Every offseason big names are released from their previous teams or allowed to walk into free agency without a contract offer. Incidentally, every offseason Cowboys fans clamor for those names to put the star on their helmet and join America’s Team.
For a variety of reasons though, many veterans shouldn’t be touched by the Dallas Cowboys regardless of the history or previous success a particular player might have had.
There are plenty of free agents that the Dallas Cowboys should pursue and attempt to sign, but there are a lot that will be linked or rumored to the Cowboys that they should have no business in signing.
Here are 5 free agents the Dallas Cowboys should avoid at all costs.
1. Josh Norman, Cornerback
There was a time when Josh Norman was considered one of the best, if not the best cornerback in the NFL. At this point in his career, that feels like forever ago. His best days are obviously behind him as he struggled for much of the last couple of years with the Washington Redskins.
Even with a really good defensive front putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, Norman struggled to cover in 2019.
Among cornerbacks who played at least 134 coverage snaps in 2019, Josh Norman had the second worst passer rating allowed at 133.3 per Pro Football Focus. He allowed 1.50 yards per coverage snap, which ranked 150th among qualified cornerbacks. He allowed eight touchdowns in coverage in 2019, which was tied for third in the league.
As a tackler, he was equally bad. Per PFF, Norman ranked 66th in the NFL among corners who played at least 210 snaps with a missed tackle every 7.8 tackle attempts. For reference, Jeff Heath had the highest tackle efficiency among safeties with a miss every 30.5 tackle attempts.
When having any discussion about Josh Norman, you can’t discount the player he was during his time with the Carolina Panthers. He was very good. At this point in his career, however, he’s one of the worst cover corners in the NFL.
Anyone considering bringing in Norman to replace Byron Jones, who may leave in free agency, is looking at name recognition and isn’t looking at the level of play.
2. Tyler Eifert, Tight End
Tyler Eifert of the Cincinnati Bengals is one of those players that has been bandied about Cowboys Nation for much of the last few years. When Jason Witten retired in 2018, his was a name people threw out as a possible trade candidate.
Smartly, the Cowboys have stayed away.
There isn’t a tight end in the NFL who’s had as much of a problem with injuries as Tyler Eifert has had in his career. And that’s not something that magically gets better with age.
Surprisingly, Eifert did play in all 16 games in 2019, but he was limited to just 45% of the Bengals offensive snaps last season. Obviously, they were trying to manage his workload to keep him available for as many games as possible. 2019 was the first time in his career he’d played 16 regular season games. For his career, Eifert’s averaged just 8.4 games per season and has only gone over 450 receiving yards once in his career, back in 2015.
I know the Dallas Cowboys have a bit of a question mark at tight end with Blake Jarwin a restricted free agent, Dalton Schultz the only other tight end on the roster to take snaps, and Jason Witten potentially looking for a new team this offseason. However, there are options for the Cowboys that don’t tie them to one of the more injury-prone players in the NFL.
Tyler Eifert will turn 30 this season, which isn’t necessarily a hindrance to having production at the tight end position, but as the human body ages, it’s more prone to injury and breakdown. The wear and tear of an NFL season gets to every player and if the Cowboys are going to do some free agent shopping at tight end, it needs to be for a player with a better track record of availability.
3. Ndamukong Suh, Defensive Tackle
Next to Chris Jones of the Kansas City Chiefs, there probably isn’t a player that comes with as much name recognition in 2020 free agency as Defensive Tackle Ndamukong Suh. However, at this point in his career, much like Josh Norman, that might be all he is.
Playing for his third team in as many years, Suh registered just 2.5 sacks for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while playing in 16 games. He even had the added benefit of playing with standout Defensive Tackle Vita Vea but was unable to generate much more production than that.
The Cowboys have holes to fill on the interior of the defensive line, but there are directions to go that are younger, both in the draft and in free agency. Suh just turned 33 years old in January. Because of his name, Suh could get some decent offers in free agency from a team looking to bolster its defensive interior despite his lack of production.
The Dallas Cowboys shouldn’t be one of those teams. For what they could get out of Suh, they could just sign restricted free agent Antwaun Woods to an offer sheet and bring him back to either start as the 1-technique defensive tackle or in a platoon with a cheaper free agent or draft pick.
Either way, the Cowboys should steer clear and let someone else be the fourth team Suh will have played for in four years.
4. Chris Harris Jr., Cornerback
There are going to be a lot of lists that argue a team should go after Chris Harris Jr to be their team’s number one cornerback. If you’re the Dallas Cowboys though, why would you do that when you have Byron Jones.
You’d be opting for an older player, who isn’t necessarily better, and is a worse tackler if you allowed Jones to walk and brought in Harris. Per PFF, Harris allowed a passer rating of 109.4, which was 99th in the NFL among players who played at least 214 coverage snaps in 2019. He allowed 1.12 yards per coverage snap to Byron Jones 0.62 and only had one interception on the season.
Again, what’s the point?
One of the reasons Harris is available is he believes he’s worth a top cornerback contract, much like Byron Jones. The problem is he’s heading into the downside of his career while Jones is in his prime. If you’re going to spend big in free agency, go for the better and younger player.
5. Mason Crosby, Kicker
The Dallas Cowboys had a kicker problem for much of the last few seasons after Dan Bailey struggled with injuries and Brett Maher could never figure out how to kick from the intermediate range of the field. However, once they made the move to release Maher and bring in Kai Forbath, the Cowboys got consistent kicking for the first time since Bailey hit 84% of his kicks in 2016.
Now with Forbath a free agent, the Cowboys have to figure out what they’re going to do about their kicking situation.
One name that’s been thrown around is Green Bay Packers Kicker Mason Crosby, who’s set to be a free agent in just a few weeks.
Crosby was excellent in 2019 making 91% of his field goal attempts and 97% of his extra point attempts. We all remember Crosby coming in clutch in the Cowboys playoff matchups with the Packers in the 2014 and 2016 playoffs and he’s a really good kicker.
2019 though, was the first time Crosby had made more than 90% of his field goal attempts in his career and has only hit better than 85% of his kicks four times in his 13 year career. While his 2016 was good, I think it was more of an outlier. In six seasons, Crosby finished with a field goal made percentage under 80%.
That’s pretty terrible.
The Cowboys don’t need to go spend money on a kicker when they found a lot of success with Forbath in 2019. If they want to bring a kicker to training camp to compete with Forbath, that works, but there’s no need to replace a kicker who was perfect for you in 2019.
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One of the temptations when looking at free agents is to see players for what they used to be or for the big moments they created. At a point, players no longer live up to the hype that goes before them and aren’t worth the effort or money to sign in free agency. The Dallas Cowboys have created a philosophy on free agency that for the most part has worked out well for them. They sign their free agents and then added cheaper fill ins in the later part of free agency. Often though, that philosophy has kept the from taking advantage of some really talented players in the free agent market. There will be options for them this offseason, but the five guys listed above aren’t it.