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3 Free Agent Targets for the Dallas Cowboys Offense

John Williams

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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

WR Randall Cobb Named Cowboys “Surprise Standout” for Offseason

Jess Haynie

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Randall Cobb

NFL teams have wrapped up their offseason activities with the close of OTAs, especially where the players are concerned, and await the start of training camps next month. In reviewing the last few months, ESPN had their local reporters each pick a surprise standout from their team's practices. Todd Archer, who covers the Dallas Cowboys full time, selected veteran receiver Randall Cobb.

Cobb is in his first season with Dallas after signing as a free agent last March. He's spent the last eight years with the Green Bay Packers and was a Pro Bowler in 2014, but has struggled with injuries the last few seasons.

Here were Archer's observations on how Randall is doing so far with the Cowboys:

Normally a player with Cobb's résumé -- 470 catches for 5,524 yards and 41 touchdowns during his career -- would not be considered for a category like this. But injuries limited him to only nine games and 38 catches for Green Bay in 2018, and it was hard to know what the Cowboys were getting in the veteran receiver.

If the offseason work is any indication, they have found a replacement for Cole Beasley. Cobb's versatility can expand the offense for others, such as Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Cobb looked quick in and out of his breaks and fast enough to make plays down the field. Will he put up the 1,287 yards he had in 2014? No, but he gives Dak Prescott a security blanket in the slot who can turn a small gain into a big one.

The notion of Cobb replacing Beasley is a big one. While we'd like to think that Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup will provide plenty of firepower for the Cowboys offense, Dak Prescott has enjoyed a reliable threat from the slot position since he arrived.

Randall Cobb, when healthy, can do more than just make clutch catches. He has good run-after-catch skills and perhaps bring more big play potential than Beasley did.

If Cooper and Gallup do emerge as a dangerous starting duo on the outside, Cobb should have even more opportunities to punish defenses than Beasley did.

If nothing else, it's very encouraging to hear that one of the Cowboys' few 2019 free agent moves is already reaping benefits. Cobb still needs to bring it over a full season to really justify the move, but these early reports are cause for excitement.



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BREAKING: Cowboys TE Rico Gathers Receives One-Game Suspension

Jess Haynie

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Rico Gathers

Tight End Rico Gathers already had an uphill climb to return to the Dallas Cowboys' 53-man roster in 2019. But that climb just got even steeper; the NFL handed down a one-game suspension to Gathers today for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

If he does make the team this year, with Dallas or anyone else, Rico will have to sit out Week One of the season without pay.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Cowboys TE Rico Gathers is suspended without pay for the first game of the 2019 regular season for violating the NFL's policy and program on substances of abuse. This is from his arrest in 2018 for marijuana possession.

Gathers' chances of returning in 2019 were already hurt by Jason Witten's reversed retirement. He dropped to fourth on the TE depth chart behind Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz, and Dallas only kept three tight ends last year.

The Cowboys also added Codey McElroy as a developmental player during the offseason.

While the suspension is news, the incident that led to it is not. Dallas already knew about the arrest, which occurred in early September of 2018, and have kept Gathers around up until now.

The NFL's substance abuse system is pretty formulaic, so the Cowboys likely anticipated this suspension all along. This may not change anything about how they value Rico Gathers for the 2019 season.

Nevertheless, a player who can't help you in Week One and is a liability for ever longer suspensions down the road is definitely a red flag against Gathers' job security.



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Antwaun Woods: Cowboys DT is Just Getting Started

Matthew Lenix

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Antwaun Woods is just getting started

Antwaun Woods went undrafted in 2016 coming out of USC. After two years with the Tennessee Titans, he would only see one game of action. In May of 2018, the Cowboys signed Woods to a two-year contract worth 1.05 million. Probably seen as nothing more than a practice squad guy, Woods would quickly show he was much more than that.

The newly acquired Woods started his climb to stardom in Oxnard during training camp, and not for making plays. One day during practice he got into a friendly game of fisticuffs with All-Pro Center Travis Frederick. The team even posted the video on social media, which had fans buzzing and wanting to know who he was.

All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott echoed those thoughts when he saw Woods during camp. "Honestly, when we first got him, we were like, 'Who is this guy?'. He was giving Travis Frederick, one of our best players, hell all camp. Just trying to figure out where this guy came from," Elliott said.

Once the regular season started it was clear the Cowboys had found a hidden gem. Although the sack numbers won't dazzle you, seeing as he only registered 1.5, you could forget about running the ball anywhere near him. Woods has amazing quickness for a 300 pounder which allows him to extend his arms before offensive lineman can get a hand on him.

How significant is that? It becomes that much easier to bull rush and blow running plays up in the backfield.

When you can get your hands on an offensive lineman immediately when the ball is snapped, he's basically under your control. You can move him around like a puppet on a string. Essential for a 1-technique nose tackle. With that being said, there should be no surprise the Cowboys finished fifth against the run in 2018 with Woods manning the middle.

Woods draws a lot of double teams, and he handles them well. Having the ability to take on multiple linemen frees up your other playmakers. As the anchor in the middle, Woods made life a lot easier for not only his fellow defensive linemen but the team's two young star Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Allowing them to roam freely like Lions in the Serengeti makes running backs essentially Zebra's carrying the ball, cooked food. So much so that both tallied over 120 tackles and were the only teammates in the NFL to rank in the top 15 in that category.

There's nothing but upside with Antwaun Woods. He's only had 18 games of experience in three years. He's already a stud, but with limited snaps, it can only mean he'll be even more formidable going forward.

The Cowboys have a loaded defensive lineman group with around 15 bodies, plenty of competition. All signs point to him remaining the starter, but it's not guaranteed. Even with that being said I don't expect a complacency from Woods, especially with DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn looking like the only sure starters on the defensive line. Plus this is a contract year for him, so you know he'll be even more motivated as he tries to maximize his dollars. We've only seen the tip of the iceberg from this raw talent, setting up for a potential breakout year for him in 2019.



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