An underrated story heading into training camp was that Defensive Tackle Antwaun Woods, a starter for most of the last two seasons, was not yet under contract. He finally signed his tender as a exclusive right free agent yesterday, allowing to him to rejoin the Cowboys ahead of camp and on the same day that Dontari Poe was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
This has been a tough offseason for Woods. Despite his good work with the Cowboys the last two years, he hit free agency with only two accrued seasons in the NFL according to the rules of the CBA. That meant he wasn’t eligible to negotiate with other teams; he could only re-sign with Dallas and for whatever amount they were willing to pay him.
DT Antwaun Woods has officially signed for 2020; the Cowboys gave him an exclusive rights tender earlier this offseason.
— Rob Phillips (@robphillips3) July 28, 2020
The Cowboys took advantage of this provision and gave Antwaun a $750k offer for 2020; obviously a low-ball amount for any current or projected starter. But Woods’ only options are to either holdout and refuse to play, or to just take it and hope for better next year.
Things got worse for Antwaun when Dallas signed veteran Dontari Poe in free agency. A former Pro Bowler and 1st-round pick, Poe was naturally projected to walk in and take over Woods’ spot as the starting “1-tech” defensive tackle.
Now facing the low salary and the prospect of not getting to earn a better contract going forward, Woods was rightfully frustrated. He never signed his ERFA tender until yesterday.
Is it a coincidence that Antwaun made this decision the same day that Poe was placed on the PUP list? Until Dontari returns, Woods will likely be working with the starters in his usual position. Perhaps that was the motivation he needed.
Maybe it had nothing to do with his decision. Woods may have just been waiting for the start of camp to make it official, or perhaps weighing the merits of playing this year versus skipping the season due to COVID-19. Only Antwaun knows for sure.
Whatever the case, it’s big for the Cowboys that they’ll now have Woods in the mix when practices start. It will help them run practice and evaluate other talent to have a proven, solid starter in that position.
Dontari Poe could come back quickly and push Antwaun Woods to second string, but this at least gives him an opportunity to show his stuff to the new coaching staff against the best competition. If nothing else, it gives Dallas a valuable, versatile option at DT who will help their depth in 2020.