C.J. Goodwin has been the Dallas Cowboys’ best special teams player since joining the team in 2018. That was enough to get him onto the roster last year, but will the influx of new players at cornerback demand Goodwin be more than just a special teams ace?
Goodwin led the Cowboys in special teams tackles in 2019 and took the most snaps of any player. He was a true specialist as he played on less than 2% of the snaps on defense. Even when Dallas was dealing with injuries at CB, they called up Donovan Olumba and gave him playing time over Goodwin.
Dallas thought enough of C.J. to re-sign him to a new 1-year contract this offseason. This was especially positive for Goodwin after the change at Special Teams Coordinator, with John Fassel replacing Keith O’Quinn in January as part of the major coaching overhaul.
But that re-signing came before the 2020 NFL Draft, in which the Cowboys selected cornerbacks, Trevon Diggs and Reggie Robinson. It also preceded Dallas adding Daryl Worley and Saivion Smith in free agency.
Now flush with options at CB, will the Dallas Cowboys keep a spot open for a pure special teams player?
They did it last year with Olumba, putting him on the practice squad due to Goodwin’s superior special teams skill. But while Donovan was an undrafted prospect, Dallas now has drafted rookies in Diggs and Robinson to add to Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Anthony Brown on the depth chart.
There have been rumbles that Awuzie could be moving to safety. Lewis is always coming up in trade speculation. But until either of those happen, Chido and Jourdan are the Cowboys’ top two cornerbacks heading into training camp.
Brown was just given a new 3-year contract and is a virtual lock for the 2020 roster. He brings versatility and stability to a depth chart undergoing major change.
Between those three and the drafted rookies, you’re already at five players, and we haven’t even dug into Canady, Worley, Smith, Chris Westry, Deante Burton, and others all vying for roster spots.
Perhaps the biggest threat to C.J. Goodwin’s job security is Reggie Robinson, who enters the NFL with his own special teams prowess. Robinson blocked four kicks while at Tulsa and was a standout in coverage units.
If Robinson can come in and cover the duties that Goodwin had as a core special teamer, while also providing upside as a true CB option, then that becomes a fairly easy decision. That’s far better value for a valuable roster spot.
But predicting the numbers at cornerback in 2020 is as hard as I can remember. A new coaching staff throws out the patterns we’ve typically gone by, and all the new players mean it will be a very open competition.
Dallas is beholden to Goodwin from a financial standpoint. His contract is just for 2020 and only had about $330k in guaranteed money. Dallas can save $550k off the salary cap if he’s released.
This isn’t to say that C.J. has no shot at making the team. If he’s clearly the best special teamer they’ve got then the Cowboys will find a way to make room for him. They have plenty of ways to do that throughout the roster, and especially now that we have the provision for 48 active players on game days with two call-ups from the practice squad.
This new rule is huge for a specialist like Goodwin. It creates an opportunity to be of value to a team when many situations didn’t allow for it in the past.
So yes, C.J. Goodwin could still stick with the Cowboys in 2020 despite his limited defensive role. As long as he remains a special teams ace and isn’t rivaled by younger prospects, he’s the kind of player that John Fassel will pound the table to keep. And thanks to the new rules for roster sizes, keeping him will be easier than it’s ever been.