When the 2016 NFL season rolls around, there will be a lot of eyes on the Dallas Cowboys. With key players like Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and Orlando Scandrick returning to full health, the Cowboys could be a hot pick across the league for the team that will be most improved. Ezekiel Elliott coming to town to run behind this offensive line should make the Cowboys' offense much improved. In return, Dallas' defense will improve as the offense keeps the pressure on opposing offenses, setting the scene for more turnovers.
Dallas will return to what it was in 2014, a run-first team that opens up the passing game on the outside by running the football with success and sustaining drives on offense. Defenses will stack the box in hopes of stopping the running game. This will leave one-on-one coverages on the outside for Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Cole Beasley to find holes in the defense. And while he may not be a starter, one player that could emerge as a potential big contributor is Brice Butler.
When the Cowboys acquired Butler last year, it was seen as a move that would provide for wide receiver insurance. However, Butler ended up proving that he could fit the bill long term. A hamstring injury sidelined him for a majority of the season, but he showed in spurts that his athleticism and speed can be of great use in the Cowboys' offense, and the more impressive thing is that he did that with Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden, and Kellen Moore throwing him the football.
With Terrance Williams' contract expiring at the end of the 2016 season, the questions of what the Cowboys will do with him will come about at some point in the season. And while a rookie receiver could come in and be just fine, as there isn't that big of a rookie learning curve at the receiver position, the Cowboys may already have the potential heir at the receiver position across from Bryant for the future. That player may just be Butler.
In a player like Butler, the Cowboys have a guy that can do a variety of things for the offense. At 6' 3", 215 pounds, Butler is a bigger body at the receiver position and showed in 2015 that his explosiveness can make defenses key in on him. To go with his size, he has sub 4.4 speed, allowing him to take the top off the defense and make plays downfield by going up for the football and coming down with it.
The problem with Williams is simple. He's a guy the Cowboys' coaches continue to favor, but he has failed time and time again at taking the next step in his receiver development and he will simply cost too much money for the Cowboys' pockets next offseason. That is why the receiver position opposite of Bryant is up in the air for the long term. Dallas had the chance to take multiple quality receivers at some point in the draft, but they chose not to. The Cowboys agreed to give a conditional draft pick in exchange for Butler. At that point in the draft, where the Cowboys would've drafted, there's no doubt that Butler would be more complete and simply better than any receiver remaining.
With a full offseason, Butler will get the opportunity to get healthy and to put on more weight in hopes of becoming more of a finished product. Putting a ton of faith in Butler may be questionable, considering he failed to crack the starting lineup with the Oakland Raiders. However, the Cowboys have proven in the past few years that they can find talent where others can't. It was a small sample size, but this could be the exact case with Butler.
Getting a healthy Romo will be huge for the Cowboys. With Romo taking first-team reps throughout the offseason, the Cowboys will pick up right where they left off from the last time he was completely health, which was exactly before Week 2 of the 2015 season. The Romo-Butler relationship will be new, but Butler is a guy that Romo hasn't had in his time in Dallas. If he can prove his worth and pick up a bigger role in the offense, the Cowboys may not have to look elsewhere to find their new No. 2 receiver. Butler's development and involvement in the offense will be something to monitor as the offseason progresses.