In the second of a five-part series highlighting the Dallas Cowboys and their pending free agency decisions, today we look at RBs, WRs, and TEs.
On Sunday, we opened our Dallas Cowboys free agency series by looking at the quarterback position. With no quarterback technically on the roster and the free-agent pool filled mostly with older guys on the downside of their career, it’s time to pay Dak Prescott.
Today we move on to the skill positions. For the Dallas Cowboys, one position is already taken care of, at least for the next two to three years.
Last year, running back Ezekiel Elliott signed a six-year deal for $90 million of which $50 million is guaranteed. The Cowboys can get out of this contract in 2023 as Elliott turns 28, but for the next three seasons, Zeke is your starter.
Augmenting Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys used a fourth-round draft pick to acquire back up Tony Pollard. Misused by the previous head coach, Pollard should see more than the 101 touches he received in 2019.
With the running back position set, it’s time to move on to the primary pass catchers. This area may have the biggest questions of any on the roster.
Three of the four guys responsible for the most catches in 2019 are free agents. Receivers Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb, along with tight end Jason Witten all could be playing elsewhere in 2020. Only one of them should, however.
Last week, at this time, I wrote about how the Dallas Cowboys need to move on from future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten. Even though there are some bigger, intriguing names like Austin Hooper and Hunter Henry out there, they are also likely out of the Cowboys price range. If Dallas does go the free-agent route, a mid-level veteran such as Tyler Eifert or Eric Ebron might be the better move.
At the receiver spot, not only are Cooper and Cobb free agents, but Tavon Austin‘s contract is also up. While it may be interesting to see what he could do with a top-notch special teams coach such as John Fassel, there is simply not a need for Austin with Pollard and Devin Smith on the team.
Cobb, in my opinion, should be brought back, if only for his familiarity with new head coach Mike McCarthy. He produced well last season, notching over 825 yards receiving. That number could easily go up reunited with his former coach.
Cooper, meanwhile, seems to be the lightning rod for Dallas Cowboys’ fans angst. Many are scared to give him a big deal because of his drop off last season. It seems many also forget that he was dealing with a fairly severe leg injury during that time as well.
In a “down” year, Cooper still caught 79 balls for almost 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns. The Cowboys also gave up last year’s first-round pick in order to have him around. Do I think he should get a mega-deal? Not at all. Should the Dallas Cowboys use their franchise tag on him? 100 percent yes.
Tagging Cooper, while re-signing Cobb to a modest deal gives Dallas peace of mind on the perimeter. Throw in budding star Michael Gallup and utilize Pollard more in the passing game and all of a sudden, the Cowboys offense looks highly capable of putting up video game numbers on the scoreboard.
With a weak free-agent class at the receiver spot, there is no reason to break up the band. The offense led the league in total yards, possessed the second-best passing attack, the fifth-best ground game and finished sixth in scoring. All of this was done with a conservative coach.
The Dallas Cowboys are armed with the fifth-most cap space in the league. How they use it will go a long way towards determining their success in 2020. Signing Prescott long-term and franchising Cooper makes the most sense. This should leave them with enough money to spend on other areas which we will explore next week.