To Beas or not to Beas, that is the question. The future of the Cowboys veteran slot receiver remaining with the team is in doubt as he enters free agency.
Recently, Stephen Jones was on the Rich Eisen show and he briefly touched on Cole Beasley’s remarks on social media as the receiver voiced his frustrations about where the ball goes in the offense. Jones quickly refuted the notion that the front office has a role in game-planning and in no way has a say in how the ball is being distributed in the offense.
More interesting was when the topic shifted to players the team hopes to keep for the future. Jones brought up DeMarcus Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and Byron Jones as important pieces to this team going forward, yet Beasley’s name was not one of them. Lawrence was already playing under the franchise tag last season and he’s a clear priority, but none of the other guys mentioned are entering free agency. Prescott still has one more year on his rookie deal. Both Cooper and Jones have fifth-year options exercised so they’re still under contract. And Zeke still has a year left with a potential fifth-year option exercised for him as well. The team could easily not have to worry about Elliott hitting the market until 2021. Yet here sits Beasley, with seven years given to this organization as an instrumental piece in keeping the chains moving, not mentioned despite having a contract that has expired.
Sure, all these other guys are big-time players. Every single one of them are Pro Bowlers this season and for most of them - it’s not their first time despite being very young. In fact, the recently added Cooper already has three Pro Bowls appearances in just four years in the league. That equals the Cowboys all-time leader in receiving touchdowns, Dez Bryant, despite Cooper’s career just getting started.
But Beasley isn’t chopped liver. He’s been very reliable for this offense over the years. In 2016, he was Prescott’s favorite target, catching 75 passes for 833 yards. Despite having Bryant and Cooper to throw to over the last three seasons, Prescott has frequently looked Beasley’s way as he’s been an important safety net for the team’s young quarterback. It’s not hard to make a case that Beasley’s importance in this offense is pretty valuable, yet it just feels like the writing is on the wall and he’s played his last game in a Cowboys uniform.
Beasley’s frustration is just one piece of the puzzle that will likely have him donning a different jersey next season. To be fair, it’s been rocky for the Cowboys offense and Beasley’s had a front row seat. From quarterback changes, to receiver changes, to having a new receiving coach in Sanjay Lal - Beasley’s been through it all. From the quarterback debacle in 2015 to watching his Cowboys brother, Dez Bryant, be tossed aside last offseason - it’s been difficult. And he even had to deal with critics coming from all directions as the receiving group got a lot negativity when the offense was spinning it’s wheels prior to Cooper showing up. Even though Beasley and company were getting open, it just wasn’t enough to keep the offense rolling and they received the brunt of the blame. And now after finishing up a four-year deal where he’s averaged $3.4 million per season, he’s entering free agency with a palette of work that is not indicative of his true value. That’s got to be frustrating for anyone.
Recently, he’s turned to social media to share some frustrations, but none of which is off the rails. It’s one football player who is also a person. He doesn’t publicly put down any teammates. He doesn’t deflect the blame elsewhere. He’s just one guy who doesn’t shy away from being honest, even if it’s things we don’t want to hear.
Beasley is a great competitor with a great character. From his no-nonsense attitude to treating us to his “spirit fingers” touchdown celebration, he’s just a guy you love being on the football team you cheer for. But the front office doesn’t make decisions based on fans emotions and there are a few factors that don’t favor Beasley returning to Dallas. We could rationalize that his frustrations with the team would be enough to push him away, but that’s not going to be the deciding factor. Beasley can sweep that under the rug as long as he feels the team is on the right track and he’s someone they plan to utilize in order to be a winning football team.
The trickier part comes with appreciation. That is, how many dollars worth of appreciation does the Cowboys front office have for Cole Beasley? Jason Garrett can talk all he wants about what kind of great teammate he is or Stephen Jones can praise him for how much he’s meant to the team, but the proof is in what figures will be on that paycheck.
And here lies the problem. The Cowboys have to prioritize their
needs wants and let’s face it - there are some expensive contracts looming for this team coming up. They can’t pay everyone or else they wouldn’t have let the team’s single-season rushing leader DeMarco Murray walk back in 2015. And like Murray, the Cowboys may feel they can supplement what Beasley brings to the team by looking elsewhere. Maybe a cheap four-year rookie deal of some new collegiate player? Similar to Anthony Hitchens a year ago, it was tough to let him get away considering he was a key part of the team, but the organization had to make a business decision and look to the draft for his replacement. That was the right call. And thanks to the compensatory pick the team will receive because of Hitchen’s five-year, $45 million deal he received from Kansas City, the Cowboys will have four selections within the top 130 or so picks in this year’s draft. Surely, you’d think they could find a solid slot receiver somewhere in that mix, right?
While it would be great to have Beasley back next season, there stands a good chance that some other team is going to value him more than the Cowboys. There will be a team that views him as underutilized and that a change of scenery could jump-start his career and boost his production. Maybe they’re right. With a projected annual contract somewhere between $6-$8 million, it’s hard seeing the Cowboys as his top suitor. He’ll be 30-years-old when the new seasons begins. Would the Cowboys front office be willing to throw a lot of money his way when they have so many other guys they’re going to need to pay when they could shop for a rookie for cheap?
That doesn’t seem likely and as much as it pains us to think of Beasley playing for some other NFL team, it’s just looking like that is what the future will bring. At least we’ll always have spirit fingers.