Dallas Cowboys post-draft/free agency: The remodeled offense
By Tyrone Starr
With the draft complete and free agency all but done as well, let’s take a look at what the 2018 Dallas Cowboys offense has to offer.
The draft is over. Undrafted free agents have been added to the roster, mainly for camp fodder. Free agency, for the most part, is complete as well. The business of acquisition is pretty much complete which leaves just one question left to answer.
Are the 2018 Dallas Cowboys better than last year’s version?
Before a single football is put in the air for relevant purposes, there will be some field activities.
Rookies report this weekend and the one after. Organized team activities take place later this month for three consecutive, three day outings. June offers a mandatory minicamp before training camp starts in late July.
All of these events will offer glimpses of what could be but the biggest goal of these days will be to avoid injuries.
Ultimately, the only real way to answer that question will be to play the games.
For the first time since probably the early 2000’s Dallas Cowboys, the biggest question mark on this team will be the offense.
Dez Bryant is no longer on this team. Neither is Jason Witten.
Currently, seven receivers and four tight ends have a chance to make the roster. Those eleven players collectively have fewer career touchdowns than either Bryant or Witten by themselves.
The initial, obvious answer is that this offense is not better than last season. While the Cowboys did address both departures, both in the draft and free agency, talent and savvy will clearly be less. That’s the bad news.
The good news?
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Allen Hurns is a younger, albeit less explosive version, of Bryant. Terrance Williams told Cowboys insider Mike Fisher that he is out for vengeance this year. Cole Beasley is still around to work the slot and there are three new outside deep threats (Tavon Austin, Deonte Thompson, Michael Gallup) that could excite.
At tight end, fans may finally get to see what Rico Gathers is capable of doing. Worst case scenario, at least he and Blake Jarwin bring speed to the position.
Maybe this youth and speed will help open things up for the run game.
All of that can somehow surprise all of us “know-it-all’s” and go the Dallas Cowboys way and still none of that truly matters.
This team’s success will be defined and determined by two specific players with two very different questions.
- Can offensive tackle Tyron Smith stay healthy for all sixteen games?
- Will quarterback Dak Prescott regress further or will he be the guy everyone thought he might be in 2016?
After missing just one game in his first six seasons, Smith has missed six in the last two years. Things are completely different without him protecting Prescott and opening running lanes for Ezekiel Elliott. Maybe the addition of Cameron Fleming will alleviate these concerns but I’m in no rush to find out.
Speaking of Prescott, the worry is that he may only be capable of managing games and not taking them over. Yes, he missed Elliott last year, as would any other quarterback. The problem is that Bryant, Witten and Beasley all had the worst numbers of their careers in 2017.
They didn’t all magically regress in unison. Some of that responsibility lies at the feet of the guy getting them the ball.
2018 will be a huge year for Prescott. If he has another sub-par year, the Dallas Cowboys should aggressively be back in the market for a new quarterback. If he bounces back, a big contract is in front of him.
Three weeks ago, I took a shot at projecting this year’s offense along with the salary implications.
Here’s the updated version of that, with Dallas now spending $20M less on the offense. Hopefully the idiom of getting what you pay for does not come into fruition.
Dak Prescott ($726K), Cooper Rush ($557K)
Mike White (practice squad) ($534K)
Ezekiel Elliott ($6.8M), Tavon Austin ($3.0M), Rod Smith ($705K), Bo Scarbrough ($501K), Jamize Olawale ($1.6M)
Allen Hurns ($4.4M), Terrance Williams ($4.8M), Cole Beasley ($4.3M), Michael Gallup ($702K), Noah Brown ($573K), Deonte Thompson ($1.8M)
Cedrick Wilson (practice squad) ($509K)
Geoff Swaim ($718K), Blake Jarwin ($555K), Rico Gathers ($480K)
Dalton Schultz (practice squad) ($593K)
Tyron Smith ($17.5M), Zack Martin ($9.3M), Travis Frederick ($5.9M), Connor Williams ($997K), La’el Collins ($5.8M), Cameron Fleming ($2.4M), Marcus Martin ($636K), Joe Looney ($975K)
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Last year, the offense finished 14thoverall in both points and yards. It was the just the second time since 2011 that the Dallas Cowboys were outside the top 10 in both categories.
Changes were necessary but were the right ones made? We’ll know that answer before 2018 is through.