The Dallas Cowboys head into the 2018 offseason with some questions to answer about their team, and some difficult decisions to make. While the offense was good, at times, throughout the 2017 season, especially when Tyron Smith was in the game, there was a glaring need for this team. A wide receiver who could stretch the field and open up the underneath throws for players like Jason Witten and Cole Beasley.
There are definitely some intriguing names in this year's draft class, but Will McClay & Co. usually looks to address team needs in free agency so they can go into the draft without having to select players based on needs.
Before we look at the potential wide receivers on the free agent market, let's talk briefly about some of the guys on the team first. We can assume Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Ryan Switzer will be on the roster in 2018.
- I don't think they are as down on Dez Bryant as much of Cowboys Nation.
- Terrance Williams' contract, according to Spotrac.com, is such that Dallas can't move on until next offseason. The Dallas Cowboys would take on $7-million-and-change in dead money if they were to release Williams this offseason.
- Switzer made some strides in the return game, and deserves a shot at a more substantial role in 2018.
- 2018 is the last year of Cole Beasley's deal and would get you $3.25 million dollars in savings against the 2018 cap, with only $1 million in dead money. With Switzer waiting in the wings, Bease could be the odd man out. That's another discussion for another time though.
As we look through wide receivers in free agency, it's important to note the Cowboys don't want to spend a lot of money in free agency. They also prefer to go after younger veterans with upside than veterans who are in the late part or past their prime.
Therefore, we can cross names like Allen Robinson and Jarvis Landry off the list because of the money they'll command in free agency. Names like Mike Wallace can be crossed off the list as well because of age.
There are three guys who I think could fit what Dallas likes to do in free agency.
WR Paul Richardson, Seattle Seahawks
Paul Richardson will turn 26 this offseason, and he posted the best season of his career becoming a tremendous downfield threat for Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks.
Richardson, who ran a 4.40 at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2014, posted career highs in targets (80), receptions (44), yards (703), yards per reception (16), and touchdowns (6).
According to Spotrac.com, he could command an average annual salary of $6.5-million, which could be a little rich for Dallas. But for someone who has the downfield ability and the hands to match, it could also be a bargain for the potentially missing piece to the Cowboys offense.
WR Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts
After a couple of sub-par seasons and difficulty staying on the field, Donte Moncrief is the polar opposite of Richardson.
While Richardson posted career highs across the board, Moncrief suffered the worst season of his career when it comes to receptions and touchdowns. He did have a career best 15 yards per reception this year, however.
Some of his struggles could be related to playing with Jacoby Brissett in 2017, and not having a healthy Andrew Luck in 2016. His best season was 2015, when he posted 64 receptions on 105 targets for 733 yards and six touchdowns.
Like Richardson, Moncrief flashed 4.40 speed at the combine at age 20, and will be only 25 in August. After a couple of sub-par seasons, his price tag shouldn't keep this front office from taking a look at him.
WR Albert Wilson, Kansas City Chiefs
Another intriguing name is Albert Wilson of the Kansas City Chiefs, who put up career bests in every receiving category except yards per reception. He averaged 13.2 in 2017, and averaged 16.3 his rookie season in 2014.
After only playing in 13 games for the Chiefs, he had three touchdowns and 554 receiving yards for the season, which were good for third on the team behind Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.
Wilson ran a 4.43 at the NFL Combine and, like Moncrief, shouldn't command a ton of money on the free agent market.
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The Dallas Cowboys won't make a big splash in the wide receiver pool of free agency, and I tend to think they won't draft a wide receiver early in the draft either. They need to add some speed to the roster to put more pressure on opposing defenses.
One of these three guys could be the missing piece to an elite running game and efficient passing game.
WR Randall Cobb Named Cowboys “Surprise Standout” for Offseason
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.
BREAKING: Cowboys TE Rico Gathers Receives One-Game Suspension
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.
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.
Antwaun Woods: Cowboys DT 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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