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Which Dallas Cowboys Free Agents Will Be Back in 2019?

John Williams

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Has the Time Come to Bid Farewell to WR Cole Beasley?

The Dallas Cowboys have several important decisions to make this offseason as they approach free agency and the draft. Will they make a splash and be spenders this year with high priced players like Earl Thomas and Landon Collins available? Will they continue to go the conservative route and resign their own players and just get their toes wet in free agency?

The first question we have to answer as the Dallas Cowboys begin roster building is which of their expiring contracts will they look to bring back for the 2019 season and beyond?

Below are each of the Dallas Cowboys free agents heading into the offseason and a "confidence rating" describing how confident I am that they'll return to the Dallas Cowboys for 2019.

It's a 0 ✭’s means I don’t believe the player will be back. Five ✭’s means I’m locking them into the 2019 depth chart right now.

DeMarcus Lawrence, Defensive End

When Stephen Jones and Jason Garrett both say that getting a long-term deal done with DeMarcus Lawrence is a high priority, you can bet that they are going to do everything they can to get a long-term deal done with DeMarcus Lawrence.

The only question here is whether they'll have to use the franchise tag on Lawrence or not. Their hope is to get a contract done for Lawrence prior to the free agency period opening. They wouldn't want Lawrence to get to free agency where teams like the Indianapolis Colts -- with nearly twice as much cap space as the Cowboys -- could make Lawrence an offer he can't refuse to upgrade their pass rush.

This is where the franchise tag comes in. If they use it, they get to spend the Spring negotiating with their Pro Bowl defensive end. Lawrence proved last year that he's willing to play on the franchise tag and if they weren't able to come to a contract agreement, would likely do the same this year.

DeMarcus Lawrence is coming back.

Confidence Rating: ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Cole Beasley, Wide Receiver

I've gone back and forth on whether not Cole Beasley would return all season. Heading into the offseason, I wasn't very confident that Beasley returns because of what's gone on under Scott Linehan in 2018. Let's just say, I was more confident in his return Tuesday morning before reading Cole Beasley's accusations that the front office was dictating who got the football in the passing game. Cole Beasley was asked a question and in typical Cole Beasley form, he answered it. He further explained his comments on Wednesday when he said this:

Cole Beasley on Twitter

Some are misunderstanding my point. EVERY team's gameplan in pro sports is dictated by the front office. Big free agent additions, high draft picks, etc are going to get the most opps. And I'm not mad at that! Lol I just want to help my team win. All good players want the rock.

This makes much more sense than the Cowboys front office is telling the coaches who to get the ball too, though I still disagree. Amari Cooper operates in similar spots to Cole Beasley and with Dak Prescott's penchant for spreading the ball around, it means some games, one of their better receivers may not get the ball. See Amari Cooper for a couple games down the stretch.

Do I believe that Jerry Jones or Stephen Jones were telling the coaching staff where to focus in the passing game? No and neither should you. Do I believe that he was somewhat phased out of the offense? Yes. Even the casual fan could see that the Cowboys passing game didn't really look Beasley's way much through the first 58 minutes of games. When the Cowboys went hurry-up, which allowed Dak Prescott to manipulate the play call, Beasley was much more involved.

Before he made those comments on Twitter on Tuesday, I would have put the odds at a return at about 50/50. He wants more opportunity, and perhaps the new offensive coordinator can sell him on more opportunities in 2019.

Cole Beasley is still an excellent wide receiver, but he'll turn 30 in April and if past history suggests how the Cowboys will approach Beasley, then he won't be back.

They don't like to pay age.

Confidence Rating: ✭ ✭

Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver

Tavon Austin was the epitome of Much Ado About Nothing this season as he came in with a ton of hype but had a really hard time living up to it because of usage and injury.

Austin played only 115 snaps on offense and 26 snaps on special teams this season. That's less than Deonte Thompson who was only with the team for half the year.

Austin only played in 10 games this season and caught only eight passes on 13 targets. He did have two touchdowns and averaged 17.5 yards per reception, but the Cowboys never fully committed to using him in the offense and so his impact was limited.

On special teams, the coaching staff didn't trust him enough as the full time kick or punt returner. He showed what he's capable of in the playoffs when he hit a couple big returns against the Seattle Seahawks -- though one was called back by a penalty.

Confidence Rating: ✭ ✭

Geoff Swaim, Tight End

Geoff Swaim's 2018 season got off to a pretty good start as the starting tight end for the Dallas Cowboys. Sadly it ended with him going on IR and the two tight ends behind him, Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz emerged in his absence.

The Cowboys are looking toward the NFL draft with sites set on a deep tight end class that has a lot of really intriguing options in the top 100.

Swaim is a team favorite. A guy who will do what's asked in both the passing game and the running game. I can see a scenario where they bring him back to fill out their tight end room, if the money is right, and draft a player to develop.

As in everything in free agency, it depends on the money.

Confidence Rating: ✭ ✭

Cameron Fleming, Offensive Tackle

Cameron Fleming was an important offseason signing in 2018. After the debacle of 2017, highlighted by the Atlanta Falcons game where Dak Prescott took eight sacks, they needed to do something. Neither Chaz Green or Byron Bell could block anyone that day, which led to Dak Prescott not trusting his protection, even in the early part of this season.

The Cowboys had to shore up their depth at tackle in the event that Tyron Smith missed games, which he did. They should look to bring Fleming back on a one to two year deal to continue being the swing tackle. Fleming may want to go find a starting job and there will likely be options out there for him if he wants him, but I'd be going a bit above market value on a contract to bring him back as Tyron Smith has missed games in each of the last three seasons. Having a tackle who can play both sides of the offensive line and play with some effectiveness is important.

See Joe Looney.

Confidence Rating: ✭ ✭ ✭

David Irving, Defensive Tackle

I've long been an advocate for having David Irving a part of the Dallas Cowboys because he possesses elite traits as a 3-technique defensive tackle. The problem is that he was absent for much of the season, first because of a high ankle sprain he suffered after coming back from his suspension and then because of personal reasons.

Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones has long taken chances on troubled players who have ability, to give them an opportunity to turn their lives around and to this point. Whatever's going on in his personal life has kept him away from the team for the vast majority of this season, leaning many to question if David Irving even wants to play football.

Based on talent alone, I'd bring him back, but at a one year incentive laden contract.

Confidence Rating: ✭

Damien Wilson, Linebacker

Damien Wilson isn't the best linebacker in the world, but as a Strong side linebacker, he's pretty effective. He's good at setting the edge in the running game and offers some pass rushing ability as well.

Wilson was second among linebackers for the Dallas Cowboys with 4 total pressures and tied with Sean Lee for second at the position in sacks with one. Wilson isn't someone you want playing a major role in nickel or dime packages, but he brings something to the table on early downs and helps you on special teams.

If he wants to be back and the money's right, I would think the front office tries to bring him back. He's a good fourth or fifth linebacker for your squad and they like to resign their own guys, but they could also look to the draft to fill his role.

Confidence Rating: ✭ ✭

Rod Smith, Running Back

Running back Rod Smith isn't the most explosive number two running back in the NFL, but he's been a solid contributor who averaged 2.6 touches per game. He played a lot on special teams and that matters to the franchise.

I believe they look to draft a running back this offseason, but that shouldn't preclude them from resigning Smith. There are a lot of big names in the running back free agent market this season and so there may not be a lot of money or opportunity to find more of a role elsewhere.

Confidence Rating: ✭

Jamize Olawale, Full Back

Do the Dallas Cowboys even know how to use a full back. Jamize Olawale only played 10% of the snaps this season. The only players to play fewer than Olawale were; Noah Brown, Adam Redmond (reserve guard), Terrance Williams (injured reserve after week three), Darius Jackson (end of season practice squad call up), Lance Lenoir (end of season practice squad call up), Jourdan Lewis (defensive back), Cooper Rush (back up quarterback), and Brice Butler (only played three snaps before being released week 3).

This team doesn't value a full back and doesn't use one much either, therefore they shouldn't really have one. They can use Dalton Schultz in an h-back role that does some lead blocking for Elliott, or draft a tight end to fill that role.

I'm pretty confident in saying that the Cowboys won't be bringing Olawale back. He just finished a contract that was paying him $2 million a year. 0% chance they bring him back at that money and there's zero chance he he would want to come back to play 10% of the Cowboys snaps in 2019

Confidence Rating:

L.P. Ladouceur, Long Snapper

After DeMarcus Lawrence, what happens with L.P. Ladouceur is the most concerning free agent for me. The long-snapper has been with the Cowboys since 2005 and has snapped in 221 games for them. In all those years watching the team, I can't remember a bad snap.

Ladouceur will turn 38 in March, so the question, as it was last offseason is more about if he wants to keep playing or not. The Cowboys will want him back and if he wants to play, he'll do so with a star on his helmet. Eventually, every player runs out of steam for the grind of an NFL season.

Confidence Rating: ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Other Free Agents

Daniel Ross, Defensive Tackle

Defensive Tackle, Daniel Ross was effective on a limited basis for the Dallas Cowboys. He provided some penetration at the 1-technique defensive tackle position and finished the season with 14 tackles, one sack, three tackles for loss, ten total pressures, eight stops (according to Pro Football Focus) and seven quarterback hits.

For the Cowboys and Ross it will be about the money. They like him as a reserve defensive tackle.

Confidence Rating: ✭ ✭ ✭

Caraun Reid, Defensive Tackle

Caraun Reid had a similar season to Daniel Ross this offseason. Seldom used, but effective at times at stopping the run and generating pressure from the Dallas Cowboys interior. He finished the season with 10 tackles, 0.5 sacks, one tackle for loss, three quarterback hits, nine stops, and 10 total pressures.

Age will be a bigger factor heading into his contract negotiations as he'll turn 28 next November. If it were to come down to Ross or Reid, I believe they'd opt for the younger of the two, that being Ross.

Confidence Rating: ✭

Datone Jones, Defensive Tackle

Prior to being put on injured reserve in week four of the NFL Season, Datone Jones had only played in one game. He played five snaps against the Seattle Seahawks and didn't record a stat in that game. Datone Jones will be 29 in July and will likely be on his way out the door. The Cowboys will look to add a defensive tackle in the draft.

Confidence Rating: ✭

Justin March-Lillard, Linebacker

This team likes Justin March-Lillard and his ability to play both the middle and weak side spots at linebacker. He's a developmental project who could earn more of a role this season if the Dallas Cowboys resign him and the likelihood that Sean Lee will no longer be on the roster.

Confidence Rating: ✭ ✭ ✭

Marcus Martin, Guard

Marcus Martin is a developmental depth player for the Dallas Cowboys who had to be put on IR week one of this season. He's only 23, but with Connor Williams likely staking his claim at left guard, Patrick Ehringer back next season to add depth on the interior and Xavier Su'a Filo still under contract for the 2019 season, the Cowboys will likely move on from Marcus Martin this offseason.

Confidence Rating:

Darian Thompson, Safety

Darian Thompson was on the active roster for 10 games in 2018, but didn't record a single stat. He played only one snap on defense and 54 snaps on special teams. Safety is a high priority this offseason as they look to solidify their defense with either a big name free agent target or through the draft. Thompson will be moving on.

Confidence Rating:

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

A lot of decisions still have to be made as the Cowboys front office lays out their game plan for how they’ll improve the roster over the next five or six months. Like the NFL season is a grind, the offseason is as well. When it comes to the Dallas Cowboys, there will be no shortage of rumors, reports, and breaking news.

Stick around Inside The Star for all the latest in Dallas Cowboys news and analysis.



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. Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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Report: Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott Planning Training Camp Holdout?

John Williams

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Ezekiel Elliott: NFL's History with Domestic Violence Shows Inconsistency, Hypocrisy 2

All offseason, the possibility of a new contract for Dallas Cowboys Running Back Ezekiel Elliott has been a hot button issue among media and fans alike. Not because Ezekiel Elliott isn't a great player and worthy of top running back money, but because the idea of paying running backs north of $15 million a year isn't as simple as, "Is he worth it?"

There is significant evidence that the running back position experiences a significant decline in production around their age 28 season and few running backs play into their 30's with good to elite production. Ezekiel Elliott, though he's experienced heavy usage in his first three seasons, could be the exception to the rule.

Well, knowing his worth to the Dallas Cowboys he's expecting a heavy payday at some point in the next couple of seasons. Elliott is under contract through 2019 and the Cowboys picked up his rookie option for 2020. So, technically, Elliott wouldn't be a free agent until the 2021 offseason. However, much like in the case of Todd Gurley, Elliott's looking to get paid early to maximize his prime years as the Dallas Cowboys running back.

Within the last hour, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk released a report that Ezekiel Elliott is planning on holding out of training camp if he doesn't receive a new contract, per a "league source." It should be noted that Mike Florio has had some missteps in his reporting of Dallas Cowboys news, most notably the perpetuating a rumor that Dez Bryant was caught on videotape doing something at a Wal-Mart, that would have a "Ray Rice type of impact." A tape that has never been discovered or produced and a story that's completely died off since it was originally reported in 2015.

Given the recent news that Melvin Gordon is planning a training camp hold out, it should come as no surprise that Elliott is being mentioned similarly. ESPN even mentioned the idea of Elliott and a looming contractual holdout in a piece earlier today, but their prediction pointed to 2021 and wasn't a report based on fact or a source, but a prediction for next year.

The two-time NFL rushing champ is scheduled to make $7.9 million in 2019 and just over $9 million in 2020 as the fifth-year option to his rookie contract. Elliott certainly has earned the right to be paid like Todd Gurley ($14.37 million per year), Le'Veon Bell ($13.13 million per year), and David Johnson ($13 million per year) despite having two more years on his deal.

In looking at the long-term impact of Elliott's contract, I've advocated that if the Dallas Cowboys intend to pay Elliott, now's the time to do it. A contract extension now, that adds three or four more years onto his existing deal would get Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys to his age 28 or 29 season. In a well-structured contract, they'd have opportunities to get out at the back end if Elliott experienced a significant decline in production.

Ezekiel Elliott's contract is going to continue to be a hot button issue until he's either signed to an extension or it's made known that the Dallas Cowboys have no intention of extending him. Currently, there aren't any other sources confirming Elliott's plan to hold out of training camp, which starts July 27th, but it's a story that we'll continue to follow here on InsideTheStar.com.

Update: 7/15/2019 1:45 pm.

Charles Robinson, Senior Reporter for Yahoo! Sports provided some insight into the thinking of Elliott and his representation.

It certainly seems like holding out is on the table for Ezekiel Elliott and his representation, but no decision has been made at this point.

Check back with us for updates on Ezekiel Elliott's contract extension. 



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Dallas Cowboys 2019 Training Camp Preview: Safety

Jess Haynie

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Xavier Woods

The Dallas Cowboys' safeties may have the been the team's most-talked-about position during the 2019 offseason. Dallas declined making a splashy free agent signing, or even a high draft pick, and that means safety is still a hot topic headed into this year's training camp.

Fans hoping for an Earl Thomas signing or a Juan Thornhill drafting have had to settle for veteran George Iloka and 6th-round rookie Donovan Wilson. These new arrivals don't bring the sizzle that many wanted, but they do add intrigue to the battle for roster spots and depth chart positioning.

Here's the projected safety depth chart right now for the 2019 season:

  1. Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath
  2. George Iloka, Kavon Frazier
  3. Darian Thompson, Donovan Wilson
  4. Jameill Showers

A big reason the Cowboys didn't spend big at safety is Xavier Woods, who is a rising star on defense entering just his third season. Dallas' strategy appears centered around Woods' development, hoping he will anchor the position and make everyone look better.

Woods' fellow starter could be Iloka or the returning Jeff Heath. It is assumed that these two veterans will battle it out for the strong safety job, with the loser being a versatile and experienced backup.

Heath has the advantage of experience with the Cowboys but Iloka has more starting experience overall with 79 games to just 41 for Jeff. You also have to think that Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard had a hand in selecting Iloka from the free agent pool, likely coveting his 6'4" size.

Even if Iloka does win the starting job Heath should remain a valued reserve and special teams leader. His $2.95 million cap hit for 2019 isn't that high for someone who fills those roles.

Regardless of starting jobs, we expect all three of those players to make the roster. It's below them where actual roster spots are on the line.

Cowboys Training Camp: 5 Fringe Players Fans Should Follow

Dallas Cowboys safety Kavon Frazier (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

After three years at backup safety, Kavon Frazier is facing some real competition for his job in 2019. Not only is there the aforementioned rookie Donovan Wilson, but reserve Darian Thompson may already be moving ahead of Frazier on the depth chart.

Thompson was a 3rd-round pick of the Giants in 2016, the same year that Dallas drafted Frazier in the 6th round. He was named a starter in Week 2 as a rookie, but got hurt that game and missed the rest of they ear. He started all 16 games in 2017, but then was injured again and released prior to the start of the 2018 season.

After less than a week on the Cardinals' practice squad, Thompson got signed to the Cowboys' roster last October as a reserve. They re-signed him this offseason, and reports from mini-camps and OTAs had Darian getting second-team reps in practice over Kavon Frazier and other prospects.

If Thompson has ascended, the biggest concern for Frazier and Donovan Wilson is just how many safeties the Cowboys keep. They've kept five before but could easily go with just four, and that might leave two talented players out in the cold.

If Frazier and Wilson do wind up battling for that fifth and final spot, the rookie may have the edge thanks to youth and his four-year contract. Kavon is a free agent next year, so Dallas might elect to keep the younger, cheaper option for further development.

From starting jobs to just keeping The Star on their helmets, these safeties have a lot to fight for in 2019. It's been one of our most interesting positions to watch all offseason, and that won't change when we head into training camp.

~ ~ ~

OTHER 2019 CAMP PREVIEWS



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Are the Dallas Cowboys Carrying any Bad Contracts?

John Williams

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Cowboys Blog - Cowboys Home Cooking For Preseason Dress Rehearsal 1

Late last week Bleacher Report's Brad Gagnon went through the contracts of all 32 NFL teams and attempted to determine who holds the worst contract for each team. Every team in the NFL is carrying bad contracts. Even the Dallas Cowboys, who've become really good at managing their cap. It's the nature of player evaluation and contract negotiations in all sports. You pay players with a balance of historical production and potential progression.

Here are the rules they laid out in their analysis:

  • Had to be a contract of more than $5 million per year.
  • Looked more at the cost of the player beyond the 2019 season.
  • Player progression and trajectory matters.
  • Looked mainly at 2018 production and showed a little grace to players with who were injured.

It's certainly a difficult task to undertake, and there are some really solid choices on their list, like Star Lotuleilei's five-year $50 million deal that he's being paid by the Buffalo Bills. That's a lot of money for a nose tackle. On the flipside, they chose DeMarcus Lawrence as having the worst contract on the Dallas Cowboys. To be fair, they also chose Khalil Mack's contract as the worst for the Chicago Bears.

I guess they aren't a fan of paying elite pass rushers elite money. 

Here's what they had to say about Lawrence's deal:

"This is a similar situation to Mack's in Chicago. Mack and Lawrence are the only two pass-rushers making $21-plus million per year, and Lawrence's new deal with the Dallas Cowboys ties him to the team through at least 2021. Even after that, it'd cost Dallas $10 million to cut him ahead of the 2022 season."

Brad Gagnon - Bleacher Report

In their assessment of Lawrence, they're assuming that he's not going to continue to be a disruptive player for the Dallas Cowboys beyond 2019 or 2020. We talked about Lawrence last week and I listed him as one of the five most important Dallas Cowboys for them to have success in 2019. His ability to play the run and rush the passer at an elite level is invaluable. Sure, paying any player north of $20 million and more than 10% of your salary cap seems like a bad idea on the surface, but when you're talking about one of the five best defensive linemen in the NFL, $21 million per year and $60 million guaranteed is the cost of doing business.

There's a reason the Dallas Cowboys felt comfortable paying Lawrence elite edge money, it's because he's an elite edge. Were it not for injuries early in his career, national observers would be talking about Lawrence in the same light as Mack and Von Miller. Despite two highly productive seasons for the Dallas Cowboys, Lawrence is still highly underrated. If the talk from Cowboys fans is any indication, he's underrated in his own fanbase.

If you go to OverTheCap.com and look at the Dallas Cowboys contractual obligations for the next few years, you see a team that hasn't loaded themselves down with many, if any bad contracts. If there's one that's arguably bad, it's the Tyrone Crawford contract.

The Dallas Cowboys will pay him a little more than $10 million this season and a little more than $9 million in 2020. After that, his contract expires and he becomes a free agent.

Crawford has always been a solid player for the Dallas Cowboys, even if he hasn't lived up to the contract extension he received back in 2015. His ability to play both defensive end positions as well as 3-technique defensive tackle along with his leadership has made him an important piece to the Dallas Cowboys playoff teams over the last five seasons. It's become evident, that for the Dallas Cowboys front office and coaching staff, they'd much rather have Crawford playing at $10 million a season than not have him at all.

In the short term, particularly for 2019, the contract that stands out the most is Allen Hurns.

Hurns signed a two-year deal in the 2018 offseason and the thought was he'd be able to supplement some of the production that was lost when the team released Dez Bryant. Hurns, unfortunately, struggled to hit his stride last season before suffering an ankle fracture in the win over the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs.

The sixth-year wide receiver is now set to have a salary cap hit of $6.25 million in 2019. The Dallas Cowboys could walk away from his salary and save $5 million on the cap with only $1.25 million in dead money.

For a receiver who has had a 1,000-yard season in the NFL, $6.25 million dollars isn't that much. Remember, Sammy Watkins signed for $16 million a season last offseason and only has one 1,000 yard receiving season to his name.

Again, the Dallas Cowboys dodged a bullet with that one. 

The Dallas Cowboys coaching staff, reportedly really likes Allen Hurns. On the field, he can help the team on the outside and in the slot and provides tremendous depth at the wide receiver position. How he, and some of the wide receivers further down the depth chart, perform during training camp and preseason, will make or break Hurns' employment with Dallas Cowboys in 2019.

Even with the contracts of Tyrone Crawford and Allen Hurns on the books, the Dallas Cowboys have $20 million in cap space in 2019 and almost $75 million in cap space in 2020. Sure those numbers will change significantly whenever Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and possibly Ezekiel Elliott sign their new contracts, but the Dallas Cowboys are in great shape in terms of the cap. They aren't carrying much dead money and there are zero contracts on the roster that are weighing them down and keeping them from doing what they want to do in free agency and with their own players.

Good drafting and wise free agent pursuits have finally destroyed the narrative that the Dallas Cowboys were in "cap hell." Sure, it can be frustrating during free agency to watch other teams make moves and improve their team, but it sure is nice that they're in the position to be able to hand out long-term extensions to the core of their team.

Namely the newest iteration of The Triplets.



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