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How 2020 Free Agency May Impact Cowboys 2019 Roster Decisions

Jess Haynie

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3 Studs and Duds From Dallas Cowboys Preseason Week 1 Matchup
AP Photo/Josie Lepe

The Dallas Cowboys will be making a lot of decisions this week as they cut down the 2019 roster before Saturday's deadline. But as they form their 53-man group for the upcoming season, they may also have an eye on their high number of free agents in 2020. How could this potential mass exodus of talent next year impact their roster decisions now?

Based on the players either guaranteed to or with a solid chance of making the 2019 roster, Dallas stands to have anywhere from 25-30 free agents in the following offseason. This is due to a mix of expiring contracts from veterans, the draft class of 2016, and players signed to one-year deals this past spring.

Here is a brief summary of the potential 2020 free agents:

Veterans: QB Cooper Rush, WR Amari Cooper, TE Blake Jarwin, OT La'el Collins, G Xavier Su'a-Filo, G/C Adam Redmond, DE Robert Quinn, DT Antwaun Woods, LB Sean Lee, LB Joe Thomas, CB Byron Jones, CB C.J. Goodwin, K Brett Maher

Class of 2016: QB Dak Prescott, DT Maliek Collins, CB Anthony Brown, CB Kavon Frazier, RB Darius Jackson

1-Year Contracts: RB Alfred Morris, WR Randall Cobb, WR Tavon Austin, TE Jason Witten, DE Kerry Hyder, DT Christian Covington, LB Justin March, S George Iloka, S Darian Thompson, LS L.P. Ladouceur

See what I mean?

True, not all of these 28 players will make the team this year. Dallas will likely be making cut-down decisions between Morris and Jackson at running back, Su'a-Filo and Redmond on offensive line, or Iloka and Thompson at safety, rather than keeping both.

Also, we fully expect players like Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Antwaun Woods to be re-signed before 2020 free agency begins. We hope the same for La'el Collins, Byron Jones, and Maliek Collins, but that will depend on salary cap space.

All that said, there is currently a major chunk of talent not under contract for 2020. So how might that impact the Cowboys' roster decisions this week?

Mike White

Dallas Cowboys QB Mike White (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

A great example is whether or not the Cowboys keep a third quarterback this year. They haven't had just two passers on the roster since 2014, but Dallas may revert to that this season to save a roster spot somewhere else.


We can debate whether or not Dallas even wants to keep Mike White after his rough preseason. But even if they still have interest, they may value players at other positions far more.

Consider the defensive line. A player like rookie Joe Jackson might not make the squad if Dallas had a bunch of long-term players locked up ahead of him. But if there's a mass exodus of talent in 2020, Jackson could wind up being a primary reserve in his sophomore season.

The same goes for cornerback. Anthony Brown's likely exit in 2020 free agency, coupled with the possibility that Byron Jones isn't re-signed, creates some concern. Rather than choosing between Donovan Olumba and rookie Michael Jackson and keeping only five CBs this year, Dallas has added incentive to keep both as security for next year.

Going long at these positions means going short somewhere else. We already mentioned quarterback as a possibility, but running back and offensive line are two other spots where the Cowboys could utilize their versatile talent and help their roster math.

Dallas could potentially just keep eight total offensive linemen. Cam Fleming, Joe Looney, and Connor McGovern have position flex as reserves, while Connor Williams and La'el Collins can also swap roles. They should be able to get through a game with just those guys and keep additional depth on the practice squad.

At running back, the Cowboys will already be struggling to find enough touches for both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. They could utilize fullback Jamize Olawale or receiver Tavon Austin as emergency running backs and then keep someone like Mike Weber or Jordan Chunn on the practice squad.

~ ~ ~

A lot of these decisions will also come down to who the Cowboys believe they can get to and keep on the practice squad without fear of poaching from the rest of the NFL. Players like Joe Jackson or Donovan Olumba, who have stood out this preseason, may be on other teams' radars far more than others.

But because of the contract situations for 2020, Dallas may be pushed to go long at certain positions more than they normally would. Someone like Olumba, who didn't make the team last year, may be kept this season because of the changing dynamics at cornerback and the potential exits of his current superiors.

In just three more days, after final cuts, we'll be able to see more clearly how the Cowboys are thinking as they build their 2019 roster.


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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Dallas Cowboys

Loss to Minnesota Could be the Final Nail in Jason Garrett’s Coffin

Brian Martin

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Vikings Loss Could be the Final Nail in Jason Garrett's Coffin

The 2019 NFL season kind of seemed like a do or die situation for the Dallas Cowboys current Head Coach Jason Garrett. He is currently in the last year of his contract and his future with the Cowboys organization could be hanging in the balance, especially after the devastating loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

If Jason Garrett isn't extended beyond this season, this loss to Minnesota could possibly be where his career with the Dallas Cowboys started to circle the drain. There are still several games left on the Cowboys schedule this season, but this one loss could be the one that ends up knocking them out of the playoffs. If that's true, it's hard to believe JG will be retained.

Jerry Jones, and son Stephen, have both fully supported Jason Garrett since he became the Cowboys full-time head coach back in 2011 after serving as the interim HC for Wade Phillips in 2010. That's nearly a decade of the Jones' sticking by JG through all of the thick and thin over years. That unwavering support however could be coming to an end though.

The proof is in the pudding as they say. As a head coach Jason Garrett is slightly above average according to his all-time win/loss record. His regular-season record as the HC with the Cowboys is 82-62 (.569) and he's 2-3 (.400) in the postseason. Add all of that up and he's 84-65 (.564) in his career… slightly above average.


Jason Garrett

Dallas Cowboys HC Jason Garrett (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

If I know anything about the Jones', I know getting the Dallas Cowboys back to the promised land as one of the best teams in the NFL is at the top of their list. That's why we've seen them over the years take chances on players other teams wouldn't in order to put together the most competitive roster they possibly could. Now that attention might need to be shifted from the players to the head coach.

Much like the Jones', I've supported and stood by Jason Garrett over the years. That support is dwindling though after each and every loss this season, at least on my part. Personally, I'm ready to find some new blood and move on. What the Jones' end up doing though is completely up in the air.

I want to believe the Dallas Cowboys are ready to move on from JG, but I'm not completely convinced. The fact that his current contract is about to expire after the season suggests they're at least considering parting ways, but that's all it does. I think how the rest of season turns out after the devastating loss to the Vikings will end up determining his fate.

If JG somehow sneaks the Cowboys into the playoffs it could save his job. That unfortunately is no easy thing to do with the teams they have left to play this season. Because of that, the Week 10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings could end up being the final nail in Jason Garrett's coffin.

What do you think? Is it time to part ways with Jason Garrett?


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Game Notes

Lions QB Matthew Stafford’s Status Still Unknown for Cowboys Game

Jess Haynie

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Matthew Stafford, Lions

The Dallas Cowboys are headed to Detroit this Sunday for a Week 11 meeting with the Lions. As Dallas tries to get back to winning games, they may get a boost from the absence of Lions' Quarterback Matthew Stafford. After missing last week's game with a back injury, Stafford's status for this week remains unclear.

Stafford was a limited participant in practices all of Week 10 for Detroit and went into their game with the Chicago Bears as a game-time decision. He was ultimately ruled out due to fractures in his back; the first start Stafford's missed for the Lions since the 2010 season.

Jeff Driskel got the start as the Lions fell in Chicago. He is 1-5 as an NFL starter overall, going 1-4 in games for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2018.

The Lions are now 3-5-1 on the year and at the bottom of the NFC North. They are also far behind in the Wild Card race, which leads to speculation that they could shut Stafford down for the season to preserve his long-term health. Based on Matthew's contract, the earliest Detroit can easily get out from his contract is after the 2020 season.

For his part, Matthew Stafford has said he has no plans on staying out this season as long he's medically cleared to play. He certainly would love to be active this Sunday against the Cowboys, the team of his youth, after playing his high school football in Dallas.


Even if Stafford plays, Dallas has done solidly overall against opposing quarterbacks in 2019. They are sixth in passing yards allowed per game and 14th in opponent passer rating.

Detroit is fourth in passing offense right now in the NFL but that was based on eight games with Stafford at QB. Jeff Driskel will not perform at that same level, and the Lions' rushing attack has been very weak since Kerryon Johnson went on injured reserve.

We'll see in the coming days if Matthew Stafford is at practice for Detroit and to what extent. But even if he does practice some, as he did last week, it could once again be a last-minute decision for the Lions if Stafford actually plays on Sunday.

With the Cowboys desperate for a win, they'll take all the help they can get.


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Dallas Cowboys

The Time has Come to See More of Tight End Blake Jarwin

John Williams

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Cowboys TE Blake Jarwin Owns the New York Giants, Again

When Jason Witten made his triumphant return from the Monday Night Football booth to the Dallas Cowboys' locker room, the addition was met with a bit of reserved optimism. On the one hand, it was awesome to get one of the best players in the history of the franchise back on the field and in the locker room. On the other hand, it meant that he would eat into the snap counts of Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, or any rookie they potentially drafted in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Though, upon arrival, the Cowboys and Witten stated the future Hall of Famer would only play roughly 25 snaps a game, it didn't take long to figure out that Witten was the starting and full-time player at tight end. In training camp, Witten got a majority of the first-team snaps. In the first nine games of the 2019 season, Witten's played nearly twice as many snaps as Blake Jarwin.

It's an unfortunate turn from the narrative we were being fed in the offseason as Blake Jarwin provides a receiving dynamic that no other tight end for the Dallas Cowboys can. He's quicker, more agile, and has much more athleticism than Jason Witten.

On a per snap basis, Blake Jarwin is offering more in yards per snap and in yards per route run. Jarwin has accrued 0.811 yards per snap to Jason Witten's 0.711. Basically, if you prorate Jarwin's yards per snap total of 0.811 to Jason Witten's snap count of 475, Jarwin would theoretically have nearly 50 more receiving yards than Witten while providing another downfield threat to the passing game.

If we look at yards per route run, Jarwin's outpacing Witten 1.97 to 1.37 per Pro Football Focus. If you were to give Jason Witten's number of routes run to Blake Jarwin and prorated based on Jarwin's production in 2019, he would have roughly 484 receiving yards or 150 more receiving yards than Jason Witten.


Obviously, Jarwin's still got some development that needs to happen as a run blocker to be able to get on the field more. The Cowboys coaching staff, however, has still elected to roll with Jason Witten over Blake Jarwin even in pass-heavy situations as we saw on Sunday Night Football. This is the first game of the year where the Cowboys needed to be in heavy passing mode, but they continue to keep one of their more athletic weapons on the sideline when they need to get chunk plays.

Jarwin's ability to attack up the seam can help open everything up for everyone else in the offense. Just having another vertical threat on the field can create space for Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Randall Cobb underneath.

Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff isn't going to flip their snap counts anytime soon, but the time has come for Blake Jarwin to get more of the situational passing work. When the Cowboys get into obvious passing situations -- 3rd and longs or in two-minute situations -- Blake Jarwin needs to be the tight end on the field.

We've seen each of the last two weeks what Jarwin can do once he gets the ball in his hands. Against the New York Giants, he ripped off a game-changing 42-yard touchdown run and catch. On Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, Jarwin had a big 26-yard reception that helped get the Cowboys going offensively.

Jason Witten will go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor. It's time he and the coaching staff recognizes that the Dallas Cowboys could be an even more dynamic offensive team by getting the more athletic Blake Jarwin on the field more.


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