How the Dallas Cowboys survive their free agency departures

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 29: Gerald McCoy #93 of the Carolina Panthers points to the Heavens after a big play during a game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on September 29, 2019 in Houston, Texas. The Panthers defeated the Texans 16-10. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 29: Gerald McCoy #93 of the Carolina Panthers points to the Heavens after a big play during a game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on September 29, 2019 in Houston, Texas. The Panthers defeated the Texans 16-10. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

As the veteran players left the Dallas Cowboys in boatloads early in free agency there was a worry. But now things seem to be moving forward into the draft.

As soon as the two major dominoes fell for the Dallas Cowboys in the contract signings of quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper, there was a sense of peace for America’s Team. That didn’t last very long.

In a matter of a day, the organization lost six starters from its 2019 campaign. Not a bad thing exactly, but something that requires a strategy to overcome. The franchise luckily was ready to replace all six of these players and carry that momentum into the draft.

Long time tight end and future Hall of Famer Jason Witten was the easiest departure to overcome. His replacement tight end Blake Jarwin has been on the roster for the past three seasons and has started 11 games over the past two seasons. Jarwin re-signed for 4-years and gives the Cowboys a cheaper and more athletic option at tight end.

This all comes down to Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott to overcome the leadership gap left on the offensive side of the ball without Witten. They were fine in 2018 without Witten. A great career is respected and honored but Jarwin over Witten is a slight improvement already and the young tight end should take a leap with more targets in 2020.

Witten was the easiest hole to fill. The next one was the most impressive move by the organization so far in free agency. Defensive tackle Maliek Collins leaves, insert long time veteran defensive tackle, Gerald McCoy.

Collins play was the steadiest it had ever been in 2019 and he did start all 16 games. But he isn’t a six-time pro-bowler like McCoy. Finding a guy who has eight straight seasons of five or more sacks is not easy. Especially at the defensive tackle position, most teams just look for run-stuffers there.

So, McCoy is an instant upgrade and should have a revitalized motor if the Cowboys can be a contender from the start of the 2020 season. McCoy has never sniffed the playoffs in ten NFL seasons. Exciting opportunity for both him and the new-look Dallas defense.

Defensive end Robert Quinn leaving after one season and 11.5 sacks was a punch to the gut and the Cowboys once again are looking for someone opposite of defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. There’s not enough money to find a sure bet off the edge, it is a position you have to cross your fingers for when you don’t want to break the bank.

So, for seemingly the 100th time, Dallas hopes troubled defensive end, Randy Gregory can come off an indefinite suspension. Or maybe defensive end Tyrone Crawford can play some after his injuries the past two seasons.

There are talented defensive ends to be found in the first few rounds of the draft though. My favorite is former LSU defensive end, K’Lavon Chaisson to be potentially available at  17th overall for the Cowboys in the first round. He is rising fast in the mock drafts and might already be taken though.

Before I get to the most important signing of safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix moving into the draft, I want to mention the team is seemingly keeping enough cap available to keep the defense cheap and give Prescott a massive contract offer. It is a major handicap for the front office to have that looming, even though it is kinda their fault and this could have been handled better. You don’t care to hear about that for the 800th time though.

Clinton-Dix is a cheap and veteran replacement for hard-hitting safety Jeff Heath leaving this past week. He started 16 games for a good Chicago Bears defense last season and isn’t as washed up as some people think. He should give production for the cheap four million the Cowboys gave him.

What is so big about the Clinton-Dix signing though is he becomes the third hole filled in by Dallas, meaning they enter the draft phase of the offseason with three clear goals in the first three rounds. Take the best available defensive end, cornerback, or safety with those first three picks. A slot receiver is also needed later in the draft after the departure of receiver Randall Cobb. That’s not as important as the defense though.

There is more freedom with that strategy though because the Cowboys have no glaring holes at any position, they may be weak, but they have a contingency plan for each position. A lot of freedom going into the draft is a great feeling.

Next. Cowboys 15 best free agent acquisitions of all-time. dark

Fans of America’s Team can kinda take a deep breathe going into the next month. There are weaknesses but no major holes. This draft has to be a good one. For some reason, years that end in even numbers don’t disappoint in recent memory.

The Dallas Cowboys can take all the luck they can get. But all-in-all, it wasn’t a bad week for the organization, given the fact they lost six starters in a 24-hour period.