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Who Stays, Who Goes? Which Free Agents Will Cowboys Re-sign in 2021?

How many pending free agents of the Dallas Cowboys keep in 2021?

The Dallas Cowboys have a little over a month (March 17) until the start of NFL free agency to decide which of their 17 pending free agents they’d like to keep around for next season. They obviously won’t be able to keep them all, nor should they, but whoever they decide to retain will impact the other moves I make in the offseason.

Last year the Dallas Cowboys retained 11 of their free agents, but I highly doubt they approach anywhere close that number this year. With that in mind, let’s go through each and every one of their 17 pending free agents to determine which ones have a future with the organization and which ones don’t.

Let’s get started, shall we!?

QB Dak Prescott

Verdict: Keep

Unless contract talks just completely break down and things turned ugly, Dak Prescott will be retained for at least the 2021 seasons on either a long-term extension or franchise tag. Keeping Prescott around is what is in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys if they want any chance of success in the near future.

QB Andy Dalton

Verdict: Move on

Andy Dalton still believes he’s a capable starter in the NFL and as such will seek an opportunity to start elsewhere. That doesn’t materialize though the Dallas Cowboys could be interested in retaining him as their QB2 once again.

OL Cameron Erving

Verdict: Move on

Cameron Irving’s versatility to play just about any position along the offensive line is intriguing, but after missing 10 games last season due to injuries I see no reason to keep him around. Paying for a veteran swing tackle with Brandon Knight and Terence Steele is no longer needed.

C/OG Joe Looney

Verdict: Keep

Unless Joe Looney finds a starting job elsewhere, the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to bring him back as an insurance policy in case Tyler Biadasz struggles as a full-time starter. Looney’s versatility to play C or OG makes him a valuable utility player.

WR Noah Brown

Verdict: Move on

Dallas’ WR position is arguably the deepest and most talented on the entire roster. With Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, and Cedrick Wilson there’s no need to spend money on a veteran WR5 like Noah Brown when a cheaper/younger option could be added through the draft.

TE Blake Bell

Verdict: Move on

With Dalton Schultz’s emergence last year and with Blake Jarwin returning from injury, playing time for Blake Bell would be minimal at best even if the Cowboys wanted him back. He will likely seek a better opportunity elsewhere in the offseason.

DL Tyrone Crawford

Verdict: Move on

The Dallas Cowboys and Tyrone Crawford are likely to part ways the season. The 31-year-old versatile defensive line is supposedly mulling over retirement, which is understandable considering he’s been plagued by injuries the past few seasons.

DT Eli Ankou

Verdict: Move on

The Cowboys traded a seventh-round pick to the Houston Texans to acquire Eli Ankou to provide more depth that the DT position last season. Nothing he did last year during his time in Dallas suggests he has any kind of future with the organization moving forward though.

DE Aldon Smith

Verdict: Keep

There seems to be mutual interest between the Cowboys and Aldon Smith reuniting in the offseason. However, that could change if he’s offered a better contract elsewhere. If the price tag isn’t too expensive though I expect Dallas to do their best to retain his services for next season.

LB Sean Lee

Verdict: Move on

The only way Sean Lee should be retained by the Cowboys is its as an assistant coach, not a player. Dallas needs to get younger and healthier at the LB position and neither of those are his strong suits any longer.

LB Joe Thomas

Verdict: Move on

Joe Thomas is a serviceable starter as a fill-in who I wouldn’t mind the Cowboys trying to retain. But, that’s only if Dallas doesn’t sign another free agent LB or uses a relatively high pick on the position in the upcoming draft.

LB Justin March

Verdict: Move on

Justin March is strictly a special teams player with little to no value for the Cowboys defensively. They can more than likely replaces value on special teams relatively easily through this year’s incoming rookies.

CB Chidobe Awuzie

Verdict: Move on

It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Cowboys attempt to retain Awuzie to provide a bridge while they make over the CB position, but I doubt they put a ton of effort into keeping him around. He will likely move on and receive a better offer to play elsewhere.

CB Jourdan Lewis

Verdict: Move on

I don’t see any way Jourdan Lewis would want to return to the Dallas Cowboys. He’s never really been valued much by the coaching staff during his time with the organization and will likely seek a better opportunity elsewhere.

CB C.J. Goodwin

Verdict: Keep

C.J. Goodwin played 72% of Dallas’ snaps on special teams in 2020 and someone John Fassel will likely campaign to keep around. He’d be relatively inexpensive to retain, which is why I think he sticks around for at least the 2021 season.

S Xavier Woods

Verdict: Move on

Dan Quinn’s system depends on a free safety who can make plays in coverage and Xavier Woods hasn’t proven capable of doing that in his four seasons with the Cowboys. Last year alone in 15 games he had zero interceptions and only one pass defended.

LS L.P. Ladouceur

Verdict: Keep

L.P. Ladouceur just finished his 16th season with the Dallas Cowboys and there’s no reason whatsoever not to go for number 17. He still as consistent as ever, even though he will turn 40 in March. If he wants to continue playing the Cowboys would be wise to make it happen.

What do you think?

Brian Martin

Written by Brian Martin

Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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  1. There is no way I would re-sign Prescott. Prescott is coming off an injury and his free agency value is one-year, NFL minimum. If you think Dak stays with the Cowboys, should they decide to franchise tag him again for $39M, after 2021 then you do not understand the massive cap issues facing the Cowboys over the next several years due to some poor management with contracts like Elliot’s….

    • I understand the salary-cap ramifications if Dak Prescott is re-signed by the Dallas Cowboys perfectly well. A franchise tag once again this year would be $37.7 million, not $39 million. If signed long-term he’d probably make somewhere around $39 million per season though. Personally, I’m a little on the fence as to whether or not Prescott should be re-signed. I could honestly go either way, however, I think the Cowboys lock him up for the foreseeable future.

  2. Jeffrey Williams, you must not have lived through the qb gauntlet of Banks, Carter, Stoerner, Leaf, Testaverde, Hutchinson, and Henson between the Aikman and Romo Era. You’d be a fool to let a young, top 5 qb like Dak walk. Unless you’re content with watching Dallas waste the prime years of Amari Cooper and Ceedee Lamb with someone like Ben Dinucci running the offense.

  3. Michael I agree with everything you said. There is no reason to bet on a rookie QB or someone in free agency with how good this offense is.

  4. FR why would you let him go Jeffrey he has passed for 17,634 yards.
    There is the reason to keep him and i’m 13 and know this so you should be smart enough to know this.

  5. Don’t forget the numbers that Dak was putting up before his injury. Some people forget that because of how bad the defense was under Mike Nolan’s scheme. Quinn will get the defense back to its roots and Dak will take care of the offense with his trio of #1 receivers and hopefully a healthy offensive line.

  6. Forget the numbers. I look at wins and he can’t beat the good teams the previous year we were 8 and 8. His 8 wins against below 500 teams 8 losses against above 500 teams. Not worth the money he wants let him walk.

  7. I’m tired of hearing about how many yards he’s thrown for or how many touchdowns he has thrown versus how many interceptions he hasn’t thrown. Let’s look at wins his last full year he was 8 and 8. The 8 wins against teams with below 500 record his 8 losses against teams with win percentage above 500. Let him walk not worth the money he wants

  8. My new idea if I was GM is sign Dak to the deal he wants , make him feel he’s gonna be our QB , then THE VERY SECOND HE SIGNS THE CONTRACT i’d trade his ass to whoever would be willing to give a bunch of picks , we can take on the signing bonus and other stuff of Dak’s so it will lighten the load a team gets for him in contract and we’ll get a bunch of picks and be rid of the rest of his contract

  9. There’s some SERIOUS animosity going on rn between Cowboys and Dak , I’m certain Brian or the other guys at InsidetheStar will write a article about this here pretty quick , but the Cowboys posted a 2021 hype video , WITH NO DAK ANYWHERE IN THE VIDEO , how do you not have your QB in a hype video ? That’s some shade thrown there , if you think otherwise , watch this morning’s Skip and Shannon Undisputed , they talk about it and that it’s a big deal , and yes this is a HUGE deal not having your QB in the video , also Dak followed and then unfollowed WFT , that signals to me that Cowboys aren’t close to getting a deal with Dak or should I say not “Imminent” like some ppl on here suggested

  10. Brian, agree with the majority of your selections. A few switches would be keeping Chido and J Thomas, borderline on N Brown, and letting A Smith move on. Chido is a little underrated, and still good for near term. Thomas is a very good backup/fill in starter. A Smith really petered out as the year went on, three sacks early in one game, just two for the remainder of year, kind of like his career as a whole. Noah is good depth player at least.

    Michael, Cowboys would not go with a DiNucci if DP is taken out of the picture. Everyone here knows that. And in what universe is DP a top five QB?

  11. Sign Dak to the non-exclusive FA deal. Let him negotiate with the NFL and set his market rate. Dallas has the option to match or gain 2 1st rounders.

    And quick question, is Garret Gilbert under contract? Fine with him as a back up.

    Let Dak walk but gain 2 1st rounders as some team will over pay. At $20-25 million, Dak is a good signing at ANYTHING over $30 million. . . LET HIM WALK.

    QB hungry teams: Atlanta 4, Carolina 8 NE 15 Denver 9 SF 11 Chi 20 Indy 21

    Odds are one over pays for Dak

    With #10, take CB with the other pick, take Mac Jones. I’m calling it now, the kid will be the last of the Big5 (6 if you include Trask) taken and will have the best career.

    I will also say that over the next 4 years, Jones leads Dallas to more success than Dak has elsewhere. He’s a good QB but not a great one

    In round 2 take Ailm McNeil, the ANSWER at DT

    In round 3 take S & OT or LB depending on how the board falls

    2 more picks in round 4, potentially package them to move up for a falling 2nd/3rd round talent Dallas covets

  12. Then again maybe they left DP out of the video purposefully just to get people talking about the Cowboys. Just to be relevant in some way right now. It is a bit of a head scratcher though.

  13. Yeah maybe VAM , it’s just very odd as the official Cowboys social wouldn’t have thought “hey where’s the Dak in all this ?” before releasing the video , they wouldn’t put a video out there without looking closely at it , they be looking at it and they wouldn’t just randomly put something together and just put it out there on a wim

    Maybe it was just to get media buzzing about it or something else ? It’s just very weird to me how he ain’t in it AT ALL and that he follows and then unfollows WFT , almost like it was a message that if you don’t sign me , then WFT will , Skip and Shannon on Undisputed thought that this was a big deal too

    Also VAM I haven’t heard anything about a 2nd surgery on Dak’s ankle so IDK anything on that

  14. Top 5 QB ? I’d argue that 2 years from now , Dak won’t even be top ten or right at 10th in top 10 QBs

    Brady and Rodgers aren’t going anywhere till about I think 4-5 years from now barring any sort of serious injury and for me Brees wasn’t even in my projected top 10 anyways so if he does retire it doesn’t effect my top 10 anyways

    2.There’s young guys like Herbert who I believe will not just be top 10 but top 5 , he’s got a BIG arm and can move , with that Chargers team , he gonna be REALLY good and i think you can take it to the bank he’ll be top 10 , that isn’t including Burrow and Murray who showed great potential as long as their teams can go and put some players around them , they gonna be right at it and btw T Lawrence with Jags , he gonna be threatening top 10 right off the bat as well as other QBs potentially depending on team they land with

    IMO i’d sign Dak to a deal that he wants , and minute you sign him to contract , go look for a trade partner , that way Dak won’t have any say in a sign and trade and you can get a bunch of picks in the process

  15. TUTX88, haven’t seen “Undisputed” yet but will at some point on youtube. Skip has been following Cowboys since almost their start, as reporter, etc.. Wrote books on them, I think. So if anyone may know the inside story, it may be him.

    I believe and have said before and agree with EMMITT SMITH, this contract drama will trickle down and hurt the team. That’s why I would somehow unload this problem.

  16. Yeah it’s just weird and the whole follow then unfollow WFT by Dak feels like a scare tactic , as in trying to scare Jerry into getting a deal that Dak wants kind of deal done which if that’s true , then yeah I’m 1 MILLION percent down to signing him and making him think he gonna be our QB then ship him to another team so that way he don’t get the chance to go to WFT

    The fact that Dak is willing to go that low and go to a rival team in same division as Cowboys is a dick move by Dak and is someone I don’t want on my team

  17. I would keep A. Smith if the price is right. Yes some can say that he tailed of as the season wore on. Which is evident by the stats he produced. With Smith the only problem is that before all his off field problems and suspensions he was one of the top 5 defensive player’s in the entire league. Naturally assuming after his long layoff he knocked off most if not all of his rust and should come into year 2 better prepared for a full season. An nfl season is long and grueling, it takes a huge toll on you mentally, physically and emotionally. Couple his years away from the game with the 2020 pandemic which just made it even harder. 2021 should be an all around better season for him in every way possible.

    Now with Dak I’m on the fence about what to do with him. Personally I would do one of 2 things. With the injury situation and 2 surgeries there is know way to know if he can stay healthy. Then has he lost a step or some of his mobility. So I would try and resign him to a 2 year deal. If he isn’t ok with the shorter deal I would do everything in my power to find a trade for him. With his statistics and the caliber of QB he is you would at least get 2 1st round picks plus more for him.

    Then the question becomes what do you do after Dak is gone? Would you resign Dalton and hope with a healthy offensive line his play will improve? If you make a trade would for draft picks would you use them to try and move up and get Trevor Lawrence or Zach Wilson and hope the hype is real and they are ready? Would you sit back and hope a QB falls in the draft or sign a different free agent? Sit back and take Mac Jones and hope his 1 season as a starter a Alabama was real?

    Trevor Lawrence would be the preferred option but I don’t see them moving the #1 overall pick unless you over pay greatly. Look how that had turned out for the WFT for RGIII. Honestly I believe Dalton is better than what it appeared this past season. With the injuries to the offensive line it just made his job harder. Losing Smith, Collins, Fredrick and at times Martin was more devastating than some realize. It may have hurt more than losing Dak. Winning with a make shit O-line is almost impossible. The. Staying put or trading down to get Mac Jones would be a possibility. Personally though I’ve always been skeptical of drafting a QB from Alabama. It is a lot harder to judge them due to the talent of the skill players and o-line Saban puts around them year in and out. Jones only had 1 year as a starter and with that had a 2 of the top 5 WR in the entire NCAA. So if you don’t go with Dak where do you go?

    Now I see the skepticism on Dak due to the injury and multiple surgeries. You can throw out the 8-8 record but if you do you have to throw in the 13-3 record as well. Statistically he has been one of the top QB’s in the game. The problem with going by record is the QB only plays one position. Dak could put up 42 points and it wouldn’t matter if the defense can’t keep the other team from scoring 43+. The QB gets to much blame no matter if they are playing at a MVP caliber level.

    Let’s take this scenario for example. Dak throws for 5 TD’s and 0 interceptions the also get a FG(38 pts). Now the other teams QB throws for 4 TD’s but successfully got 3 2 point conversions and on failed 2 point conversion. On top of that they get 3 FG’s(39 pts). With 1:15 seconds left in the game Cowboys have the ball. He drives down the field get the team in position to kick a 33 yard field goal with 3 seconds left on the clock. A False start penalty pushes them back 5 yard and the kicker shanks the FG. So was it Daks fault, was it the kicker or was it the defense for not stopping the other team? Basically you can blame every loss on the QB but you also can give them all the credit for every win. There are 7 different thing’s that have an effect on a football game in no particular order you have the offense, defense, special teams, coaching, officials, fans and weather!

    So if not Dak who or where do you go? I would h ok honestly try to figure out a way to offload Zeke. While I love what he can do on the field his play dropped off. With his contract and the position he plays it’s not worth it. You can always find a starting caliber RB in the draft or free agency. With the big 3 wideouts and Pollard plus the TE’s. I believe the could handle losing his production, fumbles and distractions.

  18. I would keep A. Smith if the price is right. Yes some can say that he tailed of as the season wore on. Which is evident by the stats he produced. With Smith the only problem is that before all his off field problems and suspensions he was one of the top 5 defensive player’s in the entire league. Naturally assuming after his long layoff he knocked off most if not all of his rust and should come into year 2 better prepared for a full season. An nfl season is long and grueling, it takes a huge toll on you mentally, physically and emotionally. Couple his years away from the game with the 2020 pandemic which just made it even harder. 2021 should be an all around better season for him in every way possible.

    Now with Dak I’m on the fence about what to do with him. Personally I would do one of 2 things. With the injury situation and 2 surgeries there is know way to know if he can stay healthy. Then has he lost a step or some of his mobility. So I would try and resign him to a 2 year deal. If he isn’t ok with the shorter deal I would do everything in my power to find a trade for him. With his statistics and the caliber of QB he is you would at least get 2 1st round picks plus more for him.

    Then the question becomes what do you do after Dak is gone? Would you resign Dalton and hope with a healthy offensive line his play will improve? If you make a trade would for draft picks would you use them to try and move up and get Trevor Lawrence or Zach Wilson and hope the hype is real and they are ready? Would you sit back and hope a QB falls in the draft or sign a different free agent? Sit back and take Mac Jones and hope his 1 season as a starter a Alabama was real?

    Trevor Lawrence would be the preferred option but I don’t see them moving the #1 overall pick unless you over pay greatly. Look how that had turned out for the WFT for RGIII. Honestly I believe Dalton is better than what it appeared this past season. With the injuries to the offensive line it just made his job harder. Losing Smith, Collins, Fredrick and at times Martin was more devastating than some realize. It may have hurt more than losing Dak. Winning with a make shit O-line is almost impossible. The. Staying put or trading down to get Mac Jones would be a possibility. Personally though I’ve always been skeptical of drafting a QB from Alabama. It is a lot harder to judge them due to the talent of the skill players and o-line Saban puts around them year in and out. Jones only had 1 year as a starter and with that had a 2 of the top 5 WR in the entire NCAA. So if you don’t go with Dak where do you go?

    Now I see the skepticism on Dak due to the injury and multiple surgeries. You can throw out the 8-8 record but if you do you have to throw in the 13-3 record as well. Statistically he has been one of the top QB’s in the game. The problem with going by record is the QB only plays one position. Dak could put up 42 points and it wouldn’t matter if the defense can’t keep the other team from scoring 43+. The QB gets to much blame no matter if they are playing at a MVP caliber level.

    Let’s take this scenario for example. Dak throws for 5 TD’s and 0 interceptions the also get a FG(38 pts). Now the other teams QB throws for 4 TD’s but successfully got 3 2 point conversions and on failed 2 point conversion. On top of that they get 3 FG’s(39 pts). With 1:15 seconds left in the game Cowboys have the ball. He drives down the field get the team in position to kick a 33 yard field goal with 3 seconds left on the clock. A False start penalty pushes them back 5 yard and the kicker shanks the FG. So was it Daks fault, was it the kicker or was it the defense for not stopping the other team? Basically you can blame every loss on the QB but you also can give them all the credit for every win. There are 7 different thing’s that have an effect on a football game in no particular order you have the offense, defense, special teams, coaching, officials, fans and weather!

  19. The debate of Dak is one that has divided our fan base. I see both sides. Being at 10 we can draft a QB and resign Dalton or negotiate with Ryan Fitzpatrick to be our bridge starter or resign Dak and let him be the face of the Cowboys for many years. Either way its not like other QBs where were handcuffed to them. We have options. Personally either we resign him or get 2 1sts either the non exclusive franchise tag is fine with me.

  20. I agree on AD Jim Day , ppl use the O-Line and the bad D angle when they defending Dak and his lack of wins as of late , but then when AD and Cowboys ain’t winning , it’s his fault , sound like a double standard to me

  21. The thing about AD which is what I said when we first got him is that if you give a good O-Line , a RB and a decent D , he can play very well at QB and win you a bunch of games. But as ppl have pointed out when giving Dak excuses as to why he wasn’t winning , the cowboys had none of those things last season , and thus we get Bengals AD where he just wasn’t good , so if Cowboys can put a team around AD , then I wouldn’t mind him being as a sort of bridge QB till we get a rookie who’s ready to play

  22. It’s hard to believe that leaving Dak off the video was an oversight. That type of thing has to be checked off by way too many people to believe that was the case. So what we have here is Jerry stupidly throwing an obvious dig at Dak and his agent. What’s to be gained by a petty and obvious slight like that? If ur trying to negotiate with Dak why would u wanna create friction? No doubt Dak liking the WFT was a reaction to that slight.

    Another amateurish move by a clueless FO who can’t make up their mind what they wanna do. It’s like watching the keystone cops sometimes. Lol

  23. For starters Dalton will likely have offers from other teams to be their “bridge” QB as well . Do u really wannna get into a bidding war for Andy friggin Dalton lol ? Sooo good likely hood we can’t resign Dalton.

    2nd I would be shocked if we draft a QB with our #10 pick. Most of our early picks will go towards fixing this putrid defense. And picking a QB in the later rounds is pretty much a waste of time sooooo?

  24. Don’t over-analyze the hype video. Today you suggest there’s a hidden message? What if Dak was in the video? Then all of you would be saying they’ve already decided to pay him$40m? I’m sure they have several of the videos already queued up or in the works. Nothing to see here …

  25. Let me ask you this Ghost ,

    how you gonna have a Spider-Man movie trailer with no Peter Parker or Spider-Man in the trailer ?

    How you gonna have Super-Man movie trailer with no Clark Kent or Super Man in the trailer ?

    I got so many references that I could blow this whole page up lol

    the fact that Dak is no where to be seen in the hype video but an old Troy Aikman video and a old E Smith video is in it ? You telling me 3rd string guys NO ONE even me have heard of is gonna make the video but not Dak ? You had to go look for those old videos of Aikman and E Smith , you had to look for these 3rd stringers videos cuz they don’t play much , you mean to tell me you couldn’t have found anything on Dak that could be put in hype video ?

    THIS WAS INTENTIONAL NO DOUBT

    now how significant this is idk maybe it was just to get media buzzing , or is it something else ?

    We’ll see

  26. Hey Gary b, good points, Couple of things, just to give a little counter point. JJ may still be stinging from the “imminent” deal snub by DP, and this may be when the friction actually began. Maybe childish but its not confined to only one side. I agree about Cowboys should have made a decision on the whole situation, already. However, as I have commented numerous times, they did make MANY GOOD FAITH AND GENEROUS OFFERS, THAT WERE ALL REJECTED. So it’s not like they haven’t been trying to resolve this problem.

    I would not be shocked if they think their “right” QB is sitting there at 10, and they pull the trigger. At this point whose to know what QB may be available. And, look at some of these mocks taking a TE in the first?

  27. In several mock drafts I’ve done on sim as well as I’ve see with other mock drafts by analysts , Justin Fields falls all the way out of top 10 , if Dak isn’t willing to come down a bit then at this point if Fields is there , I would pull the trigger at 10 , anything is possible at this point

  28. It’s unfair to Jerry that he isn’t trying to get a deal done with Dak , as VAM pointed out , he’s been given MANY GENEROUS OFFERS

    I can’t help but wonder was Jerry the one holding out on getting a deal done , or was Dak playing the market to his advantage , watching and seeing what these other QBs get ?

    Jerry isn’t an idiot , he’s been around the NFL long enough to know better than to not make your QB your #1 priority

  29. Actually Jerry is an idiot. He’s proven that time and again when it comes to decision making. Both sides are holding out for what they want. It’s that simple. It happens league wide with every team and every player. But when its ur team it hits close to home and becomes personal.

    If things turn sour it’s possible but not probable that Jerry looks at drafting another QB. If Fields falls he may think about it. But then u have a rookie QB with a horrible defense and will have burned that #10 pick on a QB vs an impact defender which they desperately need. Again I’m not confident that Jerry can completely rebuild this team even if he did have some FA money.

    I will leave u with this though. This may be the cowboys best chance to draft an elite (maybe) QB depending on who falls. Hopefully they won’t have a top ten pick again for a while. HOWEVER only if it’s FIELDS or WILSON.

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