With free agency coming up first in the offseason process, the Dallas Cowboys will explore every avenue to find players who can help their team win. If they find a free agent fit that makes sense — both for the team and at a price they like — the front office will make a move.
In the past few offseasons, we’ve seen Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, and Will McClay go into free agency looking to fill holes on the depth chart before the draft so they can attack the draft with an open mind. I don’t see anything changing this offseason.
While it’s much simpler to go after unrestricted free agents (UFA), there are several restricted free agents who could make sense for the Dallas Cowboys.
David Irving is obviously at the top of this list, but being as how we know his story, and I think it’s very, very likely that he will return, we’ll save him for another day.
If Dallas were to sign an RFA, they would have to give up a draft pick to do so, making this highly unlikely, but given that they have three picks in the fourth round, the possibility exists that there could be a guy with a mid-round tender who interests them. I’ve got some names you may have heard before, and a couple that have likely never crossed your mind.
Here are some interesting restricted free agent names.
TE Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
At only 26 years old, Tight End Cameron Brate may have played his last snaps for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In the 2017 NFL Draft, the Bucs selected tight end O.J. Howard out of Alabama in the first round, which limited Brate’s role in the offense this season.
Still, he scored six touchdowns and had more than 500 yards receiving. This just one year removed from leading all tight ends in the NFL with 8 touchdowns in just 15 games played (10 starts) in 2016.
Jason Witten is still the Cowboys’ starting tight end, but if they wanted to find a guy who could begin taking over at the position now, Brate could be that guy. He is a good receiver and has been durable in his time in Tampa Bay.
WR Tyrell Williams, Los Angeles Chargers
Tyrell Williams, who ran a 4.43 at his Pro Day heading into the 2015 NFL Draft, has speed and downfield ability that could help the Dallas Cowboys.
The Los Angeles Chargers — that still doesn’t sound right — could opt not to bring him back, as they need to find more snaps for 2017 first-round pick, Mike Williams, and Keenan Allen is their WR1.
Williams, no relation, averaged 15.3 yards per reception in 2016 when he had his first 1,000-yard receiving season as the leading receiver for the Allen-less Chargers. In 2017, he averaged 16.9 yards per reception, while still posting a respectable 728 yards for a deep Los Angeles receiving group.
Earlier in the offseason, I discussed some unrestricted free agent options at wide receiver with some deep ball ability, and Tyrell is another option for the Dallas Cowboys to pursue.
DT Xavier Williams, Arizona Cardinals
The other day, I talked about Dallas’ need to sign a legitimate 1-technique defensive tackle (or nose tackle), and here is another option. At 6-foot-4 and 311 pounds, Xavier Williams has the size to be an interior anchor for the Dallas Cowboys.
In 2017, Williams, also no relation, showed some promise in his third season with the Cardinals. He played in 11 games for Arizona and finished with 20 total tackles, two quarterback hits, a forced fumble, and a sack; while recording multiple tackles in seven games.
WR Willie Snead, New Orleans Saints
Another wide receiver who could be available, and actually may fit Dallas’ profile of free agent targets, is Willie Snead from the New Orleans Saints.
In the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Snead averaged 70.5 receptions for 939.5 yards and 3.5 touchdowns, while eclipsing 13 yards per catch. He was seemingly phased out of the offense in 2017 after serving a three-game suspension for substance abuse stemming from a DWI last offseason.
Prior to the Ted Ginn signing by the Saints last offseason, Snead was a favorite target of quarterback Drew Brees, as he saw more than 100 targets in 2015 and 2016 each. In 2017, he bottomed out with only eight receptions for 92 yards, and no touchdowns.
Heading into his 26-year-old season, he will have a lot to prove and would likely only cost a late-round pick if Dallas were to sign him to an offer sheet.
LB Mike Hull, Miami Dolphins
This is a guy who will not garner a lot of publicity. Just like the Dallas Cowboys like it.
Primarily a special teams player for the Miami Dolphins over the last couple of years, linebacker Mike Hull saw an increased snap count with the defensive unit from year two to year three. Hull, a Penn State alum like Sean Lee, started three games for the Dolphins, including a 10-tackle game to open the season before settling into the depth chart as a backup.
He won’t be a starter for the Dallas Cowboys, but he could provide valuable depth with a bit of starting experience, and Hull can play special teams.