enjoying Byron Jones' services at a bargain. They picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract and will be paying him just $6.3 million next season.

That's a steal for a Pro Bowl corner, who generally make more than double that amount in a single year. But the Cowboys are still left the decision of whether or not to give Jones a long-term deal now or wait until he hits free agency in 2020.

It's easy to say that they should enjoy the discount and worry about it next year. But then you risk a second Pro Bowl trip and the lure of the open market. Byron's asking price could only go up.

Of course, Dallas could then also have the option of using the franchise tag.

Keep in mind that Jones will turn 27 this September. Dallas could decide that it makes sense to play through the rookie deal this year, franchise him in 2020, and then reassess when he's about to turn 29 years old.

If they give Byron a long-term deal now then they'll have to pay him like one of the top corners in football. It may be wise to wait.

Chidobe Awuzie, Giants

Dallas Cowboys CB Chidobe Awuzie

Another decision facing the Cowboys is if they think they can improve at the second starting position. It was an up-and-down year for Chidobe Awuzie, but he was playing his best toward the end of the season. Dallas could hope that a second year with Kris Richard's coaching, and just more general growth for a third-year player, will elevate Awuzie's game.

However, with plenty of cap space to work with, Dallas could pursue a solid veteran option and then allow Awuzie to play the nickel role. It would not only perhaps improve the CB2 position but also bolster depth overall.

Speaking of depth, Anthony Brown returns for the final year of his rookie deal. While never spectacular, Brown has been a gem as a former sixth-round pick with 29 career starts. He brings exceptional value and may even compete with Awuzie for the starting job.

While arguably the team's best young corner in 2017, Jourdan Lewis comes into this season with a lot of uncertainty. He fell out of favor last season, perhaps for not fitting the physical style that Richard likes. But he did manage to snag the game-clinching interception in Dallas' upset win over the New Orleans Saints.

If a scheme mismatch is the issue, the Cowboys could look to trade Lewis this offseason. He still has two years left on his rookie deal and was considered a first-round prospect by some in 2017. A cornerback-needy club might have more use for him than Dallas seems to.

If they did move Jourdan, the Cowboys might turn to Donovan Olumba to fill out the depth chart. He was one of their surprising performers in last year's training camp and spent the year on the practice squad. At 6'2", he has the size that the team seems to be looking for now in its corners.

More than likely, Dallas will ride with this group in 2019 with no big changes. I do think a Lewis trade is possible, especially with the Cowboys short on draft picks this year. But don't expect any major cap space or draft capital to go at one of the team's more solid positions.

With all the other work Dallas needs done this offseason, a little stability at cornerback is a luxury.

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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Center

Jess Haynie



Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Center
James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

Even with Dez Bryant's release and Jason Witten's retirement, the loss of Travis Frederick last season may have been the most damaging to the Dallas Cowboys. The team looks forward to getting their All-Pro center back in 2019 while also having a reliable backup still under contract.

Just within the last few weeks, Frederick has provided encouraging updates on his status for next year. It looks like he'll be able to participate in all offseason activities, but the Cowboys would settle for Week One. There appears to be plenty of cushion for that to happen.

Travis' absence in 2018 was seen in various ways. Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times, second-most in all the league, after just 32 and 25 times the previous two seasons. Part of that is missing Frederick's blocking ability, but also the way he would assist with reading the defense and making pre-snap adjustments.

Dallas would've loved having Frederick out there to help Guard Connor Williams, who worked with Travis throughout the offseason only to lose him in late August. It was not an easy way for the rookie to start his career.

We also saw issues in the run game. Even while Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in rushing, short-yardage situations weren't as easy as they used to be. The Rams were able to neutralize the Cowboys' rushing attack in Dallas' playoff loss, something that Frederick might have helped overcome.

Joe Looney

Dallas Cowboys G/C Joe Looney

This isn't saying that Joe Looney did a bad job. On the contrary, Looney was more than adequate and helped keep Dallas from suffering far greater damage without Frederick.

After Joe's work in 2018, Dallas won't blink at keeping him on the $1 million salary he's due next year. It's a bargain for a backup of his quality, and especially given his versatility as an option at guard as well.

Not only are Frederick and Looney locked in for 2019, but Dallas also still has backup Adam Redmond under contract through next season. He was added after final cuts last year to be Looney's backup and should return to at least help the team through July and August.

With these guys already in place, there's no reason to think that Dallas will give much attention to the center position during the offseason.

At most, a mid-round draft pick might be used on a player who could potentially replace Looney in 2020 as the backup. Joe's contract ends next season, and he could be competitive for starting jobs with other teams at that point.

With lots of other concerns throughout the roster, Dallas is fortunate to have so much security at center. All signs are positive on Travis Frederick's return, and that is a huge boost to the team as it looks to push forward from last year's playoff run.

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