Stephen Jones and the Dallas Cowboys aren't looking to be big spenders this offseason in free agency. We'll have to see if that remains the case though. Regardless, I thought it would be fun if we take a look at the 2019 free agent class and create a wish list of players the Cowboys could be interested in.
Since this is a wish list I disregarded what it would take for the Cowboys to bring any of these free agents aboard. That after all would take all the fun out of this anyway. This would be much more like how things were handled under Jerry Jones before the salary cap. Can you imagine how exciting this offseason would be if that were still the case?
Let's get started shall we…
Defensive Free Agent Targets
FS, Earl Thomas
As we know, the Dallas Cowboys aggressively tried to work out a trade with the Seattle Seahawks for Free Safety Earl Thomas last season to no avail. With the Seahawks now out of the picture because Thomas is a free agent, the Cowboys can sign him to a contract this offseason without having to surrender a draft pick. Timing is everything.
Thomas is the most likely free agent on this list to land in Dallas in 2019. It's kind of difficult to imagine the Cowboys won't do everything within their power to bring him aboard, especially after pursuing him so aggressively last year. A reunion with Kris Richard could be exactly what he and the Dallas Cowboys need to return to the Super Bowl.
DT, Grady Jarrett
As much as I'd love to see Earl Thomas in a Dallas Cowboys uniform in 2019, I'd much rather have free agent Defensive Tackle Grady Jarrett. This guy might just be the second best DT in the NFL behind Aaron Donald and his ability to impact games as a pass rusher would make the Cowboys defense immensely better.
Jarrett is the perfect under tackle or 3-technique in the Cowboys 4-3 defensive scheme. He has improved every season since entering the league in 2015 and has a total of 14 quarterback sacks in his career, six of which he accumulated this past season. With a defensive line void of much talent, he would immediately upgrade Dallas' front seven and give them a disruptive pass rushing presence in the middle.
DE, Frank Clark
Frank Clark is the defensive end I wanted the Dallas Cowboys to draft with their second round pick in 2015 instead of Randy Gregory, even though he had his off the field problems as well. He has without a doubt had the better career of the two and would create a dynamic duo playing opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. He's accumulated 35 quarterback sacks in his career, 13 of which came in 2018.
Randy Gregory did flash how talented he could be in the second half of the 2018 season, but Clark has proven to be the more consistent DE since entering the league. He is equally effective against the run as he is getting after the QB and his addition would give the Cowboys defense the best pass rushers in the entire league. With him and Lawrence coming off the edges, opposing QBs would have to run for their lives.
Offensive Free Agent Targets
TE, Jared Cook
There's no question the Dallas Cowboys are looking to upgrade their tight end position in the offseason, so why not address the glaring need with the top free agent TE? Although he's 31 years old, Jared Cook would immediately step in as the TE1 in Dallas and become a major asset in the passing game for Dak Prescott.
Jared Cook couldn't have asked for a better time to be hitting the open market. He is coming off a career year in which he caught 68 passes for 896 yards and six touchdowns, his best season yet in the NFL. He's at his best when he's used as a receiver in the passing game, but he's no slouch as a blocker. He would be an upgrade in Dallas, even though Blake Jarwin showed some promise towards the end of the season.
WR, Robby Anderson
The Dallas Cowboys tried to make their offense a little more explosive last season by adding Tavon Austin, but unfortunately that didn't pan out. But just because that didn't work shouldn't keep them from trying again, which is why free agent Robby Anderson would be pretty high on their wish list this offseason. Anderson is however a restricted free agent, but this is a wish list after all so I'm not factoring that in.
Anderson of course isn't without his warts as a player. He has some off the field issues that he needs to clean up, but there's no denying his ability in the passing game. He would give the Cowboys offense that deep threat they've been missing for about a decade now, which would make the passing game all that more potent. The thought of Michael Gallup and Anderson on the outside, with Amari Cooper in the slot would probably give Dak Prescott wet dreams.
RB, Mark Ingram
Despite being a little banged up in 2018, Dallas Cowboys Running Back Ezekiel Elliott still managed to lead the NFL in rushing yards, earning the rushing title for the second time in three years. He is arguably the best RB in the entire league, but it's time to upgrade the backup position behind him in order to keep him as healthy as possible. That's why Mark Ingram should be on the Cowboys free agent wish list.
Ingram would help form a formidable one-two punch with Zeke, more than likely turning the Cowboys offense into the best rushing team in the entire league. That would really play into their blueprint of controlling the time possession with the rushing attack, all the while keeping their defense as fresh as possible to dominate. How exciting would it be to see Zeke and Ingram punishing opposing defenses down after down?
Which free agents do you think would be on the Dallas Cowboys wish list?
Should Cowboys Address TE Need Via Free Agency?
A season after Jason Witten's retirement, the Dallas Cowboys still have a need at tight end. Replacing a future Hall of Famer is no easy feat so it's only logical that it would take longer than a season to feel good about who's in at tight end.
The Cowboys currently have two tight ends who could be pretty serviceable going forward. Fourth round pick Dalton Schultz did a very solid job as the team's TE2, specially toward the second half of the season. He turned into a pretty good run blocker and despite only racking up 116 yards in 12 catches, he's a guy the Cowboys' offense could use even more in the future.
Also on the team is Blake Jarwin, who functioned as the Cowboys' main tight end for most of 2018. His performance against the New York Giants in week 17 made us wonder whether or not he could be an important target on the Cowboys' offense.
These two could very well have more in them than what we've seen. With a new offensive coordinator in town, tight end is a position the Cowboys could start using way more. As Bobby Belt pointed out on Twitter a few weeks ago, Scott Linehan's offense doesn't benefit tight ends very much. Before we give a verdict on what Schultz and Jarwin can do, I'd like to see them work with Kellen Moore's offense.
One thing you consistently see when Scott Linehan takes over an offense is a drop in the starting tight end's production. Randy McMichael, Byron Chamberlain, and Jason Witten all saw drops in yards per catch, receptions per game, and yards per game once Linehan took over.
Here's the thing. If the Cowboys are not taking a tight end in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, are they really upgrading what they already have? I'm not sure we'll be convinced about that if they draft a player for the position until the third or fourth round. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating for the Cowboys drafting a TE in the second round, because I believe there are more pressing needs on the team. However, signing a veteran free agent might be the better option for upgrading the position.
Should a veteran TE be an option?
This year, there are quite a few interesting names in the tight end market. Veterans such as Jared Cook, Tyler Eifert and even Antonio Gates will be looking for a new team pretty soon. I know, that would be "getting older." But it could also mean getting better. Building a solid TE committee with a veteran leading Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz could be the way to go for this football team.
Eifert is a great tight end... when he's on the field. Durability is his biggest weakness, as he hasn't played more than 10 games since 2016. The Cowboys could take a risk on him and constantly rotate him with Jarwin and Schultz. It may be a huge risk, but it could pay off big time. If the price is right, Eifert should be targeted by the front office.
The 2018 Oakland Raiders had a season to forget, winning only four games. Even still, Jared Cook's season was impressive. He finished the year with 896 yards and multiple 100-yard games. The biggest issue with Cook is his age. He turns 32 in April. But hey, he's literally coming off from a career year.
Jesse James is a younger guy who could also be worth it. He's not an a potent receiver, but he gets it done in the passing game and is one hell of a blocker. James could be a legit, cheaper option for the Cowboys in free agency.
There are a lot of names out there the front office could look at. Charles Clay was just released by the Buffalo Bills and Nick Boyle will be looking for new job after new arrivals pushed him out of the Baltimore Ravens' roster just to mention a few names.
We'll see what the front office's plans are soon enough, but right now, I'd say tight end is a need the Dallas Cowboys should at least try to address in free agency instead of the NFL Draft.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Cornerback
Unlike other positions on their roster, cornerback appears ready to off the Dallas Cowboys stability in 2019. However, that doesn't mean the team can just ignore it this offseason. There are still a few decisions to be made.
Thanks to a shrewd move in April of last year, Dallas will be enjoying Byron Jones' services at a bargain. They picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract and will be paying him just $6.3 million next season.
That's a steal for a Pro Bowl corner, who generally make more than double that amount in a single year. But the Cowboys are still left the decision of whether or not to give Jones a long-term deal now or wait until he hits free agency in 2020.
It's easy to say that they should enjoy the discount and worry about it next year. But then you risk a second Pro Bowl trip and the lure of the open market. Byron's asking price could only go up.
Of course, Dallas could then also have the option of using the franchise tag.
Keep in mind that Jones will turn 27 this September. Dallas could decide that it makes sense to play through the rookie deal this year, franchise him in 2020, and then reassess when he's about to turn 29 years old.
If they give Byron a long-term deal now then they'll have to pay him like one of the top corners in football. It may be wise to wait.
Another decision facing the Cowboys is if they think they can improve at the second starting position. It was an up-and-down year for Chidobe Awuzie, but he was playing his best toward the end of the season. Dallas could hope that a second year with Kris Richard's coaching, and just more general growth for a third-year player, will elevate Awuzie's game.
However, with plenty of cap space to work with, Dallas could pursue a solid veteran option and then allow Awuzie to play the nickel role. It would not only perhaps improve the CB2 position but also bolster depth overall.
Speaking of depth, Anthony Brown returns for the final year of his rookie deal. While never spectacular, Brown has been a gem as a former sixth-round pick with 29 career starts. He brings exceptional value and may even compete with Awuzie for the starting job.
While arguably the team's best young corner in 2017, Jourdan Lewis comes into this season with a lot of uncertainty. He fell out of favor last season, perhaps for not fitting the physical style that Richard likes. But he did manage to snag the game-clinching interception in Dallas' upset win over the New Orleans Saints.
If a scheme mismatch is the issue, the Cowboys could look to trade Lewis this offseason. He still has two years left on his rookie deal and was considered a first-round prospect by some in 2017. A cornerback-needy club might have more use for him than Dallas seems to.
If they did move Jourdan, the Cowboys might turn to Donovan Olumba to fill out the depth chart. He was one of their surprising performers in last year's training camp and spent the year on the practice squad. At 6'2", he has the size that the team seems to be looking for now in its corners.
More than likely, Dallas will ride with this group in 2019 with no big changes. I do think a Lewis trade is possible, especially with the Cowboys short on draft picks this year. But don't expect any major cap space or draft capital to go at one of the team's more solid positions.
With all the other work Dallas needs done this offseason, a little stability at cornerback is a luxury.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Center
Even with Dez Bryant's release and Jason Witten's retirement, the loss of Travis Frederick last season may have been the most damaging to the Dallas Cowboys. The team looks forward to getting their All-Pro center back in 2019 while also having a reliable backup still under contract.
Just within the last few weeks, Frederick has provided encouraging updates on his status for next year. It looks like he'll be able to participate in all offseason activities, but the Cowboys would settle for Week One. There appears to be plenty of cushion for that to happen.
Travis' absence in 2018 was seen in various ways. Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times, second-most in all the league, after just 32 and 25 times the previous two seasons. Part of that is missing Frederick's blocking ability, but also the way he would assist with reading the defense and making pre-snap adjustments.
Dallas would've loved having Frederick out there to help Guard Connor Williams, who worked with Travis throughout the offseason only to lose him in late August. It was not an easy way for the rookie to start his career.
We also saw issues in the run game. Even while Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in rushing, short-yardage situations weren't as easy as they used to be. The Rams were able to neutralize the Cowboys' rushing attack in Dallas' playoff loss, something that Frederick might have helped overcome.
This isn't saying that Joe Looney did a bad job. On the contrary, Looney was more than adequate and helped keep Dallas from suffering far greater damage without Frederick.
After Joe's work in 2018, Dallas won't blink at keeping him on the $1 million salary he's due next year. It's a bargain for a backup of his quality, and especially given his versatility as an option at guard as well.
Not only are Frederick and Looney locked in for 2019, but Dallas also still has backup Adam Redmond under contract through next season. He was added after final cuts last year to be Looney's backup and should return to at least help the team through July and August.
With these guys already in place, there's no reason to think that Dallas will give much attention to the center position during the offseason.
At most, a mid-round draft pick might be used on a player who could potentially replace Looney in 2020 as the backup. Joe's contract ends next season, and he could be competitive for starting jobs with other teams at that point.
With lots of other concerns throughout the roster, Dallas is fortunate to have so much security at center. All signs are positive on Travis Frederick's return, and that is a huge boost to the team as it looks to push forward from last year's playoff run.
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