After sitting through the roller coaster ride that was the Dallas Cowboys 2018 season, we could surprisingly be looking at more of the same now that the 2019 Cowboys offseason is underway. With decisions to make about the futures of DeMarcus Lawrence and Cole Beasley, and the possibility of acquiring Earl Thomas or some other big-name free agent, this offseason is shaping up to be an interesting one.
With all of that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to put together a list of all of the important dates to take place throughout the offseason, especially as it pertains to the Dallas Cowboys. I don't know about you, but I can't wait for things to start ramping up.
As promised, here's what's on the docket for the Dallas Cowboys for the next few months…
* First day to designate Franchise or Transition players
This date will likely be unimportant for the 2019 Cowboys offseason since there really isn't a good candidate worthy of being franchise tagged. They did use the franchise tag last year on Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, but are unlikely to do so once again. The only way this happens is if the two sides can't work out a long-term extension, or if they need more time to finalize the deal.
February 26 - March 4
* NFL Scouting Combine
The NFL Scouting Combine is arguably one of the most important events to take place in the offseason, especially for the Dallas Cowboys. Without a first-round draft pick, they will have to pay particularly close attention to this years draft class. The Combine is the first chance they will have to see some of these players perform firsthand. This could help solidify where some of these players fall on their draft board.
* Deadline to assign franchise tag destination
Like I mentioned earlier, it's highly unlikely the Dallas Cowboys use the franchise tag this year, but if they do decide to use it they have until 4 PM EST on March 5 to do so. Again, the most likely candidate to be franchise tagged by the Cowboys is DeMarcus Lawrence. He would become a free agent after the deadline passes at 4 PM, making him free to negotiate with any team.
* Teams are permitted to contact and enter into contract negotiations with certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents
On this date the Dallas Cowboys can start negotiating contracts with DeMarcus Lawrence, Cole Beasley, and any other Unrestricted Free Agents around the league. This would be the first opportunity for them to talk to representatives of someone like Earl Thomas for instance without having to worry about being accused of tampering.
* The 2019 NFL league year officially begins
This is when the offseason "officially" begins for the NFL. Not only is this the date for the first wave of free agency, but teams also have to get under the mandated salary cap by 4 PM EST. This also happens to be the day previously agreed-upon contracts for current players and Unrestricted Free Agents can be inked.
March 24 - 27
* Annual League Meetings take place in Phoenix, Arizona
The Annual League Meetings will surely be more interesting this year than in years past. This is when possible changes will be discussed, such as the missed pass interference no-call that propelled the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl instead of the New Orleans Saints. That's just one example of potential role changes/altercations that could be discussed though.
* Offseason workout programs may begin for teams with returning head coaches
Since Jason Garrett isn't a new NFL head coach, this is the date the Dallas Cowboys can officially start their workout programs. If the Cowboys would have hired a new head coach they could've started their offseason programs two weeks earlier, which could be a good thing to remember for next year. With Garrett in the final year of his contract, this could possibly be his last offseason program in Dallas.
April 25 - 27
* 2019 NFL Draft to take place in Nashville, Tennessee
After giving up their first-round draft pick to acquire Amari Cooper from the Oakland Raiders, the Dallas Cowboys draft night won't officially start until Day 2 on April 26 with the 58th overall selection. It may be difficult to sit through the first-round without seeing the Cowboys make a selection, but don't discount the talent that should be available for them in the second-round. They've hit some home runs here recently with their first pick on Day 2 after all.
May 3 - 6, May 10 - 13
* Teams can hold one three-day post-draft rookie minicamp
The Cowboys have two choices of when they want to hold their three-day post-draft rookie minicamp, but they have to choose one. This is the first chance the rookies really have to get acclimated to things in Dallas without the veterans. Tryout players, undrafted free agents, and select first-year players can also participate.
* Post-June 1 release destinations take effect
This is an important day for the Dallas Cowboys, especially as it pertains to Terrance Williams. The financial ramifications of designating him a pre- or post June 1 release is a substantial one. The Cowboys will have to decide if they want to take less savings and a higher dead money hit upfront (pre-June 1) or lower savings with less dead money later (post-June 1).
* Deadline to sign franchise tagged players to a long-term deal
If the Dallas Cowboys somehow do decide to use the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence, this is the last day they have to sign him to a long-term contract. Neither side would be able to negotiate a contract again until March 2020 if things get to this point. It's highly unlikely D-Law is still unsigned this late in the offseason though.
* Teams can start training camp for 2019
The Dallas Cowboys will once again return to Oxnard, California for training camp, but they have yet to release the dates in which they will do so. Rookies and first-year players can report seven days before veterans have to show up, but this is the first chance for the entire team to get together and practice. This will also be the first time for many of us to see what the 2019 Cowboys team will look like for the season.
Other than roster cut downs, the start to preseason, and the kickoff to the 2019 NFL Season that's about all the important dates there are for the Dallas Cowboys. Hopefully this will give you a better understanding of what's going to take place the remainder of the offseason and what we all have to look forward to. Let's just all hope that this offseason results in the Cowboys hoisting the Lombardi trophy when all is said and done.
Should Cowboys Address TE Need Via Free Agency?
A season after Jason Witten's retirement, the Dallas Cowboys still have a need at tight end. Replacing a future Hall of Famer is no easy feat so it's only logical that it would take longer than a season to feel good about who's in at tight end.
The Cowboys currently have two tight ends who could be pretty serviceable going forward. Fourth round pick Dalton Schultz did a very solid job as the team's TE2, specially toward the second half of the season. He turned into a pretty good run blocker and despite only racking up 116 yards in 12 catches, he's a guy the Cowboys' offense could use even more in the future.
Also on the team is Blake Jarwin, who functioned as the Cowboys' main tight end for most of 2018. His performance against the New York Giants in week 17 made us wonder whether or not he could be an important target on the Cowboys' offense.
These two could very well have more in them than what we've seen. With a new offensive coordinator in town, tight end is a position the Cowboys could start using way more. As Bobby Belt pointed out on Twitter a few weeks ago, Scott Linehan's offense doesn't benefit tight ends very much. Before we give a verdict on what Schultz and Jarwin can do, I'd like to see them work with Kellen Moore's offense.
One thing you consistently see when Scott Linehan takes over an offense is a drop in the starting tight end's production. Randy McMichael, Byron Chamberlain, and Jason Witten all saw drops in yards per catch, receptions per game, and yards per game once Linehan took over.
Here's the thing. If the Cowboys are not taking a tight end in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, are they really upgrading what they already have? I'm not sure we'll be convinced about that if they draft a player for the position until the third or fourth round. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating for the Cowboys drafting a TE in the second round, because I believe there are more pressing needs on the team. However, signing a veteran free agent might be the better option for upgrading the position.
Should a veteran TE be an option?
This year, there are quite a few interesting names in the tight end market. Veterans such as Jared Cook, Tyler Eifert and even Antonio Gates will be looking for a new team pretty soon. I know, that would be "getting older." But it could also mean getting better. Building a solid TE committee with a veteran leading Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz could be the way to go for this football team.
Eifert is a great tight end... when he's on the field. Durability is his biggest weakness, as he hasn't played more than 10 games since 2016. The Cowboys could take a risk on him and constantly rotate him with Jarwin and Schultz. It may be a huge risk, but it could pay off big time. If the price is right, Eifert should be targeted by the front office.
The 2018 Oakland Raiders had a season to forget, winning only four games. Even still, Jared Cook's season was impressive. He finished the year with 896 yards and multiple 100-yard games. The biggest issue with Cook is his age. He turns 32 in April. But hey, he's literally coming off from a career year.
Jesse James is a younger guy who could also be worth it. He's not an a potent receiver, but he gets it done in the passing game and is one hell of a blocker. James could be a legit, cheaper option for the Cowboys in free agency.
There are a lot of names out there the front office could look at. Charles Clay was just released by the Buffalo Bills and Nick Boyle will be looking for new job after new arrivals pushed him out of the Baltimore Ravens' roster just to mention a few names.
We'll see what the front office's plans are soon enough, but right now, I'd say tight end is a need the Dallas Cowboys should at least try to address in free agency instead of the NFL Draft.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Cornerback
Unlike other positions on their roster, cornerback appears ready to off the Dallas Cowboys stability in 2019. However, that doesn't mean the team can just ignore it this offseason. There are still a few decisions to be made.
Thanks to a shrewd move in April of last year, Dallas will be enjoying Byron Jones' services at a bargain. They picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract and will be paying him just $6.3 million next season.
That's a steal for a Pro Bowl corner, who generally make more than double that amount in a single year. But the Cowboys are still left the decision of whether or not to give Jones a long-term deal now or wait until he hits free agency in 2020.
It's easy to say that they should enjoy the discount and worry about it next year. But then you risk a second Pro Bowl trip and the lure of the open market. Byron's asking price could only go up.
Of course, Dallas could then also have the option of using the franchise tag.
Keep in mind that Jones will turn 27 this September. Dallas could decide that it makes sense to play through the rookie deal this year, franchise him in 2020, and then reassess when he's about to turn 29 years old.
If they give Byron a long-term deal now then they'll have to pay him like one of the top corners in football. It may be wise to wait.
Another decision facing the Cowboys is if they think they can improve at the second starting position. It was an up-and-down year for Chidobe Awuzie, but he was playing his best toward the end of the season. Dallas could hope that a second year with Kris Richard's coaching, and just more general growth for a third-year player, will elevate Awuzie's game.
However, with plenty of cap space to work with, Dallas could pursue a solid veteran option and then allow Awuzie to play the nickel role. It would not only perhaps improve the CB2 position but also bolster depth overall.
Speaking of depth, Anthony Brown returns for the final year of his rookie deal. While never spectacular, Brown has been a gem as a former sixth-round pick with 29 career starts. He brings exceptional value and may even compete with Awuzie for the starting job.
While arguably the team's best young corner in 2017, Jourdan Lewis comes into this season with a lot of uncertainty. He fell out of favor last season, perhaps for not fitting the physical style that Richard likes. But he did manage to snag the game-clinching interception in Dallas' upset win over the New Orleans Saints.
If a scheme mismatch is the issue, the Cowboys could look to trade Lewis this offseason. He still has two years left on his rookie deal and was considered a first-round prospect by some in 2017. A cornerback-needy club might have more use for him than Dallas seems to.
If they did move Jourdan, the Cowboys might turn to Donovan Olumba to fill out the depth chart. He was one of their surprising performers in last year's training camp and spent the year on the practice squad. At 6'2", he has the size that the team seems to be looking for now in its corners.
More than likely, Dallas will ride with this group in 2019 with no big changes. I do think a Lewis trade is possible, especially with the Cowboys short on draft picks this year. But don't expect any major cap space or draft capital to go at one of the team's more solid positions.
With all the other work Dallas needs done this offseason, a little stability at cornerback is a luxury.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Center
Even with Dez Bryant's release and Jason Witten's retirement, the loss of Travis Frederick last season may have been the most damaging to the Dallas Cowboys. The team looks forward to getting their All-Pro center back in 2019 while also having a reliable backup still under contract.
Just within the last few weeks, Frederick has provided encouraging updates on his status for next year. It looks like he'll be able to participate in all offseason activities, but the Cowboys would settle for Week One. There appears to be plenty of cushion for that to happen.
Travis' absence in 2018 was seen in various ways. Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times, second-most in all the league, after just 32 and 25 times the previous two seasons. Part of that is missing Frederick's blocking ability, but also the way he would assist with reading the defense and making pre-snap adjustments.
Dallas would've loved having Frederick out there to help Guard Connor Williams, who worked with Travis throughout the offseason only to lose him in late August. It was not an easy way for the rookie to start his career.
We also saw issues in the run game. Even while Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in rushing, short-yardage situations weren't as easy as they used to be. The Rams were able to neutralize the Cowboys' rushing attack in Dallas' playoff loss, something that Frederick might have helped overcome.
This isn't saying that Joe Looney did a bad job. On the contrary, Looney was more than adequate and helped keep Dallas from suffering far greater damage without Frederick.
After Joe's work in 2018, Dallas won't blink at keeping him on the $1 million salary he's due next year. It's a bargain for a backup of his quality, and especially given his versatility as an option at guard as well.
Not only are Frederick and Looney locked in for 2019, but Dallas also still has backup Adam Redmond under contract through next season. He was added after final cuts last year to be Looney's backup and should return to at least help the team through July and August.
With these guys already in place, there's no reason to think that Dallas will give much attention to the center position during the offseason.
At most, a mid-round draft pick might be used on a player who could potentially replace Looney in 2020 as the backup. Joe's contract ends next season, and he could be competitive for starting jobs with other teams at that point.
With lots of other concerns throughout the roster, Dallas is fortunate to have so much security at center. All signs are positive on Travis Frederick's return, and that is a huge boost to the team as it looks to push forward from last year's playoff run.
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