The NFL Draft has come and gone and the Dallas Cowboys will begin gearing up for their rookie mini-camp, mini-camps, and OTAs as they inch closer to training camp. Though the most exciting part of the player acquisition process is completed, there is still work that can be done through free agency to address the holes on the roster.
Here are five free agents that the team could sign to improve the roster.
Johnathan Hankins, Defensive Tackle
Probably the best free agent that fits a need for the Dallas Cowboys, Johnathan Hankins would be a tremendous addition to the Cowboys' defensive front seven.
At 6-3, 320lbs, Hankins immediately becomes your starting 1T defensive tackle, or nose tackle. He would be that big guy in the middle that the Dallas Cowboys desperately need to help their run game.
In the last four seasons, Hankins has only missed eight games, seven of which were in 2015. In the other three seasons, he started 47 out of 48 games and just turned 26 this past January.
In 2014, his second year in the league, Hankins had 7 sacks. Though he hasn't been able to reproduce that number, he's still a force against the run.
It's surprising that a player with Hankins' experience, production, and youth hasn't been snatched up at this point in the offseason, but perhaps teams wanted to see what they were going to do in the draft before going after the former Colt and Giant.
As a Cowboys fan, I remember Hankins being a load for the Dallas Cowboys offensive line to handle. Over seven games against the Dallas Cowboys, Hankins averaged three tackles a game against Dallas' vaunted offensive line.
Terrell McClain, Defensive Tackle
The former Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle, now former Washington Redskins defensive tackle, had the best season of his career in 2016 with the Cowboys. McClain turned that into a four-year deal with Washington, though he only saw one year of the deal.
After breaking out with 39 combined tackles, 2.5 sacks and starting 15 games for the Cowboys in 2016, McClain only started two of the 12 games that he played in 2017.
Recently released by the Redskins, it's being reported that the Dallas Cowboys are looking into the possibility of reuniting with McClain. Given his injury history, I'd be interested in McClain on a one year deal with some incentives for games played and tackles. If he stays healthy and produces, he gets paid, if not, you aren't risking much.
McClain will turn 30 in July, but he has the size and skill to fill in at 1T if needed.
NaVorro Bowman, Linebacker
NaVorro Bowman is still a free agent, though it's unclear if he's planning to play anymore.
As a midseason addition for the Oakland Raiders, Bowman, 30 years old, started 10 games and racked up 89 combined tackles, 1.5 sacks, and an interception.
Though it's unlikely the Dallas Cowboys would sign Bowman with the intention of starting him, he'd be a valuable backup at linebacker with the injury history and risk of the top three linebackers on the depth chart; Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and newest Dallas Cowboy, Leighton Vander Esch.
Bowman's experience and versatility would give tremendous insurance to a team that is a contender in 2018, if they get some injury good luck.
The Cowboys have some interesting prospects in the likes of Justin March-Lillard, but if they want to guarantee they don't see a huge drop off with an injury or two, Bowman would be a great addition.
Antonio Gates, Tight End
If the reports are true that Jason Witten is retiring to join the Monday Night Football crew, the Dallas Cowboys would have a gaping hole at the tight end position.
Sure, guys like Dalton Schultz, Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, and Rico Gathers have some potential, and as a group could fill the void left by the future Hall of Famer. All it is right now is potential, though.
Antonio Gates is no spring chicken at 38 years old, but could be a nice receiving complement to those guys and a mentor for the tight end room.
Gates wouldn't command a long-term deal at big money, but he could be a nice experienced red zone threat for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys offense. Even in a part-time role for the Los Angeles Chargers in 2017, Gates caught 30 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns. Not spectacular, but he provides a threat in the passing game.
If they didn't go this route, I wouldn't blame them. The Dallas Cowboys are getting younger all the time, but Gates could be a valuable addition to the tight end group.
Eric Reid, Safety
Eric Reid is a controversial player around the NFL. The former San Francisco 49er brought a lot of controversy upon himself when he decided to kneel along with Colin Kaepernick during the National Anthem.
Reid started 12 games for the 49ers and ended up with two interceptions and 64 combined tackles.
It's really unlikely that the Dallas Cowboys would pursue Reid without some sort of agreement that he wouldn't kneel during the anthem as a member of the Cowboys, but he would provide nice depth for a safety group that looks only three deep at the moment.
Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, and Xavier Woods are a nice group, but Reid would make them better. He's good in coverage and could rotate with Woods at the free safety spot.
Reid won't turn 27 until December of this year and could make an impact if the team doesn't acquire Earl Thomas.
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The Dallas Cowboys have done an excellent job through the first part of free agency and the draft to get their team ready for training camp and the 2018 regular season, but as they always say, player acquisition is a 365 day proposition.
There are still moves they can make to help their team. Some of these make sense, while others probably don't.
Are there any free agents that you'd like to see the Dallas Cowboys take a run at?
Time to get FB Jamize Olawale More Involved Offensively?
The Dallas Cowboys are coming off arguably their best and most complete offensive performance of the season after playing the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, but there is still quite a bit of improvement that can be made. The need to get more playmakers involved is apparent, which is why I think it's time to utilize Fullback Jamize Olawale's unique skill set.
I know many of you will argue that getting Allen Hurns and Michael Gallup going is a higher priority, and you wouldn't be wrong, but Jamize Olawale's playmaking ability could be a huge asset for Quarterback Dak Prescott and the offense. I know it sounds a little strange, but hang in there with me for little bit.
As things stand right now, Olawale has only played 38 offensive snaps (10%) in 2018. That's the exact amount of offensive plays Wide Receiver Terrance Williams has played this year and he's missed the majority of the season. It's not exactly the kind of production I was expecting when the Cowboys decided to bring him aboard via trade with the Oakland Raiders earlier this offseason.
I don't know about you, but I was expecting Olawale to be more involved in the offensive game plan. He is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and isn't too shabby as a runner either. But, we haven't seen him utilized in either fashion this season and I think that's an injustice that needs to be corrected.
Now, I fully understand there are other offensive weapons ahead of him in the pecking order who need to see more targets, but I also really think he can make a difference maker, especially in the passing game. That is where his strengths lie, not as a lead blocking fullback.
Olawale was a bit of a Swiss Army knife during his time with the Oakland Raiders. He played a little running back, fullback, tight end, and even a little slot receiver. I really thought the Cowboys would take advantage of his versatility in the passing game, but as of yet they have failed to do so.
I'd like to see the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan utilize Jamize Olawale's unique playmaking ability a little bit more on offense. I think they should try to utilize him like the San Francisco 49ers use their fullback, Kyle Juszczyk. He's much more involved and has played a total of 263 offensive snaps (63.68%) this year.
Juszczyk is a better lead blocking FB then Olawale, but that's not where he makes the most difference in the 49ers offense. He does it as a receiver and has already caught 17 passes for 227 yards and one touchdown. That's some pretty solid production from a position that is being phased out in the NFL.
Now, just imagine the Cowboys offense getting similar production from Olawale and how that would help open up things for everybody else. It's not out of the realm of possibility because the 49ers offense and the Cowboys isn't all that dissimilar.
Unfortunately, I think Jamize Olawale is pretty much an afterthought in the Cowboys offense right now. It's truly unfortunate because I think he can be a difference maker if given the opportunity. And with a division foe like the Washington Redskins next on the schedule, what better time to unleash a new and unseen element of the offense?
Do you think Jamize Olawale needs to be more involved offensively?
Cole Beasley Key to Cowboys Passing Game Productivity?
What most of us already knew was confirmed last Sunday afternoon against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Wide Receiver Cole Beasley is the Dallas Cowboys best receiver and is the key to the passing game productivity. He is not only the most productive, but the most consistent.
Cole Beasley isn't the tallest or the fastest and definitely doesn't look like a prototypical NFL receiver, but he showed last week against the Jaguars why opposing defenses have to account for him on every single play. He torched Jacksonville's top-ranked passing defense for 101 yards on nine catches and added two touchdowns, and it's that production that could help open up the entire passing game for the Cowboys.
It's painfully obvious Cole Beasley has been Dak Prescott's favorite target in the passing game since he took over the starting duties in 2016. Once opposing defenses figured that out they started to make things extremely difficult by bracketing Beasley in coverage and the passing game hasn't been the same since. But, that could be changing if the Jaguars game was an indication of what we might see moving forward.
Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan did a much better job of moving Beasley around to create favorable matchups against the Jaguars. I think we will see much more of that moving forward, but that likely means opposing defenses will once again try to take away Prescott's favorite target. That actually could end up helping the Cowboys passing game though.
If opposing defenses indeed try to contain Cole Beasley like they've done in the past, it should help provide more opportunities for Dallas' other pass catchers. Spreading the ball around to several different receivers would not only help Prescott and the passing game, but also open up the entire offense.
We haven't really seen much of Allen Hurns or Michael Gallup this season, but both are more than capable of being more productive if they are seeing single coverage more often. That's what's likely to happen if defenses bracket Beasley in coverage once again. Both WRs need to be more involved anyway and Beasley's recent spike in production could help do just that.
Now, if defenses decide to try and cover Beasley one-on-one like the Jaguars did quite a bit of last Sunday, the Cowboys would be wise to take advantage of that mismatch. He simply can't be covered by a single defensive back because of his precise route running ability. He is that good.
Regardless of how opposing defenses try to handle/contain Cole Beasley, he is without a doubt key to the Dallas Cowboys passing game productivity. Just the threat of him on the field changes a defenses approach, which is why he is Dallas' #1 WR in my book. He absolutely has to be more involved moving forward, even if it is as a decoy.
Do you think Cole Beasley is the key to the Cowboys passing game productivity?
How ‘Bout them Cowboys?! Dallas Set to Lasso Redskins in Week 7
Well, what do you think now of America’s Team? Anyone who foresaw Dallas’s evisceration of the league’s No. 1 defense hailing from Jacksonville is a downright soothsayer. In case you were in a coma this past weekend, the Cowboys obliterated the Jaguars’ vaunted defense to the tune of a 40-7 massacre in which Dak Prescott tossed for 183 yards, two passing touchdowns and ran one into the end zone for good measure. When the dust settled Prescott had chewed up 82 yards on the ground and Ezekiel Elliott surpassed the century mark in rushing with 106 yards and a touchdown of his own.
It was a glorious day to be a Cowboys fan and it’s safe to say that America’s Team is back!
Or are they?
Dallas is in a three-way logjam for the top spot in the NFC East with the Redskins and Eagles, but the way they made mincemeat of the Jacksonville defense gives us all hope that more good things are in the cards soon.
Seventh-year WR Cole Beasley blew the doors off of the Jags secondary by catching nine passes on 11 targets for a pair of touchdown receptions and 101 yards. It was a season-high for Beasley and the fact that Prescott has no real top-tier targets after the departures of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten makes it even more special.
This is a team that was not supposed to be able to move the ball through the air and, to be fair, hasn’t done much of it this season as evidenced by their 29th ranked passing game. But a little creative game planning by Head Coach Jason Garrett and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan paid dividends and the lingering specter of their heartbreaking overtime loss to the Texans in Week 5 was exorcised by the dominating victory.
What has gotten lost in the euphoria of Dallas’s week 6 win is their defense, as the Cowboys had three sacks, seven quarterback hits, and an interception by Jeff heath.
Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles was under siege and did not respond well to the pressure after establishing career highs in passing yards over the last two weeks leading up to this contest. But his opportunity to become the fifth NFL QB with three consecutive games of 375 passing yards or more evaporated in the heat of a blistering Dallas defense. Bortles ended the day with 149 yards, a TD and a pick.
As the Cowboys move on to Washington, we see that their success at home is only equaled by their struggles on the road. Dallas is now 3-0 at home and 0-3 on the highway. Buoyed off their stunning blitzkrieg of the Jags, we see that one of the most respected and trusted online sportsbooks in the industry, BetOnline has the Cowboys as 1 ½ point underdogs which is most likely a few points below what they would have been had they not won so convincingly last week.
Those who like to back up their football prognostications with cold, hard cash understand that Dallas is not only losing on the road but losing money for their backers in those contests. In those three losing games, Dallas is 0-2-1 against the spread but this week could be different. Against their divisional foes this week, Dallas is 4-0 straight up and 3-1 ATS versus Washington over the last two seasons.
The way this Cowboys defense is playing and the sudden explosion of Cole Beasley as a focal point of the passing attack, we could very easily see their first road win of the year.
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