We aren't even to the halfway point of the 2020 season yet, but at 2-5 it's probably time for the Dallas Cowboys to start thinking about what's best for the future of the organization. That means some serious evaluating needs to be done between now and the end of the year, whether it's the young talent or their pending 2021 free agents.
Today, I want to take a look at the players who are set to hit free agency after the season because a decision about them will have to be made sooner rather than later. With that in mind, I've decided to do a quick breakdown of all of the Dallas Cowboys 2021 free agents in order to hopefully get a better understanding of who they may want to keep and who they let go.
Let's start with the Top 5…
Top 5 Dallas Cowboys 2021 Free Agents
1. QB Dak Prescott (unrestricted free agent)
Dak Prescott is the key to the entire 2021 offseason for the Dallas Cowboys. Sitting at 2-5 right now they could very easily be within reach to take one of the Top 3 QBs in the 2021 NFL Draft (Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Trey Lance), which makes Prescott's future in Dallas a little bit murky. Is a long-term extension in his future, the franchise tag, or a pat on the back and goodbye wave?
Up until a gruesome ankle injury ended his season, No. 4 was the one good thing going for the Dallas Cowboys. In order to keep him around next season though the Cowboys are going to have to pay the piper to the tune of around $40 million (contract extension) or a little over $37 million (franchise tag). Any chance of a hometown discount sailed a long time ago.
2. DE Aldon Smith (unrestricted free agent)
Aldon Smith wasted no time proving he's the same player he once was despite his five year hiatus from the NFL. He has been one of the biggest surprises in the entire league and one of the Cowboys best defensive players as well. Sadly, he could be one and done in Dallas.
The better Smith plays the rest of the 2020 season the harder it's going to be for the Cowboys to re-sign him in the offseason. At 31 years old, this could be his last shot at a big payday and if that's what he has in mind he'll likely find it somewhere else rather than in Dallas.
3. LB Joe Thomas (unrestricted free agent)
A backup capable of starting, Joe Thomas has proven his value with the Dallas Cowboys time and time again over the past three years. He may not receive the same kind of hype Jaylon Smith or Leighton Vander Esch do, but he's played just as well as either one when thrust into action.
Depending on Thomas' interest in free agency, the Cowboys would be wise to re-sign him. He should be relatively inexpensive and would provide much-needed depth considering Sean Lee and Justin March also become free agents in 2021.
4. CB Chidobe Awuzie (unrestricted free agent)
With the exception of Trevon Diggs, nearly all of the Dallas Cowboys secondary are becoming free agents in 2021. Instead of a complete makeover they'd probably like to keep one of them around and Chidobe Awuzie makes the most sense, despite not playing much this season.
Awuzie has been steady playing outside CB since arriving in Dallas and he's versatile enough to fit in any defensive scheme. I doubt he'll be highly sought after in free agency, so he could be a rather inexpensive option to keep around. I say he's got a 50-50 chance of returning next year.
5. LS LP Ladouceur (unrestricted free agent)
A long snapper in the Top 5… Really!? Absolutely! The Dallas Cowboys love him and he loves Dallas. This bromance will continue as long as Ladouceur wants to play. He's still one of the most consistent long snappers in the league, despite being 40 years old.
Remaining Free Agents:
Unrestricted Free Agents
- An unrestricted free agent is a player who is no longer under contract with a team and is eligible to sign with other clubs or franchises.
C Joe Looney: Looney just missed out on the Top 5. His value has diminished with the emergence of both Tyler Biadasz and Connor McGovern.
DT Tyrone Crawford: Crawford somehow managed to avoid being a salary-cap casualty the past a few years, but his time in Dallas should be coming to an end regardless.
LB Sean Lee: No. 50 probably should've retired after the 2019 season. He has yet to play a snap in 2020 and there's not much of a market for 35-year-old, often injured LB. Retirement is likely.
QB Andy Dalton: If Dalton survives the 2020 season – a big “if” – he will likely seek a better opportunity somewhere else.
CB Daryl Worley: Worley doesn't have a future in Dallas. He's already been demoted and could be on the cusp of getting cut out right before the season ends.
OL Cameron Erving: Erving's value lies in his ability to play anywhere along the OL. If he's not too costly in free agency Dallas could be interested in retaining him.
LB Justin March: Basically a special teams guy only. Cowboys can find younger/cheaper options to fill that role.
CB CJ Goodwin: Excellent special teams player, but not much else. Can be easily and cheaply retained if the Cowboys want.
CB Jourdan Lewis: Lewis is going to be looking for a chance to start somewhere and that clearly isn't going to be in Dallas.
S Xavier Woods: Xavier Woods is well-liked in Dallas and could return if the price is right. I give him a 50-50 shot at returning in 2021.
WR Noah Brown: Dallas already has outstanding depth at WR so it's unlikely Noah Brown returns.
QB Garrett Gilbert: Added after Dak Prescott's injury. He has no future in Dallas beyond this season.
TE Blake Bell: The emergence of Dalton Schultz and the return of Blake Jarwin means Blake Bell isn't needed next season.
Restricted Free Agents
- A restricted free agent is a player who is signed to one team but is free to solicit contract offers from other teams.
WR Cedrick Wilson: If Cedrick Wilson continues to have games like he did against Seattle he could draw interest from another team. If not, he's not going anywhere.
DT Antwaun Woods: Unless another team values him enough to offer a contract, the Cowboys can do with him what they want. Not a priority, but provides good depth at DT.
WR Malik Turner: Unless the Cowboys cut him he will stick around next season.
Exclusive-Rights Free Agents
- An exclusive-rights free agent as a player who is no longer under contract with a club but has less than three Accrued Seasons.
WR Ventell Bryant: Was released from IR with an injury settlement.