As if the offseason wasn't frustrating enough, the Dallas Cowboys have further complicated things by the way they are attempting to upgrade the wide receiver position.
First, they attempt to acquire Sammy Watkins through free agency, but luckily that never materialized. Then they sign not one but two free agent WRs, Deonte Thompson and Allen Hurns.
Things have definitely gotten a lot more interesting and confusing at the WR position for the Dallas Cowboys. Surprisingly enough, it's looking as if things could get even more frustrating because the Cowboys are doing their due diligence in scouting this upcoming 2018 WR draft class as well.
The overabundance of WRs on the roster is of course a good and bad thing for the Dallas Cowboys. They can pretty much pick and choose who they want to carry on the team for the 2018 season, but that would mean making some tough decisions.
As a Cowboys fan, on the outside looking in, there seems to be no clear plan about how the Cowboys want to deploy their WRs for next season. The coaching staff surely knows what they're doing, which means we have to remain patient until decisions are finalized.
But until then, we can speculate and try to sort through the confusion in order to try and figure out exactly what the Dallas Cowboys have in mind for their wide receiver position heading into 2018 season.
Below is how I personally have the WR depth chart. I also tried to share with you what I think the Cowboys could be thinking with each player, plus my personal opinion.
The Dallas Cowboys still haven't really confirmed what they plan on doing with Dez Bryant, and the recent Allen Hurns signing only further complicates things. There has already been speculation that Hurns is Bryant's replacement, but apparently the Cowboys like the idea of keeping them both as well.
There are several things the Cowboys can do. They can choose to keep him on the roster in 2018 at his current salary, ask him to take a pay cut, or possibly extend him a few more years. They could also outright cut him if they are ready to move on and willing to absorb his $8 million cap hit this season. A trade is also a possibility.
As you can see, until the Dallas Cowboys finally announce what they intend to do with Bryant, the WR position will continue to be a hot topic this offseason. Personally, I don't think they should move on yet. I think Allen Hurns' addition will actually help Bryant this season.
Cole Beasley is another unknown right now. Many fans around Cowboys Nation have speculated that Ryan Switzer is ready to surpass him on the depth chart, which would mean Beasley becomes expendable for the Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys could save $3.25 million by releasing or trading Cole Beasley. It makes sense in a way because Beasley is entering the last year of his contract, but then the offense is relying on Switzer, who didn't receive a lot of offensive snaps last year in his rookie season. It's a gamble.
I personally believe it would be a mistake to move on from Beasley right now. He is the most "Dak friendly" WR currently on the Cowboys roster. But, he has a few things working against him though. The Cowboys can create more cap space without him and his heir apparent might already be on the roster.
There is no denying it, the Allen Hurns signing was a huge one for the Dallas Cowboys. His addition gives the Cowboys more leverage in any negotiations they may have with Dez Bryant, something they didn't have before hand. He's also an upgrade at the WR2 position.
The Dallas Cowboys pursuit of Sammy Watkins in the first week of free agency luckily failed, and it ultimately led to the signing of Hurns. Strangely enough, Hurns has nearly the same kind of production as Watkins throughout their careers in the NFL. Hurns however cost a fraction of what the Cowboys would have had to pay for Watkins.
I think this was a really good addition for the Dallas Cowboys offense. If nothing else, he is a WR2 upgrade, but could end up being the WR1 if the Cowboys move on from Dez Bryant.
I'm not ashamed to admit it, but I've been a fan of T Will, despite what the majority of the Cowboys fan base believes. I think he is underrated for what he does for the offense, but it definitely doesn't go unnoticed by the coaching staff. That is why they re-signed him last offseason.
Unfortunately, I think it's time to move on. As much as I like Williams, I didn't think re-signing him last year was the right move for the Cowboys. I think his skill set would be better suited in a different offensive scheme, but that's neither here nor there now.
I don't think the Cowboys will outright release Williams. It would just create too much dead money this season. A trade on the other hand is a possibility, although a small one. It would reduce his cap hit a little bit. I'd personally explore T Will's market value and try to work out a trade.
Ryan Switzer should be much more involved in the offensive game plan in 2018. It should have probably happened last season, but the Cowboys thought it best to simplify things for him as a rookie and make him return specialist.
Switzer's roster spot is secure. There is no way he is going anywhere and he could take the biggest jump up the depth chart. He has already shown how dangerous he can be when the ball is in his hands, now he just has to do it as a receiver rather than a returner.
I think he could adequately replace Cole Beasley as the Cowboys slot receiver. He doesn't have the advanced route running skills as Beasley, but he is bigger and more explosive. There may be a little bit of a drop off in production, but I don't think it would be all that much.
I personally have Noah Brown ahead of Deonte Thompson on the depth chart right now. I really like how he contributed to the offense last year as a rookie and wish he would have received more opportunities in the passing game.
Brown fits the Cowboys prototypical parameters they look for in their outside WRs and can do the dirty work Terrance Williams is so highly regarded for doing. He is still a work in progress, but someone that shows a lot of promise. I don't think it's time to give up on him just yet.
Not only can Brown provide depth at the WR position, but he has the skill set to play a little tight end as well. He may look like a WR, but he blocks like a tight end. That could come in handy next season, especially for a team who has a run first mentality.
Deonte Thompson has to prove himself before he is able to secure a roster spot. He does provide the speed element that is lacking from the Cowboys offense after Brice Butler departed via free agency, but he's still an unknown.
I believe he is an upgrade over Butler however. He is a better route runner and looks more comfortable catching the ball. It will be interesting to see what kind of role the Cowboys have in mind for him, but he's not exactly a lock to make the team yet.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys have a plan for their wide receivers?
Cowboys 2018 Breakout Candidates: LB Jaylon Smith
No single player on the Dallas Cowboys roster right now may be more primed for a breakout season than Linebacker Jaylon Smith. His ascension as a player isn't just a big gain for the Cowboys defense, but it may be vital to their success in 2018.
Smith joined the Cowboys as a high second-round pick (34th overall) in the 2016 NFL Draft. Potentially a top-five elite talent in that class, Jaylon's stock fell after a severe knee injury in his final college game. It was unknown if he could ever play football again, but Dallas took the risk based on Smith's incredible upside.
After Jaylon sat out his rookie year to fully rehab. In 2017, he was able to play all 16 games and started in six. That alone was a huge win for Smith and the Cowboys.
Jaylon's performance last year wasn't great, but understandably so after all the missed time. He also had to regain confidence in his knee, which is critical for a linebacker with all of the directional changes during plays.
Still, Smith got better as the season went. And even amidst the struggles, there were flashes of his instincts and potential.
This offseason, reports of Jaylon's improving health are fueling increased optimism. He is now playing without a knee brace and that means more confidence. If Smith fully trusts his body now, it will make him far more dangerous on the field.
With Anthony Hitchens leaving in free agency, Dallas needs Jaylon to be a bigger factor this year. If he doesn't take the next step, it could leave the Cowboys vulnerable at linebacker in 2018.
True, Dallas drafted Leighton Vander Esch in the first round of last April's draft. But it's always dangerous to ask a rookie to do heavy lifting, and especially one who is seen as a raw talent like Vander Esch.
Ideally, anything Dallas gets from Leighton this year will be gravy. Their goal is to rely on veteran Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith, with Damien Wilson also available as a solid fallback option.
But when you mention Sean Lee, you have to mention health concerns. After two encouragingly healthy seasons in 2015 and 2016, Lee was back to having some issues last year and missed five games.
That is all the more reason why Dallas needs Jaylon to be ready for more this year. If Lee misses time again, Smith is the best suited to take over the roles that Sean leaves behind.
Thankfully, all signs point to big things for Jaylon Smith in 2018. His body appears healed and there's no questioning his work ethic and desire. If the mental aspect of football has also developed, he could be everything the Cowboys hoped when they drafted them.
Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?
It feels like ages ago that the Dallas Cowboys spent the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton. Perhaps this is a result of the constant distancing fans have made from this unpopular pick, or the corresponding moves the Cowboys have made at DE since drafting Charlton.
These moves include using the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence after seeing him explode for 14.5 sacks, spending a fourth round pick this year on Kansas' Dorance Armstrong, and seeing Randy Gregory reinstated in time for training camp.
Across the entirety of the Cowboys roster, there will be plenty of "odd men out" that miss the cut down to 53 players. Defensive end remains one of the most cluttered spots on the current 90 man roster however.
Prior to establishing the depth the Cowboys now have up front on defense, they did Taco no favors by starting his career at right defensive end. While Gregory may still be a long way from earning the starting role here, similarly styled players like Armstrong have the edge here over Charlton.
This relegates Charlton to the strong side, where he always projected best out of college. By the time the Cowboys realized this a season ago, they also knew a franchise pass rusher was playing his way into the team's long-term plans.
Lawrence's stellar consistency off the edge reduced Charlton's role in the Cowboys rotation of pass rushers. An ideal spot for the rookie to develop with less pressure on him, Charlton's opportunities to continue playing left end may only be reduced this season.
The first-round pick is capable of kicking inside at defensive tackle, a position the Cowboys could certainly use help at. However, asking Charlton to go through another position shift would only halt the progress that took quite a bit of patience from Dallas to see.
It's far from unheard of for the Cowboys to do this with their young players, but for now Charlton remains a defensive end looking to make his impact. The Cowboys are in much better position now than they were at this time a year ago when it comes to setting expectations for him to do so.
Given everything he showed on tape at Michigan as well as in his pre-draft interviews, Charlton is a player that needs to succeed at the task at hand. When this plan is altered, the 6'6" pass rusher is much less effective -- without even considering any athletic struggles that Charlton has compared to other prototypes at defensive end.
As a unit, the Cowboys defensive line has all the pieces to be very effective this season. Taco Charlton is a piece to this puzzle, a backup left end that must find a way to flourish in this role.
For most former 28th overall picks, doing so would be considered a fall from grace. For the Cowboys, it's simply an example of strong roster building that's forced life to come at Charlton quickly. How he responds with a full season under his belt will make or break the hype this deep Cowboys defensive line has garnered, lead of course by the starter at Charlton's position in DeMarcus Lawrence.
Cowboys OT La’el Collins Could Become Major Bargain
When you talk Cowboys offensive line, you always think of Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin first. Right Tackle La'el Collins still has to prove he belongs in the same sentence with his elite teammates. If he does that in 2018, Collins could become one of the best bargains on the roster.
Making the move from left guard to right tackle last year, Collins improved with time and was playing his best football at the end of the year. This was despite ongoing back issues that had him on the injury report most weeks.
La'el started all 16 games at right tackle and did enough that the Cowboys committed to keeping him there in 2018, even despite a big hole back at left guard. They are hoping consistency and stability will allow Collins to really blossom this season, building on the strong progress shown last year.
For 2018, Collins has a $5.76 million cap hit. According to Spotrac, that makes him the 13th-most expensive right tackle in the NFL this year.
That middle-of-the-pack expense is consistent with where La'el currently rates among NFL right tackles. Bleacher Report ranked Collins as the 16th-best RT in football last year.
But that ranking was based on the season as a whole. If La'el plays all of 2018 the way he was playing towards the end of last year, he will have emerged as one of the better right tackles in the game.
If Collins develops as we hope, that salary suddenly becomes a major bargain. The most expensive right tackles in the NFL are making $7-$9 million this season.
But this can go a couple of ways. With his 2019 cap hit rising to $7.9 million, La'el needs to next step forward.
If Collins were to struggle this year, it could make him a potential cap casualty next offseason. Dallas can save $6.5 million in cap space if Collins is released or traded in 2019.
Dallas could elect to give Connor Williams, their second-round pick this year, a look at right tackle next season. It's the position he played in college.
They could also consider veteran backup Cameron Fleming, who will still be just 26-year-old. Fleming has two Super Bowl rings and several starts, including in the postseason, from his time with the Patriots.
While we think of La'el Collins as a first-round talent, it's important to remember that he was ultimately an undrafted free agent. Dallas did not have to invest anything to acquire him, and ultimately that makes it easier to let him go.
Naturally, we prefer the other side of this coin. If Collins builds on 2017, he will join the upper echelon of right tackles in the league. And if the Cowboys' offensive line isn't already the best in the NFL, that would only cement them as the best unit in football.
If La'el makes the leap, it could mean huge things for the Cowboys' offense and team success this year.
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