Special teams play was a big topic last year for the Dallas Cowboys and that will likely continue into the 2020 offseason. Kicker, punter, and long snapper may all be changing, and the arrival of a new coordinator could bring even more shakeup throughout the different units.
With Mike McCarthy now becoming the Cowboys’ head coach, he has brought in longtime special teams guru John Fassel as part of the staff. Fassel is a highly respected name throughout the NFL and will hopefully fix this broken element in Dallas’ roster.
However, to get there, he’s going to need some players.
2020 Special Teams Contract Statuses
- P Chris Jones
- K Tristan Vizcaino
- Free Agents
- K Kai Forbath (UFA)
- LS L.P. Ladouceur (UFA)
UFA = Unrestricted
After releasing Brett Maher midway through the year and signing Kai Forbath as a temporary band-aid, Dallas will need to make a move at kicker. The only one that’s under contract, Tristan Vizcaino, is a young prospect with no real-game experience yet in the NFL.
Vizcaino received a workout prior to the Cowboys signing Forbath, so the fact that they brought him back now is interesting. But just like when Dallas went with the experienced veteran back in December, they will likely look to add another sometime before training camp.
That veteran could easily end up being Forbath again. Kai went 10-for-10 on field goals in his three games with the Cowboys, certainly earning the opportunity to compete in 2020.
But this is where Fassel’s arrival makes things interesting. A special teams lifer, Fassel may have plenty of his own ideas and prospects in mind for a new kicker. He isn’t going to be beholden to Forbath having not been with the Cowboys in 2019.
Anything is on the table, really.
The same goes for punter. As my colleague Kevin Brady wrote about yesterday, Chris Jones is under contract for 2020 but has had declining performance lately.
Dallas can save $1.4 million of Jones’ $2.4 million cap hit by cutting him, but is that money worth having to find a new punter and holder on field goals?
Chris’ cap hit is about middle of the road for NFL punters. If John Fassel thinks he can at least get average production out of the player, then they may not feel the need to release him. It will all depend on Fassel’s evaluation of Jones’ performance and potential, plus if he thinks there are better options available.
One player that no coach can complain about is Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur. If the WWE didn’t already own the rights to “Mr. Perfect,” Ladouceur would certainly qualify.
Now outlasting Jason Witten for Cowboys longevity, Ladouceur turns 39 next month and you never know when he’s finally going to retire. He is also a free agent in 2020, so Dallas will have to at least make the effort to re-sign him.
Again, where does Fassel’s influence make an impact here? If he has some younger prospects in mind, could he push to Dallas to finally move on from their 15-year fixture?
We’re not used to this degree of special teams change with the Cowboys. We’ve enjoyed long runs at these positions, be it Ladouceur and Jones or Dan Bailey and Mat McBriar before them.
But 2020 brings in many changes from the coaching staff down through the roster, and the special teams positions could see a massive overhaul in the coming months. And we experienced last season, wins and losses next year could hang on these decisions.