As the Dallas Cowboys (4-1) continue to suffocate opponents on the defensive end and play efficient ball on the offensive side, I wanted to shift gears a bit and dive into another topic super early. And don't worry, it's not a story on their chances at reaching the Super Bowl.
It's looking at the free agents the Cowboys will have next offseason and picking three guys who they MUST re-sign. Ideally, you try your best to bring back all of your players to keep familiarity, but with the NFL, it's a business, and players come and go.
RB Tony Pollard
According to Spotrac, the Cowboys will have 21 free agents – 19 are unrestricted, and two are restricted. Among all of them, the biggest name is arguably Running Back Tony Pollard.
One of the biggest debates that fans and the sports world had before the season started was whether the team should start Pollard instead of Ezekiel Elliott. Some comments that Pollard fans used during their arguments were he's younger, faster, more explosive, and cheaper.
However, the Zeke enthusiasts saw Pollard as a liability in pass protection, and it seemed like the front office (aka mostly Jerry and Stephen Jones) was on the premise that Zeke was still their guy.
Jerry Jones on @FirstTake on Ezekiel Elliott: “It's still a fact, we go as Zeke goes.” pic.twitter.com/PsuQV91cAF
Although Zeke is their guy, there is no doubt that they know they can move on from him this offseason.
They would suffer an $11.86 million cap hit, but it saves them money down the road and they are getting out of paying an older running back. Whether you are confident that Pollard is the guy or not — the team can add another running back in free agency or the draft to complement him.
There is no doubt Pollard has shown to be a key weapon for their offense, so you can't let him walk in free agency.
Longest plays so far this Cowboys season: a 45-yard catch, 46-yard run and a 57-yard run. All by Tony Pollard.
According to Spotrac, his market value is approximately $5.1 million APY, which is significantly lower than Elliott's average salary. Even if they rock with Elliott coming back, keeping Pollard keeps familiarity with the team, and the franchise won't have to worry about bringing in a new face as the starter.
WR Noah Brown
If you're like me, you likely didn't envision Noah Brown having a breakout year. Almost everyone thought the starting wideouts were CeeDee Lamb, James Washington, and Jalen Tolbert.
But add in a Washington injury and a curious case of inactive games for Tolbert, and Brown has taken advantage of his moment. He's earning himself some money. Before this season, you saw Brown have his moments in limited snaps. But now a full-time starter, he is having a career year.
Week in and week out, he has shined and has been a reliable catcher for Rush. Also, add that he's been stretching the field for the Cowboys offense (even more than Lamb, but Lamb is also getting tougher coverage) and it would be ideal for the team to reward him with a long-term contract.
This is a Noah Brown tweet. https://t.co/isXAu7YyMe
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) October 6, 2022
Noah Brown vs man coverage this season:
89.5 Receiving Grade (3rd)
4.36 Yards/Route Run (1st)
157 yards (3rd)
7 first downs (T-2nd)
4 contested catches (T-2nd) pic.twitter.com/wzrm0vcDtQ
— jonathan (@chivoo42) October 6, 2022
Only 26 years old, keeping Brown allows the offense to have a reliable wideout in their group to go along with Lamb and Michael Gallup, and he's proving to be a solid WR3/potential WR4 option. Plus, you won't have to break the bank for him.
S Donovan Wilson
Before I began writing up on Wilson, I was baffled at how much he was underpaid. A sixth-rounder in the 2019 NFL Draft, I realized that's typically the salary for later-round guys, but man, this guy is about to get his bag.
And the Cowboys need to pay the man.
After a rough start to his career, Wilson turned it up a notch in 2020 and had 71 combined tackles, 3.5 sacks, two INTs, and three forced fumbles.
Many expected Wilson to make another leap the following season, but injuries bit him, and he lost playing time to Jayron Kearse. However, fast-forward to this season and Wilson has shown the playmaking ability he had in 2020. He's making plays all over the field.
In an NFL position power rankings, the Next Gen Analytics Team had graded him as the second-best safety through Week 4. They also added if he can stay healthy, opposing offenses will feel his wrath, as he is one of the most aggressive defenders in the league.
Donovan Wilson is ON FIRE. pic.twitter.com/jd9auMi6Pk
— Mauricio Rodríguez (@MauNFL) October 7, 2022
Retaining Wilson will ensure the defense has their three-headed monster safety group for at least one more season as Kearse and Malik Hooker will be free agents in 2024. But as long he can stay healthy, this is a no-brainer signing for the Boys to retain their tough-tackling safety, and for once, the team won't have to keep throwing darts on projects or washed-up safeties.