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?
Starters Make Cowboys Serious Contenders, But Depth is a Concern
Playing in the National Football Conference, the Dallas Cowboys have a difficult task ahead of them if they are to be serious Super Bowl contenders. Even still, they've become a very underrated football team due to their 9-7 record last season. The Cowboys struggled in many areas and with the Philadelphia Eagles crowned as Super Bowl Champions, everyone has forgotten about America's Team.
2017 was an awful year for the Cowboys. It seemed like a roller coaster of success, putting up an impressive performance one week only to disappoint the next one. Let's be honest with ourselves here and talk about what really ended the Cowboys' last season.
As much as we talk about how there shouldn't be any excuses in football - the Eagles made a huge statement by winning it all with a backup QB and other key starters missing - we can't deny the impact of these injuries.
Anthony Hitchens, Sean Lee, Tyron Smith and Ezekiel Elliott all missed some time last year, affecting the team's performance week in and week out. Had the starters been healthy, the truth is this team would've been in the playoffs.
Heading into 2018, the Cowboys will face a very similar situation. This year, starters make Dallas a serious contender. Even if they're playing in a conference that will feature a lot of quality teams, the Cowboys are a team that could beat any team in the league if healthy.
Even the dreaded wide receiver position - which has been famous this offseason for the lack of a #1 receiver - won't be as bad as we make it out to be starter-wise. A starting trio of Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup and Cole Beasley doesn't really sound bad.
Heck, not even Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods starting at safety is concerning. They have what it takes to be decent starters. Sure, Heath isn't a guy who will make the Pro Bowl, but his skills will show on the field once the season starts in September.
The Cowboys' starters will do just fine this season. If the team's fate is up to them, they are in a very good spot. The same can not be said about depth, though.
Except for the defensive line, every other position lacks depth. If Sean Lee goes down, the linebackers stop looking like a three-headed monster. Same goes for the cornerbacks. Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis seem like a good group but as soon as one of them suffers an injury, the Cowboys will be in trouble.
We're in for an exciting season with a lot of young talent waiting to breakout. The Cowboys are underrated this year. They may not be among the NFC's favorites, but they truly have what it takes to replicate the success they had in 2016. However, it seems like circumstances have to be ideal for them to make a run for the Lombardi Trophy.
With a little bit of luck, they'll bounce back this season.
The Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle is Heating Up
Earning a spot on the Dallas Cowboys final 53-man roster is going to be a lot tougher in 2018 then it has been in years past. There is no shortage of position battles taking place right now to earn one of those coveted openings, but it's the battle taking place at receiver that's gaining steam and starting to heat up.
The ultimate unknown right now is how many wide receivers the Dallas Cowboys choose to carry on their 53-man roster this season. Last year they decided to carry six, but they have been known to carry just five. Unfortunately, this means they will have to release some talented players and risk losing them to another team.
As things stand right now there may just be one, possibly two, roster spots up for grabs. I think the only thing we know for sure right now is Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin are the only WRs who can feel secure their jobs are safe for 2018. Everybody else is playing a game of Survivor, just hoping their name isn't the one written down and their torch isn't snuffed out.
Terrance Williams' flame may be safe due to his current contract. The Dallas Cowboys can't save anything by releasing him, but it doesn't cost them that much either. It's unlikely he has a future with the team, so if someone were to prove themselves more worthy, his flame could be extinguished.
Last season I thought Noah Brown was ready to unseat Williams, but that never really materialized. Unfortunately, Brown hasn't really shown up as much as I thought he would this offseason, and missing the game against the San Francisco 49ers last week didn't do him any favors either. This doesn't bode well for him moving forward.
Deonte Thompson was signed as a free agent to provide some veteran experience and speed to the passing game, but that in no way means his job is secure. He needs to do something to show up a little more because his age and salary means a younger up-and-coming WR could make him expendable.
Second-year WR Lance Lenoir Jr. might just be the receiver who has stirred things up the most. He has not only created a buzz for himself in offseason practices, but he was able to carry it over into the preseason last week against the 49ers. His arrow trajectory is definitely pointing upwards.
I'd definitely hate to be the one to decide who stays and who goes when final cuts are made. It's not going to be an easy decision to make, because the outcome will definitely have an impact on the team's success this year.
All of these players were brought into help Quarterback Dak Prescott and the passing game reach new heights, so making the wrong move could be detrimental. The number of wide receivers and who the Dallas Cowboys decide to keep might be the most important decision they make before the season starts.
How would you predict the Dallas Cowboys WR position battle turning out?
Any Concern About Dan Bailey Not Playing Against 49ers?
With all the excitement of the Dallas Cowboys finally playing in a game last week against the San Francisco 49ers, it may have escaped your attention that Dan Bailey remained on the sideline the entire time. He didn't attempt one field goal or kick off once last Thursday, which in my opinion is a little concerning.
Dan Bailey joined Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee on the sideline as a healthy scratch last week. The decision to sit both Zeke and Sean Lee makes sense due to the physical demands of their positions, but sitting Bailey was a bit of a head scratcher. After all, it's not like he plays a physically demanding position like the other two.
I know. I know. Dan Bailey is an integral part for the Cowboys success moving forward. I'm not arguing that he's not, but after sitting out the majority of the 2017 season with a groin injury and lingering concerns about his health this year, not playing him at all against the 49ers is a bit confusing.
I don't believe there is any kind of kicking competition between Dan Bailey and Brett Maher, who handled all of the kicking duties against the 49ers last Thursday. Bailey will be the Cowboys kicker when the 2018 season gets underway in just a few short weeks. But, the question remains… Why didn't he receive any playing time?
Dan Bailey was never quite the same last season once he returned from his injury. Something was off and I don't know if it was more mental or physical, maybe a little of both. He just wasn't splitting the uprights like his normal self.
Unfortunately, we have seen this kind of thing happen in the past with one of the Cowboys kickers. Nick Folk went through a similar situation with an injury and never really bounced back. I'm just hoping history doesn't repeat itself.
Obviously, the Dallas Cowboys know more about what's going on with Dan Bailey than I do. But, you would think they'd have allowed him to attempt a field goal or at least an extra point in a game situation to build up his confidence once again. It's what I would have done.
Hopefully I'm just being a little paranoid and I'm reading more into this than there actually is. But, the fact I haven't heard any reasoning as to why Dan Bailey was held out last week is sitting a little uneasy with me. I'm just hoping it was precautionary in order to keep him as healthy as possible for the upcoming season.
Should we be concerned Dan Bailey was a healthy scratch last week?
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