When the Dallas Cowboys signed free agent wide receiver Allen Hurns to a two-year deal, fans were excited. When they signed free agent wide receiver Deonte Thompson a couple days earlier, nobody seemed to care. One of those moves looked like the typical bargain-bin depth signing and the other looked like a possible investment for the future. One player was young and had a quality 1,000+ yard season already on their resumé while the other was older and has never had a season where he’s caught more than 40 balls, had over 600 yards, or caught more than two touchdown passes. One receiver was clearly better.
And as training camp rolled along, a groin injury to the older veteran started making him an afterthought. Fans had already penciled in camp standout Lance Lenoir as the receiver most likely to snag that last roster spot and Thompson was believed to be the odd man out.
The Cowboys gave Hurns a two-year, $12 million deal in hopes that he could make a positive impact to the team’s receiver group. Thompson, on the other hand, got just a one-year, $1.8 million deal. Clearly, there are bigger expectations for Hurns than there were for Thompson.
After two games, Hurns is second only to Cole Beasley in snaps played so the team is certainly giving him every opportunity to contribute. While that may have been the original plan, Dak Prescott might see it a little differently. Hurns has only been targeted five times and has just two catches for 29 yards whereas Thompson has been targeted twice as many times and has seven catches for 60 yards. Some of us were caught off guard when Thompson was starting. How did a player who was on the bubble make it into the starting lineup?
The answer really is twofold. First, he’s a better receiver than we realized. In Jason Garrett’s press conference recap on Wednesday, it was noted that Thompson is seen as more than just a speedster deep threat.
Deonte Thompson is fast, but Jason Garrett noted that they didn’t see him as just a speed guy. He expanded on how he’s savvy, a good route runner, quarterback-friendly, and made it a point to mention that he can go deep. He also is a willing blocker. Obviously the Cowboys don’t see Deonte as a one-trick wonder as far as abilities.
These traits are a big part of why he’s in Dallas. We all know that Thompson has a great relationship with new receivers coach Sanjay Lal and because of that, the team has a great feel for what Thompson can bring to the team.
The second part, and this is a big one, is that Prescott likes looking his way. This isn’t just a new discovery as there have been early signs that this connection could be a good one. Our own Connor Livesay started picking up on this early in training camp.
Thompson may do most of his damage down the field, but it looks like he has been working on his route running a lot this offseason with Sanjay Lal. Thompson brings a speed element to the room, something the Cowboys have lacked for some time. If he can continue to improve on his route running, as well as being a vertical threat, the Cowboys may have found a diamond in the rough in free agency.
We are only in the second week of training camp, but from the sights and sounds of practice, Dak Prescott has looked Deonte Thompson’s way a ton so far. He will need to continue to keep that up in order to reserve himself a roster spot, but he’s certainly off to a fantastic start.
Thompson has had a career filled with little to be excited about, but he made a big jump last season while playing for both the Buffalo Bills (11 games) and Chicago Bears (five games). He had a career best 38 catches for 557 yards and two touchdowns where he hasn’t came close to those numbers in previous years. Maybe he’s turned a corner. Continued improvement and a good rapport with his quarterback could make Thompson a valuable piece to this receiving group.
We may have been surprised he made the team, but the coaches weren’t. He was always a part of the plan. And as we’ve seen so far, he’s still part of it. It’s early, but the signing of Thompson could end up being the better deal for the Cowboys when it’s all said and done.