Though they may not have been the moves that many in Cowboys Nation were hoping for heading into the offseason, the Dallas Cowboys were very active after the initial free agent spending spree the first week of free agency. While several teams paid a ton of money to during the initial stages, the Cowboys took a breath and continued to execute their game plan.
The Cowboys' front office stuck to their game plan of filling their needs in the free agent pool to allow them to stay true to their draft board. When the NFL Draft comes at the end of the month, the Cowboys won't be locked into needing to draft any particular position.
As far as free agency the Cowboys are concerned, mission accomplished.
So, before the draft comes, let's take a look at each move and the significance of the acquisition power rankings style.
1. Robert Quinn, Defensive End
Robert Quinn comes to the Dallas Cowboys with 69 sacks over his eight year career and is a starter at right defensive end day one. Yes, he comes with some injury concerns, but over the last couple of years, he's only missed two games (in 2017), while compiling 15 sacks combined.
In the five seasons in which Quinn started at least 14 games, he's averaged 11 sacks a season. Even if you take away the 19 that he had in 2012, Quinn still averaged nine sacks a season in the other four years where he started at least 14 games.
He brings speed, agility, bend, and finish to the right side of the defensive line and is a player that demands attention in addition to Cowboys All-Pro Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence.
When the Cowboys line up in September, they'll feature one of the best pass rush duos in the NFL. Getting Quinn for a 2020 sixth round pick and a reduced contract, is a huge get for the Cowboys front office. No other move will have as much of an impact as Quinn will on the Dallas Cowboys in 2019.
2. Kerry Hyder, Defensive Line
They say that you can never have too many pass rushers, and while many would point to Randall Cobb as the next most important signing to Robert Quinn, I'd argue that it's Defensive Lineman Kerry Hyder.
YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY PASS RUSHERS!!!
Hyder comes over from the Detroit Lions where he spent 2018 playing nose tackle for Matt Patricia's 3-4 defense. At 270 pounds.
I don't know what Hyder did to Matt Patricia for the Lions head coach to play him that out of position, but Hyder was incredibly undersized to play the 0-tech defensive tackle position.
In 2017, Hyder tore his achilles and that was a year after he exploded for eight sacks in 2016 after playing a full season for the first time in his career. Eight sacks are nothing to sneeze at. In Hyder, you have a player who can play inside at 3-tech and then also play defensive end on both ends of the line.
If he can find some of that pass rush magic from 2016, the Cowboys are getting another pass rusher with inside and outside ability like Tyrone Crawford. With Hyder's ability to play inside, you could potentially see a third and long situation with Quinn, Hyder, Crawford, and Lawrence all playing together.
That gives me visions of the 2007 New York Giants team that would rush four defensive ends on passing downs.
3. Randall Cobb, Wide Receiver
Is Randall Cobb as good as Cole Beasley in creating separation? No. Is Randall Cobb a good slot wide receiver? Absolutely.
Cobb's a different player than Beasley, but he's every bit the player. Cobb is a good route runner. He's not necessarily as quick as Beasley is, but he finds a way to make things happen in the slot and can beat one-on-one coverage and find holes in the zone.
Per Next Gen Stats, Randall Cobb and Cole Beasley both created 2.9 yards of separation at the catch point in 2018.
What Cobb brings to the table is a player who can play on the outside of the formation as well as in the slot. This allows you to move Amari Cooper around the formation more, which gives your WR1 more favorable matchups.
4. Christian Covington, Defensive Tackle
It was clear in the Los Angeles Rams game that the Dallas Cowboys defensive interior struggled against the Rams interior offensive line. Some of it was the matchup, but some of it was related to injuries and an illness to Antwaun Woods and Maliek Collins. They were overmatched on the night and the Dallas Cowboys defense had a difficult time slowing down the Rams running game.
The Cowboys have made strides to rectify that by bringing in Christian Covington who played for the Houston Texans in 2018. Playing defensive end in the Texans 3-4, Covington had 3.5 sacks. At more than 300 pounds, he projects to join Woods in the 1-tech defensive tackle rotation.
For a defense that played really well all season and especially against the run, it was a let down. Now with two legit run stoppers, and Covington bringing some pass rush ability to the 1-tech spot, the Cowboys will have more waves of lineman to throw at opposing offenses and will be able to stay fresh.
5. Cameron Fleming, Offensive Tackle
Amidst all the new players coming to town, one of the more underrated moves this offseason was bringing back Cameron Fleming to be the swing tackle for 2019 and potentially be the starting right tackle in 2020.
Over the last three seasons, Left Tackle Tyron Smith has missed games. In 2017, not having an adequate replacement for the All-Pro pretty much ruined the season for the Dallas Cowboys.
Fleming, who wasn't perfect in 2018, is a reliable back up that can play both sides of the offensive line and with La'el Collins set to be a free agent in 2020, the Cowboys have some veteran insurance if they decide to move on from their starting right tackle.
Having the ability to call upon a reserve offensive lineman who has started a Super Bowl is a really nice luxury to have for the Dallas Cowboys. If they do suffer an injury at tackle, the Cowboys may not have an equal replacement, but they have an adequate replacement to fill in.
6. Jason Witten, Tight End
Admittedly, I've had reservations about bringing Jason Witten back. Particularly as it relates to the snap counts of Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz. Witten is no doubt at the end of his career in the NFL and there's no telling how the year-long lay off will impact his play in 2019, but having one of the most important leaders this franchise has had in the 21st century can't be a bad thing.
The reports are that Witten will only play around 20-30 snaps a game and while that potentially cuts into the development of Jarwin and Schultz, Witten is still a player that can impact the game for you. Especially on third downs and in the red zone.
More importantly, he's veteran insurance if the draft doesn't fall how the Cowboys like to select a tight end or in the event that Jarwin or Schultz don't take a step forward in 2019. Having a future Hall of Famer and one of the best tight ends to ever play the position as insurance is an amazing luxury for a team that will contend for the playoffs again in 2019.
7. George Iloka, Safety
The Dallas Cowboys safety group needed an infusion of new blood at the position and so far, it comes in the form of veteran George Iloka. Now, he doesn't move the needle near as much as Landon Collins or Earl Thomas would have, but he's a solid player to put in the safety rotation with Jeff Heath and has some flexibility to back up at free safety as well.
The thing about the Iloka move is that it doesn't prevent the Dallas Cowboys from drafting a safety in the second or third round with the hopes they will be a starter in the NFL .
8. Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver/Returner
I know this didn't get met with as much fanfare as some of the other moves, but I really like the resigning of Wide Receiver Tavon Austin. Especially, if they make Tavon Austin the full-time kick and punt returner.
He showed way too much flash in the Seattle game returning five punts for 75 yards, including one that nearly went for a touchdown. Why the coaching staff seemed reluctant to let Austin field all of the punts in 2018 is beyond me. They didn't really play him much otherwise.
He's a dynamic weapon with the ball in his hands, so it would stand to reason that you want to give him opportunities to have the ball in his hands. As the full-time returner, he'd get 3-5 touches in the punt return game.
The only reason I have him so low on my list is fear that the Cowboys may not give him a full shot at being a full-time returner. If there was a known commitment to that, then I'd easily bump him up a few spots, because he has that kind of game-changing ability.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
There's a lot of time left for the Dallas Cowboys roster to take shape and six picks to make in the 2019 NFL Draft that will have an impact on how the final 53-man roster looks come September, but the work they've done so far this offseason has been pretty good.
This team still has some holes, but every team in the NFL does. The Dallas Cowboys continue to minimize weaknesses through free agency while not breaking the bank to do so. As we sit here in early April, there's no doubt that the Dallas Cowboys are a better team now than they were in January.
Predicting Dallas Cowboys Roster Locks, Pre-Training Camp Edition
With the Dallas Cowboys training camp just around the corner, I thought it would be a good idea to draw attention to their current roster. From top to bottom, the Cowboys have one of the deepest rosters at their disposable heading into the 2019 season. But in order to get under the league mandated 53-man roster Dallas will have to release quite a few talented players.
With that in mind, I thought I'd take a shot at predicting which Dallas Cowboys players should be considered roster locks right now. I tried to narrow down to the players who I am the most confident in right now, not the ones who can eventually secure a roster spot at some point in training camp or preseason.
I should probably warn you right now… I tried to avoid any "pet cats", roster bubble guys, or players I would personally pound the table for. The players listed below are the ones I'm nearly 100% sure make the Dallas Cowboys final 2019 53-man roster.
Dallas Cowboys 35 Roster Locks
|RB||Ezekiel Elliott||Tony Pollard|
|WR||Amari Cooper||Michael Gallup||Randall Cobb|
|OL||Tyron Smith||Connor Williams||Travis Frederick||Zack Martin||La'el Collins||Cameron Fleming||Connor McGovern|
|DE||DeMarcus Lawrence||Robert Quinn||Dorrance Armstrong||Tyrone Crawford|
|DT||Antwaun Woods||Maliek Collins||Tryston Hill|
|LB||Sean Lee||Jaylon Smith||Leighton Vander Esch||Joe Thomas|
|CB||Byron Jones||Chidobe Awuzie||Anthony Brown||Jourdan Lewis|
|S||Xavier Woods||Jeff Heath||George Iloka||Donovan Wilson|
|ST||Chris Jones||L.P. Ladouceur|
35 out of 53 may seem like a low number of Dallas Cowboys players who I believe have already locked up a roster spot, but with the depth this team has it's really not. There's no way of really knowing how many players the Cowboys will keep at each position, which makes predicting these roster locks that much more difficult. Regardless though, the 35 players listed above are the ones I am the most confident about.
Biggest Surprise Roster Locks
If you look over the 35 players who I believe have locked up a roster spot already, there's not a whole lot of surprises. I think the only player I would consider a surprise would be Safety Donovan Wilson. As a rookie, and a sixth-round pick at that, Wilson seems like a longshot to even make the final 53-man roster, but not if you look at the current the depth at the position. I believe all he has to do is beat out Kavon Frazier, which shouldn't be that difficult.
The only other player that could possibly be a surprise is Cornerback Jourdan Lewis. The only reason I mention him is because the Cowboys "supposedly" put him on the trade block last year. I think they've learned though he is someone who needs more playing time, which is why I have him listed above.
Biggest Surprise Roster Snubs
You may have noticed a few names who I snubbed as roster locks for the Dallas Cowboys, but which ones were the biggest surprises?
The first player you may have noticed missing was WR/RB Tavon Austin. He's a dynamic player when he can get the ball in space, especially in the return game, but in no way do I view him as a roster lock this year. Tony Pollard, the Cowboys third-round pick this year, is a similar player that could make Austin expendable.
The next player you may have noticed missing is C/OG Joe Looney. He filled in nicely for Travis Frederick last year and quite possibly saved the Cowboys 2018 season. His versatility to play along the OL could be important, but rookie C/OG Connor McGovern could fill that role as well. Despite that though, Looney still has a good chance to make the final 53-man roster.
The last player I think who might be a surprise is Defensive End Taco Charlton. He is entering the ever important Year 3 with the Dallas Cowboys, but despite being a former first-round pick he's no sure bet that to make the roster. The Cowboys have some talented depth at DE who could push Charlton off the roster.
Who would be your Dallas Cowboys roster locks ahead of training camp?
Should Cowboys Consider Bringing Back Alex Tanney as Backup QB?
If the Dallas Cowboys aren't happy about their quarterback depth by the end of preseason, they should be looking to add someone from other teams' roster cuts. One player that could become available is a former Cowboy, Alex Tanney, and he may be one of the best options they'll have.
Tanney is currently with the New York Giants and served as Eli Manning's backup last year. He's floated around the NFL since going undrafted in 2012, being part of eight different teams.
Alex's tenure in Dallas came in 2013 when the Cowboys signed him just before training camp. Tanney flashed his potential during the preseason but it wasn't enough to get him on the 53-man roster. Dallas kept just two QBs that year, Tony Romo and Kyle Orton, and signed Tanney to their practice squad.
In November of that season, the Cleveland Browns poached Alex and signed him to their roster. Then came a series of stops with other teams' practice squad before finally landing with the Tennessee Titans, where he got his first and only playing time in a regular season game.
In 2015, Tanney finished the Titans meaningless regular-season finale. He completed 10-of-14 passes for 99 yards and one touchdown.
After spending last year with the Giants as the backup QB but never having to play, Tanney re-signed with New York for a two year deal this past March. But that was before the Giants spent their first-round pick on QB Daniel Jones
New York has kept three quarterbacks on the roster the last two years, but only kept two in 2016. With a clear top-two of Manning and Jones, and Daniel obviously their QB of the future, could they decide to let their other passers go at final cuts?
By only giving Tanney $75,000 in guaranteed money on his new contract, the Giants certainly left themselves the option of cutting him.
Alex Tanney now has seven years of NFL experience with multiple teams. He'll have just spent a full year and a second offseason with one of the Cowboys' division rivals, perhaps offering some insights into Pat Shurmur's system.
Ideally, the Cowboys will be content at quarterback if Cooper Rush or Mike White can earn their confidence over the next two months. But after reported struggles from both during mini-camps and OTAs, there is reason for concern.
This will all be moot, of course, if the Giants decide to keep Alex as a their third quarterback. But there is reason to think he could hit the open market, and if so he may be one of the few decent options that Dallas has to try and improve their QB depth.
In the end, Alex Tanney may not be a better option than Rush or White. But if the Cowboys find themselves desperate by September, he should at least be worth a second look.
Saints WR Michael Thomas Will Drive Up Price for Cowboys’ Amari Cooper
Since he became part of the Dallas Cowboys, Amari Cooper has proved himself worthy of a long-term contract extension. The offense saw a complete turnaround once the former Oakland Raider arrived, picking up way more first downs and moving the ball down the field. With a solid #1 wide receiver, Dak Prescott's game improved and with it, the rest of the offensive performance. At this point, most of Cowboys Nation agrees on how important Amari Cooper is for the Cowboys' future.
At only 25 years old, Cooper has an entire career ahead of him. He's young, yet experienced. The front office is aiming to make Dak Prescott the team's quarterback in the long-term and it only makes sense to give him such a strong weapon in the passing game.
However, if the Cowboys are to keep Cooper, they are to pay a price tag. An expensive one. And the more time they take to sign him, the more they'll have to pay. Of course, this is true in just about every position in the NFL. But when it comes to WR, there's a bit more urgency.
Both Julio Jones and Michael Thomas, two of the best in the game, are seeking long-term extensions. Now granted, these two players may be in different scenarios given their ages (Julio is 30, Michael is 26) and the fact that Jones still has two remaining years on his current contract. Even still, both are in the discussion for being the top receiver in the NFL. In other words, they could be asking to become the highest paid receivers in the league.
In fact, Michael Thomas is reportedly asking for $22M per year. To put it in perspective, Odell Beckham's contract with the Browns, which made him the top paid receiver, averages $18M annually. Thomas is absolutely great, but he's asking for too much money. Whether he'll get it or not remains to be seen.
As much as we love Amari Cooper, he isn't in the conversation for being the best wide receiver in the NFL like Thomas is. Despite that, he'll surely land among the highest-paid. For Cooper, it seems like the floor for his deal is Adam Thielen's contract with the Minnesota Vikings, which averages $16.2M per year. He isn't getting paid anything less than that.
The ceiling though, could drastically change. He's not going to become the top paid in the league, but he could be very close. The thing is, that number could change quickly. At the moment, Odell Beckham sits atop the NFL pass-catchers averaging 18 million. We can only guess, but that could lead to Cooper getting paid around $17M per year.
But if Michael Thomas or Julio Jones get their deals done before, that price could drastically go up. If Thomas gets what he wants (and it's a big if), the ceiling for Cooper's annual salary would have become $4M more expensive.
Hopefully, the Dallas Cowboys get a deal done quickly. Amari Cooper is a great player, and in less than a season he clicked with Dak Prescott, who's also waiting for payday. Right now, we can only be glad neither is threatening to hold out and both are excited for training camp.
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