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?
2018 In Review: CB Anthony Brown Bounces Back
To say it's been an up-and-down start to the career of young cornerback Anthony Brown would be an understatement.
As a sixth round pick in 2016, everything Brown contributed during his rookie season was a plus. Due to injury he was asked to step into a greater role as the season went on, and he performed well enough to make the front office comfortable allowing multiple veterans to walk for nothing in free agency the following Spring. Brown looked like a legitimate starting cornerback in the league, and when Dallas brought in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis during the next draft, the young secondary seemed set.
Then 2017 happened. And Anthony Brown struggled. Really struggled.
These struggles, coupled with the emergence of both Lewis and Awuzie during their own rookie seasons, made Brown's status heading into 2018 rather uncertain. Some wondered if they would trade him for a day three pick, others thought Brown could even end up being cut. Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown were slated to compete for the nickel cornerback job in training camp, and as it turned out, all Brown needed was that one extra chance to compete.
Brown won the job outright during the preseason, and began 2018 as the starting nickel. A fan favorite, most thought Lewis would reclaim his rightful spot on the depth chart sooner or later, but Anthony Brown's play (and Kris Richard's preferences) kept Lewis on the bench for much of the season.
Simply put, Anthony Brown balled in 2018, and was the Cowboys' second best corner for most of the year. By the end of the season Chidobe Awuzie had regained form, but Brown and Byron Jones were the most consistently reliable corners on the roster all of 2018.
Brown tallied 44 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception in 2018, and finished third on the team in pass breakups with 8. As the slot corner Brown had an excellent season, especially for a former sixth round pick.
Now he enters a contract year, and with the Cowboys having so many guys to pay over the next two offseasons, he could find himself as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. And if he can keep up his play from last year moving forward, he could be in for a nice payday that Spring.
How The Tables Have Turned for 2019 Dallas Cowboys
The 2018 season was a two-part tale for the Dallas Cowboys. The first is the story of a mediocre 3-5 team that couldn't get it going offensively. The second part is about a football team that turned its season around, made the playoffs, got a win in the postseason and ultimately lost to the team that ended up representing the NFC in Super Bowl LIII, the Los Angeles Rams.
Surely, 2018 didn't go as planned. The storylines leading to last season are actually very different from the ones we're hearing today. Let's take a look at a few examples of how the tables have turned for the Dallas Cowboys.
The need for a true WR1
Last season, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys preached the philosophy of not needing a #1 wide receiver. While that could've sound encouraging at the time, once the season began the team was proven wrong. They did need a WR1. Fortunately, this season we won't have to worry about it. This year, Dez Bryant shouldn't be a discussion topic among Cowboys' fans.
Amari Cooper is in the house. And he's been pretty good since he started playing with a Star on his helmet. If we have conversations about the WR position, they will not be about who's the #1 guy. With Michael Gallup showing up late in the season, it probably won't be about who is #2 either.
Back on top of the NFC East
Last year, the Dallas Cowboys were not really the favorites to win the NFC East. The Philadelphia Eagles had just made history by winning their first Super Bowl ever and it seemed like the Cowboys would have to get a wildcard spot to play in January. Now it's the Cowboys back on top after sweeping the Eagles and turning their once 3-5 season around.
That of course, means a tougher schedule next season. However, it's nice to be back on top of the division. These two teams will surely have an intense race for the division title next season. Maybe we even see them both in the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
Sean Lee's uncertain future
I'm pretty sure no one expected Sean Lee to be considered a potential cap casualty for the 2019 season. Even if he was, it would've probably been anticipating an injury or something like that. No one would've imagined that Leighton Vander Esch would be so good to take Sean Lee's job.
The Cowboys' first round rookie truly earned the starting role as the defense's weak linebacker and he should keep it. With Sean Lee set to return to the field, I'm sure we didn't expect him to be a backup by now. We'll have to wait and see if the Cowboys decide to part ways with him. As a fan, it would certainly be painful. But we can't deny it would be a move that makes sense.
It's a crazy franchise on a crazy league. Who knows how things will go from now on, but the Dallas Cowboys certainly look like a promising team heading into the 2019 offseason. Here at Inside The Star, we'll continue to update you with the latest on your favorite NFL team.
Cowboys en Español: Volviendo a la Idea de Earl Thomas
El año pasado, Earl Thomas fue uno de los temas de conversación más frecuentes para los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys. Después de que los Seattle Seahawks no le dieran su deseada extensión de contrato, Thomas se convirtió en un candidato a ser intercambiado de su equipo. Entre los favoritos estaban los Cowboys, quienes tenían una necesidad en su defensiva secundaria. Ahora que la temporada 2018 llegó a su fin, la misma necesidad por un safety de calidad está presente en Dallas.
Sólo que en esta ocasión, Earl Thomas no está bajo contrato con ningún equipo. Su último momento con el uniforme de los Seahawks fue en un carro de lesiones, donde salía lesionado en dirección a su vestidor. Esto mientras se despedía de su equipo con el dedo de en medio extendido hacia sus entrenadores y compañeros. Así concluyó su temporada y su carrera en Seattle.
Ahora, listo para cumplir los 30 años en mayo, Earl Thomas probará la agencia libre cuando comience en marzo. Y sin lugar a dudas, uno de los equipos candidatos a firmarlo serán los Dallas Cowboys. Es un equipo que a pesar de tener una de las mejores defensivas la temporada pasada, se vería muy beneficiada con la llegada de un profundo del calibre de Thomas.
A pesar de su edad y las lesiones, Thomas continúa siendo uno de los mejores en la liga. Su talento es innegable y tendrá toda la disposición de demostrar lo que vale cuando tome el campo la próxima temporada. Cuando llegue el momento, podríamos ver una guerra de ofertas entre varios equipos de la NFL para llevarse al veterano a sus respectivas ciudades.
La pregunta es: ¿estarán los Dallas Cowboys en esa guerra de ofertas?
Los Cowboys tienen espacio en el tope salarial. Sin embargo, este no durará mucho considerando que DeMarcus Lawrence está esperando su merecida y cara extensión después de jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia en 2018. Además, jugadores que aún están bajo contrato también estarán buscando ofertas este offseason.
Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, y Byron Jones están en la lista de quehaceres de la administración. Eso sin mencionar a Cole Beasley, cuyo contrato ya expiró y podría llegar a la agencia libre en marzo.
A pesar de esta complicada situación, los Dallas Cowboys deberían buscar conseguir a Thomas. Siendo sinceros, la defensiva tiene mucho talento y podría mantener su nivel en 2019. Pero hace falta un jugador en la posición de safety para llevar a esta unidad a otro nivel. Un nivel realmente capaz de ganar en postemporada enfrentándose a cualquier tipo de ofensiva. Sin importar que tan explosiva sea. Y además de esto, un jugador que sea capaz de robar el balón y hacer jugadas de impacto constantemente.
Cuando los Cowboys se enfrentaron a Seahawks en temporada regular, Thomas dio un buen ejemplo de esto interceptando en dos ocasiones a la ofensiva de Dak Prescott.
A pasos de un equipo de campeonato, un movimiento agresivo para obtener a Earl Thomas sería algo genial para Dallas. Vimos como los Rams de Los Angeles fueron agresivos al construir su equipo y llegaron hasta el Super Bowl este febrero. Quizá es tiempo de que Jerry Jones y compañía sean igual de agresivos y vayan por ese safety elite que la afición lleva pidiendo desde el offseason del año pasado.
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