The Dallas Cowboys will have a complicated offseason agenda, much like any of the other 31 teams that don’t win the Super Bowl will. They have a few coaching vacancies to fill, Senior Bowl talent to scout, evaluations to make for their own roster, the Combine, free agency, and hosting the 2018 Draft to name a few. Before any of those things take place, let’s take a stab at predicting the answers to some of the Cowboys’ looming offseason questions:
The Cowboys won’t be making any moves with Dez Bryant
Dez Bryant signed a lucrative five-year, $70-million deal following his monster 2014 season where he had 88 receptions, 1,320 yards, and 16 touchdowns. Since then, Bryant has failed to reach the 1,000-yard receiving mark for three consecutive seasons while missing ten games due to various injuries. After a year in which Bryant was targeted 132 times, only snagging 52.4% of them with 69 receptions, 839 yards, and six touchdowns, there is plenty of speculation about his future. Stephen Jones himself spoke on “Hanging with the Boys” about what he calls “Dez’s situation”:
“And we just have to really get our hands around, when you put all the full body of work together, where that’s headed,” Jones said. ”Of course, we pay Dez a lot of money, and he knows that. He’s as aware of it as anybody. ... He knows when you get paid that kind of money there’s high expectations in terms of the productivity. ... Those are all things we have to look at as a team, as an organization when we start to put our team together for next year.”
We’ve heard plenty of talk about the lack of connection between Dak Prescott and Dez for the past year. It didn’t seem so bad down the stretch of 2016 when he scored nine touchdowns including two in the playoff game against the Packers. Bryant also had four games of 100+yards receiving in Dak’s rookie year.
Now, you can read into what Stephen said and think that this team may be asking Bryant to take a pay cut this offseason. Don’t buy it. Dez Bryant will be playing for the Cowboys in 2018 at his $12.5 million base salary ($16.5 mil cap hit), take it to the bank.
For one, the Cowboys don’t want to rush to make a decision like this with one of the faces of their franchise. What’s the contingency plan? Are they going to make a play for Jarvis Landry? Do they want to replace Dez with a flashy first-round pick like Calvin Ridley? Maybe but is it really smart to put all your eggs in the basket of a rookie?
The Cowboys are just going to ride this one out in 2018 with the right to pull the plug in 2019, something they put into his contract. Dez Bryant is going to get another opportunity to show he was worth the money.
David Irving will not play for the Cowboys in 2018
The rumors have been swirling with restricted free agent David Irving and what tender the Cowboys will designate in order to keep him. If they want to ensure they keep Irving, they would need a first-round tender but that doesn’t seem likely. If these rumors ring true, Irving has seemingly found himself falling out of favor in this organization. He’s an interesting character for sure. Irving can really deliver on gameday but he’s not exactly the most consistent player on the team. He can dominate the line of scrimmage from multiple positions but he also has caused a few headaches in his short time with the Cowboys.
That’s why the front office is going to be comfortable giving Irving a second-round tender, letting the ball roll to someone else’s side of the court. A first-round tender would all but guarantee he stays on the team in 2018. It’s not likely that any team is willing to give up a first for Irving, but would they give up a second? It’s warranted to question the Cowboys willingness to part with a guy that makes the defense better without a definite replacement in place. However, it seems like the Cowboys are eager to move on and that suggests they’re happy to take a second-round pick for him to play elsewhere in 2018.
Dallas will look for veteran wide receiver help in free agency
There are plenty of people hitching themselves to a receiver in the first round while others are opposed. First-round receivers don’t always come on strong right out of the gate. No matter how this draft ends up going, the Cowboys will get started on receiving help earlier than April. As the Cowboys saw every receiver’s production drop and the offense look absolutely inept at times, finding guys that can make plays after the catch will be priority number one for Scott Linehan.
Free agency will have plenty of receivers that can add production to this offense without huge paydays. The Cowboys have their ‘X’ receiver but they just don’t have guys that complement each other. In some cases, they just don’t use guys in ways that would complement each other. This offense needs a refresh in philosophy but also they need more weapons, preferably weapons with speed.
With guys like John Brown, Taylor Gabriel, and Donte Moncrief on the market, it would be wise for the Cowboys to go shopping. None of these guys are going to have outrageous markets, they just need a veteran to push for Terrance Williams’ spot, they need the offense to evolve around Dak Prescott. After last season’s receiving downfall, go ahead and crowd the room for new receivers coach Sanjay Lal.
There will be no Livin’ La “Vita Vea” in Dallas
Though the Cowboys are getting creative on the coaching hires, bringing in Kris Richard to make up for loss of Matt Eberflus and still looking at Ray Horton or John Pagano for potential positions, take it easy. There are only so many changes that will be made with Rod Marinelli still in the fold.
When it comes to the NFL Draft, one of the early favorites for the Cowboys has been the extremely talented, 1-tech defensive tackle out of Washington, Vita Vea. The Cowboys could surely use a big guy in the middle of their defense to clog up rushing lanes. However, as sweet as it could be, it’s not going to come to fruition.
First of all, this front office simply doesn’t value the 1-tech position high enough to spend a first-round pick on Vea. Secondly, picking at 19 is likely to mean that Vea won’t even be on the board when they pick. If Irving is gone, the Cowboys will look to move Maliek Collins back to the under-tackle position and find a 1-tech in the mid to later rounds. They could even consider looking toward free agency but they’ve struck out twice with Cedric Thornton and Stephen Paea.
Vita Vea is perhaps exactly what the doctor ordered but it’s just too good to be true to think the stars align perfectly for this dream marriage. The front office still has to find someone for the job but they’re not likely to deviate too far from that Marinelli philosophy and spend high capital for it.
Free Agency will be much more exciting for Cowboys fans
The Cowboys are certainly not pleased with how the 2017 season turned out for them and especially now as they watch their rival, the Eagles, head to the Super Bowl. They’re certainly aware of what the Eagles did to get there and that was take chances in the offseason to better the talent around their young star quarterback. They were aggressive and a lot of things worked out.
So far, the Cowboys have focused on low-key changes to their coaching staff by grabbing guys that are highly regarded in the league as innovators and motivators. Though that’s just a small start, expect the Cowboys to take a page out of Philly’s book and not be afraid to be a little aggressive.
Dallas got one huge benefit out of Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension, it allowed for them to see all the warts of their team from top to bottom. Despite the litany of struggles this season, the Cowboys missed the postseason by only one game. This front office doesn’t usually like to get involved in the beginning of free agency but that changes this season.
Teams who believe they are close to contending for a championship aren’t hesitant to make a move for a player that can really help them win. If the opportunity presents itself in free agency with a player that the Cowboys could really benefit from adding, expect the Cowboys to make a play for him. When free agency is over, Cowboys fans are going to be pleasantly surprised as this front office finds a shiny new toy. The bargain-bin diving is going to be put on hold as the Cowboys walk away with one big-ticket item.