Dallas Cowboys top three roster priorities this offseason

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 15: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates after the Dallas Cowboys score a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 15: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates after the Dallas Cowboys score a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys have begun their preparations for the 2020 season. The team has 25 unrestricted free agents – how will they build next years roster.

The Dallas Cowboys 2020 roster will be vastly different from the one that finished the 2019 season. Almost half the roster are unrestricted free agents.

According to Spotrac.com, Dallas is primed with nearly $82 million of salary cap space in 2020 assuming an increase from $188.2 million in 2019 to $199 million in 2020. Tom Pelissero from NFL Network reported that the NFL feels that the cap will increase to a minimum of $196.8 million and a maximum of $201.2 million.

The Cowboys currently have 48 players under contract in 2020. Free agency will start in March and the draft is coming in April where the Cowboys will add some new talent.

Every team in the NFL is seeking to upgrade each position group. The Cowboys are no different, Here is a look at the top three plus an honorable mention position groups where the Cowboys will need to add to the roster.

Honorable Mention – Special Teams

Kicker Kai Forbath is an unrestricted free agent. Punter Chris Jones is coming off a disappointing season. Long snapper L.P. Ladouceur is an unrestricted free agent.

The three Cowboys specialists who finished the year are not certain to be back in 2020. Needless to say, Dallas will be looking to fill these roles with a strong desire to find a reliable kicker after suffering through the Brett Maher roller coaster of emotions.

3rd Priority – Safety

Cowboy Nation’s favorite whipping boy, safety Jeff Heath, is an unrestricted free agent. His running mate in 2019, Xavier Woods, is certain to be back and will be one of the presumptive starters.

The Cowboys missed out on Chargers safety Derwin James in the 2018 draft when many were hoping the Boys would make the Florida State safety their first pick. Dallas settled for linebacker Leighton Vander Esch which worked out well.

Early mock drafts are pushing LSU safety Grant Delpit to the Metroplex. The Dallas defense would likely feel a jolt of energy with Delpit’s ball hawking skills but Pro Football Focus warns of his frequent missed tackles.

Regardless, the Cowboys will need to find a new safety to pair with Woods unless they plan to roll the dice with 2019 sixth-round draft Donovan Wilson. If they choose to go this way, they will need to guard against Wilson not panning out by picking up a veteran in the second or third wave of free agency when dollar store prices become more fashionable.

2nd Priority – Defensive Line

No position unit will be as gutted as the defensive line. Unrestricted free agents include Robert Quinn, Michael Bennett, Maliek Collins, Christian Covington, and Kerry Hyder.

Amazingly, only one lineman with a respectable resume and a roster guarantee will return – DeMarcus Lawrence. The rest includes a high cap hit Tyrone Crawford, 2019 second round draft pick Trysten Hill, 2019 fifth round pick Joe Jackson, Dorance Armstrong and practice squad futures Daniel Wise. The possibility exists that Randy Gregory could be re-instated but he will be a great unknown after being out of football for so long.

The Cowboys will be in desperate need to re-tool this position. New defensive coordinator Mike Nolan may have a difference of opinion with outgoing coordinator Rod Marinelli in that a big one technique tackle could be valued. Look for Dallas to add at least four free-agents and Day One or Two draft picks to this group.

Top Priority – Quarterback

It is safe to say that unrestricted free agent Dak Prescott is not going anywhere. Should Prescott and the team not agree on a contract, the quarterback will certainly be franchised.

That being said, this is the most important position on the field and the Cowboys currently only have one quarterback who has dressed in a NFL game under contract. And that quarterback has two career passing yards in only three passing attempts.

The offseason drama will begin to cycle as Prescott and the team rekindle their contract negotiations. Cowboys Nation will debate the merits of Prescott and value his performance against his contract.

It is not hyperbole to suggest that this contract will define the Cowboys over the next five years. A Nobel Prize-winning economics professor from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, James Thaler, has concluded performance higher than contract value is the secret to success in the salary cap era of the NFL.

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Last offseason’s contracts to running back Ezekiel Elliott and DeMarcus Lawrence would suggest the Cowboys still have not learned this lesson. The Cowboys will have another shot with Prescott which could be a franchise defining move.