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Which 5 Dallas Cowboys Will Shine in Their Contract Years?

John Williams

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Cowboys at Raiders: La'el Collins Faces Toughest Test Yet In Khalil Mack

Every year a number of players will enter a contract year looking to put together a good 16 game season to boost their resume ahead of free agency. For many of the players on the Dallas Cowboys, they will be seeing their first opportunity to hit free agency.

The premise of a contract year comes with some negative connotations. Players are often dinged for performance that occurs in a contract year but hasn't occurred at any other time in their career. However, in a what have you done for me lately league like the NFL, recent performance can change the perspective on a player.

Let's look at five Dallas Cowboys who will make themselves very marketable with a good year in 2019.

Note: For the purpose of this piece, we're assuming that Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper get long-term deals this offseason. Ezekiel Elliott is under contract for the 2020 offseason, so he doesn't apply.

La'el Collins, Offensive Tackle

The Dallas Cowboys offensive line continues to be a strength for the team as they head into the 2019 season and a big reason for that is the play they've gotten from Right Tackle La'el Collins. He hasn't been as good as his left tackle counterpart Tyron Smith, but Collins has been good. His ability to hold up against some of the better pass rushers in the league has been a pleasant surprise.

Collins, going into his fifth year in the league, has started 46 games, including 32 straight at right tackle for the Cowboys. Collins will only turn 26 this year and has a lot of years of good football left in him. Given that offensive lineman are at a premium in the NFL, Collins should expect a market for his services when he comes free after the 2019 season.

In 2019, Collins played the third most snaps at right tackle in the NFL. Pro Football Focus credited him with 46 pressures allowed and eight sacks, tied for fifth most at the tackle position.

Collins has a ton of experience, but could use a really good 2019 to solidify himself as one of the top free agents in 2020.

Anthony Brown, Cornerback

The Dallas Cowboys found a gem of a player in the sixth round of the 2016 draft. Next to Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, Anthony Brown was the best pick of that draft. Based on value for draft capital spent, only Prescott would be seen as more valuable.

Brown has been an excellent corner for the Cowboys. Primarily playing in the slot, but flexing to the outside when injuries arose. He's played with an edge for the secondary and has been equally good against the run as he's been in coverage.

Brown will likely remain the starter in nickel situations, but will see some competition from Jourdan Lewis and rookie Michael Jackson.

If Anthony Brown is able to put together another solid to good year, he should be able to find a team willing to give him a multi-year contract in the 2020 offseason, the Dallas Cowboys included. With Byron Jones coming during the 2020 offseason, it's possible that they could opt to keep Brown over Jones as Byron would likely demand a larger contract.

Maliek Collins

Dallas Cowboys DT Maliek Collins

Maliek Collins, Defensive Tackle

Just like Anthony Brown, Maliek Collins was a nice find in the 2016 NFL draft.

Selected in the third round that season, Collins finished with 27 total pressures and five sacks. Though the pressure numbers have stayed similar -- 30 in 2017 and 27 in 2018 -- the sack numbers have dropped off considerably -- two in 2017 and three in 2018.

Collins has been a valuable member of the Cowboys interior defensive line and has played some solid 3-tech defensive tackle for the team. He's had to slide over and play some 1-tech defensive tackle at times, like he did in 2017 when David Irving was the primary 3-tech.

Now, Collins has some competition in the form of rookie Trysten Hill. Hill was the highest interior defensive line selection since they took Marcus Spears to play 3-4 defensive end in the 2005 draft. Prior to Hill, the Cowboys hadn't spent a pick higher than a third on an interior defensive lineman.

This only increases the competition and the pressure for Collins heading into his contract year. He'll need a good training camp to keep up his role. Some luck with health would help, as injuries have prevented him from having a full offseason since being in the league.

If Collins can put together a similar season to his rookie year, he'll find himself with a market heading into free agency.

Randall Cobb, Wide Receiver

The Dallas Cowboys brought in Randall Cobb to be the team's heir apparent at slot receiver after Cole Beasley signed in Buffalo. Coming in on a one-year deal, Cobb has a lot to prove as he enters the later stages of his career.

After being a mainstay in the Green Bay Packers offense, Cobb was allowed to walk in free agency as injuries had caught up with the soon to be 29-year-old receiver.

Cobb has to prove he can stay healthy for a full season as he's only played 16 games once in his career. If he can stay healthy, he'll be a weapon for Dak Prescott and the offense. In five of his eight seasons, he's caught more than 60 passes and three times caught more than 79 passes. In two of those seasons where he didn't catch at least 60 passes, he played fewer than 10 games. The other one was his rookie season. He played 15 games that year, but only saw 31 targets in 2011.

Wide receivers have shown that they can maintain production through the latter part of their careers, but for Cobb to continue to get opportunities, he'll need to continue to have good health. In this offense where Dak Prescott loves to target the slot receiver, Cobb should have plenty of opportunities to prove he's still a valuable commodity in the NFL.

Byron Jones, Cornerback

Amidst all the contract talk surrounding Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Ezekiel Elliott, it seems that Byron Jones might be the forgotten man in the Cowboys pay-day hierarchy. There hasn't been much talk of getting Jones an extension lately.

How the Cowboys handle Byron Jones could be similar to how they handled DeMarcus Lawrence. If you'll remember, after Lawrence had his break out year in 2017, the Dallas Cowboys opted to use the franchise tag on their elite edge rusher to make sure what he accomplished was repeatable.

Byron Jones finally experienced the breakout after finding a home at cornerback in Kris Richard's defense. The problem is, it only took him four years to find excellence. Most of that can be attributed to not having a home his first season and then playing out of position the following two when the Cowboys attempted to play him at safety.

Despite a lack of interceptions, Jones was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in 2018, but the Cowboys could be hedging their bets to see if he can do it again.

Jones is an incredible athlete with excellent coverage skills and if there's a weakness to his game, it's that he doesn't take the ball away. In Rod Marinelli's and Kris Richard's defenses, taking the ball away is of the utmost importance.

With a potentially big contract looming, Byron Jones may be forced to earn it in 2019 before getting paid in the 2020 offseason.

The Cowboys have a lot of contracts coming up at the end of this year that need to be taken care of, but these five are the most important contract years that will have the biggest impact on the success of the Dallas Cowboys.

Which Dallas Cowboys contract year player needs to have the best contract year?



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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Dallas Cowboys

What Could June 1st Mean for 2019 Dallas Cowboys?

Jess Haynie

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Tyrone Crawford

Some consider June 1st to be a critical date on every year's NFL calendar; it's own new wave of free agency. But will the 2019 Dallas Cowboys add any talent to the pool, and could they be interested in any players who get released by their current teams?

As you likely know already, teams may choose to cut players after June 1st so that they can defer some of the dead money from their contracts to the following season. It allows them to maximize salary cap savings in the current year.

For over a decade now, the NFL has also allowed teams to release up to two players prior to June 1st but still give them that designation. The team doesn't get the cap relief until June, but the player gets a chance to find a new home during the primary free agency period.

There have been almost no early June-1st cuts so far this year by any NFL team. That may lead you to believe that there will be similar inactivity when we actually hit that date on the calendar. But that may not be a very good tell.

Because teams don't enjoy any benefit from the early June-1st designation, except whatever good feeling comes from doing right by a former player, we hardly see it in action. Teams would much rather carry a player until after the draft and see what their need levels truly is before releasing them. It's rendered the early provision almost meaningless.

For the 2019 Dallas Cowboys, the one player whose situation and contract speak to a possible June-1st move is Defensive Lineman Tyrone Crawford.

Tyrone Crawford

Dallas Cowboys DL Tyrone Crawford

Crawford's deal runs thru 2020, which is key since you need at least two year's left on the contract to utilize the June-1st deferment. A player with only one year left, like WR Allen Hurns, has the same cap relief regardless of when you cut him.

Releasing Tyrone Crawford either after June 1st or with the early designation would push $1.1 million of his total $4.2 million in dead money to 2020. It would increase the total cap savings from $5.9 million to $7 million for the Cowboys' 2019 salary cap.

Now Crawford is one of those guys, a valued veteran and team captain, who you'd think a team would've cut earlier if that was their intention. But Tyrone's value to the Cowboys has been fluid throughout the offseason.

The value went up when we found out Randy Gregory was suspended again. It remained high while contract negotiations with DeMarcus Lawrence dragged until early April. Crawford's ability to play multiple spots on the line meant he could be back in a starting role at DE in 2019.

But then Dallas re-signed Lawrence, traded for veteran Robert Quinn, signed Kerry Hyder, and drafted Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks. Throw in Taco Charlton and Dorance Armstrong coming back and there are already plenty of players at DE, especially if Gregory manages to get reinstated.

But even if Crawford isn't needed at end, what about defensive tackle?

Trysten Hill

Dallas Cowboys DT Trysten Hill

The Cowboys spent their earliest 2019 draft pick, 58th overall, on DT Trysten Hill. He projects to play the same "3-technique" position that Crawford normally would.

On top of Hill, Dallas is bringing back Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods, and Daniel Ross form last season. They also signed Christian Covington, a fifth-year veteran from the Texans.

Again, the numbers are pretty tight and the positions are full of younger talent. The Cowboys could easily conclude that they have plenty of DL options at this point and would benefit more from salary cap relief than from Tyrone Crawford's continued services.

Plus, we haven't even gotten into the legal issues that could cause Crawford to get suspended for a few game in 2019.

As far as current talent goes, the June-1st conversation really begins and ends with Tyrone Crawford. Other veterans who may not make it to the final roster, such as Hurns, Jeff Heath, or Tavon Austin, only have one year left on their contracts. June 1st changes nothing for them.

There could be a few interesting names that come available when other teams make cuts. Again, they could have made these moves well before now. But NFL franchises are generally going to do what's best for them, and waiting for the dust to settle from the draft allows for more informed decision-making.

One name we've seen tossed around a lot is DT Gerald McCoy from Tampa Bay, who would be an immediate upgrade over any of Dallas' current tackles. But would losing Crawford to add McCoy really be that cost-effective?

The market to really keep an eye on is at running back. The current free agency pool had dwindled down to Jay Ajayi, who is unlikely to accept a minor role behind Ezekiel Elliott, and a bunch of retreads. Perhaps other teams' cuts could yield a few more desirable prospects to help our RB depth.

For 2019 at least, June 1st may not mean very much. And it may mean even less for the Dallas Cowboys, who already could field a competitive team this year without any additional moves. They may be focusing their cap dollars solely on new contracts for Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Zeke, and others the rest of this offseason.

Outside of potentially releasing or trading Tyrone Crawford, we may not see any major moves in Dallas until final cuts.



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Kicker Matt Bryant Should Be the Final Piece of Cowboys 2019 Offseason

Jess Haynie

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Kicker Matt Bryant Should Be the Final Piece of Cowboys 2019 Offseason

The draft is done, DeMarcus Lawrence is re-signed, and the bulk of free agency activity has passed. The 2019 Dallas Cowboys have more than enough talent to compete this season, but there is still one last move I'd wish they'd make. Veteran kicker Matt Bryant, still one of the NFL's best even at almost 44 years old, could be the final piece to this offseason puzzle.

The Atlanta Falcons' longtime kicker, and franchise scoring leader, was not retained this year despite another standout season. He made 20-of-21 field goals, with a long of 57, in 2018.

Why Atlanta didn't keep Bryant hasn't been confirmed, but perhaps the team was just looking to avoid hanging on one year to late. But Matt, who ranks eight all-time in FG accuracy (86.2%), doesn't think he's done. He tweeted the following from his personal account in February:

"Over this past year I’ve been asked numerous times about retirement and how I feel. Well, I’m not retiring and I feel fine and plan on feeling even better with some changes to my offseason program!

As of now Matt Bryant remains a free agent, and I think the Dallas Cowboys should be very interested.

If you go up and down this Dallas roster, kicker is arguably its biggest liability. Brett Maher had some highlight moments in 2018, and won two Player of the Week awards, but he also was one of the league's worst kickers in overall FG accuracy.

Brett Maher

Dallas Cowboys K Brett Maher

The problem with Maher is that you can't teach his best skill; the accuracy from the high 50s and even low 60s is incredible. It's a true weapon that you have a hard time letting go of, which was evident last year when Dallas dumped Dan Bailey for Maher at final cuts.

But Matt Bryant might be the best of both worlds. He's been a 91% FG kicker overall this last three years and has made 18-of-22 attempts from 50 yards out or more.

Maher only made 80.6% of his kicks in 2018. He went from 6/7 from long range, but that tells you how shaky he was from closer in.

Those closer kicks are worth the same three points that the longer ones are, and how'd you like it if Dallas lost a critical game because their kicker couldn't make a 35-yarder?

I get the fear factor with an older guy like Matt Bryant. Heck, the Cowboys let Dan Bailey go when he was still just 30. But Bryant hasn't shown the red flags that Bailey did; he's still kicking as well as he ever has.

If nothing else, Dallas has the cap space and circumstances to bring in Bryant for a true competition with Maher. If Brett has improved his game and keeps his job, then that's awesome. But why not add some pressure now, though a position battle with one of the all-time greats, and see what Maher's really made of?

Seasons have been made, and shattered, by one kick. Unless the Cowboys have good reason for confidence in Brett Maher's development from last year, they could be carrying a significant liability into a year where they're trying to push for a Super Bowl.

If Matt Bryant could provide even a small amount of additional security, isn't he worth it?



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Cowboys RB Mike Weber’s Injury Scare Continues Concerning Trend

Jess Haynie

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Mike Weber

Rookie RB Mike Weber had a brief scare earlier this week with a knee injury in practice, but thankfully the MRI came back with a good report. However, as he fights to have a future with the Dallas Cowboys, this health incident is a concerning reminder of Weber's recent history.

One reason that Weber fell to the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft was due to battling injuries during his last two years at Ohio State. He lost his starting job in 2017 due to ongoing hamstring issues and also had to miss time last year because of a foot strain.

Carrying the load for the Buckeyes is a far different workload than being second or third on the Cowboys' RB depth chart. But this latest scare happened in early May, just two weeks after Mike joined the team and well before the more strenuous activities of an NFL offseason.

A practice injury can cost you just as badly as one that happens in a game. And with Dallas already thin at RB, it could leave them severely shorthanded if it occurs during the regular season.

Many have projected that the Cowboys' RB group in 2019 would have Ezekiel Elliott as the obvious starter and then rookies Weber and Tony Pollard behind him. While Pollard was drafted three rounds ahead of Weber, he's not built to take a large number of carries if Zeke were to go out.

If Mike Weber does make the team, he would be expected to take a sizable role if something bad happen with Elliott.

Mike Weber

Dallas Cowboys RB Mike Weber

The "injury prone" label is disastrous for any athlete, but especially a guy with no real claim to a roster spot. If Weber causes concern in the front office about his durability, they may go a different way at final cuts.

Remember, Mike's not just up against Pollard and Darius Jackson for a roster spot. There are still plenty of veteran free agent running backs out there that Dallas could turn to if they're not confident about their young prospects.

This isn't too say that one scary moment in May, which ultimately didn't amount to much, is reason to cut bait with Mike Weber. But when you stack it up with his injury history in college, it does make you wonder how he'll do over the course of an entire NFL season.

Hopefully, Weber bounces back from this and has a great summer. Former Buckeye RBs have treated Dallas well the last few years, and it'd be fantastic if Mike can provide the same solid solid depth that Rod Smith did.

But this latest news is just a reminder of why Dallas can't rest easy at running back just yet, and why they may still have another move to make to prepare for 2019.



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