The Dallas Cowboys receivers have flown under the radar for much of the last few seasons because of Tony Romo’s injuries (and therefore having to rely on the running game) and because of the dominant offensive line and the successful ground game. Nonetheless, this group has been productive and reliable. The last three seasons have seen Dez Bryant and Terrence Williams start with a smattering of players lining up in the slot or in four- and five-wide sets.
Dez Bryant is the third great receiver in franchise history to wear the famed #88. From a winning standpoint, his predecessors were more successful than he has been thus far as Drew Pearson had one Super Bowl victory while Michael Irvin had three Super Bowl victories. In today’s pass-friendly environment, Bryant has proven himself year after year and stands in the upper echelon of pass catchers in the league. He is a three-time Pro Bowler and will continue to lead the receiving corps for years to come.
There was much fanfare when Terrance Williams arrived to the Cowboys from nearby Baylor in 2013. He had a relatively strong rookie campaign and shined bright in the 2014 playoff game against Detroit where he caught two touchdowns, including the game-winner. In 2016, Williams’ statistics did not fly off the charts (44 catches, 594 yards, 4 touchdowns) but it is important to remember that Dallas boasts a strong set of pass-catchers. He enters this offseason as an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. In light of his market value, the Cowboys will want to keep Williams but he will likely be off to greener pastures this off-season.
Cole Beasley had a promising 2014 season which lead him to receive a contract extension in 2015. Since then, he has been a productive slot option and has recorded an increasing number of catches, yards and touchdowns (five in each of the last two years) in each of his seasons in the NFL. He is a prototypical shifty slot receiver who is known for his third-down catches and elusiveness. Expect Cole to stay in a Cowboys uniform for a long time.
Brice Butler began his career in Dallas abruptly after Dez Bryant injured his foot in the season opener in the 2015 campaign. In 2016, he recorded 16 catches for 219 yards and three touchdowns. His size and speed makes him a vertical threat for the Cowboys offense but he enters this offseason as an unrestricted free agent. Depending on how the Terrance Williams sweepstakes go, look for the Cowboys to re-sign Butler as insurance only if they lose out on Williams.
Lucky Whitehead’s role on the Dallas Cowboys is multidimensional. While he was only targeted three times this season, he was the team’s starting punt and kick returner by the end of the season. His ability as a receiver remains questionable given his limited opportunities but he has shown flashes with designed. With the addition of CFL return specialist Quincy McDuffie to the roster this offseason, Whitehead may be in danger.
Summary of Predictions
Dez Bryant: First String - Dez Bryant remains the centerpiece for the Cowboys offense even with Ezekiel Elliott balling out. His play-making and ability to draw defensive players allows Zeke to run free.
Terrance Williams: Attempt to re-sign - While Terrance Williams has been productive and is a desirable player to keep, the Cowboys do not have the dollars to go around and will unfortunately lose Williams’ services this off-season.
Cole Beasley: Slot - Cole Beasley continues to find his groove as a strong asset in the passing game. His reliability and quickness has solidified him into one of the top slot receivers in the NFL.
Brice Butler: Re-sign - Brice Butler will remain with the Cowboys this offseason because Dallas while likely lose Terrance Williams.
Early- to Mid-round rookie: Backup - Look for the Cowboys to draft a wide receiver (or a pass-catching tight end) in the draft, maybe earlier than predicted, to reload the receiving group and possibly find a new number two.
Lucky Whitehead: Backup/Return Man - Lucky Whitehead will be in a fight to continue his role as a special teams ace and offensive weapon on jet sweeps. He was disciplined last season for being late to meetings and the Cowboys made a point to go out and sign a return specialist from the CFL. It will be a battle for him in training camp with Quincy McDuffie.
Unknown Veteran Free Agent - The Cowboys will likely pick up a bargain-priced veteran free agent wide receiver to add to the mix. The hope is they can strike gold with one like they did with Laurent Robinson a few years ago. If they lose Williams, they will want a vet as a fall-back option in case a draft pick or some of the younger options don’t work out.