For a team that was once 3-5, this piece is coming much later than expected. While the Dallas Cowboys went on an impressive 8-1 streak including a Wild Card round victory over the Seattle Seahawks, all good things must come to an end.
This past weekend, Dallas bowed out against the favored Los Angeles Rams in a one score game, 30-22. The season was encouraging on many ends, but the playoff loss exposed some concerns for the Cowboys moving forward.
With their eyes now fixated on the offseason, I have a step by step plan to fix the Dallas Cowboys, and get them back to the Super Bowl for the first time in the 21st century.
I’m not one to call for a coach to lose their job. So while I think head coach Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan have been uninspiring in their roles, owner Jerry Jones has made it clear that he has faith in them in their current positions. If they are going to be retained, there is no reason to suggest alternatives (even if the thought of Oklahoma Sooners offensive coordinator Cale Grundy calling plays is an enticing one).
One move that I expect to happen is the promotion of Kris Richards to defensive coordinator. Rod Marinelli has made it clear that he doesn’t care about labels, and more responsibilities for the younger Richards could convince him to stay in Dallas for the long-term.
Cowboy Free Agents
The number one priority for Dallas’ offseason should be re-signing Demarcus Lawrence. Period.
Lawrence has proven his value over the last two seasons with 25 sacks over that time. The 26 year-old is in line for a big contract after signing his franchise tender this past offseason. It’s time for Dallas to give it to him.
The other free agent that Dallas should retain is swing offensive tackle Cameron Fleming. Still in his physical prime and likely not to get an expensive contract, Fleming provides serviceable depth at both left and right tackle,
While it will be difficult for Cowboy fans, it’s likely time for wide receiver Cole Beasley to move on from Dallas. He will be 30 years-old by the start of next season, so this is likely his last chance at a significant pay day. It’s not one that Dallas is likely to offer.
Along with Beasley, Tavon Austin was barely involved in the offense this season. Dallas should let him walk.
Oft-unavailable defensive tackle David Irving is talented, but Dallas seems fed up with him. Luckily, Maliek Collins and Antwaun Woods are both under Dallas’ control through next season to fill in the spot next to Tyrone Crawford.
According to spotrac.com, Dallas is expected to have the 10th most cap space in the NFL this offseason at roughly $48 million. Some of that will be dedicated to Demarcus Lawrence, as well as cheap retainers such as Fleming. Also, the Cowboys need to give themselves breathing room for the Dak Prescott mega-deal that will come after the season.
Oh, yeah, I should have specified. Dak Prescott is your quarterback for the long-term, people. Hold onto your butts.
With that said, Dallas has positioned themselves to bring in a major free agent on a multi-year deal. The position they need to target is safety.
Everybody will want them to target former Texas Longhorns free safety Earl Thomas, and I would be on board with that. But, there are plenty of other options at the position in free agency.
Landon Collins, Tyrann Mathieu, Kenny Vaccaro, Eric Reid and others will all be unrestricted free agents. I would prefer Dallas target a strong safety (such as Collins or Reid) to pair with starting free safety Xavier Woods. However, with the strength of the defense currently being athleticism at linebacker, I think Woods could transition to strong safety if necessary.
Either way, the nature of the safety position makes it a difficult transition for rookies. If Dallas is serious about pursuing a Super Bowl next season, their issues on the backend need to be solved through free agency.
With the mid-season acquisition of Amari Cooper, Dallas will be without a first round pick in 2019. Cooper was worth that pick, so no complaining come draft day, okay?
The Cowboys first pick will come near the end of the second round at pick 58. On top of their own selections from rounds three through five, they’re projected to receive a fourth-round compensatory pick for the loss of Anthony Hitchens.
Offensively, Dallas’ biggest need is a pass catching tight end in the middle of the field. I anticipate Dallas to move on from uninspiring free agent tight end Geoff Swaim. While Blake Jarwin progressed as a pass catcher towards the end of the season, he’s only scored touchdowns in one career game. Rico Gathere has provided nearly no value to this point in his career, and rookie Dalton Schultz is best suited as a blocker with a marginal role in the passing game. Therefore, Dallas needs to target the depth of the tight end class with either their second or third round pick.
Irv Smith Jr., Isaac Nauta, Dawson Knox and Jace Sternberger could be candidates in the second round, with Josh Oliver, Dax Raymond and Alize Mack as potential options in the third round. This tight end class is stacked, and Dallas has to take advantage.
In this scenario, Dallas is also without Cole Beasley and Tavon Austin, making slot receiver another position of need. Once again, this plays in the Cowboys hands as the position is loaded. I could lost endless names that could be available in rounds through five, but my favorites to fill that spot are KeeSean Johnson, Stanley Morgan Jr., Andy Isabella, Hunter Renfrow, Mecole Hardman, and Greg Dortch. Combining one of these receivers with Cooper, Allen Hurns and Michael Gallup, as well as a new pass catching tight end could finally give a Dak Prescott a passable stable of weapons to work with.
Other positions of need include depth pieces at interior defensive line and edge rusher, as rookie Dorance Armstrong was mostly uninspiring in limited action. A potential Sean Lee replacement one year in advance, and a pass-catching running back to spell Ezekiel Elliott will also be in play. Other than linebacker, these positions are strengths of the draft class.
- Promote Kris Richards to defensive coordinator
- Re-sign Demarcus Lawrence and Cameron Fleming
- Move on from Cole Beasley, Tavon Austin, David Irving and Geoff Swaim
- Sign a safety in free agency
- Draft a pass-catching tight end, defensive tackle, slot receiver and depth pieces at linebacker, EDGE and running back