The Dallas Cowboys front office decision makers are going to have a busy offseason in 2019. They've got several important pieces to get under contract as well as players that need contract extensions. DeMarcus Lawrence is a free agent that will likely sign a big deal and may get the franchise tag to prevent other teams from offering a lucrative contract to walk away from the Dallas Cowboys. Other players like Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Byron Jones, and Ezekiel Elliott have been mentioned as possible targets for contract extensions.
The reason the Dallas Cowboys are looking to hand out extensions to some of those guys mentioned above, is one, because they earned it, and two, because if you pay them a year early, there's a good chance you get them at a better rate than if you pay them once they're free. If the Cowboys wait till Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Byron Jones all become free agents in the 2020 offseason, they'll have to worry about other teams jacking up the price on their players. Remember this past offseason when Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins signed deals with new teams for more than $14 million per year. It's always better to have sole negotiating rights when attempting to get your players under contract.
The Dallas Cowboys are likely going to get all these guys done this offseason, it's just a matter of when. It's always fun spending someone else's money, so here's how I'd prioritize getting their deals done.
1. DeMarcus Lawrence, Defensive End
Another year and another Pro Bowl appearance for DeMarcus Lawrence who followed up his 14.5 sack 2017 season with 10.5 sacks this season and was just as electric against the run. The Dallas Cowboys used the franchise tag on Lawrence last season and he played the full season on it, betting that he would have another stand out year.
That he did.
Lawrence sack numbers may have gone down, but his effectiveness was still on display every week. He's one of the best EDGE players in the NFL and is about to get paid like it. The Dallas Cowboys will look to get a long-term deal done before the start of free agency. Both Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett have commented on the importance of locking up the best player on their defense. If they aren't able to get a deal done before free agency starts, they'll franchise tag him again and then hope to get his long-term deal finalized before the tag locks in sometime in July.
2. Dak Prescott, Quarterback
I know many people in Cowboys Nation aren't excited about the idea of extending Dak Prescott, but here's what you need to know. He's a good quarterback still developing and has gotten better each season he's been in the NFL.
Dak's about to get paid.
As I outlined a couple of weeks ago, Prescott has done enough to earn one of the top contracts in the NFL. He's been the quarterback of the team that's won the NFC East two out of the last three seasons and has been to the Pro Bowl twice in his young career. In 2018, Dak set career highs in completions, attempts, and passing yards, all the while getting sacked a rate nearly double his previous career high.
Locking up your young quarterback sets the stage for just about everything else on the offense. It creates an identity. Get Dak Prescott done and quit worrying about the face of your franchise for the next five seasons.
3. Amari Cooper, Wide Receiver
The Dallas Cowboys have another year of Amari Cooper under contract for the 2019 season, but he showed his value in the last half of the 2018 season. After coming over from the Oakland Raiders, from week nine through 17, Cooper had 53 receptions on 73 targets for 725 yards and six touchdowns. At a 16 game pace, Cooper would have had 135 targets for 94 receptions, 1,289 yards and 11 touchdowns. Any question on whether he's a lead receiver for an NFL team should have been answered by his second half with the Dallas Cowboys.
Of his 1,005 receiving yards, 725 came with the Cowboys while six of his seven touchdowns on the season came after he arrived in Dallas.
Cooper's game fits excellently with Dak who looks to find the open receiver in his progression. Cooper is always open. He creates big windows with his route running ability and displayed excellent hands throughout the season.
The offense got better when Cooper came over and that's no coincidence. With a full offseason to work together with Dak Prescott, the Cowboys will get even more out of Cooper in 2019. Lock your quarterback up and lock his favorite target up at the same time and prosper.
4. Byron Jones, Corner Back
The Dallas Cowboys finally found a role that suits their 2015 first round draft pick, Byron Jones. He played excellent this season at corner back. Byron Jones is a corner back.
Pro Football Focus rated Byron Jones the fifth best corner back in the 2018 season among players that played at lead 600 snaps. Though he did not record an interception, and that's something that you hope will improve with more comfort at the position, he was tied for 10th in the NFL at the corner in pass break ups. He allowed a reception on only 53.6% of the attempts that went Jones' direction, which among corners, was good for ninth in the NFL.
Jones had really nice games against some of the NFL's best in 2018:
- Week 2 vs Odell Beckham Jr.: 1 target, 0 receptions
- Week 5 vs DeAndre Hopkins: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 74 yards
- Week 10 vs Zach Ertz: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 24 yards
- Week 11 vs Julio Jones: 3 targets, 1 reception, 19 yards
- Week 13 vs Michael Thomas: 2 targets, 0 receptions
- Week 14 vs Zach Ertz: 1 target, 0 receptions
- Week 15 vs T.Y. Hilton: 1 target, 1 reception, 8 yards
- Week 16 vs Mike Evans: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 72 yards, 0 touchdowns
Each of the players above are in the upper echelon of their position and Byron Jones only allowed a player to gain more than 25 yards in his coverage twice. Week five against DeAndre Hopkins and Week 16 against Mike Evans. Jones shut out Michael Thomas and Odell Beckham Jr., and held Julio Jones and T.Y. Hilton to just one catch each.
It was a really nice year for Byron Jones in his first full season at corner back and he was rewarded with a Pro Bowl appearance. A nice contract should be coming his way this offseason.
5. Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back
The Dallas Cowboys hit a home run when they drafted Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick in 2016. He's been as good as anyone in Cowboys Nation could have hoped for. Elliott's led the NFL in rushing twice in his three-year career and in each of those seasons, he only played 15 games as the coaching staff opted to sit him with nothing to play for week 17.
There was a report at the end of the regular season that Ezekiel Elliott wanted to be extended this offseason as opposed to waiting until the 2020 offseason. The Cowboys have a few options with Elliott. They can extend him, place the first round pick fifth-year option on him, or allow him to play out his contract.
It's no guarantee that the Cowboys would offer Elliott a second contract after the 2020 season. If they're going to sign him to an extension, the time is now. He's 23 years old and an extension now would mean that his contract would run out around age 27 or 28, which is generally the age for running back drop off.
Elliott's coming off a season where he led the NFL in rushing and more than doubled his previous career highs in targets and receptions, and finished with more than 2,000 total yards on the season.
The Dallas Cowboys don't have to do anything with Ezekiel Elliott, but if they're intending to have him signed through his prime years, it makes a lot of sense to get him done now.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
The Dallas Cowboys have a lot of money to spend this offseason getting some of their own locked up to long-term deals. They'll be working with the player's representatives to find numbers that work for both sides over the next few months. Locking in their core players for the foreseeable future is paramount to the Cowboys' window being extended for the next five years.
Takeaway Tuesday: Zeke Had The Exact Kind of Game Cowboys Need
It's pretty difficult to deal with the hype of being 2-0 to open a 2019 NFL season. The Dallas Cowboys have done just that with a revamped offense and a quarterback that's thrown seven touchdowns in the process. They currently sit alone atop of the NFC East and although it's too early to know what kind of team this will be when it's all said alone, we're excited.
Let's dive into this week's takeaways!
We Need Robert Quinn Back
The Dallas Cowboys defense hasn't been as bad as many would think. They've had a few bad moments but the talent is still there and should be improving as the season goes on. Last Sunday, what was most frustrating to me was the lack of a pass rush. DeMarcus Lawrence had a pretty good game, even though his stat line doesn't look very pretty. The pressure was there constantly and he forced a handful of bad plays from Case Keenum. Tyrone Crawford managed to sack him once.
Other than that, for most of the game the pressure was scarce. Fortunately, the Cowboys are getting Robert Quinn back from suspension this week. Having two quality edge rushers will boost a defense that has the potential to be great, but has only been "good" two weeks into the season.
Ezekiel Elliott Had The Kind of Game The Cowboys Need
Zeke was back for a heavier workload in week 2 after having a snap count in the season opener. It may have not felt like it, but the Cowboys' star running back had a pretty good game versus the Redskins. On 23 carries he had 111 yards and a touchdown, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
In contrast of recent years, Elliott had a great game without the team heavily leaning on the running game. Dak Prescott threw the ball 30 times and Zeke still had a great game. This is what Cowboys Nation should want out of Kellen Moore's offense.
Elliott has two rushing touchdowns in the season, compared to six in all of last year. This is a product of an offense that's now dangerous in many ways, specially in the red zone. You gotta love what Moore is accomplishing so far.
Slow Starts Can't Continue to Happen
The biggest issue with the Cowboys in the first two weeks of the season has been their slow openings. In both games they've started trailing early. The worst thing about it is that it's been due to giving up big plays (like Saquon Barkley's big run in week 1) and quick, unsuccessful drives on offense (like a three-and-out drive followed by a drive that ended in an interception last Sunday).
Fortunately for the Cowboys, the Giants and Redskins didn't pose much of a problem. But when we reach the tougher stretches of the schedule, we know how quickly a game can turn south. Not every rival will be as unforgiving as the 0-2 foes they've faced so far.
Dak Prescott Continues to Prove He's It
Last but not least, we'll talk about Dak Prescott. Once again, he looked great. He finished the day with 269 yards, three touchdowns and an interception that came on a tipped ball from Randall Cobb's hand. He threw an absolute dime to WR Devin Smith, giving him his ninth 50+ yard touchdown pass of his career (ranking third in the NFL since 2016 behind Tom Brady and Philip Rivers).
All game long, he was precise against Washington's defense. He dealt three touchdowns to three different players and was making throws with anticipation and poise. If you're not sold on Dak Prescott yet, I don't know if you'll ever be.
He also looked well as a runner, specially on that 42-yard run where he stiffed arm Josh Norman. I hope the Cowboys continue to use him in the running game.
Brees Out for 6 Weeks, How Much Will Cowboys Win Streak Last?
The Dallas Cowboys are off to a hot start in 2019. Two weeks into the season, they're showing off a 2-0 record as they've outscored their opponents 66-38. The offense has been on point through two games under Kellen Moore's coordination. There have been some issues, but these have been largely outnumbered by the positive things.
Truth be told, such a start was expected. Well, maybe not Dak's seven touchdowns and 674 yards, but having two wins to start off the season certainly was. The Cowboys opening three-game stretch looked like an easy one from miles away. Dallas faces the Miami Dolphins next Sunday and they're already favorites by 20.5 points in the betting world.
Things weren't expected to heat up for the Cowboys until week 4 and now it seems like that won't happen.
New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees suffered a hand injury against the L.A. Rams last Sunday and will require surgery. A torn ligament on his throwing hand thumb will keep him out for at least six weeks. This is a heavy blow for a team expected to be a Super Bowl contender.
From our breaking news segment on @nflnetwork: #Saints QB Drew Brees needs thumb surgery and is out for roughly 6 weeks. Teddy Bridgewater is the new starter. https://t.co/x4g6yVVIZm
With Teddy Bridgewater set to become the Saints' starting quarterback, odds will likely shift in the Cowboys' direction when both teams face each other on September 29th, a matchup that will take place under the lights on Sunday Night Football.
For the Cowboys, it means an increased chance of winning on week 4. I'm not going to lie to you, I would 100% rather face a Saints team with Drew Brees under center to enjoy a good football game, but it is what it is. You hate to see a great football player like Brees deal with injuries like this.
The Saints are still a very complete football team and shouldn't be underestimated, but it's hard to picture them being as productive offensively without their elite quarterback. Having said that, the Cowboys' schedule looks very favorable for Dallas.
These are the rivals that the Cowboys will face prior to the bye week:
- VS Miami Dolphins
- @ New Orleans Saints
- VS Green Bay Packers
- @ New York Jets
- vs Philadelphia Eagles
The toughest rivals on that slate are clearly the Packers and Eagles. It won't be easy, but should the Cowboys stay healthy, beating both definitely seems possible. Before that, I won't be surprised if the Cowboys reach the bye week with a 7-0 record.
This team has been pretty impressive through two weeks and if they clean up their slow starts, watch out for a long win streak. Looking at the games after the bye week, the biggest challenge definitely are the New England Patriots on week 12.
I don't want to sound overly optimistic, but I truly believe a long win streak is ahead of the Dallas Cowboys. Such a start to the season wouldn't be all that new for the Dak Prescott "era." Although they lost their season opener in 2016, they went on to win 11 straight on route to the #1 seed in the NFC.
We'll have a better idea of where the Cowboys stand after they face better competition. Right now, we need to handle the hype of a satisfying 2-0 record.
How long do you think the Cowboys win streak will last?
REPORT: Cowboys S Xavier Woods Out 4-6 Weeks With Ankle Injury
Another tough injury coming out of last week's game against Washington; Cowboys starting Safety Xavier Woods is now expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a high ankle sprain injury.
This comes just a day after Dallas lost WR Michael Gallup for 2-4 weeks after surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
Cowboys FS Xavier Woods is expected to miss four to six weeks with a high ankle sprain, source said. A blow to the secondary with #Saints, #Packers among upcoming opponents.
The next man up at safety appears to be Darian Thompson, who has been with the Cowboys since midway through the 2018 season. He was re-signed as a free agent last March and is one of the key reasons that Dallas chose not to keep veteran George Iloka at final cuts.
Cowboys S Darian Thompson will make his first start Sunday since joining team in 2018, source said. S Xavier Woods is sidelined with high ankle sprain.
Earlier this morning, it was reported that Dallas is working out free agent safety Josh Jones. He was a 2nd-Round pick of the Packers in 2017 who was released last month after falling down the depth chart and demanding a trade.
Dallas still has Kavon Frazier and Donovan Wilson on the roster for safety depth. While many fans would love to see Wilson get the start this week, Darian Thompson's game and athleticism are more suited to play the free safety role.
Thompson also has experience, having started 17 games from 2016-2017 with the New York Giants. He was their 3rd-Round pick in 2016.
Thankfully, this Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins gives the Cowboys a soft opponent with which to make these adjustments. But missing Xavier Woods is going to hurt; he is a rising star on defense and easily their top player at safety.
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