If you look at lists of 2020 free agents for the Dallas Cowboys you will likely see Defensive Tackle Antwaun Woods’ name among them. But it’s important to note that Woods’ “free agency” is very limited, and there is little reason to think he won’t be back with the Cowboys next year.
There are three types of free agents every year in the NFL; unrestricted, restricted, and exclusive rights.
Unrestricted free agents are free to sign with whoever they wish, provided their team doesn’t use the franchise or transition tag on them. Dallas has many of these this year, most notably Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Byron Jones.
Restricted free agents are player who are not under contract but only have three “accrued seasons” in the NFL. Their current team can use a tender offer to protect the player’s rights for the following year, giving them the chance to match any contract offer while also forcing any interested buyers to potentially give up a draft pick in exchange for signing the player.
Exclusive rights free agents, and this is where Antwaun Woods falls, are players with only two accrued seasons. They are bound to whatever offer their current team makes for them; no other team can try to sign them if the original team offers them a deal.
Essentially, there’s nothing “free” about Woods’ situation.
As long as the Cowboys want Antwaun back in 2020 then they can offer him a minimal deal to return. Once that offer is extended, Woods can either sign it or sit out the season.
As of a few months ago, it seemed a given that Dallas would bring Woods back next season. Even though a drug-related arrest in December will likely lead to a suspension to start 2020, the Cowboys wouldn’t let that deter them given how cheap Antwaun will be to re-sign.
A greater danger to Woods now is the changes in the coaching staff. Antwaun’s 6’0″ frame may not appeal to new Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan depending on his plans for the Cowboys’ scheme.
On the field Antwaun Woods has been an emerging stud for the last two seasons. But there are x-factors with his personal life and new coaches which could impact his job security.
But clearly, the Dallas Cowboys have all the power. With Woods only being an exclusive rights free agent, the team can easily keep him if they want to.