Cowboys Fullback Jamize Olawale and Corrnerback Maurice Canady were among the 67 NFL players who opted out of the 2020 season under a special provision due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What are the prospects for these players to return to Dallas next season?
Another Cowboys opt-out was undrafted rookie WR Stephen Guidry, who wasn't expected to make the roster in 2020 anyway.
Olawale and Canady are another matter. Jamize was a virtual lock to make it as the veteran fullback and special teams contributor. There was also excitement about what Mike McCarthy, who got a lot of use out of fullbacks in his Green Bay offenses, might do with Olawale's proven receiving skills.
Canady joined Dallas as a free agent last offseason to provide depth and competition at cornerback. He'd been a backup for most of his career with the Ravens and Jets but has intriguing size and was a well-graded player coming out of 2019.
Under the COVID-19 opt-out policy, these players all saw their contracts get deferred for one season. So while Canady only signed a one-year deal when he joined the Cowboys last year, that contract was essentially frozen for a year and is now binding for 2021.
The pandemic is still going going on and there's no clear sign of where we'll be with it by the start of the next season. For all we know, the NFL may allow another opt-out provision this year and these same players may once again choose their health and families over football.
Even if they want to return, Jamize Olawale and Maurice Canady still have to hope that the Cowboys want them back. Thankfully, for their sakes, the team may very well need their services in 2021.
The Cowboys never brought in a full-time fullback after Olawale's departure. They got by using a lot of single-back formations or utilizing their tight ends as blockers. We even saw Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard in the backfield together a few times.
While Dallas' run game suffered most in 2020 due to the offensive line injuries and the loss of Dak Prescott, not having a true fullback for the first time in Zeke's career may have also contributed.
Dallas would only save about $500k against the salary cap if they release Jamize, which isn't much return for losing an experienced and versatile player. If the team perceives any potential in him as an occasional offensive weapon, it would make more sense to bring him back.
If nothing else, Olawale will likely get a chance to compete in camp for his job. But now 32 years old and with a season away from the game, who knows if he'll even want to?
Maurice Canady turns 27 in May and could have an excellent opportunity if he comes back to the Cowboys. With Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and C.J. Goodwin all going into free agency, Canady has a shot at competing for a significant role.
Last year there was talk that Canady could push Awuzie and Lewis for their spots on the depth charts but we never got to see it. Now he has to hope that Dallas still sees that potential in him, because they could get back about $1 million in cap space if they release Maurice.this offseason.
Opting out last year definitely brought its own form of risk to these players. While neither Jamize or Maurice has been clearly replaced and could find work with Dallas in 2021, they haven't really been part of the team since last July.
Who knows where Olawale and Canady fall on the Cowboys' radar this offseason? And if the pandemic is still going then who knows if they'll even want to come back?
But in both cases, if there's mutual interest between the players and the team then there are some clear opportunities for both Jamize and Maurice to be contributors in 2021.