The Dallas Cowboys front office will have some tough decisions to make this offseason when deciding which players to retain and which players to let walk. Some of these players have a key role on the team and their shoes would be hard to fill if they left in free agency. Other players might be priced out of Dallas and could receive better offers elsewhere. Which of these free agents are likely to return to the Cowboys in 2019? Here is the list of the upcoming free agents:
So who should the Cowboys keep? Let’s take a look at each free agent and try to figure out which players the front office should re-sign for next season.
DeMarcus Lawrence, DE
Last offseason, the Cowboys were faced with a tough decision with Lawrence. He was coming off a breakout season where he finished second in the league with 14.5 sacks. But injuries had slowed his career and the team wanted to see him repeat his performance before they invested a bunch of money in him. While he didn’t compile the same sack numbers, Lawrence proved he was one of the top edge rushers in the league.
The Cowboys will keep him, it’s just a matter of how much it will cost. Khalil Mack just signed a six-year, $141 million deal ($23.5 M average) so it should be less than that, but how much less still remains to be seen. The slightly less-than-stellar year may save the Cowboys a little money, but look for them to be shelling out somewhere around $18 million annually to Tank over the next several years.
Tavon Austin, WR
The Cowboys didn’t invest much in Austin as they gave away a sixth-round pick from 2018 to the Los Angeles Rams for a one-year rental. Even though the Rams still had to pay him out a lot of money for last season, he was only a $1.8 million cap hit for Dallas this year. Stephen Jones oversold how much Austin would be used in this offense, but there’s still a role for him on this team.
The former eighth overall pick just isn’t the playmaker people want, though. His market value won’t be that high and look for Dallas to bring him back on a cheap short-term deal. Something tells me Austin wants to be in this clubhouse.
Cole Beasley, WR
After a career-high 2016 season where he and Dak Prescott looked like new best friends, the shifty Cole Beasley hasn’t been able to replicate that success. 2017 was terrible as Beasley on had 36 catches for 314 yards. Cole had a rebound year this season, but he’s still not meshing as well as many of us would like. The team loved him when they gave him a second contract, but where do they sit right now?
Verdict: Let him walk
Beasley just doesn’t look happy in Dallas. Maybe he’s bent about the release of his pal, Dez Bryant, or maybe he just doesn’t like this offense. Either way, he’s going to want things to change and one of those things will be a better deal. It’s tough seeing the Cowboys ponying up the cash for a player who will be 30 next season. That’s just sorta how they work. We love you, Beas, but the Cowboys didn’t get into such a favorable financial position by making decisions with emotion. Don’t be surprised if they attempt to find Beasley’s replacement in next year’s draft.
David Irving, DT
It seems like only yesterday when we were discussing how foolish it would be for the team to chance placing a second-round tender on him. Unfortunately, the idea of Irving wreaking havoc in the trenches was too good to be true. And apparently, the front office knew it. After playing in just eight games in 2017, he only played in two this season. He’s had personal issues, ankle issues, and he could be in even more trouble as there are reports that he’s missed multiple drug tests.
Verdict: Let him walk
This one is a no-brainer. This once favorite pet cat has wondered astray and it’s time for his tenure in Dallas to be euthanized.
Cameron Fleming, OT
The Cowboys added Fleming on a one-year deal after the Chaz Green Atlanta debacle exposed their shortcomings when Tyron Smith was unavailable. And it’s a good thing they did because Smith ended up missing three games. Fleming was solid in reserve duty as the they won every game he started.
Unless Fleming has his heart set on starting, returning to Dallas would be a good move. With Smith continuing to miss time due to injuries, the Cowboys need to ensure they have renewed their insurance policy. He’s just 26-years-old so don’t be shocked if the Cowboys gave him a slight raise with a two-year, $6.4 million deal.
Before getting hurt, Swaim was really coming along well in his first big role on the team. In nine games, he had 26 catches for 242 yards. Over the first three years of his career, he was viewed as just a blocking tight end, but this season he showed he can make plays in the receiving game.
Similar to what they did with James Hanna a few years ago, look for Dallas to offer Swaim an affordable three-year, $8 million deal. It’s a small price to pay to keep that tight end floor at an acceptable level.
It’s easy to overlook Wilson after getting such great play from Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. He has a lot of quickness, but isn’t as consistent as you’d like to see at this point in his career. Sometimes he gets washed out of plays too easily. He did have a career high 37 tackles, but the Cowboys aren’t going to throw money at him to come off the bench.
Verdict: Let him walk
While it would be great to have Wilson around for depth, there’s a good chance he’ll get a better offer elsewhere. Joe Thomas should be fine for depth and can also play special teams.
The Cowboys use a fullback sparingly as Olawale only played in 10% of the offensive snaps, but he’s got added value in special teams. This season Olawale played in 262 special team snaps, which is the second-most on the team behind Damien Wilson.
He shouldn’t cost much to retain.
L.P. Ladouceur - Unless he wants to retire, bring him back another year.
Marcus Martin - The team needs depth on the offensive line and we really never got to see what they had in Martin. Bring him back on a cheap, short-term deal.
Caraun Reid - He was solid down the stretch and that could earn him a little more money than the Cowboys are willing to spend for a depth guy.
Datone Jones - He was playing well in preseason before getting hurt. He’s an intriguing name and it would be nice to have him back, but he’ll be 29 next season. The Cowboys will look for cheaper options.
Rod Smith - He’s a fan favorite, but he hasn’t offered the team much in the running game when he’s given Ezekiel Elliott a breather. He’s still a key special team player and should be able to be retained for cheap.
Darian Thompson - The Cowboys should be able to find a better depth player at safety.
Justin March-Lillard - Buried behind such a solid linebacker group, there just wasn’t much room for him. With rookie Chris Covington stashed away on the team, they already have cheaper options.
Daniel Ross- Only starters Maliek Collins and Antwaun Woods logged more reps at defensive tackle. He’s not a name that you hear a lot, but he was solid. He’s an exclusive rights free agent and he’s young, so keeping him around another year seems inevitable.