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.
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.
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.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
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.
5 Worst Contracts for 2019 Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys have done great work the last few years of shedding bad contracts and getting out of "salary cap hell." However, even this relative fiscal paradise of 2019 isn't perfect. Today, we're going to look at the five worst deals that Dallas still has on the books.
These contracts are only active as of now, in the middle of May, and could be gone by the time we gets to Week One. We'll discuss those possibilities as we go through each player.
What you'll realize fairly quickly with this exercise is that it's a stretch to even say the Cowboys have five "bad" contracts on the team at this point. That's how well the front office has done in learning from the past and getting things to a much more manageable and equitable point throughout the roster.
Maybe that changes in a few years. Some of the big contracts on our All-Pro offensive linemen may lose value as those players start to decline with age and/or health issues. Or perhaps the upcoming new contracts for Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Byron Jones, Ezekiel Elliott, and others will turn out to be retrospective mistakes.
But those are conversations and articles for future offseason. For here and now, 2019, here are the five worst contracts on the Dallas Cowboys roster.
DL Tyrone Crawford - $10.1 million cap hit
I know I've been picking on Crawford a lot lately, but that's what happens when you have easily the worst contract on the roster. Tyrone has the second-highest cap hit on the defense and sixth overall on the entire team, and that's an obvious imbalance compared to where he ranks among the Cowboys' top players.
This situation isn't Crawford's fault. Dallas thought they were making a shrewd move by giving Tyrone a sizable contract back in 2015. They expected him to blossom as the 3-tech DT under Rod Marinelli.
That boom never happened, and as a result Crawford's contract ultimately became a bust. He's been valuable as a leader and having DE/DT flex, but he's never been a top player on defense even when he was the highest paid.
I wrote more extensively on what Tyrone's future with the Cowboys might be, especially with the June-1st date looming for potential roster cuts. His job security has taken some big hits lately with the drafting of Trysten Hill and now legal issues, which could result in a minor suspension for Crawford in 2019.
We'll see if Tyrone Crawford makes it to the 2019 roster. He still has value with his versatility and generally solid play, but that overpaying contract could ultimately be his demise.
WR Allen Hurns - $6.25 million cap hit
The only other contract which is truly "bad" for the Cowboys belongs to veteran receiver Allen Hurns. It gives him the 11th-highest cap hit on the roster, and this for a guy who projects to be no higher than fourth on the WR depth chart.
The week before free agency opened in March, Dallas picked up an option to keep Hurns in 2019. It's always felt like an insurance move; Hurns can be released with just $1.25 million in dead money at any point this offseason.
Dallas is likely hanging onto Hurns until they get through the preseason without any injuries to Amari Cooper or Michael Gallup. It'd be nice to have Allen if something happens to them; he has plenty of starting experience and can be an every-down receiver. Guys like Randall Cobb or Tavon Austin aren't built that way, while Noah Brown isn't experienced enough.
Assuming everyone gets to September intact then I expect Hurns will be released. It's hard to imagine Dallas carrying him as a backup with that cap hit, and especially if they have younger guys like Brown or Cedrick Wilson that they want to utilize.
So no, Hurns' contract shouldn't cost the Cowboys for long. If he stays then it's because he's needed for a starting role, in which case $6 million is reasonable. But if he's going to spend most of the year on the sideline, Dallas has an easy out that I expect they'll utilize soon.
LB Sean Lee - $6 million cap hit
This is another one where how bad the contract is could shift depending on how much the player is needed in 2019. Even with a negotiated pay cut, Sean Lee's still making more than most of the starting defense.
Paying Lee this much to play SAM and then backup Smith and Vander Esch on the nickel is a bit high, even for what he brings as a mentor and coach on the field. But Dallas was willing to overpay for the intangibles, plus the hope that Lee could still play at a high level if called upon.
The biggest concern with Sean Lee, as it's ever been, is his health. He can still ball but has reverted to injury-prone issues in recent seasons. Perhaps a lesser role with fewer snaps will help in that area.
Again, I don't even know if I'd call this a "bad" deal. We have yet to see how much Dallas plans to rotate Lee with their young studs, and he brings things to the LB room that a guy like Damien Wilson never could.
The major liability here is if Lee gets hurt, in which case Dallas basically has a solid chunk of cap space tied up in an assistant coach.
TE Jason Witten - $4.25 million cap hit
You can apply some similar logic to Witten's deal from what we just discussed with Sean Lee. If he contributes on the field then it's not a bad deal. But if age and time away from the game have caused Jason's skills to slip too far, then this is a lot of money to pay for a backup TE.
Like Lee, Witten will hopefully offer a great deal as a mentor for Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, and any other young tight ends. He can't make them any more talented, but he can at least help maximize whatever potential they have.
But again, without actual on-field contributions, that mean you're spending valuable salary cap space on coaching. That money could've gone to someone like Jared Cook for a more simple and immediate boost to your offensive firepower.
As we said at the outset, most of these contracts are only conditionally bad. If Witten's year off allowed him to heal and rest and come back with renewed vigor in 2019, then it could wind up being a great deal for the Cowboys.
Father Time may ultimately be undefeated, but he doesn't win every round. Hopefully Jason can fight him off for at least one more year.
DE Taco Charlton - $2.74 million cap hit
Taco's disappointing start to his NFL career has made his rookie contact, which is usually team-friendly, a bit of dead weight on the Cowboys' books. Unless Charlton take a big step forward this year, the Cowboys are stuck paying him like a significant contributor for the next two seasons.
Dallas would get no cap relief cutting Taco this year; his cap hit stays roughly the same if cut after June 1st. It would also push another $1.35 million in dead money onto 2020. Therefore, unless the situation between team and player has become truly toxic, or a trade partner emerges, the Cowboys should hang on to their 2017 first-round pick at least thru 2019.
Ideally, Charlton will emerge this year as a more consistent and motivated roleplayer. There's little chance that he'll start with Robert Quinn coming in, but Charlton could still claim the role of a major rotation piece if he's had some more development.
If that happens, Taco's deal will become far less worrisome. That's a modest salary for a solid backup at most positions, and especially at defensive end.
If Charlton doesn't improve, though, Dallas will finally be able to get some savings if they cut his deal in 2020. In that scenario, he probably isn't around long enough to make this list a year from now.
~ ~ ~
What makes a contract bad or good is subjective. You might look at those huge cap hits on deals for guys like DeMarcus Lawrence or Zack Martin and think they're the biggest problems. But if you're getting All-Pro play at fair market value, you really can't criticize those salary numbers.
It will be interesting to see what happens the next few years with guys like Travis Frederick and Tyron Smith, whose health issues could change how we perceive their contracts. Both are still young enough to play at a high level, but could we adding one of them to this list in the next year or two?
A few years from now, we make look back on 2019 as an anomaly. Having to reach to find enough contracts to make this list is a great problem to have.
I just hope it stays that way.
Why Cowboys Should Make Signing RB Jay Ajayi a Top Priority
Despite adding Tony Pollard and Mike Weber through the 2019 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys still don't have a clear-cut running back to back up Ezekiel Elliott this season. I like the upside of both of these rookies, but I think it would be wise on the Cowboys part to bring in a more established player to become their RB2 this season.
Enter Jay Ajayi, the former Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins running back.
I really believe Running Back Jay Ajayi is exactly the kind of RB2 the Dallas Cowboys need, and currently don't have, to backup Ezekiel Elliott this year. He's an established veteran with a proven track record, but has unfortunately struggled with injuries throughout his career. This is exactly the kind of low risk/high reward kind of move Dallas likes to make when signing free agents.
We all know the Cowboys like to sign free agents on their own terms. That usually means they are cost-effective players that won't impact the compensatory pick formula. Surprisingly, Jay Ajayi fits into both of those categories right now.
Signing Ajayi shouldn't break the bank for the Dallas Cowboys. They should be able to sign him on a one-year prove it deal because of his recent injury history. He sustained a torn ACL early in the season last year with the Philadelphia Eagles, but is supposed to be ready by the time the 2019 season kicks off.
I don't know what you or the Dallas Cowboys think about this, but I think all of this makes just too much sense for it not to happen. The Cowboys would be getting a starting caliber RB to backup Zeke and Ajayi would be receiving a great opportunity to potentially resurrect his career.
Now, I know Ajayi is probably holding out for a starting job for some NFL team, but I just don't see that happening for him. Coming to Dallas and forming an excellent 1-2 punch with Ezekiel Elliott is an opportunity he shouldn't pass up, especially with Zeke's recent off the field incident where he was handcuffed/detained (not arrested) at a musical festival in Las Vegas.
The NFL has shown in the past they are willing to throw the book at Zeke, despite little to no evidence supporting their case. This most recent incident allows the league to do just that once again, meaning No. 21 could be looking at a possible suspension.
With that in mind, the Cowboys backup RB situation is even more concerning. I don't think I would completely trust Tony Pollard or Mike Weber to handle the workload in Zeke's potential absence. Jay Ajayi on the other hand is a different story. I don't think there would be much of a dip in production with him in a lineup.
Like I said earlier though, I don't know where the Dallas Cowboys stand in regards to Jay Ajayi, but this really seems like a win-win situation for everybody involved. If I were the one making the decisions, I would get on the phone with Ajayi's representatives immediately to try to bring him aboard.
Do you like the idea of Jay Ajayi as Ezekiel Elliott's backup running back?
Dallas Cowboys Should Pursue Recently Released DT Gerald McCoy
The Dallas Cowboys have been reinforcing their defensive interior all offseason and look to be in a good position as they get ready to begin offseason training activities and minicamp. Yesterday, I wrote about the possibility of trading for New York Jets Defensive Tackle Leonard Williams. Another defensive tackle has now become available, long-time Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy.
Per a report from Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the Bucs are going to release McCoy after nine seasons with the club.
BREAKING: DT Gerald McCoy has been informed by the Bucs of their plans to release him after nine seasons. The team decided not to pay him the $13-million salary he was owed for 2019.
McCoy is the definition of a cap casualty as he was set to make $13 million on the cap this year. At age 30 in 2018, McCoy still had six sacks as the Buccaneers 3-technique defensive tackle.
Throughout his career, he's been one of the more productive defensive tackles in the league. From 2012 to 2017 he was selected to the Pro Bowl six times and was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2013.
Since 2012, McCoy's averaged 7.2 sacks, 36.8 total tackles, 9.85 tackles for loss, and 17.85 quarterback hits a season. Over the last three seasons, McCoy's averaged just under seven sacks a season. In 2018, he finished with 38 total pressures, which was 19th among all interior defensive linemen. Only Tyrone Crawford from the Cowboys had nearly as many total pressures on the interior with 37.
Though the Cowboys have brought in Christian Covington, Kerry Hyder, and Trysten Hill to fortify a defensive interior with Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods, and Tyrone Crawford, Gerald McCoy would make an excellent addition to their rotation. Mike Fisher of 247 Sports is reporting that the Cowboys currently have "very little interest" in the defensive tackle.
That's plausible. The Dallas Cowboys have a ton of depth on the defensive line at the moment, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't pursue a talented player such as Gerald McCoy. McCoy has been an excellent 3-tech but also has the size to contribute at 1-tech on passing downs if you need him to.
The Dallas Cowboys defensive line has a ton of depth and it may not make sense to bring in a guy like McCoy, but they should. Much like the trade for Robert Quinn, you're putting your eggs in the 2019 Super Bowl basket and trying to maximize the talent that you have on the roster this year. They're a team primed to make a deep run in January and McCoy can help them do that.
As in everything, it will come down to the price tag. However, given that the Dallas Cowboys currently have just under $20 million available on the 2019 salary cap, they can get a deal done with McCoy and continue working on the long-term contracts for their star core of players.
Gerald McCoy makes the defense better. He's another guy along the defensive line, in addition to DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn, that the offensive line has to think about. He makes things easier for everyone at every level of the defense and shouldn't cost a ton to sign on a one-year deal.
Player News7 days ago
Leighton Vander Esch Graded Best Rookie Linebacker Since 2014
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
3 Reasons Why LB Leighton Vander Esch Will be Even Better in 2019
Player News2 weeks ago
RB Rod Smith Signs with Giants; Brother Jaylon Sends Farewell Message
Dallas Cowboys4 days ago
Kicker Matt Bryant Should Be the Final Piece of Cowboys 2019 Offseason
Star Blog1 week ago
QB Dak Prescott Already Impressing New Offensive Coaches
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Way-too-early 2019 Dallas Cowboys 53-man Roster Projection
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Despite Perception, Dallas Cowboys had an Excellent Offseason
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Depth Chart, Pre-Training Camp