The Dallas Cowboys got their offseason started Friday by restructuring the contracts of Dak Prescott and Zack Martin.
The moves free up nearly $30 million in cap space. While there’s still more work that needs to be done in terms of creating cap room, this should allow the front office the requisite flexibility to sign a couple free agents, internal or otherwise.
While fans are setting their sights on a potential big splash, the Cowboys are notorious for shopping for potential bargains in free agency. To their credit, they’ve made plus pickups in this regard over the years, including Jayron Kearse, Randall Cobb, Malik Hooker, Dante Fowler, TY Hilton, and Jason Peters.
The Cowboys have yet to make any cuts this offseason, but multiple teams have taken the initiative. This only adds to the free agent pot, and you can bet teams are looking to pick these cap casualties up off the street.
With that in mind, let’s underline three cap casualties Dallas should avoid as free agency gets underway in a few days.
3 newly-released players Cowboys shouldn’t sign
Gabe Jackson, OG
Jackson was released by the Seahawks last week, and joins an admittedly thin offensive line market this offseason. He played right guard for Seattle, but started his career at left guard. That’s significant, as Dallas currently has a hole to plug at the latter position now that Connor McGovern is a free agent.
Of course, Tyler Smith could slot in at left guard if Tyron Smith is back and starts at left tackle. At some point, though, you have to think the elder Smith will miss time with an injury, which would force Tyler Smith back to left tackle.
In that scenario, the Cowboys would be in a bind at LG. Jackson, however, shouldn’t be that solution. The veteran finished 108th in WAR amongst guards last season, and his blocking numbers were average across the board wit a 51.1 pass-blocking grade and 53.5 run-blocking grade, per PFF.
Bud Dupree, OLB
The Cowboys could certainly use another pass rusher.
Dante Fowler is a free agent and Dorance Armstrong fell off down the stretch last season after a hot start. Further, it would be smart to start planning for life without DeMarcus Lawrence, who will turn 31 in April and doesn’t have any guaranteed money left on his contract after next season.
That said, we’d much rather Dallas bring Fowler back, pursue a cheaper alternative in free agency, or simply draft an edge rusher. Dupree hasn’t played a full season since 2019, and has played a total 33 games the last three seasons. Not only that, but his production hasn’t matched the hype, as he had just seven sacks, 17 QB hits, and eight tackles for loss in his two years with the Titans before his release.
Adam Thielen, WR
Receiver is another position of need for the Cowboys, but that doesn’t mean they should throw money at anyone. Thielen isn’t a terrible sixth or seventh fallback option, but he should be a contingency plan behind DeAndre Hopkins, Brandin Cooks, and Odell Beckham Jr, among others, more than anything else.
Thielen’s red zone efficiency is still elite — and even on par with Chiefs scoring machine Travis Kelce — but he doesn’t offer much else at this stage of his career. Now 32 years old (he’ll turn 33 before next season), the two-time Pro Bowler tallied 70 catches for 716 yards and six touchdowns last campaign.
While respectable numbers, it marked his fewest yards and catches in a full season since his sophomore year in 2015. At this juncture, Thielen is best served as a WR3, and Dallas already has one of those in Michael Gallup. This team needs a bonafide WR2; not another guy who specializes in one area.