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Cowboys WR Moves: Re-Signing Williams, Butler is Smart Business

Jess Haynie

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Dallas Cowboys Player Profile: WR #83 Terrance Williams 1

Many did not expect the Cowboys to re-sign receivers Terrance Williams or Brice Butler during this 2017 free agency. At the most, maybe you thought they'd bring back one of them. However, the Cowboys have taken the least expected route of all; both Butler and Williams are re-signed for next year's roster.

On Wednesday, the day before free agency opened, Brice Butler's return was announced. He got a one-year deal for $1.1 million and $300k guaranteed. This move appeared to be a low-cost insurance policy against Dallas not adding any other significant receivers this offseason.

Terrance Williams

WR Terrance Williams

Instead, it appears that the Butler signing may have been the leverage needed to force Terrance Williams to take a discount. The Williams news came about 48 hours after Butler. It also came in the wake of several other free agent receivers getting more lucrative contracts:

  • DeSean Jackson (Bucs) - $35 million, 3 years ($11.67M per year)
  • Kenny Britt (Browns) - $32 million, 4 years ($8M per year)
  • Terrelle Pryor (Washington) - $8 million, 1 year
  • Kenny Stills (Dolphins)) - $32 million, 4 years ($8M per year)
  • Robert Woods (Rams) - $39 million, 5 years ($7.8M per year)
  • Brandon Marshall (Giants) - $12 million, 2 years ($6M per year)
  • Torrey Smith (Eagles) - $15 milion, 3 years ($5M per year)

Coming in below all those other deals, Terrance Williams signed a four-year, $17 million contract to remain a Cowboy. It will pay him an average of $4.25M per season. The following breakdown of the guarantees was provided earlier today:

Aaron Wilson on Twitter

Terrance Williams Cowboys deal: $17M, $5M signing bonus, $9.5M gtd; salaries $1M (gtd), $3.5M (gtd), $3.5M, $4M; 2020 option year

Before free agency began, many were projecting that Williams would be competitive with those other listed receivers in the free agent market. We will never know what interest he did get from other teams.

Remember, even though free agency officially opened on Thursday, NFL teams could start talking to free agents on Tuesday. Were those days too quiet for Terrance Williams? Did he start to fear what his prospects were becoming as other receivers were being signed?

If Terrance was getting anxious, the Brice Butler re-signing couldn't have helped. Dallas now had at least covered themselves adequately in case Williams didn't come back. There's also been plenty of talk that the Cowboys might look at receivers in this year's draft.

We will never know how much Terrance really wanted to come back to Dallas. At the same time, we can't be sure how much the Cowboys really wanted him. Perhaps their own salary cap issues made a discounted return for Williams more of a necessary evil than an ideal situation.

In the end, Terrance Williams and Brice Butler are both back and at a total cost of less than $5 million for 2017. Here are two key reasons you shouldn't be disappointed by it.

Cowboys Headlines - Does Brice Butler Deserve A Bigger Offensive Role?

WR Brice Butler

Cowboys Still Have Flexibility

Even after these signings, Dallas can still consider other options at receiver. While they are probably done in free agency they shouldn't feel limited at all during the NFL Draft.

If the Cowboys draft a receiver who is ready to contribute now, they can release Butler for just a $300k dead money penalty. If the player they draft can serve as a kick returner, they could instead release Lucky Whitehead for virtually zero penalty.

Dallas has accomplished two critical strategic goals with these signings, covering themselves at the WR position while maintaining financial flexibility. If nothing else, they're bringing back the core of an offense that got you to 13-3 and a few plays from the NFC Championship Game. But if the opportunity to add more talent comes around, they will be free to take advantage of it.

Dez Bryant Salary Management

Making franchise WR money, Dez Bryant counts $17 million against the 2017 salary cap and $16.5 million each of the following two seasons. By keeping Terrance Williams at a low-cost and already having Cole Beasley making about the same money, Dallas has kept the rest of the receiver position cap-friendly to offset those big Bryant numbers.

What's more, the low-cost of bringing back Williams and Brice Butler helps Dallas avoid "breaking the glass" on restructuring Dez Bryant's deal. Because of some of Dez's red flags with age and injuries, it's not in the Cowboys' best interests to make any changes on his contract.

~ ~ ~

I know that this is the time of year that we get excited about fresh faces joining the roster. This is especially true when the previous faces weren't all that consistent or spectacular. Re-signing Terrance Williams and Brice Butler is far from the kind of "sexy" moves that fans look forward to during NFL free agency.

However, as we've explained here, they are the most practical and savvy moves that the Cowboys had at their disposal. They have preserved offensive continuity for their young quarterback and done the best things available for the team salary cap. These types of moves may not make big headlines in March, but they can help you win come September.



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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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Travis Diggs

    March 13, 2017 at 6:16 am

    Didn’t really expect them to resign both but I understand the move by keeping the core together I still think we should draft a WR because I don’t think Whitehead makes the team this year because his game is so limited.Maybe Andy Jones makes the team this year IDK but I do know We need another playmaker in the WR core

    • Jess Haynie

      Jess Haynie

      March 13, 2017 at 7:29 am

      I agree and I love how they left themselves open for just that possibility. As I said in the article, you can easily dump Butler or Whitehead depending on what you find in the draft.

      • Don

        March 13, 2017 at 10:56 am

        I too was surprised that we resigned both and thought Williams would be gone. Hopefully what appeared to be lack of interest around the league for him is a wake up call and he steps up and becomes a consistent play maker. I thought Butler wasted several opportunities to come up big last season as well and thought he would have been a bigger threat than what we saw. Yes it’s a good move I suppose since the focus surely will be on defense.

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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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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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