The Dallas Cowboys may not have the best roster in the NFL at this point, but they’ve put together a team that can compete in the NFC East and potentially make a run in the playoffs if certain things fall right. Their offseason helped solidify some of the spots where they had significant holes. It may not have been a flashy or splashy offseason, but the moves the made were solid and made them a better team.
As we inch closer to the start of training camp and the regular season, let’s take a look back at the most significant acquisitions the Cowboys made this offseason.
1. Mike McCarthy, Head Coach
It doesn’t happen very often that a team that is looking for a coach finds one on the market with a Super Bowl Championship on his resume. Even coaches with sustained playoff success aren’t available all that often.
Everything came together for the Dallas Cowboys this offseason when they moved on from their long-time head coach, Jason Garrett, and hired former Green Bay Packers Head Coach and Super Bowl winner Mike McCarthy.
The relationship between McCarthy and Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had worn thin, and that created some doubt about McCarthy’s abilities as a head coach. Regardless of the circumstances, you can’t discount the level of success the Green Bay Packers achieved during McCarthy’s tenure as head coach.
In his time, the Packers went to four NFC Championships and won that Super Bowl. Sometimes a change is necessary, and the Packers went to the NFC Championship in their first season without McCarthy. Because of that change, the Cowboys got the opportunity to hand a talented team over to a coach with a history of success.
Not only is it important that the Cowboys are handing the team over to a coach with McCarthy’s resume, but his more aggressive style and desire to incorporate analytics is an important change from his predecessor.
The aggressive mentality will reveal itself on both sides of the ball and have a significant impact on the way both coordinators call the game. Kellen Moore will be given more leeway to run his offense that showed an emphasis on the vertical passing game in 2019. And Mike Nolan will bring the blitz back to Dallas to disrupt the quarterback.
2. Gerald McCoy, Defensive Tackle
Though Maliek Collins was reliable in his four years with the Dallas Cowboys, by the end of his time, it became evident that defensive tackle needed to be upgraded. The Cowboys went out and added one of the better defensive tackle options in the 2020 free agency group in Gerald McCoy.
Throughout his nine-year career, Gerald McCoy has been one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. He’s been as consistent as they come as well. Only three times in his nine years has he played fewer than 14 games and only once fewer than 13 games. McCoy hasn’t recorded fewer than five sacks in a season since 2012.
From 2012 to 2017, he made the Pro Bowl six straight seasons and was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2013.
One of the issues the defense had in 2019 is that the interior wasn’t able to take advantage of the double-teams going to DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn on the edge. Gerald McCoy, even at 32 years old, demands the respect of opposing offensive lines in their blocking schemes. McCoy has the talent to collapse the middle of the pocket preventing quarterbacks from being able to step up and away from pressure off the edge.
As a run defender, this is where the Cowboys made a significant addition. McCoy is just as good a run defender as he’s been a pass rusher, and that will help everyone on the defense, especially the linebacker group.
Over the past couple of seasons, when the Cowboys have struggled on defense, it’s when opposing offensive lines have gotten to Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, preventing them from flowing to the ball.
McCoy’s experience and talent level is a massive addition to the defensive line and the front seven.
3. CeeDee Lamb, Wide Receiver
The Cowboys fell into a huge splash during the 2020 NFL draft when top 10 player CeeDee Lamb fell into their laps at pick number 17. He was the sixth-highest rated player on the Cowboys draft board and arguably the best wide receiver in the class.
In the months leading up to the draft, it seemed highly unlikely that Lamb, or fellow top wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, would make it to the Dallas Cowboys at 17. And then when the Cowboys went on the clock at 17, it still seemed unlikely that Dallas would make Lamb the pick after Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup just had 1,100-yard seasons in 2019.
Well, the Cowboys front office took the best player available and added one of the best skill players in the draft to an already loaded offense.
CeeDee Lamb couldn’t have fallen into a better position for a rookie wide receiver. He has the talent to be a leading receiver in the NFL and yet won’t be asked to lead the way for the Dallas Cowboys with Cooper and Gallup at the top of the wide receiver depth chart. Include Blake Jarwin and Ezekiel Elliott into the passing game, and there’s very little pressure for CeeDee Lamb in 2020.
He’ll fit into the starting lineup immediately as the primary slot receiver but can also play on the outside when the Cowboys want to move Amari Cooper into the slot. Lamb’s ability will also help everyone on the offense. Though he’s only a rookie, he’ll draw the attention of opposing defenders, which should open up room for Gallup, Cooper, and Jarwin.
In addition to his receiving prowess, CeeDee Lamb is an impact blocker in the running game, and with his size, he’ll be what the team always hoped Noah Brown could be.
Lamb is a dynamic player that will help the Cowboys from day one.
4. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Safety
With all the talk about Jamal Adams this offseason, it’s easy to forget that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was a really good signing. In six seasons, Clinton-Dix has never missed a game and has 15 interceptions to his ledger.
Now, 2.5 interceptions a season doesn’t sound like a lot, but he would have tied or led the Dallas Cowboys in every season but his rookie year in 2014. Clinton-Dix had five interceptions in 2016. The last time a member of the Cowboys defense recorded five interceptions was Bruce Carter in 2014. No other player had more than three over the previous five seasons.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix comes in with the ability to play the deep middle of the field but has the flexibility to play in the box as well. Combined with Xavier Woods, the Cowboys have two versatile safeties that they can mix and match depending on the matchup.
Even if the Cowboys were to trade for Jamal Adams, it’s no guarantee that he’d be replacing Clinton-Dix in the starting lineup. Ha Ha is a Mike McCarthy guy and has years of consistent safety play in the NFL. He’ll help add playmaking and leadership to a secondary that experienced a lot of turnover in 2020.
5. Trevon Diggs, Cornerback
With Byron Jones departing in free agency for the Miami Dolphins, the Dallas Cowboys needed to add a player at the top of the draft that can be a number one corner in the NFL. Most people thought they would go with a cornerback at 17, but when Lamb was available, cornerback got put on the back burner.
Little did they know, fortune would find them again in the second round. Many mock drafts had Trevon Diggs going to the Cowboys at 17 or in the latter part of the first round. To get him in the 50s was huge for the Cowboys.
Diggs is raw at the position but has a ton of talent and the playmaking ability to become one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL. He may not start right away, but he gives the Cowboys a long-term solution to the question they have at cornerback in 2021 and beyond.
Aldon Smith, EDGE
One of the more underrated signings this offseason was free agent edge rusher, Aldon Smith. Sure, he hasn’t played in years, but the low-risk, high-reward nature of the signing could be huge for the Cowboys.
Smith’s experience as a 3-4 outside linebacker gives him a leg up on the competition on the outside, and his size allows him to rush as a 4-3 defensive end as well.
Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan wants to be multiple, and Smith gives him options.
Dontari Poe, Defensive Tackle
The Cowboys under Rod Marinelli were never that interested in investing in a legit 1-technique defensive tackle. They always tried to get by with lesser-known and undersized talents at the position.
With the coaching change comes a philosophy change at the defensive tackle position and in comes Dontari Poe.
Poe has the size and ability to play nose tackle and the 1-technique defensive tackle spots for the Cowboys. He has the versatility to play in both three and four-man fronts and will occupy blockers, helping the linebacker crew be able to run free and flow to the football.
Greg Zuerlein, Kicker
The Cowboys were too reliant on Brett Maher last year, and too often, he let the team down. After hitting 80% of his kicks in 2018, he fell to just 66% in 2019. They were slow to pull him and find another option.
In 2020, the Cowboys invested in the position, bringing back Kai Forbath, who went 10 of 10 after signing with the team in the second half of last year. Then they added former Los Angeles Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein.
Zuerlein has made 82% of his kicks in his eight NFL seasons but had a down year in 2019. While dealing with injuries, he hit just 72.7% of his kicks, but only missed one kick inside of 40 yards. On kicks 40 yards or longer, he was just 10 of 18. Now healthy, he has a chance to bounceback and make an impact for the Cowboys.
Zuerlein’s signing shows a change in philosophy at the position. Having two quality kickers coming to training camp ensures that the Dallas Cowboys will come out of training camp with a good player kicking their field goals.
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The Dallas Cowboys had a good offseason in both free agency and the draft, and several more players could have been included on this list. From Reggie Robinson to Daryl Worley and even Andy Dalton.
It may not have been the splashiest offseason, but the Cowboys made their team better by improving the overall depth of their roster.