Offseason business in the NFL is always good for some players and bad for others. Defensive Tackle Antwaun Woods finds himself on the bad side of circumstances in 2020, and you have to wonder how these frustrations will affect him in the Dallas Cowboys’ upcoming season.
Since going undrafted in 2016 and spending two years on the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad, Antwaun has since found a home and starting role on the Cowboys’ defense. He’s arguably been the team’s most consistent DT the last two seasons.
Unfortunately, Woods’ emergence in Dallas has yet to yield a true NFL payday. His two years in Tennessee didn’t count as “accrued seasons” according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and thus he has yet to qualify for unrestricted free agency.
Antwaun’s initial two-year deal ended this year and he became an exclusive rights free agent. As was their right, Dallas offered Woods a minimal $750k EFRA tender. That meant no other team could negotiate with Antwaun; he either takes the Cowboys’ offer or sits out.
It’s a tough place for any player who has already risen to being a starter. We usually see ERFAs as developmental prospects who are happy to even get that one-year offer to remain in the league.
Not only is Woods trapped in 2020, but he also faces the prospect of being a restricted free agent next year. That means Dallas could again keep him for far less than market value; somewhere between $2-$3 million based on this year’s numbers.
Keep in mind that Antwaun is already 27. By the time he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2022 he will be 29 and near the end of the typical “prime years” for a defensive lineman. It will take some big seasons for him to hit the open market and draw attention.
Unfortunately for Woods, the Cowboys’ offseason has made that much more difficult for him.
Dallas has made three significant additions at defensive tackle: veterans Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe, plus 3rd-Round rookie Neville Gallimore. Even with Maliek Collins leaving for Oakland, the position is much more crowded now than in previous seasons.
The real problem for Antwaun Woods in these new arrivals is Poe. A former 1st-Round pick and two-time Pro Bowler, Dontari is walking in as the assumed new starter for the “1-tech” and nose tackle positions that Woods has occupied since 2018.
The typical Cowboys offseason might have seen them add Poe and then slide Woods over to replace Collins. But they’ve made an unusual investment in the DT position this year with their other moves. On top of the fresh faces, there’s also Trysten Hill entering his sophomore season.
With McCoy and Poe as the new veterans and Gallimore and Hill as the young prospects, it leaves Antwaun Woods in a difficult spot. Throw in Tyrone Crawford’s versatility as a DT option and there’s a case to be made for Woods not even making the 2020 roster.
Unfortunately, getting cut and joining a new team doesn’t change anything about accrued seasons. Woods will still be facing the same RFA status in 2021 with any team he’d catch on with.
Another complicating factor this season for Antwaun is last December’s arrest for marijuana possession and other charges. While the NFL’s views on this matter are shifting, the arrest could still lead to a suspension to start the season. That could reduce his value to Dallas and any other teams.
It all adds up to legitimate sources of frustration for Antwaun Woods, and there have been signs recently that it’s been getting to him.
Just recently, Woods shut down his Twitter account after being one of the more active and engaging Cowboys players on the app. This came after a few months of various tweets which indicated his displeasure with where he stood on the team and/or in the eyes of the league.
While the account’s deletion prevents me from sharing the exact messages now, I can relay some of the more memorable messages. In late March, after the Gerald McCoy signing, there was one about being “counted out” as a significant factor on the defense.
Just a few weeks ago during the draft, Antwaun tweeted about the politics of the draft process and how going undrafted (like he did) isn’t about how talented you are.
Back in October, after the Cowboys fined him for being late to a meeting, Woods took to Twitter to defend himself against negative fan reactions.
So when Antwaun closed his account it led to logical speculation about what’s going on with the player. Of course, it could just be a personal choice for any number of reasons. Or maybe his agent or another advisor recommended it.
It’s dangerous to read too much into that activity, but it’s not a reach to say Antwaun is probably frustrated by multiple factors over the last few months. Some are self-inflicted wounds like fine and the arrest, but the overall picture is one of a discontented player.
Unfortunately for the player, the chance to get on the field and create positive attention could be limited by the Cowboys’ new arrivals.
We can only wait and see just how this 2020 season will play out for Antwaun Woods. He’s been mostly a success story up until now; undrafted free agent becoming a starter for the Dallas Cowboys. But this year feels like a career crossroads, and the path has more obstacles for him now than in previous seasons.