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The Cowboys Will Have Some Tough Decisions this Offseason

Who Are the Cowboys Keeping in 2021?

This season for the Dallas Cowboys has been terrible, to put it lightly. Combined with a worldwide pandemic, injuries and a serious drop in valued play have plagued the team this year in a season that had Super Bowl aspirations.

Right from before the opening kick off of the season, injuries were hit and they were hit hard. Each of the following players has missed either the whole season, the majority of the season, or won’t return this season at all: Gerald McCoy, La’el Collins, Leighton Vander Esch, Sean Lee, Anthony Brown, Chidobe Awuzie, Blake Jarwin, Brandon Knight, Trevon Diggs, Tyron Smith, and most devastating of all, Dak Prescott.

Very little has gone right this year for Dallas and what’s worse is that this offseason, there’s going to be some really tough decisions to make concerning this roster. Who’s getting extended? Who’s walking? Who’s getting cut?

Starting with the obvious, Dak Prescott took a shot on himself and played on the franchise tag. He was on a historic pace before suffering a compound fracture that ended his season.

However, he might have earned more money by not playing, allowing everyone to see what the team looks like without him. Whether it’s been Ben DiNicci, Andy Dalton, or Garrett Gilbert, the offense takes a noticeable dip, and as a result, the Cowboys have been on the losing end.

The franchise tag for next year is going to go up from $31.4 million to around $37-$38.5 million. There’s no way Jerry and company will want to have to eat all of that on next year’s cap.

Plus with Deshaun Watson having signed his deal in the offseason, and quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen both eligible for contract extensions, Prescott’s asking price now starts at $42 million per year. Unless the Cowboys finish last in the league with a shot to draft Trevor Lawrence (unlikely), there are no quarterbacks in the draft better than Dak at this juncture. He’s likely going nowhere.

But can the team afford to take on another max extension? They’ve already got contracts on players that fans and writers are split on like Ezekiel Elliott, Jaylon Smith, and Tyrone Crawford. Crawford is an unrestricted free agent and it’s easy to say that his play has diminished as he readies to turn 32 next season. However, his value as a team captain and experience might be enough for the Cowboys to bring him back on a team-friendly deal.

Jaylon Smith and Ezekiel Elliott both are among the team’s highest-paid players, with a combined cap figure of $23.5 million going into next year. The fact that Smith leads the team in tackles and Elliott is still on pace for another 1,000-yard season, hasn’t taken away from the criticism both players have gotten – that their play has been inconsistent and has people wondering if there’s an out.

Assuming the Cowboys were looking for cap relief, a trade would be the first preferred option but it might be hard to find a trade partner willing to take on their contracts. If they were cut, Smith carries over $9 million in dead money and $24.5 million for Elliott. It’s probably better to keep them on the roster through next season with their respected cap figures both dropping.

Aside from Tyrone Crawford, other aging vets that are key players but have had health issues are Tyron Smith and Sean Lee. There’s no doubting their value and skill when they’re both on the field, but the key words are on the field, and health issues have plagued both of them during their time with the team.

Sean Lee is only on a one year deal, so it could just be as easy as not resigning Lee in the offseason, but playing on a team-friendly deal in a position that could use the depth might have the team reconsider bringing him back on another team-friendly deal.

Tyron Smith is still among the very best at his position, but he’s been bit many times by the injury bug. Having only played in two games this year before landing on season-ending IR, this marks the fifth year in a row that he’s been unable to play all 16 games.

If there was ever a year for the Cowboys to move on, it would be this year; he’s owed no more guaranteed money, he turns 31 next season, and this year’s draft has a lot of promising players at offensive tackle.

No one wants to see Tyron Smith go, for obvious reasons. He’s a future Hall of Famer and one of the best, but he’s in a similar boat that the Cowboys had with Dez Bryant a few years back. They’ll have to factor everything when deciding if their franchise left tackle returns.

In the cases of first-time extensions, the Cowboys 2017 rookie class was filled with misses, a few hits, and some players who are completely out of the league. For a reminder, their draft that year went was as followed:

  • Taco Charlton
  • Chidobe Awuzie
  • Jourdan Lewis
  • Ryan Switzer
  • Xavier Woods
  • Marquez White
  • Joey Ivie
  • Noah Brown
  • Jordan Carroll

Only Awuzie, Lewis, Woods, and Brown are left on the team.

Awuzie and Lewis provide solid depth but the team is likely going to look to upgrade the position. With this year’s second-round pick, Trevon Diggs, returning next year, and Anthony Brown slated to be the team’s starting nickel corner, the team might be better off letting both of them walk if they can agree on terms.

Xavier Woods has arguably been the best player from the draft class. He’s been one of the more consistent players in the team’s secondary over the last few seasons. The thought up to this point seems to be that he’ll be back next year. Woods hasn’t been flashy, but he’s been a reliable starter who won’t cost as much to keep and could end up being the only remaining player from the 2017 draft class.

The case for Noah Brown returning is what he does well aside from playing receiver. On the depth chart, he’s fifth behind the starting trio and Cedrick Wilson. His best assets to the team are his great play on special teams and his skill as a blocker in the run game.

Our own John Williams even coined him as the team’s “Light End” because of his frequent use as an H-back, size, skills as a blocker, and reliable receiving ability. He could be a cheap, underrated re-signing that helps the team in more areas than one.

What do you think?

Shane Carter

Written by Shane Carter

Lifelong Cowboys fan, who doesn’t mind telling the harsh truth. I’ve got a Bachelors Degree in Electronic Media and Communications from Texas Tech University. I welcome all opinions but I will shut down any troll.

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  1. Nothing will change until football people start making decisions and someone without Jones as a last name is doing it the Joneses get too attached to slightly above average players and pay them like HOFers this is not a winning formula I don’t believe they will ever win another Super Bowl with the Joneses running the team

  2. Once upon a sign in Dak Prescott to 43 million dollar contract a year if you can’t put a good team around him only one quarterback I’m sorry too worth that a year That’s mahomes and Wilson

  3. Until Jerry Jones becomes either incapacitated or dies this is what fans can expect. This team will continue to be mediocre because Jerry Jones is defiant to prove to himself that he’s a football man. He is not and neither is Stephen. Jerry is a great business man and that’s it. He’s too selfish and proud to admit he’s the problem. Let’s face it Mom and Pop operations work for small little businesses not a multi billion dollar business.

  4. Hate to say it, but J Smith should go. Zeke, maybe not, because of the big money hit, but we need to augment the RB position. Cut Crawford. Unfortunately, T Smith is getting injured too often to keep. Sean Lee should retire and join the coaching staff.

    Desperately need help at DT, LB, O-Line. Upgrade RB, CB positions.

    Don’t agree that only QB T Lawrence would suffice to replace Prescott and his albatross contract demands. There is one, possibly two others that may work out. Of course, there are risks in drafting any player. However, with the injury and the lack of postseason success in almost five of years now, there is conversely a risk of of long terming Prescott. Look how long terming Zeke, et al, have worked out. BTW, “Cowboys have been on the losing end” this year most of the time even when Prescott was on the field.

  5. I think Dak has showed his value more as a heart and soul guy than anything. He kept us competitive in every game until he went down. Its the defense that is porous but is now starting to figure it out. If anyone needs to go its Zeke. He’s just taking touches away from Pollard at this point and Pollard by far is the superior explosive runner. I feel like we have an embarrassment of riches at WR too. I can see teams offering up draft comp for Coop or Gallup. As for the oline, Brandon Knight has been sneaky good and effective. Would like to see us move on from Smith and give him a shot. The problem is Jerry thinks with his head and not his heart more often than not.

  6. J Smith may lead in tackles, but most are made well passed the line. LVE, was injured, and will probably pass him. 1000 yards in 16 games is no longer the great feat it was when 12 games were a season. Because of the dead money, hard to get rid of Zeke, but he is OBVIOUSLY no longer the player he once was, plus now FUMBLES TO HURT ANY MOMENTUM. But if they want to bite the bullet and get rid of both, I can see the reasoning.

    I understand the attraction for Prescott. He put up some glowing stats in the beginning of the year. However most of that was done AFTER the other team had huge leads of 30+ points in third and fourth quarters. That is where you have to ask yourself, was the other team on cruise control. My guess is probably, yes.

    Prescott keeping us “competitive” but losing the game is STILL LOSING. Garrett Gilbert kept us very “competitive” against our toughest opponent the year, the Steelers, with shot at winning with the last play of the game. Is Prescott the only QB that can keep us “competitive”, NO. Dalton beat a decent Vikings team, scoring over 30 points. He played well against Washington, despite the lopsided score. Losing both OTs, Lamb dropped TD pass, another Zeke fumble, bad fake punt, slow J Smith getting caught from behind with pick six, etc etc, etc.

    At the end of the day, if Jones long term Prescott, thats on him. Time will tell if Prescott is the answer to getting us to a SUPER BOWL. Personally so far, I don’t see it. ONE postseason win in five years, should give one a good indication of his limitations.

    I’ve been following this team for 50+ year. I’ve seen the Staubachs and Aikmans. Players that have that clutch gene to make the clutch plays to seal the win. I didn’t see it with Romo and sadly I just don’t see it with Prescott. Maybe competitive, but just not enough in the end.

    Of course I could be wrong, and have to eat crow in the end. It’s been a long time since even a sniff at a SUPER BOWL, and if Prescott can get us there, GREAT. We will see.

  7. Ive been a Cowboys fan since 1975. This year has been a joke, Ive never turned off Cowboys games or refused to watch them til this year. Every year they are hyped up to win the Superbowl, but never get there. J Jones needs to stay away from reporters and realize that this team is no longer america’s team. The only reason for the ratings, is pissed off viewers are outraged about having to watch Dallas every week, that they tune in hoping to see them lose, regardless of who their opponents are. Sick as it may seem, people love to see the Cowboys lose. Stop holding press conferences, and try to figure out how to win a conference.

  8. 1)Tank the rest of the season,
    2)Draft Trevor Lawrence
    3) and spend the ridiculous “Dac” money on rebuilding your offensive line and your defensive secondary.

  9. So Dalton or Gilbert has that Aikman clutch gene? Lol Based on a couple of solid performances we’re ready to roll with Dalton or the journeyman Gilbert? That’s what it’s come to? That’s what’s gonna take us to the SB? Well okay if that’s where we’re at then so be it.

    But Pee Wee Herman has as good a chance of taking us to the SB as those two are. C’mon now I think we know better than that. Lets dig deeper then that.

  10. Raymond, I agree that Cowboys get hyped up too much. I think because of our rich history of past
    fame and fortune and winning, fans hope with expectations that we can repeat that history.

    Its hard to pinpoint exactly what is wrong with this team. Of course the injuries this year have been extraordinary. And one can point to a myriad of other reasons. But this dry spell has gone on for decades now. Way too long.

    Last Super Bowl win was 1996. Seems like an eternity. At this juncture, EVERY SINGLE PLAYER SHOULD BE SCRUTINIZED. AND NO PLAYER SHOULD FEEL THEIR JOB IS SECURE.
    Unfortunately, these long term contracts have done just that, made some player too damn comfortable.

  11. Gary b, I may not have been clear commenting about the “clutch gene”, but I certainly didn’t mean to infer that either Dalton or Gilbert have it. More of my OPINION of Prescott MAY not having it for the reasons I laid out. I do believe DP is a good, tough QB. I liked him from the beginning of his career. Still do admire his giving 100 percent when he is on the field. Unfortunately, I soured on him somewhat after he rejected numerous good contract offers from our team. IMO, that is not being a team player. And I’m probably not alone in that thinking. Again just my OPINION. I know you have a different opinion on DP, and I respect that. We can agree to disagree on this subject. Be honest, I hope you are right, and he delivers us a SUPER BOWL WIN. But in any event, I think we are in lockstep on hoping our team gets back to that big game in the not to distant future.

  12. Well if we move on from Dak I would argue that our need for an elite defense is necessary to win. A rookie or FA QB would mean a big drop in production from that position. If our offensive production is compromised to that degree then our running game/OL/Defense will need to be really good. All three of those areas have been weak this year. No way anyone believes Andy D can give us near the production that Dak can….nobody really believes that. As far as rookie QBs well the bust rate is high for that position. Since its unlikely the cowboys can get Lawrence or Fields that’s leaves reaching for a 2nd tier. Do we wanna risk a precious top five pick on that risk? And yes there is a big gap between Wilson and the top 2.

    Let’s judge Dak on the player he is now shall we? not the player he was in his development years. QBs take a while to mature. He is in his prime yrs for a QB and in fact has room for improvement. With a fully healthy team and all these weapons coupled with the continued development of this talented rookie class AND picking high in every rd of the draft sounds like a promising recipe for success. But it won’t happen overnight and it will be a process. Teams are built thru the draft with a few FAs sprinkled in here and there.

    Now some might say well we’ll have all this FA money if we move on from Dak. Will we? If we sign a competent FA QB that will take a chunk of that money. So u have a little FA money to get a few player’s that may or may not work out. Does anyone really have confidence in Jerry ability/judgement when it comes to FAs?

    Lastly if we draft a QB with our 1st rd pick that means we can’t get a high impact defensive player with that 1st pick which we desperately need. So u have a rookie QB and no 1st rd pick spent on that impact defensive player which we desperately need. Alot to consider with all these options. All come with risks and anyone who proposes that one option is superior to another is fooling themselves. And yes that includes resigning Dak.

  13. VAM- I appreciate you saying that. For what it’s worth I’m not completely sold on Dak myself. I see his deficits and I know he isn’t an elite QB and probably never will be. But I think he is significantly better than Dalton or Gilbert. I guess for me more than anything else it comes down to whether the alternative to Dak is better.

    Lastly I’m in agreement with u on the contract. He was offered a fair offer and frankly I’m surprised and disappointed (in him) that he turned it down. Makes me wonder whether he really wants to be part of this team moving forward. Maybe he wants a fresh start with a less dysfunctional team.

  14. VAM- Not to beat a dead horse but I think the common denominator is Jerry Jones. It takes extraordinary skill and knowledge with (a little luck )to build a successful team.

    You have to be a cap expert, great evaluator of players and hire the right coaches. You have to be a draft expert, know what FAs to sign and for how much. You have to decide which one of ur current players u resign and for how much.

    I know I harp on Jimmy Johnson but he was great in all these areas AND he was a great coach. Even though Jerry had the GM title back then, make no mistake Jimmy was the architect of those SB teams. Jerry can at least be credited with hiring him. Jimmy and Jerry both played on the same Razorbacks team and that was one of the few times cronyism paid off for Jerry.

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