With everything that has been going on the past week, since free agency started, the picture in Dallas not only has changed, but has a whole new color scheme. The releases of Terrell Owens and SS Roy Williams drastically change both the offense and defense, and while one of those positions has been taken care of, for the most part, the safety position still needs help.
Since we last saw Darren Woodson and Roy Williams both back at safety, this team has struggled for consistency at the position, one that requires a fair bit of solid play, great athleticism, and quick thinking.
The release of Owens, merely a year after paying him almost a $13 million signing bonus on a new four year deal, without having seen any solid production from his replacement is a gamble. Albeit one that has been taken already, many fans are concerned about WR Roy Williams and the fact that despite joining the team in week 6 of the 2008 season, he failed to live up to even the number 2 position on the team after Dallas traded multiple picks for him, one of which being a first rounder, and resigned him to a lucrative deal.
But many people seem to forget one thing ... you can find transactions in the NFL where a player warrants a first round pick in a trade without deserving a value that high, but it's hard to say that when a first, third, and seventh round pick were all traded for one guy. Some may point to the near-infamous trade for Joey Galloway a while back, but that situation was different from the one Dallas and Williams are in.
Williams is younger, been stuck on a team that has now posted the worst season record ever, and he still managed to have 1,000+ yard seasons there. To make that deal even sweeter, we now have the quarterback on staff that helped Williams to stand out from the pack a couple of years ago. Sure, Kitna won't play a down, unless Romo is either injured or plays so badly that he's benched, but there's a lot that goes into the relationship on the field for a quarterback and his receiver.
Take it from Kurt Warner who said that he had to re-learn what open meant when he arrived in Arizona and saw Fitzgerald play. Imagine that, a veteran quarterback that led the Greatest Show on Turf to a Super Bowl not so long ago saying that he had to learn what it meant for his number 1 receiver to be open. It comes down to trust, also to experience and to practice, but most of all it means trusting your receiver to take care of business if you get it to him.
Last year, Williams and Romo didn't get a chance to build that trust. Either Romo was hurt and out or playing with that split on his hand, or Owens was making a stink about getting the ball more and his perceived notion that Romo and Witten were hooking up intentionally whenever possible. Whether that was true or not, the distraction it caused leaked onto the field during games, and it hampered the progress of Williams.
Now you might say that with Owens gone you won't have those problems anymore and that that should help, but it goes much deeper than that. You lose some major distractions with Owens gone, but you also make Williams the top guy, a guy who ran the 40 in 4.38 seconds at the 2004 combine. A big, physical receiver that knows how to win the jump ball and has always been a smart route runner. Any of this sound familiar?
He had the number 2 spot in Detroit, but not because he wasn't good enough to be number 1, but because that spot was already filled. He came to Dallas and found the same situation, until now. Now he's the guy that will be on the field every single offensive down, he'll get the practice reps, he'll be the guy Garrett designs the passing game around; he'll be the guy Romo will throw to aside from Witten, he's the new deep guy.
He won't draw double coverage, not at first, but if he can prove that he deserves it just for a couple of games, then he'll get it and free up everything else like Owens did. Then it'll be Jason Garrett's job to make the most of that situation, the defense sacrificing balance to put an extra guy on him. But they'll be doing that anyway because Witten still deserves the double-cover now. If Felix Jones is on the field, linebackers will be keeping a close eye on him just for being there.
It's just going to take time for Williams and Romo to get in sync with each other, and time is what we have right now with the off-season conditioning program scheduled to start in about three weeks.
Things have changed in Dallas; Marion Barber giving two interviews in one day should show that much. On paper it may look like we've taken away talent, but really we've just allowed the talent that's there to step up. We've taken away that constant nagging of the media, the constant speculation that the Dallas locker room is in shambles. That's a remarkable feat in itself, but we do have the talent, and barring any further injuries we've got a roster full of it and with a year of experience for most of these guys.
Things have changed in Dallas, and it's going to be some time for the direction of that change to be fully realized. It's a process that I can't wait to see.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Defensive End
If quarterback is the most important position in football, then the guys who hunt them down might be second. As such, the Dallas Cowboys face a major offseason decision in 2019 when it comes to the free agency of Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence.
This will be Lawrence's second year as an unrestricted free agent, with Dallas retaining him last season using the franchise tag. Even though he accepted it in 2018, DeMarcus swore all the way back in that summer that he wouldn't play for the Cowboys in 2019 if franchised again.
Despite his sack numbers dropping a bit last season, "Tank" remains one of the top defensive ends in the NFL. He is a total package of pass-rushing and run stopping, and he's now given Dallas two-straight Pro Bowl seasons.
If the Cowboys have any plans to contend for a championship next season then they can't risk losing a player like Lawrence. We've seen what this defense looks like without a premiere pass rusher and it isn't pretty.
Of course, Dallas could try to replace DeMarcus with a different free agent signing. If Jadeveon Clowney or Frank Clark avoid being tagged by their own teams, perhaps the Cowboys can lure one of them over. But don't expect any big difference in compensation between these three players.
Whether it's Lawrence or one of the other premiere pass rushers in free agency, you can expect the Cowboys to make one of them their top offseason priority. The greater mystery is if Dallas will make any other moves to upgrade the DE position, or stick with what they've got.
Dallas finally enjoyed some real production out of Randy Gregory in 2018, whose personal issues nearly derailed the talented pass rusher's career. Gregory posted six sacks last season and was starting to look like the Robin to Lawrence's Batman.
Also in the mix is 2017 first-round pick Taco Charlton, who took a backwards step last year and seemed to be in the coaches' doghouse by season's end. Motivation and attitude seem to be an issue for him, and he'll need to step it up this summer if he doesn't want to wind up at the back of the depth chart again.
One of last year's fourth-round picks Dorance Armstrong also returns. He will hopefully be ready to take on a larger role in his second season and provide another pass rushing threat, plus insurance in case Gregory suffers any return of past problems.
If Dallas doesn't make Tyrone Crawford a salary cap casualty, or chooses to re-sign David Irving, those are two other guys who can play some defensive end for you.
Despite these options, the Cowboys could still look at adding another mid-grade free agent for depth and insurance. They could hope for a bargain on veterans like Ezekiel Ansah, Vinny Curry, or Chris Long. They might hope that Rod Marinelli could work his magic on first-round flop Dante Fowler.
Another guy that Dallas might look at is Benson Mayowa, who was with them from 2016-2017 and is a solid player. He spent the last season in Arizona on a one-year deal and is still just 27 years old.
Don't expect much from the draft, barring a major steal presenting itself. The Cowboys have bigger needs with their limited number of 2019 picks, and they also still need to see how recent selections like Charlton and Armstrong play out.
This offseason is all about DeMarcus Lawrence, or at least one of the other marquee free agents at defensive end. Some supplemental moves are possible, but arguably the biggest move Dallas makes the next few months is either retaining or replacing their top pass rusher.
Offense or Defense, Which Should be the Cowboys Main Offseason Focus?
The Dallas Cowboys offseason should be approached like a puzzle. You have to know what the picture looks like beforehand before you start grabbing random pieces to try to fit them together. Keeping that in mind, I thought it be a good idea if we take a look at the Cowboys offense and defense to try to determine which one needs the most attention.
It may be somewhat surprising, but the Dallas Cowboys pretty much have the entire puzzle almost put together. There is just a few missing pieces they need to add, but for the most part the team that will take the field when the 2019 season kicks off is already in place.
There isn't going to be much roster turnover this offseason. Nearly all of the starters will return for the upcoming season on both sides of the ball, meaning the Cowboys are in good shape as far as having the teams nucleolus in place. In fact, there might be just one or two starting positions up for grabs on offense and defense.
Let's take a look…
Dallas Cowboys Offense
As things stand right now before any moves are made in free agency or through the draft, the Dallas Cowboys offense may have just two starting spots up for grabs. But, even that's just a guesstimate because we still don't really know what the future holds for Center Travis Frederick, even though all signs point to him making a triumphant return to the starting lineup.
The way I see it though, the Cowboys will need to find someone to replace Cole Beasley in the passing game and also add a starting caliber tight end. That's it really as far as the starters are concerned. There is however need for more depth at several positions such as backup running back and offensive tackle, but those aren't necessarily "needs". I'd say they're in pretty good shape offensively compared to years past.
Dallas Cowboys Defense
Surprisingly enough, the Dallas Cowboys really don't have any glaring needs on the defensive side of the ball either. After finishing as one of the top defensive units in 2018, they will have nearly all of their starters returning for the 2019 season. But much like on the offensive side of the ball, there could be two starting spots up for grabs.
The Cowboys will have to find someone to replace Damien Wilson as the starting strong side linebacker and potentially a new starting strong safety. That's really the only starting positions I believe are up for grabs on defense. But like the offense, they could stand to add more depth and competition throughout the defense, especially along the defensive line. But again, there really isn't a glaring "need" they absolutely have to address.
Verdict: Cowboys Offense
Even though the Dallas Cowboys offense and defense seems to be pretty evenly matched as to how many starting positions are up for grabs, the offense looks to be the one that needs just a little bit more help. The defense proved in 2018 they are someone to be reckoned with and with the loss of just Damien Wilson, that shouldn't change. The same can't be said about the offense though.
If Cole Beasley does indeed leave via free agency, that's a big blow to the passing game. But, it's not just him. Other than their rushing attack, the Cowboys offense was ranked in the bottom half of the league in nearly every other category. With Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan now gone we can hope that improves, but that doesn't mean improving the offense shouldn't be the Cowboys main offseason focus though.
Of course, this is just my opinion and you are more than welcome to agree or disagree with it. But, when the free agency and NFL draft ball finally starts rolling, I expect most of the Cowboys offseason moves to be on the offensive side of the ball. Improving things around Quarterback Dak Prescott would seem like the wise thing to do after all, especially since he's about to be paid quite handsomely.
Which side of the ball do you think needs more help this offseason?
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Quarterback
The Dallas Cowboys have plenty of work to do to restock and refine their roster in the hope of improving of last year's playoff run. We'll be looking at all of the 2019 needs for this offseason in the coming days, and we're going to start with paramount position of quarterback.
Unlike most spots on the team, the quarterbacks don't have anyone with an expiring contract this year. Both Dak Prescott and Cooper Rush will be in the final year of their deals, while Mike White still has three years left on his rookie contract.
Despite this, Prescott's contract is still one the hottest issues the Cowboys face this offseason. They must decide if they want to go ahead and lock him up now to a long-term extension, or wait and see how Dak performs in his fourth season.
It's a real dilemma for Dallas. One the one hand, Prescott already has two Pro Bowls, two division titles, and all winning seasons on his three-year resume. However, he's also had ongoing accuracy issues and problems with consistent productivity in an increasingly pass-focused league.
Given what he's already accomplished, Dak can command a pretty sizable contract in current negotiations. Just within the week he's already commented on not planning to give the Cowboys a discount in his next deal.
If Dallas waits another year then they risk that price tag going up. They could be competing with the open market, or what if Prescott leads the team to the NFC Championship or beyond in 2019?
If Dak's camp is already going to be aggressive in contract negotiations this year, then there's a case to be made for just waiting. Let him play on his bargain $2.14 million cap hit and use the savings to load up on talent for a championship run. The team will still have resources to re-sign Prescott in 2020, or even franchise tag him, if that's their choice.
However that situation goes, we know that Dak is the starter in 2019. But even though Cooper Rush and Mike White are both due to return next season, should the Cowboys be satisfied with that QB depth chart?
As I wrote about earlier this week, Dallas has good reason to look at adding a veteran passer to the mix this offseason. If Rush and White beat him out, that's great. But if not, it adds an experienced voice to help Dak Prescott in this critical upcoming year.
You can go a few different ways. Some of the projected free agents can match Prescott's mobile style, such as Tyrod Taylor, Trevor Siemian, or Robert Griffin III. Others give you the experience edge such as Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, or Matt Schaub.
It doesn't seem likely that the Cowboys would draft another QB after just taking Mike White last year with a fifth-round pick. Unless they are moving to a completely different philosophy, Dallas will likely give White at least another year or two to develop as a mid-round selection.
Ideally, at least one of White or Cooper Rush will show some growth this year and inspire confidence as the immediate backup. But adding a veteran for competition certainly couldn't hurt, and Dallas has the cap space to do it.
Thankfully, everything that Dallas might have to do this offseason at quarterback is optional. They can choose whether or not to redo Prescott's contract, or whether or not to pursue upgrades behind him. There is no gaping hole being created by a potential free agent departure.
The Cowboys have the power now, but that can quickly change next season once Dak's a free agent. That's why they still have a big decision to make in 2019.
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