The Dallas Cowboys have one of their deepest rosters from top to bottom in recent memory. Unfortunately, that means they're going to be quite a few talented players who aren't going to make the team this year like they would have in years past. If I'm the Cowboys, I'm not just tossing these players away. I'm going to try to get some compensation in return, even if it's just late-round picks.
Today though I don't want to focus on all of the players who could become trade assets for the Dallas Cowboys. Instead, I want to focus on just a few of them who I believe the Cowboys could get the most bang for their buck if traded away. After all, it's more exciting talking about players we know more about than those who aren't.
Let's get started…
DE, Taco Charlton
Taco Charlton has two years under his belt with the Dallas Cowboys, but unfortunately doesn't have much to show for it. The Cowboys knew he was a project player when they drafted him, but his lack of development to this point is concerning to say the least. It didn't help matters last year when he found himself in the coaches doghouse, meaning it's time for him to put up or shut up in the Year 3.
If the Cowboys are indeed ready to wash their hands of Taco, they could put him on the trade block to see if another team around the league would like to try their hand at tapping into his talent. After trading for Robert Quinn, signing Kerry Hyder, and adding two rookie DEs through the draft, Dallas seems to have plenty in depth at the position. Charlton could very well be in a make or break offseason.
RT, La'el Collins
When the Dallas Cowboys drafted Connor McGovern with their third-round draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft a few weeks ago it opened up a floodgate of possibilities with how they could go about deploying their offensive line this season. Unfortunately for La'el Collins, who is entering the last year of his contract, it could potentially mean his time in Dallas is coming to an end sooner than expected. He could now be a trade asset.
The Cowboys could choose to use Collins in a trade to hopefully upgrade another position and then kick Connor Williams out to right tackle. That would mean Connor McGovern slides in as a rookie at left guard. It's a long shot this will happen because of all of the moving pieces involved and the fact Dallas will receive a 2020 compensatory pick for Collins, but it's still a possibility for the right price or player.
G/C, Joe Looney
The Dallas Cowboys would probably hate to kick Joe Looney to the curb after how well be filled in for Travis Frederick in 2018, but that may have already all that happened by drafting Connor McGovern. This is the La'el Collins situation all over again. With McGovern aboard, the Cowboys offensive line is going to be something a lot of teams around the league will be keeping a close eye on, and that includes Looney.
Looney proved last year he's more than capable of handling the starting responsibility that goes with playing center in the NFL. Plus, he has the added versatility to play guard in a snap as well. That could come in high demand once offseason practices get underway and injuries start piling up. Looney is a valuable asset still in Dallas, just not as much as he was before McGovern was added to the mix. Still, don't be surprised if you see him on the trade block.
CB, Jourdan Lewis
If there is one person out there in the Cowboys Nation who isn't really happy with Kris Richard since his arrival in Dallas, it's probably Jourdan Lewis. He saw his playing time significantly decrease in 2018 after playing quite a bit as a rookie. After his first year with the Cowboys it was looking as if he could compete for a starting job, but Richard's arrival squashed that from happening. Now, he is nothing more than fourth on the CB depth chart.
On many teams around the league Lewis would be a starting caliber CB on the outside or in the slot. Unfortunately in Dallas he doesn't fit Richard's size/length thresholds and was left watching from the sideline for the most of the 2018 season. The only significant playing time he really had was against the Saints, when he was asked to contain Alvin Kamara, one of the NFL's most dangerous weapons. Lewis' contract expires in 2020 and the Cowboys should consider moving him if they're not going to use him. A lot of teams would line up for his services.
RB/WR, Tavon Austin
Count me as one of those who were really excited about the Dallas Cowboys decision to trade for Tavon Austin last offseason. I was really looking forward to seeing what he could add to the offense because of his ability to be a threat as a runner, receiver, and return specialist. Unfortunately, we only saw flashes of his game changing ability because of a groin injury he sustained early in the season. Now, he may once again find himself on the trade block because of the Cowboys decision to draft a similar weapon in Tony Pollard.
A lot of people view Pollard as a backup running back, but I don't think he's ready for that kind of responsibility just yet. When I studied his game film I saw a bigger version of Tavon Austin and I believe that's the kind of role he will play with the Cowboys in his first few years while he develops into a more complete player. The bad thing about this is there's not any sense and keeping two similar players on the roster, and unfortunately Pollard is younger and cheaper. Who knows though, maybe Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore is a mastermind who can get them both involved?
What Could June 1st Mean for 2019 Dallas Cowboys?
Some consider June 1st to be a critical date on every year's NFL calendar; it's own new wave of free agency. But will the 2019 Dallas Cowboys add any talent to the pool, and could they be interested in any players who get released by their current teams?
As you likely know already, teams may choose to cut players after June 1st so that they can defer some of the dead money from their contracts to the following season. It allows them to maximize salary cap savings in the current year.
For over a decade now, the NFL has also allowed teams to release up to two players prior to June 1st but still give them that designation. The team doesn't get the cap relief until June, but the player gets a chance to find a new home during the primary free agency period.
There have been almost no early June-1st cuts so far this year by any NFL team. That may lead you to believe that there will be similar inactivity when we actually hit that date on the calendar. But that may not be a very good tell.
Because teams don't enjoy any benefit from the early June-1st designation, except whatever good feeling comes from doing right by a former player, we hardly see it in action. Teams would much rather carry a player until after the draft and see what their need levels truly is before releasing them. It's rendered the early provision almost meaningless.
For the 2019 Dallas Cowboys, the one player whose situation and contract speak to a possible June-1st move is Defensive Lineman Tyrone Crawford.
Crawford's deal runs thru 2020, which is key since you need at least two year's left on the contract to utilize the June-1st deferment. A player with only one year left, like WR Allen Hurns, has the same cap relief regardless of when you cut him.
Releasing Tyrone Crawford either after June 1st or with the early designation would push $1.1 million of his total $4.2 million in dead money to 2020. It would increase the total cap savings from $5.9 million to $7 million for the Cowboys' 2019 salary cap.
Now Crawford is one of those guys, a valued veteran and team captain, who you'd think a team would've cut earlier if that was their intention. But Tyrone's value to the Cowboys has been fluid throughout the offseason.
The value went up when we found out Randy Gregory was suspended again. It remained high while contract negotiations with DeMarcus Lawrence dragged until early April. Crawford's ability to play multiple spots on the line meant he could be back in a starting role at DE in 2019.
But then Dallas re-signed Lawrence, traded for veteran Robert Quinn, signed Kerry Hyder, and drafted Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks. Throw in Taco Charlton and Dorance Armstrong coming back and there are already plenty of players at DE, especially if Gregory manages to get reinstated.
But even if Crawford isn't needed at end, what about defensive tackle?
The Cowboys spent their earliest 2019 draft pick, 58th overall, on DT Trysten Hill. He projects to play the same "3-technique" position that Crawford normally would.
On top of Hill, Dallas is bringing back Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods, and Daniel Ross form last season. They also signed Christian Covington, a fifth-year veteran from the Texans.
Again, the numbers are pretty tight and the positions are full of younger talent. The Cowboys could easily conclude that they have plenty of DL options at this point and would benefit more from salary cap relief than from Tyrone Crawford's continued services.
Plus, we haven't even gotten into the legal issues that could cause Crawford to get suspended for a few game in 2019.
As far as current talent goes, the June-1st conversation really begins and ends with Tyrone Crawford. Other veterans who may not make it to the final roster, such as Hurns, Jeff Heath, or Tavon Austin, only have one year left on their contracts. June 1st changes nothing for them.
There could be a few interesting names that come available when other teams make cuts. Again, they could have made these moves well before now. But NFL franchises are generally going to do what's best for them, and waiting for the dust to settle from the draft allows for more informed decision-making.
One name we've seen tossed around a lot is DT Gerald McCoy from Tampa Bay, who would be an immediate upgrade over any of Dallas' current tackles. But would losing Crawford to add McCoy really be that cost-effective?
The market to really keep an eye on is at running back. The current free agency pool had dwindled down to Jay Ajayi, who is unlikely to accept a minor role behind Ezekiel Elliott, and a bunch of retreads. Perhaps other teams' cuts could yield a few more desirable prospects to help our RB depth.
For 2019 at least, June 1st may not mean very much. And it may mean even less for the Dallas Cowboys, who already could field a competitive team this year without any additional moves. They may be focusing their cap dollars solely on new contracts for Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Zeke, and others the rest of this offseason.
Outside of potentially releasing or trading Tyrone Crawford, we may not see any major moves in Dallas until final cuts.
Kicker Matt Bryant Should Be the Final Piece of Cowboys 2019 Offseason
The draft is done, DeMarcus Lawrence is re-signed, and the bulk of free agency activity has passed. The 2019 Dallas Cowboys have more than enough talent to compete this season, but there is still one last move I'd wish they'd make. Veteran kicker Matt Bryant, still one of the NFL's best even at almost 44 years old, could be the final piece to this offseason puzzle.
The Atlanta Falcons' longtime kicker, and franchise scoring leader, was not retained this year despite another standout season. He made 20-of-21 field goals, with a long of 57, in 2018.
Why Atlanta didn't keep Bryant hasn't been confirmed, but perhaps the team was just looking to avoid hanging on one year to late. But Matt, who ranks eight all-time in FG accuracy (86.2%), doesn't think he's done. He tweeted the following from his personal account in February:
"Over this past year I’ve been asked numerous times about retirement and how I feel. Well, I’m not retiring and I feel fine and plan on feeling even better with some changes to my offseason program!
As of now Matt Bryant remains a free agent, and I think the Dallas Cowboys should be very interested.
If you go up and down this Dallas roster, kicker is arguably its biggest liability. Brett Maher had some highlight moments in 2018, and won two Player of the Week awards, but he also was one of the league's worst kickers in overall FG accuracy.
The problem with Maher is that you can't teach his best skill; the accuracy from the high 50s and even low 60s is incredible. It's a true weapon that you have a hard time letting go of, which was evident last year when Dallas dumped Dan Bailey for Maher at final cuts.
But Matt Bryant might be the best of both worlds. He's been a 91% FG kicker overall this last three years and has made 18-of-22 attempts from 50 yards out or more.
Maher only made 80.6% of his kicks in 2018. He went from 6/7 from long range, but that tells you how shaky he was from closer in.
Those closer kicks are worth the same three points that the longer ones are, and how'd you like it if Dallas lost a critical game because their kicker couldn't make a 35-yarder?
I get the fear factor with an older guy like Matt Bryant. Heck, the Cowboys let Dan Bailey go when he was still just 30. But Bryant hasn't shown the red flags that Bailey did; he's still kicking as well as he ever has.
If nothing else, Dallas has the cap space and circumstances to bring in Bryant for a true competition with Maher. If Brett has improved his game and keeps his job, then that's awesome. But why not add some pressure now, though a position battle with one of the all-time greats, and see what Maher's really made of?
Seasons have been made, and shattered, by one kick. Unless the Cowboys have good reason for confidence in Brett Maher's development from last year, they could be carrying a significant liability into a year where they're trying to push for a Super Bowl.
If Matt Bryant could provide even a small amount of additional security, isn't he worth it?
Cowboys RB Mike Weber’s Injury Scare Continues Concerning Trend
Rookie RB Mike Weber had a brief scare earlier this week with a knee injury in practice, but thankfully the MRI came back with a good report. However, as he fights to have a future with the Dallas Cowboys, this health incident is a concerning reminder of Weber's recent history.
One reason that Weber fell to the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft was due to battling injuries during his last two years at Ohio State. He lost his starting job in 2017 due to ongoing hamstring issues and also had to miss time last year because of a foot strain.
Carrying the load for the Buckeyes is a far different workload than being second or third on the Cowboys' RB depth chart. But this latest scare happened in early May, just two weeks after Mike joined the team and well before the more strenuous activities of an NFL offseason.
A practice injury can cost you just as badly as one that happens in a game. And with Dallas already thin at RB, it could leave them severely shorthanded if it occurs during the regular season.
Many have projected that the Cowboys' RB group in 2019 would have Ezekiel Elliott as the obvious starter and then rookies Weber and Tony Pollard behind him. While Pollard was drafted three rounds ahead of Weber, he's not built to take a large number of carries if Zeke were to go out.
If Mike Weber does make the team, he would be expected to take a sizable role if something bad happen with Elliott.
The "injury prone" label is disastrous for any athlete, but especially a guy with no real claim to a roster spot. If Weber causes concern in the front office about his durability, they may go a different way at final cuts.
Remember, Mike's not just up against Pollard and Darius Jackson for a roster spot. There are still plenty of veteran free agent running backs out there that Dallas could turn to if they're not confident about their young prospects.
This isn't too say that one scary moment in May, which ultimately didn't amount to much, is reason to cut bait with Mike Weber. But when you stack it up with his injury history in college, it does make you wonder how he'll do over the course of an entire NFL season.
Hopefully, Weber bounces back from this and has a great summer. Former Buckeye RBs have treated Dallas well the last few years, and it'd be fantastic if Mike can provide the same solid solid depth that Rod Smith did.
But this latest news is just a reminder of why Dallas can't rest easy at running back just yet, and why they may still have another move to make to prepare for 2019.
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