We're just a little over a month until the start of NFL free agency in 2019. Like all other teams, the Dallas Cowboys are already looking at potential moves to make. Some of those could come from the open market, but they also have decisions to make with their own free agents.
But there are over a dozen other Cowboys whose contacts are expiring. Some have been with Dallas their entire NFL careers, while others were recent additions who were plugged in during last season.
How many of them are worth bringing back next year? Can they help to shore up some of your depth needs and give you more flexibility in the upcoming free agency period and draft?
Today, I wanted to showcase five players who I think could be re-signed and provide value for the 2019 season.
LS L.P. Ladouceur
He'll turn 38 in March, which is old by any NFL standard and ancient for the youthful Cowboys. But nobody does their job better than Ladouceur, who has been perfect as the team's long snapper for 14 seasons.
If he still wants to play, Louis-Philippe would have plenty of suitors as a free agent. Dallas should go ahead and lock him up before anyone gets a chance.
Next year is a pivotal one for so many Cowboys, even up to the head coach. With a lot of jobs on the line, you don't critical games being lost because of miscues on special teams.
There are younger and cheaper options out there, and Dallas usually brings one in every training camp to take some reps off of their veteran. But stability is so valuable in the kicking game, and nobody offers it more than Ladouceur.
Depending on how this season goes, maybe afterward you try to find the next guy to take over the position. But 2019 is not a time for unnecessary change, even if it costs you some extra money.
Ladouceur is as good as they come, as Brett Maher, Chris Jones, and the rest of the team should get their best chance to succeed next year.
TE Geoff Swaim
It would be easy to forget about Swaim after last season. He only had 26 catches in nine games before missing the rest of the year with an injury. You're likely ready to move on to Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, or whatever fresh faces Dallas might be able to bring in this offseason.
But Geoff is a proficient run blocker and solid in the passing game, which makes him an ideal number-two TE on your depth chart. Plus, he could still probably be competitive for the starting job if brought back.
Even if the Cowboys are looking to upgrade the TE position, Swaim could likely be re-signed for a minimal contract. That's good value for a player with his system experience and overall ability.
It doesn't look like Rico Gathers has a future with Dallas or perhaps any other NFL team. The Cowboys would have a stronger group in camp this year with Geoff Swaim in the mix over Gathers, and the price difference between them isn't going to be much.
Ideally, yes, Dallas will be adding a TE this offseason who is better than any of the current options. But given his overall skill set and experience, Swaim may still be the next best guy. At the least, I'd like to see him competing for the backup job.
LB Damien Wilson
Unlike Anthony Hitchens last year, Wilson's hasn't created a market for himself in the upcoming free agency. A team might want him to handle a similar role to the one he's played in Dallas an occasional starter in the base defense.
So, why shouldn't the Cowboys be that team? Why let him leave if you'd then have to replace him?
This decision is impacted by what happens with Sean Lee. If Sean wants to keep playing and the Cowboys are willing to keep paying, then that doesn't leave much room for Wilson to stay.
In that scenario we'd likely see Jaylon Smith play the SAM role in the base defense. That was Wilson's spot the last few years.
But if Lee retires or gets released, then Damien gives you experience and solid play for the position. Plus, Dallas' other reserve linebackers are more suited as middle and weak-side players.
The Cowboys could let Wilson test the free agent market and see what's out there for him. Assuming it's not much, he could likely be re-signed at a bargain.
RB Rod Smith
While most of us would to see more sizzle from the backup running back, that doesn't mean Dallas should let Rod Smith get away. He provides solid depth and versatility both on offense and special teams.
The RB position is wide open behind Ezekiel Elliott. Dallas could let Darius Jackson go, as they have in the past, and keep Smith while also signing or drafting a more dynamic backup.
Rod would have incentive to stay in Dallas, wanting to remain with his brother Jaylon. It would come down to what other teams might offer.
While he's been good at times for the Cowboys, Smith hasn't shown enough that the rest of the NFL is going to make him a priority. Many would likely dismiss his performance as a product of Dallas' offensive line.
But Rod can be a productive runner and has the ability to play fullback. With Jamize Olawale also a free agent, Dallas could kill two birds by just re-signing Smith. He's also a core player on special teams coverage.
Even if the Cowboys look to upgrade the backup RB position, there is a strong case to be made for keeping Rod Smith as the third back, fullback, and just a generally solid player.
DT Caraun Reid
Playing in 10 regular season and two playoff games for the Cowboys in 2018, Reid was a solid depth player who started to flash toward the end of the year. With the size to play at either defensive tackle spot, he'd be a good guy to bring back for next year's camp.
There could be a lot of movement at DT this offseason. Tyrone Crawford is a potential salary cap casualty while David Irving is a free agent with uncertainty even if he's re-signed. Even if they stay, many feel the Cowboys will pursue an upgrade at the position after getting decimated by the Rams' rushing attack in the playoffs.
A guy like Reid is the sort of value signing Dallas needs if it's going to invest more into the position. Putting more money up front necessitates value on the back end of your depth chart.
Depending on what happens in March and April there may not be roster spots for both Reid and Ross, among other prospects. But Caraun earned a chance to compete with his play last season.
Should Cowboys Address TE Need Via Free Agency?
A season after Jason Witten's retirement, the Dallas Cowboys still have a need at tight end. Replacing a future Hall of Famer is no easy feat so it's only logical that it would take longer than a season to feel good about who's in at tight end.
The Cowboys currently have two tight ends who could be pretty serviceable going forward. Fourth round pick Dalton Schultz did a very solid job as the team's TE2, specially toward the second half of the season. He turned into a pretty good run blocker and despite only racking up 116 yards in 12 catches, he's a guy the Cowboys' offense could use even more in the future.
Also on the team is Blake Jarwin, who functioned as the Cowboys' main tight end for most of 2018. His performance against the New York Giants in week 17 made us wonder whether or not he could be an important target on the Cowboys' offense.
These two could very well have more in them than what we've seen. With a new offensive coordinator in town, tight end is a position the Cowboys could start using way more. As Bobby Belt pointed out on Twitter a few weeks ago, Scott Linehan's offense doesn't benefit tight ends very much. Before we give a verdict on what Schultz and Jarwin can do, I'd like to see them work with Kellen Moore's offense.
One thing you consistently see when Scott Linehan takes over an offense is a drop in the starting tight end's production. Randy McMichael, Byron Chamberlain, and Jason Witten all saw drops in yards per catch, receptions per game, and yards per game once Linehan took over.
Here's the thing. If the Cowboys are not taking a tight end in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, are they really upgrading what they already have? I'm not sure we'll be convinced about that if they draft a player for the position until the third or fourth round. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating for the Cowboys drafting a TE in the second round, because I believe there are more pressing needs on the team. However, signing a veteran free agent might be the better option for upgrading the position.
Should a veteran TE be an option?
This year, there are quite a few interesting names in the tight end market. Veterans such as Jared Cook, Tyler Eifert and even Antonio Gates will be looking for a new team pretty soon. I know, that would be "getting older." But it could also mean getting better. Building a solid TE committee with a veteran leading Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz could be the way to go for this football team.
Eifert is a great tight end... when he's on the field. Durability is his biggest weakness, as he hasn't played more than 10 games since 2016. The Cowboys could take a risk on him and constantly rotate him with Jarwin and Schultz. It may be a huge risk, but it could pay off big time. If the price is right, Eifert should be targeted by the front office.
The 2018 Oakland Raiders had a season to forget, winning only four games. Even still, Jared Cook's season was impressive. He finished the year with 896 yards and multiple 100-yard games. The biggest issue with Cook is his age. He turns 32 in April. But hey, he's literally coming off from a career year.
Jesse James is a younger guy who could also be worth it. He's not an a potent receiver, but he gets it done in the passing game and is one hell of a blocker. James could be a legit, cheaper option for the Cowboys in free agency.
There are a lot of names out there the front office could look at. Charles Clay was just released by the Buffalo Bills and Nick Boyle will be looking for new job after new arrivals pushed him out of the Baltimore Ravens' roster just to mention a few names.
We'll see what the front office's plans are soon enough, but right now, I'd say tight end is a need the Dallas Cowboys should at least try to address in free agency instead of the NFL Draft.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Cornerback
Unlike other positions on their roster, cornerback appears ready to off the Dallas Cowboys stability in 2019. However, that doesn't mean the team can just ignore it this offseason. There are still a few decisions to be made.
Thanks to a shrewd move in April of last year, Dallas will be enjoying Byron Jones' services at a bargain. They picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract and will be paying him just $6.3 million next season.
That's a steal for a Pro Bowl corner, who generally make more than double that amount in a single year. But the Cowboys are still left the decision of whether or not to give Jones a long-term deal now or wait until he hits free agency in 2020.
It's easy to say that they should enjoy the discount and worry about it next year. But then you risk a second Pro Bowl trip and the lure of the open market. Byron's asking price could only go up.
Of course, Dallas could then also have the option of using the franchise tag.
Keep in mind that Jones will turn 27 this September. Dallas could decide that it makes sense to play through the rookie deal this year, franchise him in 2020, and then reassess when he's about to turn 29 years old.
If they give Byron a long-term deal now then they'll have to pay him like one of the top corners in football. It may be wise to wait.
Another decision facing the Cowboys is if they think they can improve at the second starting position. It was an up-and-down year for Chidobe Awuzie, but he was playing his best toward the end of the season. Dallas could hope that a second year with Kris Richard's coaching, and just more general growth for a third-year player, will elevate Awuzie's game.
However, with plenty of cap space to work with, Dallas could pursue a solid veteran option and then allow Awuzie to play the nickel role. It would not only perhaps improve the CB2 position but also bolster depth overall.
Speaking of depth, Anthony Brown returns for the final year of his rookie deal. While never spectacular, Brown has been a gem as a former sixth-round pick with 29 career starts. He brings exceptional value and may even compete with Awuzie for the starting job.
While arguably the team's best young corner in 2017, Jourdan Lewis comes into this season with a lot of uncertainty. He fell out of favor last season, perhaps for not fitting the physical style that Richard likes. But he did manage to snag the game-clinching interception in Dallas' upset win over the New Orleans Saints.
If a scheme mismatch is the issue, the Cowboys could look to trade Lewis this offseason. He still has two years left on his rookie deal and was considered a first-round prospect by some in 2017. A cornerback-needy club might have more use for him than Dallas seems to.
If they did move Jourdan, the Cowboys might turn to Donovan Olumba to fill out the depth chart. He was one of their surprising performers in last year's training camp and spent the year on the practice squad. At 6'2", he has the size that the team seems to be looking for now in its corners.
More than likely, Dallas will ride with this group in 2019 with no big changes. I do think a Lewis trade is possible, especially with the Cowboys short on draft picks this year. But don't expect any major cap space or draft capital to go at one of the team's more solid positions.
With all the other work Dallas needs done this offseason, a little stability at cornerback is a luxury.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Center
Even with Dez Bryant's release and Jason Witten's retirement, the loss of Travis Frederick last season may have been the most damaging to the Dallas Cowboys. The team looks forward to getting their All-Pro center back in 2019 while also having a reliable backup still under contract.
Just within the last few weeks, Frederick has provided encouraging updates on his status for next year. It looks like he'll be able to participate in all offseason activities, but the Cowboys would settle for Week One. There appears to be plenty of cushion for that to happen.
Travis' absence in 2018 was seen in various ways. Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times, second-most in all the league, after just 32 and 25 times the previous two seasons. Part of that is missing Frederick's blocking ability, but also the way he would assist with reading the defense and making pre-snap adjustments.
Dallas would've loved having Frederick out there to help Guard Connor Williams, who worked with Travis throughout the offseason only to lose him in late August. It was not an easy way for the rookie to start his career.
We also saw issues in the run game. Even while Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in rushing, short-yardage situations weren't as easy as they used to be. The Rams were able to neutralize the Cowboys' rushing attack in Dallas' playoff loss, something that Frederick might have helped overcome.
This isn't saying that Joe Looney did a bad job. On the contrary, Looney was more than adequate and helped keep Dallas from suffering far greater damage without Frederick.
After Joe's work in 2018, Dallas won't blink at keeping him on the $1 million salary he's due next year. It's a bargain for a backup of his quality, and especially given his versatility as an option at guard as well.
Not only are Frederick and Looney locked in for 2019, but Dallas also still has backup Adam Redmond under contract through next season. He was added after final cuts last year to be Looney's backup and should return to at least help the team through July and August.
With these guys already in place, there's no reason to think that Dallas will give much attention to the center position during the offseason.
At most, a mid-round draft pick might be used on a player who could potentially replace Looney in 2020 as the backup. Joe's contract ends next season, and he could be competitive for starting jobs with other teams at that point.
With lots of other concerns throughout the roster, Dallas is fortunate to have so much security at center. All signs are positive on Travis Frederick's return, and that is a huge boost to the team as it looks to push forward from last year's playoff run.
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Will Cowboys OT La’el Collins Be a 2019 Salary Cap Casualty?
Dallas Cowboys6 days ago
3 Free Agent Targets for the Dallas Cowboys Offense
Player News2 weeks ago
A Lot Had to Happen for Amari Cooper to Join the Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
2019 Player Watch: Cowboys Should Keep an eye on Kyle Rudolph’s Situation
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Will Cowboys S Jeff Heath Be a 2019 Salary Cap Casualty?
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Will Cowboys WR Terrance Williams Be a 2019 Salary Cap Casualty?
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
5 Pre-draft Moves Cowboys Should Consider Making in Free Agency
Star Blog1 week ago
3 Uncertainties Surrounding The Cowboys Offseason