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Should the Cowboys Keep Looking for QB Talent?

Jess Haynie

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Kellen Moore

While the term "quarterback-driven league" is cliché, you can't deny its accuracy for the NFL and really any form of football. Since the year 2000, only five Super Bowls have been won by guys who wouldn't be universally considered as franchise QBs. The rest have all been gobbled up by the likes of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger.

The Dallas Cowboys know all too well how the quarterback position affects success. The absence of Tony Romo sent the team plummeting to a 4-12 record in 2015. Last season, the arrival of Dak Prescott lifted the team to 13 wins and the expectation of ongoing contender status in future seasons.

Dak Prescott, Tony Romo

Dak Prescott & Tony Romo

So, with quarterback being clearly important, it's worth discussing how the Cowboys will handle that position for the remainder of this offseason. Right now they have three guys under contract for 2017.

One of them is Dak Prescott.  He's pretty good.

Another is the recently re-signed Kellen Moore. He's pretty short.

And then there's Tony Romo, who only a faithful few still believe could be a Cowboy in 2017. Most of us logically assume that, whether it's with a new team or with FOX Sports, Romo will have a new employer in the very near future.

Even if the Cowboys are content with just Prescott and Moore for their 2017 roster, they will still need a couple more passers to get them through training camp and the preseason. The questions now are about how much they want to invest in those other quarterbacks and if they want for Kellen Moore to have legitimate competition for the backup job.

We're going to look at Moore, other veteran options, and the philosophy behind continuing to draft quarterback talent. The future will tell which direction Dallas goes.

Kellen Moore

QB Kellen Moore

Kellen Moore

This is going to sound cruel, but Kellen Moore's leg injury may have been the best thing to happen for Dallas in 2016. It opened the door for Dak Prescott to be unchallenged as the number-two quarterback and eventually take over when Tony Romo went down. Moore's presence would've robbed Prescott of valuable practice and preseason game time, perhaps even keeping him as the third QB on the depth chart.

While nobody thinks Moore would've come in and accomplished the things that Prescott did (unless you're crazy), there is reason to think he could've had some success. During the tragic 2015 season, Kellen was the better performer over veterans Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden. Unlike them, Moore had never started or even taken a regular season snap in the NFL.

The Cowboys were prepared to ride with Kellen Moore last year as their backup quarterback. By this September, Moore will have had two full off seasons here and loads of time working with Scott Linehan between Dallas and Detroit. Those are major considerations, not just for Moore's ability to play but also the value he offers as an advisor to Dak Prescott.

Chase Daniel

QB Chase Daniel (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

Veteran Free Agents

If Dallas wants another veteran to compete with Kellen Moore then there are other free agent options available. Here are some of the bigger names on the market who might accept a backup role.

Chase Daniel

Recently released by the Eagles after they brought back Nick Foles, Daniel has spent four years in Doug Pederson's offense between Philadelphia and Kansas City. Could he potentially bring some inside information to help the Cowboys defense against their NFC East rival?

Daniel has only thrown 78 passes over an eight-year career. He's fairly unknown for such a long time in the NFL, sitting on the bench throughout his early days with New Orleans. Chase served as Drew Brees' backup during the Saints' Super Bowl Championship year but only played a handful of snaps in four seasons.

How much you like Daniel probably depends on how much you believe in the value of "inside info" from signing a rival team's players. I've never believed it in much for many positions, but quarterback is one where I give it some credence. They are the players most tapped in to the strategy and philosophy of the coaches and would have the best insights, if any, to offer.

Robert Griffin

QB Robert Griffin III

Robert Griffin III

There is no denying that Griffin, between his ongoing health problems and increasingly erratic play, isn't a starting-caliber quarterback these days. However, the Cowboys would hopefully not be asking the former 2nd-overall pick to start anytime soon.

Before Dak Prescott last year, RG3 had the last phenomenal season for rookie quarterbacks. He looked ready to make Washington a contender for the next decade, but a major knee injury derailed him. Like they do with most things, Washington mismanaged Griffin's return from injury and created a hostile environment between quarterback, coach, and owner.

You could make a case that Washington and Cleveland have been the two most poorly run teams in the NFL during Griffin's career. How much did the stink of those organizations latch on to Griffin? How much did their dysfunction impact Griffin's own approach to football?

Coming back home to Texas, where Griffin played his high school and college football, and being relieved of the pressure of carrying a team could be the best thing to help RG3 restore his career. Still just 27-years-old, the former Heisman Trophy winner and Rookie of the Year may be hiding somewhere underneath the baggage.

Colin Kaepernick

QB Colin Kaepernick (Gerry Melendez for ESPN)

Colin Kaepernick

There's only one quarterback available who once led a team to the Super Bowl. That means we have to talk about Kaepernick, no matter how far his stock has fallen since.

After starting his career with two other trips to the NFC Championship Game along with the one Super Bowl appearance, Kaepernick seemed poised for greatness. Things clearly fell apart in San Francisco, though, and seemingly in large part because Colin himself lost his footing.

There's no debating that Colin Kaepernick has the most talent of any available free agent. However, all of the political and P.R. baggage that comes with him after 2016 is clearly more than most teams want to deal with. That's why he's still unsigned and hasn't generated hardly any buzz since free agency began.

Kaepernick probably isn't ready to accept a bench position or the massive pay cut that comes with it, but $3 million is better than no million.

As was already mentioned with RG3, there's a certain logic behind having a backup who can do some of the same things as your starter. Kaepernick is even more athletic than Dak Prescott and would step into an offense that has more talent than any he ever worked with in San Francisco.

However, would the Dallas fan base accept a player with Kaepernick's political views and actions? Would his recent protests during the National Anthem, even if he no longer practices, make him unwelcome on "America's Team?"

 

Dak Prescott

QB Dak Prescott

The NFL Draft

After striking oil with Dak Prescott in last year's draft, it's easy to assume that Dallas won't be spending any picks on quarterbacks for a while. That would be in keeping with their history; the Cowboys have only drafted three QBs over the last 25 years (Prescott, Stephen McGee, and Quincy Carter).

However, a lot has changed recently in the way the Cowboys are managed. Jerry Jones defers more and more to his son, Stephen, and front office ace Will McClay. Jason Garrett has a major influence in personnel decisions. Given this new power structure, it's hard to use history for much substantive analysis.

Whether by coincidence or goal, we've seen the Cowboys starting to follow more of the philosophies of the New England Patriots. We've seen this in a much stricter handling of the salary cap; avoiding lavish free agents spending and playing more hardball with your existing talent. Perhaps we will see similar logic used when it comes to the draft as well.

One thing that the Patriots have done throughout the Tom Brady Era is continue to draft mid and late-round quarterbacks. Even in 2002, the summer after Brady's meteoric rise to fame, New England spent a fourth-round pick on Rohan Davey.

The best case scenario is what happened with Matt Cassel in New England. After he came in for Brady in 2008 and kept them as a playoff contender, the Patriots made him part of a trade that got them the 34th overall pick in the following draft. This offseason there's been plenty of talk of them doing something similar with Jimmy Garoppolo.

If Tony Romo was several years younger, the Cowboys' 2016 season might've been similar. Imagine if Romo was seen as being here for another five years or so. Dallas could be trading Dak Prescott somewhere right now for a first-round pick, perhaps even one of the top five picks in the upcoming draft.

Jerod Evans

Virginia Tech QB Jerod Evans is a potential late-round, high upside draft pick. (Michael Shroyer/ TheKeyPlay.com)

The point is that quarterbacks can quickly becomes valuable commodities, sometimes even off of a single great game. Look at what happened to Matt Flynn after just one big night for the Packers; several teams looked at him as a potential starter for the next few seasons. Keeping a pipeline of young, talented passers could give you opportunities to acquire future picks.

Plus, if nothing else, it ideally keeps more talented players ready in case something bad happens to your starter. I'm not saying any of them could be "the next Dak Prescott," but isn't that worth trying to find every now and then? The potential return on your investment is far more than any other position offers.

✭ ✭ ✭

Whether it's free agency or the draft, the Cowboys certainly have options for increasing their present and future strength at the quarterback position. History says they may take the minimalist approach and just roll with Dak Prescott and Kellen Moore, but this is a new era of team management and philosophy in Dallas. How they handle the remainder of the offseason may show even more strategic changes.

No matter what else happens, the presence of Dak Prescott alleviates many concerns. While the "sophomore slump" is a real thing, Prescott has already displayed the mentality and presence of a seasoned veteran. He appears as well-equipped to avoid that second-year decline as you could hope for.

It's what goes on below Prescott on the QB depth chart that is now the focus. After the last few years, no team should appreciate the value of quality backup quarterbacks more than the Dallas Cowboys. It's been the difference between fruition and futility.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. XaqFields

    March 23, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    My theory –and I hate it– is that Kellen Moore is the guy at #2 this year. They’ll either make a late-round draft selection or they’ll sign some undrafted free agents like they do in any other year to be camp arms and potential future projects.

    Chase Daniel seems to have an arrogance issue. He wants to go somewhere where he has the opportunity to start. He probably wants to go to the 49ers or the Browns, etc.

    Kaepernick has made his bed, and I can tell you his bed ain’t in Texas… if he ends up playing anywhere this year. I know he proclaimed that black relations are suddenly better (conveniently coinciding with his need of a new contract) but I think this whole thing started with him becoming disgruntled about not getting traded last off-season. His protest may have been about what he claimed, but he chose to make a stand –again, conveniently– only when he found himself in a situation he didn’t want to be in. So then the question becomes: he says his protests are over… but are they only over until he becomes disgruntled again?

    • Jess Haynie

      Jess Haynie

      March 24, 2017 at 7:51 am

      You and I see eye to eye, guy.

  2. George_Johnson

    March 23, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    Kellen Moore would most likely have been the starter if he had not got hurt when Romo went down. I have followed K Moore his whole career and consider myself very knowledgeable about K Moore. I believe he would have done well as the starter. He actually has some of the same skills/abilities that Dak Prescott had as a pocket passer such as accuracy, QB smarts, poise, game management ability, minimizing mistakes and ability to make critical plays at the right time. Dak of course can run and K Moore cannot. However, K Moore was probably more skilled and experienced at finding the receiver down field and finding the open receiver especially during the first few games as Dak was trying to adjust to the NFL. Some of Dak’s success was because of having one of the best running games in the NFL, one of the best offensive lines (both blocking and pass protection) and very good receivers. K Moore as a smart QB and outstanding pocket passer would also have benefited from these Dallas strengths. Don’t get me wrong I don’t think K Moore would have done as well as Dak but he probably would have done well enough to win many games and keep Dak on the bench. Romo would probably have taken over when he was ready to play.
    I think K Moore can be a solid 2nd team QB just like S Linehan thought he could be last year when he was made the 2nd team QB. I think Dallas should bring in competition to compete with K Moore, get through camp and consider keeping three QBs on the 53 man roster.

    • Jess Haynie

      Jess Haynie

      March 24, 2017 at 7:50 am

      I can’t really argue with you, George. While there’s always the possibility that Prescott would’ve still shined in preseason and been able to work his way into the job, it would’ve been so much harder with Kellen getting the 2nd-team snaps.

      As I said in the article, I think Kellen has natural ability and could be a quality QB2. I’m looking forward to seeing him play again this preseason to watch how he’s developed.

      • George_Johnson

        March 24, 2017 at 11:27 am

        Of course we will never know if Dak could have beat out K Moore during preseason, but Kellen Moore was named “Mr August” in Detroit because of his outstanding preseason play, mostly at third string but some at 2nd string. When the Detroit coaches recognized what he could do he was given a chance to compete at 2nd team in his last year with Detroit. He had a mediocre preseason game out of the gate, which more or less doomed him to not being the 2nd team QB and this is how he got to Dallas as Detroit only kept two QBS on the roster that year. He was also fighting that concern that he had never played in a NFL season game and his 2nd team competitor had lots of NFL season game experience. They expected to sign K Moore to the practice squad as they were impressed with him, but he signed with Dallas instead.

  3. Russ_Te

    March 24, 2017 at 12:49 am

    Quincy Carter is unsigned, not in jail and Romo owes his entire NFL career and his millions to Carter testing positive for marijuana in 2004…

    He is 39 and has won in the NFL. Sign him… ;^)

  4. Travis Diggs

    March 24, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    Of course we should keep looking I think we should draft another qb to learn with Dak. I don’t believe Kellen Moore is the answer at backup He signed back with the Boys because Not too many other teams would have been interested Does anybody actually believe we would have went 13-3 with Kellen Moore???REALLY. He’s here because Scott loves him from Detroit.

  5. deal with it

    March 25, 2017 at 7:41 am

    the only QB in the fraft I see is Mitch Trubisky (NC) and he’s too high.
    Quincy Carter? LMAO
    speaking of retreads-I do hear Vince Young wants to come back to the NFL & he would fit this Offense perfectly.

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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Linebacker

Jess Haynie

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Wolf Hunter: Leighton Vander Esch's Pass Coverage Skills Rising to Occasion

One of the brightest spots on the Dallas Cowboys' projected 2019 roster is linebacker. The young pair of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have already emerged as one of the league's best duos. But that doesn't mean that the Cowboys have no work to do at the position this offseason.

Having Jaylon and Leighton does take a lot of pressure off. Most teams utilize their nickel scheme more than any other these days, which generally utilizes just two linebackers, in the increasingly pass-focused NFL. And thankfully, both Smith and Vander Esch have shown great skills in pass defense.

But there's still a semi-starting role to get figured out in the base 4-3 scheme. Damien Wilson has held the strong-side or "SAM" position for the last few years and has an expiring contract.

What's more, Dallas has a big decision to make regarding the contract of Sean Lee, which is ripe for terminating with $7 million in salary cap savings possible.

It's highly unlikely that the Cowboys would keep both Lee and Wilson. If they decide to re-sign Damien, Lee will be cut to help fund that move and others. If Sean is kept on, Wilson will almost surely be looking for a starting role somewhere else in free agency.

Even if the Cowboys do make Lee a cap casualty between now and March 13th, they may still allow Wilson to test free agency and then try to re-sign him later at a discount. He's unlikely to attract the same attention that Anthony Hitchens got last year.

How Does LB Joe Thomas Fit Into Cowboys' 2019 Plans?

Dallas Cowboys LB Joe Thomas (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Another factor in all of this is Joe Thomas, a free agent addition last year who provided good depth and could potentially start in 2019. He is scheduled to count $2.2 million against the cap, which is fine for a primary reserve but a bargain for an occasional starter.

A core of Smith, Thomas, and Vander Esch gives the Cowboys a good foundation to build from. Smith can play the SAM in the base scheme and Thomas can be the primary backup to Jaylon and Leighton in the nickel.

However, going that route would deplete the depth chart. Chris Covington, a sixth-round pick last year, would be the only noteworthy player under contract. Dallas would need to find at least two more guys to fill out the group for 2019.

They could look at re-signing backup Justin March-Lillard, who would at least bring some familiarity and veteran experience. But that might still leave them looking for more of a primary reserve, which would be especially vital if Thomas is promoted to a starting role.

The projected LB free agent pool for 2019 should make it a buyer's market. Dallas may be able to re-sign Damien Wilson or even add an upgrade, like perhaps the Vikings' Anthony Barr, at a relative bargain. There should be ample options for depth as well.

Barring an extremely favorable value opportunity, don't expect the Cowboys to spend a significant draft pick at linebacker. The fourth-round is the earliest I could see one going based on other needs, and even then it would need to be someone they really like.

Good drafting is why Dallas has flexibility and leverage this offseason. The picks they invested in Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch appear to have made LB a strength of the team for the next several years.

There is still business to attend to, but the Cowboys won't have to be too concerned with linebacker in 2019 thanks to their young stars.



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Dallas Cowboys

Xavier Woods Versatility Key in Dallas Cowboys FA Safety Pursuit

John Williams

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Cowboys Safety Xavier Woods Is Getting Better By The Week

There has been a debate going on among Cowboys Nation for more than a year now about the prospects of bringing in Seattle Seahawks Safety Earl Thomas. Now with free agency approaching, there are several other names that the Dallas Cowboys could consider when looking to upgrade the safety position. Landon Collins, Tyrann Mathieu, and Tre Boston are several of the many quality and really good safeties that are hitting the free agent market in a few weeks. It's a group with varied skill sets and abilities, which makes the debate even more interesting. The Dallas Cowboys, however, will be able to take a look at all of them when free agency opens March 13th because of one player; Xavier Woods.

Xavier Woods, the Cowboys fifth round draft pick from the 2017 NFL Draft just finished his first full season as a starter for the Cowboys and played really well. In two years he's shown the ability to cover from the slot, play deep, play in the box, be a force over the middle, and make plays on the football. He's one of the more versatile players on the defense with his ability to play all over the field. That versatility allows the Dallas Cowboys' front office an advantage when approaching the names mentioned above.

The Dallas Cowboys don't have to be locked in to one particular type of safety. When people talk about Landon Collins, they label him a "box safety." Earl Thomas is a traditional free safety. Tre Boston is a similar player to Earl Thomas and Tyrann Mathieu is like Collins. The Cowboys can go into free agency with the freedom to explore their options and do their due diligence when it comes to these players.

That's a distinct difference from this offseason to last.

Last offseason, the feeling was that the Dallas Cowboys had to go get Earl Thomas. The safety position was so weak that the Cowboys were going to be playing at a disadvantage in the high-flying, pass-heavy NFL. Xavier Woods proved in his first full season that he can be a productive, play making starter in the NFL and should only continue to improve.

According to Pro Football Focus, Xavier Woods was sixth in the NFL in passer rating against among safeties with at least 352 coverage snaps. His 62.8 passer rating allowed in his coverage was tied with Eric Weddle, better than Derwin James, Reshad Jones, Adrian Amos, and Maliek Hooker. Of the safeties drafted in the 2017 draft class, only Eddie Jackson from the Chicago Bears had a better passer rating against than Xavier Woods.

The Dallas Cowboys got a really good player in Xavier Woods and as they get ready to potentially make a run at a big name safety, they can feel confident that whoever they end up signing will be a good fit with Woods. He can play in the box or cover receivers and tight ends. You can run more two deep safety looks, because he has the range to play it.

This year, as opposed to last, they have more certainty at the safety position because of Xavier Woods and the strides he took in 2018. There's no reason to believe that he can't continue to take a step forward for the Dallas Cowboys. His ability to play all over the field allows the Cowboys to be smart and patient in their pursuit of a safety upgrade this offseason.



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Dallas Cowboys

3 Free Agent Targets From Cowboys NFC East Rivals

John Williams

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3 Free Agent Targets From Cowboys NFC East Rivals

The free agency period in the NFL will be here in a little more than three weeks and the Dallas Cowboys will begin the annual tradition of trying to put together the best 53-man roster that they can come up with. Free agency is just one part of the equation that includes the draft, the signing of undrafted free agents, adding and subtracting from the roster during training camp, and picking up players after the final cut down day.

You can rest assured that Will McClay and the entire pro scouting department is doing their due diligence in anticipation of the March 13th start to the 2019 free agency period. They'll look high and low for players that can come in and be contributors for the Cowboys. Even within their own division.

Between the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Redskins, there are some interesting names to consider as the Cowboys peruse the free agent aisles of the NFL superstore. Some of those players like Landon Collins, Ronald Darby, Nick Foles, and Brandon Graham will be new releases that will cost you a pretty penny at the check out stand. Others like Haloti Ngata will be in the used and refurbished section. And then there are those who could be had at a reasonable or discounted rate.

Here are three from within the NFC East that the Cowboys could have their eye on.

Mario Edwards, Defensive Line, New York Giants

The former Oakland Raiders second round pick out of Florida State University has already played for two teams in his young four-year career. That isn't a good sign for Mario Edwards as he approaches free agency for the first time. You don't generally see many top 100 picks get released from the team that originally drafted as they usually wait as long as they can to see if the player is going to hit.

For Mario Edwards, he found himself caught in a numbers game and outplayed by two rookies in Oakland's training camp in 2018, leading to his release. It also sounds like the Raiders couldn't quite figure out where to put him on their defensive line.

We know that the Dallas Cowboys love looking around the league for those reclamation projects. Edwards could be the next David Irving or Antwaun Woods. A player that isn't highly thought of, but in the right situation and with the right coaching could flourish.

Edwards has played 14 or more games in three of his first four seasons, missing his second season with a hip injury. He totaled more than two sacks a season in those three seasons. He isn't by any stretch of the imagination someone who is going to come in and replace DeMarcus Lawrence or Randy Gregory, but he could be a nice depth piece with potential to see significant snaps both at defensive end and 3-technique defensive tackle.

Edwards could be the next Rod Marinelli special.

Jordan Matthews, Wide Receiver, Philadelphia Eagles

The Dallas Cowboys could be in the market for a slot wide receiver this offseason if Cole Beasley is allowed to walk in free agency, which seems like a near certainty. There are several intriguing options on the roster in Allen Hurns and Cedric Wilson that could play in the slot some, or play on the outside allowing Amari Cooper to play in the slot. They could also look to the draft for Beasley's replacement as well. In the free agent pool, there are several interesting names, one of which is Jordan Matthews.

Jordan Matthews just finished his second stint in Philadelphia and while he didn't have huge production in Philly in 2018 -- 20 receptions on 28 targets for 300 yards and two touchdowns, he's a player with a track record in the NFL and could be a "big slot" option.

In Matthews first three seasons in the NFL, he averaged 75 receptions on 115 targets for 891 yards and 6.3 touchdowns in his first stint with the Philadelphia Eagles. In 2014, Matthews caught 64 of his 67 receptions from the slot, which was second in the NFL that season. In 2015, he led the NFL in receptions from the slot with 81, while also scoring eight touchdowns. In 2016, his final year with the Eagles, he was ninth in the NFL with 53 receptions. So, in those first three seasons in the league, he averaged 67 receptions, 796.3 yards, and six touchdowns. He caught eight touchdowns in each of his first two seasons for the Eagles in the slot.

He's not the same player that Cole Beasley is, but he's a player that knows how to win in the slot and because of the past couple of years could be a cheaper option to try and replace Cole's production.

Jamison Crowder, Wide Receiver, Washington Redskins

If Jordan Matthews is the inexpensive option for the Dallas Cowboys in the slot, Jamison Crowder would require paying a pretty penny. Spotrac.com estimates that Crowder could be worth $8 million per year over four years on the open market.

Interestingly enough, he's never been as productive as Cole Beasley or Jordan Matthews, but because of his age and his work the last couple of seasons, injuries not withstanding, he's seen in a more positive light than Matthews.

Crowder is cut from a similar cloth as Beasley. Smaller in stature and uses quickness and speed to win games. As Cowboys fans, we know all to well the effect that he has in game. Crowder, however, has never had more than 66 receptions in a season and has only scored more than three touchdowns once in his four seasons in the NFL; back in 2016 when he scored seven.

Crowder is coming off of an injury this season that limited him to just nine games, 29 receptions for 388 yards and two touchdowns. In his three full seasons prior to 2018, Crowder averaged 64 receptions on 93 targets for 746 yards and four touchdowns.

If for some reason, his market comes in less than the $8 million per year that Spotrac.com is projecting, I'd be very interested in bringing Crowder to Dallas.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Each of these guys offers something intriguing that the Dallas Cowboys could use. Whether it's a defensive lineman or a slot wide receiver, they all bring something to the table. The Dallas Cowboys need to approach this offseason with a "go for it" mentality, but if they continue to follow their free agency philosophy, Mario Edwards and Jordan Matthews could be nice pieces to add to the team that offer a lot of upside.



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