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Top 5 Needs as Dallas Cowboys Head into Free Agency

John Williams

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Potential Playoff Preview: Cowboys Host Seahawks as Changed Team from Early Loss 1

We’re now less than a week away from the annual NFL spending spree known as free agency, which opens March 13th. There’s been a lot of talk about how active the Dallas Cowboys are going to be this offseason, with them already linked to several high-profile free agents.

Jerry Jones’ recent comments would have you believe that the Cowboys will be aggressive in their attempt to improve a roster that went to the divisional round of the playoffs last season.

Other reports make it sound like the Dallas Cowboys will be business as usually in their pursuit of free agents starting next week. Namely, letting the top-tier players find their deals, while shopping for bargains after the first wave has passed.

Obviously, fans want their team to have a balance between smart spending and adding top-tier talent, but sometimes you have to compromise one of those. You can’t always get a top-tier talent unless you’re willing to spend freely. This is where the Dallas Cowboys find themselves between a rock and a hard place.

they've drafted well and managed their contracts well so that they have minimal dead money on their 2019 cap, but what good is that money unless they spend it.

As the Dallas Cowboys get ready for the first phase of roster building, let’s take a look at their top team needs heading into free agency.

1. Defensive Tackle

As it stands now, the Dallas Cowboys only have two defensive tackles on the roster for 2019. Maliek Collins and Antwaun Woods, who both started the playoff games and should be penciled in to start week one of the 2019 season  are the only two defensive tackles in the roster.

David Irving, Datone Jones, Daniel Ross, and Caraun Reid are all set to be free agents and there’s been no indication that they plan to bring any of them back. Tyrone Crawford who spends sometime on the Cowboys interior may be forced to be at right defensive end full-time this season if Randy Gregory’s “indefinite suspension” bleeds over into the regular season.

That leaves at least two spots in the defensive tackle depth chart that the Cowboys need to fill to have their rotational tackle group.

Free agency provides some options, but it’s the draft that provides the best opportunity to get players to fill in behind Woods and Collins this year. In many mock drafts, draft analysts have the Dallas Cowboys taking a defensive tackle in the second or third round. With the depth of talent available in 2019, the Cowboys could double up at the position.

2. Safety

The free agent safety group looks to be one of the best positional groups to ever walk into free agency.

Earl Thomas, Eric Weddle, Landon Collins, Tyrann Matthieu, Tre Boston, Glover Quin, and several other interesting names are going to be looking for new teams this Spring.

The Dallas Cowboys have been linked to Earl Thomas for more than a year now, but the presence of this kind of free agent class could have the Cowboys looking in a younger or cheaper direction.

With Xavier Woods versatility to play either safety role, the Cowboys can approach the safety market with an open mind. Jeff Heath on the other hand left us with a bad taste in our mouths from the 2018 season. Heath’s a solid role player who contributes on special teams, but got over-exposed in 2018. Too many times he allowed ball carriers to pick up tons of extra yardage by trying to strip the ball out instead of just tackling. An upgrade is needed there.

While Earl Thomas is the top name that many in Cowboys Nation want, Landon Collins might be the player that makes the most sense. He’s only 25, been to three Pro Bowls and been selected to omen First-Team All-Pro Team.

Collins is a guy you can add to this young group and continue to build with, and allows Woods to stay in the more traditional free safety spot that he played last year. Woods played really well in 2018 and will be one of your full-time safeties when the 2019 season rolls around.

If a free agent safety isn’t your cup of tea, there will be options for the Dallas Cowboys at 58, such as Darnell Savage Jr. from Maryland.

3. Wide Receiver

Terrance Williams is gone, Allen Hurns is hurt, Cole Beasley looks to be on his way out, Noah Brown has some skill but is best served as your fourth or fifth wide receiver and Cedric Wilson isn’t really a known quantity. Outside of Amari Cooper, and to a lesser extent Michael Gallup, this wide receiver group has some needs.

This draft may be light at the top of the draft at wide receiver, but there are several guys that could be around in the second and third round when the Dallas Cowboys make their picks.

The Cowboys could go after a speed guy like Marquise Brown from the University of Oklahoma, a slot wide receiver like Andy Isabella or Deebo Samuel, or get a big target with a huge catch radius in Iowa State's Hakeem Butler.

4. Defensive End

What looked like a strength heading into the offense, with DeMarcus Lawrence set to get his big contract extension and Randy Gregory coming off of his first full season, now looks like an area of need.

DeMarcus Lawrence needs shoulder surgery. His contract situation looks like something that could drag on throughout the offseason and into training camp. Lawrence was tagged with the non-exclusive franchise tag, which means he could negotiate with teams, but the Cowboys would still have the opportunity to match any offer. This could be the Cowboys way of letting another team set his price. So long as it isn’t a team like the Colts or 49ers who have gone of cap space, Lawrence wouldn’t likely see an offer that the Cowboys couldn’t match.

When it’s all said and done, Lawrence will be suiting up week one for the Cowboys.

Randy Gregory however, may Ben a different story a season he’s been suspended indefinitely by Commissioner Roger Goodell. Gregory, will forevermore be one step away from his NFL career being over, and this latest suspension is a reminder if that. Gregory’s a terrific football player, but nearly impossible to count on him always being available.

Thankfully, like it is for defensive tackles, the 2019 NFL Draft is full of potential defensive ends throughout the draft. Names like Charles Omenihu and Chase Winovich could be options for the Cowboys at 58.

There are several intriguiging options the Cowboys could pursue in free agency from big money names like Justin Houston and Trey Flowers to lower prices options like Dante Fowler or Shane Ray.

Though they have Taco Charlton, Dorance Armstrong, and Tyrone Crawford in the mix at defensive end, it would benefit them to add another player at the position, especially if Crawford has to continue splitting snaps between end and tackle.

5. Running Back

It may be odd to look at a position group that features the NFL’s league leader in rushing two out of the last three seasons, and while the need at running back isn’t exactly about Ezekiel Elliott, it kind of is about Ezekiel Elliott.

The Dallas Cowboys are looking to extend their dynamic runner and if they do so, it would be wise for them to get someone who can share some of the running and passing game burden.

Whether they trade for Duke Johnson or sign a free agent like TJ Yeldon or Jalen Richard, the Cowboys hope ave some options to explore.

The NFL Draft is another place to find a guy who can give you 5-10 touches per game. In particular, the Dallas Cowboys could use  a player to help in the passing game and be a “change of pace” back for the Cowboys.

In the draft, you could be talking about guys in the fourth round or beyond like Oklahoma’s Rodney Anderson or Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill.

The Cowboys appeared to make a concerted effort to throw the ball to Ezekiel Elliott last season, but it didn’t always turn out to be a good thing. Finding a player with more suddenness and burst as a receiver will help the offense when Quarterback Dak Prescott goes to check the ball down. Also, adding a receiving back has the added benefit if keeping Elliott fresher throughout the game and in the regular season.

If paying Ezekiel Elliott is a priority, then finding a player to compliment him and give the team quality snaps should be a priority too.

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The beginning of the 2019 season may still be six months away, but preparation and roster construction begin soon on March 13th. Armed with $50 million in salary cap room, the Cowboys have the opportunity to be players in the early stages of free agency this year at positions of need.

How they end up using the cap space will be an interesting storyline to watch throughout March.



Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

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What to Expect from Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Group in 2019

John Williams

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Amari Cooper

In a span of a week, the Dallas Cowboys have solidified their wide receiver group with the resigning of Tavon Austin to a one year deal and the signing of former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb. Despite the loss of Cole Beasley, the Cowboys have a created a really good group of receivers for Quarterback Dak Prescott to throw to.

Cobb joins a really nice group of players that includes incumbent starters on the outside in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup as well as solid depth players in Austin, Allen Hurns, and Noah Brown. Throw in Cedric Wilson, the Dallas Cowboys sixth round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft and the Cowboys may have one of the deeper receiving corps in the NFL.

The question is, how will the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff delineate the roles?

Let's take a look.

Outside Receivers

As I mentioned before, the Dallas Cowboys are returning their top two options on the outside in Amari Cooper, who is the X wide receiver and Michael Gallup, the Z receiver. Both players will go into week one as the starters at their respective positions in two-wide receiver formations.

Despite some of the overthrows from Dak Prescott to Michael Gallup, Gallup had a really nice rookie season and got better as the year went along, even leading the Cowboys in receiving in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams. In that game, Gallup recorded the first 100 yard game of his career. Sure, it was in an attempt to comeback by the Dallas Cowboys, but it is impressive nonetheless. His touchdown catch against the Seattle Seahawks the week before was clutch. The Cowboys needed that to take the lead at the end of the first half. 2018 was only the beginning for Michael Gallup. He showed an ability to win with a full offseason to work with Dak Prescott, their chemistry and connection should only improve.

As for Cooper, his presence was felt right away as the offense just looked different once he stepped on the field. It's no coincidence that Dak Prescott's two best career games in terms of passing yardage came with Cooper in 2018. He's such a threat that he opens up space for the rest of the wide receiver group. His route running, speed, ability to run after the catch make him a threat to score any time he's targeted.

Behind Cooper and Gallup, you have options in the event that one of them gets hurt. Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Noah Brown are all players who took snaps on the outside for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018 and did so with effectiveness. Hurns best game of the year came just before the Cooper deal was made as he went for five receptions for 75 yards.

Tavon provided down field speed on several occasions and provides some gadget quality that the Dallas Cowboys love to have. Noah Brown is a player that the Dallas Cowboys love to deploy as a blocker in the running game. While it looked like he might get more run in the passing game in 2019, the depth additions will limit him again to a specialty role. If needed, though, he could be an option to take snaps on the outside as his big frame allows him to box out defensive backs down the field.

There will be snaps on the outside for someone when the Cowboys go to 11 personnel, because of Amari Cooper's ability to slide into the slot.

Slot Receiver

Obviously, the writing is on the wall with who the Dallas Cowboys are planning on deploying in the slot as things stand right now, and that's Randall Cobb.

While Cobb should be penciled in as the starter in the slot, I doubt that he's going to get 100% of the snaps there in 11 or 10 personnel groupings. Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Noah Brown, and Cedric Wilson could all push for playing time from the slot.

Last month, I wrote a piece about Allen Hurns and his effectiveness in the slot and why the Cowboys should feature him there. With Cobb coming off an injury laden season, the Cowboys would be wise to give some snaps to Hurns along with Tavon Austin.

In Jacksonville, Hurns was incredibly effective from the slot running posts, slants, and ins and outs. His size and route running made him an effective mismatch against linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks alike. Remember, it wasn't long ago that Hurns had a 1,000 yard season with Blake Bortles at the helm.

Tavon Austin's quickness is an asset that could be very effective in the slot as well. Though he lacks size, he's a player that opposing defenses have to account for because of his ability to make big plays once the ball's in his hands.

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The Cowboys haven't been shy about carrying seven wide receivers on their 53-man rosters and it's possible, though unlikely that they could do it again in 2018. As things stand now, I see Noah Brown and Cedric Wilson as the potential odd men out. Of course, this could all get reshuffled if the Dallas Cowboys use a top 100 pick on a wide receiver in the draft.

With Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Randall Cobb only under contract through the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to invest at the position despite the strength of the position in 2019.



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Report: Dallas Cowboys Set to Meet with Safety George Iloka

John Williams

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Why Cowboys Should Acquire Recently Released S George Iloka

As the Dallas Cowboys continue the process of building a roster capable of taking them back to the playoffs, and hopefully to a Super Bowl, this next season, they’re bringing in another safety to try and strengthen their top 10 defense. This time it’s free agent safety George Iloka, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings.

Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Dallas Cowboys are set to meet with

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

The #Cowboys are hosting former #Vikings and #Bengals safety George Iloka for a visit tomorrow, source said. They're still looking to add in the secondary.

It will be the third meeting this week that they’ve had with a veteran safety after hosting recently resigned Indianapolis’s colts Safety Clayton Geathers and former Kansas City Chiefs Safety Eric Berry.

The Cowboys feel really good about Xavier Woods at safety, but definitely could use some depth at the position as they head toward the 2019 NFL Draft.

Iloka is coming off a season where he was relegated to a reserve role for the Vikings. In five of the last six seasons, Iloka’s played all 16 games, and the one season he didn’t, he played 12. He has nine career interceptions, and has three seasons with more than 70 total tackles.

Back in August of last year, Brian Martin argued that the Dallas Cowboys should pursue Iloka after being released by the Cincinnati Bengals. He would play the strong or box safety role in the Cowboys defense if they were to come to an agreement.

Stay tuned for more Free Agency coverage from us here at InsideTheStar.com.



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Dallas Cowboys 2019 Draft Needs: Impact of Free Agency Moves & Rumors

Jess Haynie

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Randall Cobb

With most of the marquee NFL free agents already off the market, many are already turning their eyes to the 2019 Draft. Whether a glaring need went unaddressed or the needs have simply changed, the draft offers the next big opportunity for teams like the Dallas Cowboys to stock talent for next season.

While they've been conservative so far this offseason, Dallas has been active in the last few days in covering bases and giving itself more flexibility for the draft. They don't want to have to reach on a talent because of a need, nor do they want to tip their hand too much to the rest of the league.

As of now there are still some significant acquisitions that could happen. Dallas has visited with veteran Safety Eric Berry and Defensive Lineman Malik McDowell, plus are reportedly in trade talks with Miami for Defend End Robert Quinn. Any of these moves could have a big impact on their need levels for the draft.

We've already seen some changes thanks to offseason activity. With Tuesday's signing of Randall Cobb, plus moves to retain Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns, Dallas may not be looking at a receiver as early as we might've thought. The same can be said for Jason Witten's return and the tight end position.

If the draft were today, without accounting for any of the players that the Cowboys have had talks with but remain unsigned, here's how I would rank the team's 2019 draft needs:

  1. Safety
  2. Defensive End
  3. Defensive Tackle
  4. Tight End
  5. Running Back
  6. Wide Receiver
  7. Offensive Tackle
  8. Cornerback
  9. Linebacker
  10. Kicker
  11. Center
  12. Guard
  13. Quarterback (Mike White is their drafted backup project for at least another year.)
  14. Punter (Could add someone to compete with Chris Jones and save some cap dollars.)
  15. Fullback (They re-signed Jamize Olawale, who they barely use anyway. Zero need here.)

I put safety on top because it's the spot that could most use an immediate upgrade and has some pressing future need. Dallas didn't make the big move for Earl Thomas that many hoped for and Jeff Heath's contract expires after this season. Hopefully, a second-round talent could compete for a starting job now and at least replace Heath in 2020.

Even with the Kerry Hyder signing defensive end has some major red flags. DeMarcus Lawrence has sworn he would holdout without a long-term deal. Randy Gregory is suspended again, and now Tyrone Crawford is now facing potential league action from an incident with police last week. Unless the Cowboys think Taco Charlton is going to make a big push in his third year, they could be hurting for a pass rush in 2019.

I expect things with Lawrence will get resolved, and I doubt Crawford will get suspended for more than a game or two if at all. But Dallas could still use another solid DE if they don't get this deal for Robert Quinn done.

Remember, the 2019 Cowboys aren't working with a first-round pick. Barring a trade, they'll be waiting until the 58th pick to make their first selection. That limits the impact potential of their picks and makes what they do with the Day 2 picks all the more critical.

REPORT: Cowboys Visiting With Free Agent S Eric Berry Tuesday

Safety Eric Berry, currently a free agent. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

So what if the Cowboys pull off these three potential moves, adding Berry, McDowell, and Quinn? Each player would help to address the top three needs on my list.

Eric Berry hopefully solves the immediate upgrade need at safety, though it may not do much for the future. He turns 31 this year and was released by Kansas City because of multiple injury issues. Dallas could still consider taking a rookie prospect, perhaps even releasing Jeff Heath for cap savings if needed.

Malik McDowell was considered a first-round talent in 2017 but has never played after a major ATV accident prior to his first training camp with Seattle. If he's finally recovered enough to return to football and play at his original potential, he could give Dallas a talent infusion that none of their draft capital could provide.

Robert Quinn has been around a while but will be just 29 in May, and is still putting up sacks at a solid rate. He's averaged 7.5 sacks the last two years with two different teams. He would go a long way to stabilizing things at defensive end and allowing Dallas look at guys like Gregory and Hyder as icing on the cake.

If Dallas lands all three players then I would adjust the list as follows:

  1. Tight End
  2. Safety
  3. Defensive Tackle
  4. Running Back
  5. Defensive End
  6. Wide Receiver
  7. etc.

If you think about it, the safety and tight end positions would be kind of similar in this scenario. You'd have Eric Berry and Jason Witten as the veteran stopgaps, Xavier Woods and Blake Jarwin as intriguing young guys with starting potential, and Kavon Frazier and Dalton Schultz as other young depth.

However, at every step, safety would be deeper and have more upside. Berry should have more to often than Witten, Woods is more proven than Jarwin, and Frazier is more experienced than Schultz.

Plus, we didn't even mention that you'd have Jeff Heath for experience and versatility at safety. Meanwhile, TE Rico Gathers probably won't be on next year's team.

So yes, I'd vault tight end to the top of the need list. Dallas may like Blake Jarwin but they could find a far more polished and talented player with the 58th pick.

Christian Covington

Defensive Lineman Christian Covington (Maria Lysaker - Cal Sport Media)

Even with McDowell and Christian Covington added to the mix, Dallas would still be wise to address the defensive tackle position. They have several contract issues coming up at once in 2020.

Covington and Maliek Collins will be unrestricted free agents next year. The Cowboys will also likely want to finally shed Tyrone Crawford's contract, with $8 million in cap relief possible. That would leave them pretty bare at defensive tackle.

Dallas could make a move now to solidify their rotation and prepare for the future. They'd have a little more stability at defensive end with assumed multi-year deals for Lawrence and Quinn, making tackle the more immediate concern.

The backup running back spot can't be ignored, with only Darius Jackson and Jordan Chunn currently signed behind Ezekiel Elliott. If Dallas doesn't bring back Rod Smith between now and the draft, they may want to spend a high pick for Zeke's relief man and an additional offensive weapon.

Elliott's own contract will be up for discussion as soon. Having a talented player with a four-year rookie deal behind him could give the Cowboys much-needed leverage in any future talks with their franchise back.

~ ~ ~

We'll see if Dallas lands any of the players we've hypothesized about. Any of them would help lessen the need at their positions, but those would still remain important areas for the Cowboys to look at in the upcoming draft.



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