The NFL season isn’t quite over yet, but the Dallas Cowboys are watching the Super Bowl again. Looking back on their season and it’s fine to say was a successful one, just not as good as some diehard fans had hoped. Considering where they started and their projections for the year, the Cowboys had a nice 2018 campaign.
Now comes the hard part, repeating their success and getting better for 2019. It’s been noted how there hasn’t been a repeat division winner from the NFC East since the 2003-04 Eagles. The Cowboys would love to buck that trend, and to do that, they have some pieces they need to bring back for next season.
Among the key players who are free agents for the Cowboys include DeMarcus Lawrence, Cole Beasley, Damien Wilson, David Irving, Rod Smith, Tavon Austin, Cameron Fleming, and Geoff Swaim. Add in players who are in line for contract extensions, Amari Cooper, Byron Jones, Dak Prescott, and Ezekiel Elliott, and the Cowboys have themselves quite an offseason ahead of them.
The good news is the Cowboys finally have some money to play around with. Current estimations have the team with over $50 million, a number that can go higher with some restructuring or releasing of players that no longer fit the teams’ plans. Sean Lee and Terrance Williams are players that could fall into that category.
It’s also easy to separate the important players from the ones the Cowboys don’t need to bring back. It looks like there are five players Dallas will invest money into, while one player looks to be a big question mark.
First things first, Tank Lawrence isn’t going anywhere. The Cowboys will sign him to a long-term deal worth big money, or franchise him again if an agreement can’t be reached. Lawrence is one of the best defensive ends in the game and he deserves to be compensated as such.
The next order of business will be to extend Prescott. Cowboys Nation seems to be split on him getting a new deal, but everyone should prepare themselves for a mega deal (post coming on that!). The decision makers have told us for months an extension is coming, so, it’s coming and it’ll be big.
Cooper and Jones will likely also get extended in the offseason. Cooper proved his worth for the Cowboys, becoming the true number one receiver they clearly lacked. His numbers with Dallas were very good and he changed the offense.
Jones was one of the best corners in the league after the team finally settled his position. Kris Richard had a big impact on his play and Jones is in line to cash in on his best season. Now that he’s found a home at cornerback, Jones will be worth the cost.
Here’s where things get interesting, the Cowboys probably have the money to extend both Beasley and Elliott, but neither is guaranteed. Zeke’s representatives have floated that they’d like a new deal, understandable considering the workload he had last year. The team doesn’t have to be in a hurry to get a deal done and could push the extension a year to keep other players or to sign some other free agents. However, the whispers have already begun about a possible holdout if Elliott doesn’t get a new deal. This is the real situation to watch this offseason.
The situation with Beasley is much different, he’s a big part of what the Cowboys do offensively and would be a big loss. As we’ve always mentioned in this space, Beasley is impossible to cover and his third down production is vital. The issue is that Beasley has been a tad outspoken about this staff and of his usage in the offense. That usually doesn’t fly well with Jason Garrett, either one of the Joneses or Will McClay. Scott Linehan being gone is a step in the right direction to getting Beasley back, but he could leave for a better opportunity. The offense would miss Beasley, but there should be (supposedly) plenty of options for his replacement in the draft.
After these key players, the Cowboys will pick and choose who to bring back. Fleming was an adequate replacement for Tyron Smith this season and the team would be wise to bring him back. Likewise, it feels like the team values Austin’s potential in the offense as well. There is no one else who needs to come back to the team.
The wildcard is David Irving, as always. Irving has the talent, but he just can’t stay on the field. His off-field issues have worn thin with the Cowboys and he won’t collect the big payday he was hoping for at this time last year. Dallas is likely to move on, but if there isn’t a big market, perhaps the team keeps him at a drastically reduced price. If that doesn’t happen, Irving will be gone and it’s a shame, he has the talent.
Those are the big players the Cowboys’ offseason will revolve around. They’ll surely be some other moves, but these players will be the epicenter of what Dallas spends their money on in 2019.
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