While Dak Prescott's free agency is the story of the Cowboys' 2020 offseason, Amari Cooper's is right behind him. Throw in Randall Cobb and other concerns on the depth chart and wide receiver is a major concern in Dallas for the next few months.
As you can see from the following list, the Cowboys will need to put in some work to field a capable WR group next season.
2020 Wide Receiver Contract Statuses
- Michael Gallup
- Noah Brown
- Devin Smith
- Cedrick Wilson
- Ventell Bryant
- Jon'Vea Johnson
- Lance Lenoir
- Deante Burton
- Tevin Jones
- Free Agents
- Amari Cooper (UFA)
- Randall Cobb (UFA)
- Tavon Austin (UFA)
UFA = Unrestricted
Three Dallas' four most experienced receivers are free agents. And while not seen as a vital piece on offense these days, Tavon Austin has been the primary punt returner the last two seasons.
Of course, everything starts with Amari Cooper. It was his arrival in 2018 that sparked a turnaround on offense and got the Cowboys into the playoffs. Last year he battled through injuries and still made it to the Pro Bowl; his value to the team is clear.
The question on Cooper is if Dallas will pursue a long-term contract or use the franchise tag to retain him. Which method they go with depends heavily on how things go with Prescott, plus the contract talks with CB Byron Jones.
After spending a 1st-round pick to acquire Amari in 2018 it would be a tough blow to lose him now. That is especially true given the 2020 free agent class; no WR available has Cooper's mix of youth and proven performance. The Cowboys couldn't replace him this year if they wanted to.
If bringing back Cooper wasn't a big enough issue, Randall Cobb is also a free agent. He proved his value on the one-year deal he signed with Dallas in 2019 and would be a tough loss.
Of course, the change at head coach is a major x-factor in Cobb's future. Randall played eight seasons for Mike McCarthy in Green Bay and it's assumed that his old coach will want him back even more than Jason Garrett would have.
Making the decision easier is the lack of depth on the WR depth chart. No current options have proven they're ready to move up into a major role on offense.
The best of the bunch are prospects Noah Brown and Cedrick Wilson, but injuries have prevented both from establishing themselves in Dallas. They have potential but the number-three WR is basically a starting position; the Cowboys can't trust these young players with that much responsibility.
There is a thought that Dallas could use one of their premium draft picks at WR in 2020. Adding someone with a 2nd or 3rd-round pick would save money from what Cobb deserves in a new deal.
With Cooper's contract situation and the need to pay Gallup in a couple of years, finding a cheaper third receiver has some strategic value.
That said, Randall Cobb was able to provide immediate production and should be favored by the new head coach. I wouldn't expect him to leave.
On the other hand, I highly doubt that Tavon Austin returns to Dallas in 2020. His intriguing physical skills just don't show up in games, and whether that's his fault or the coaches is unlikely to matter at this point.
Especially hurting Austin's chances is how Tony Pollard has emerged on offense. He's the new versatile weapon, leaving Tavon to being little more than a backup and return man.
There is one factor which could save Austin, though. The new Special Teams Coordinator in Dallas is John Fassel, and he held the same job with the Rams for Tavon's entire career there.
That relationship could go either way. Fassel will likely have a major voice in Austin's future with the Cowboys, but keep in mind that he was part of the coaching staff that was willing to let him go. Fassel may want to look in another direction this time, too.
All together, the safest bet is that Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb get re-signed while Tavon Austin is allowed walk. That gives Dallas a great top three on the WR chart and then flexibility in the 2020 NFL Draft.
At that point, the Cowboys could draft a depth and developmental player in the middle rounds. However, they could also decide to let guys like Brown, Wilson, and Devin Smith compete and then worry about adding more talent next year.
But of course, the ripple effect starts with Amari Cooper. We'll see how quickly the Cowboys settle things with their franchise receiver and then the impact it has on the rest of their offseason business.