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Cowboys 2016 draft class: What to do with each player on final year of their rookie deal (Part 2)

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The quandary of what to do with the 2016 draft class continues...

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys have some tough decisions to make this offseason. The 2016 draft class was one for the ages, but with it comes players with expiring contracts. Eight of the nine picks from this draft all all under contract for just one more season. The Cowboys will keep their stars, but what about the other guys? Yesterday, we examined the final three selections the Cowboys made in this draft and today we’ll take a look at three more.

Anthony Brown (Rd. 6, 189th overall)

It’s been a roller-coaster so far for the Cowboys sixth-round cornerback from Purdue. He started out his career fighting with Deji Olatoya, Josh Thomas, and Dax Swanson for one of the last cornerback spots on the team. It didn’t take long for Brown to showcase his ability becoming the no. 4 cornerback behind veterans Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, and Orlando Scandrick. And after a hamstring injury sidelined Scandrick, Brown was thrown into the starting lineup.

Brown had a great rookie season and was given one of the starting outside cornerback spots in 2017 after the cornerback overhaul saw the departure of Carr and Claiborne. Things did not go well for him that season and many wondered if he was even worth a roster spot in 2018.

Last season, the team moved Byron Jones from safety to corner and they had second-year players Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis expecting to occupy a lot of snaps, leaving Brown’s job in question. But Kris Richard called his number early and often, which confused many fans, but it was clear he knew exactly what he was doing. Brown started the year as the team’s nickel corner and never let go of the job.

Brown has been a reliable player for the Cowboys over his three seasons. Besides Prescott, no other player from the 2016 draft class has played in as many games as Brown. He’s only missed one game and that was just precautionary as he was experience back spasms in Week 16 against Tampa Bay.

The young corner has played well. With Byron Jones breaking out, the team will look to sign him long term. The team also has Awuzie and Lewis who are under contract for two more years. While Brown is a great piece to the cornerback group, it makes no sense to extend him right now. The team will get two more drafts before they have to replace him. That’s plenty of time to find more talent at cornerback.

Prediction: He’s a guy we’d love to have as depth, but he’ll be looking for more opportunities and more money when his deal is up. Let his contract play out.

Dak Prescott (Rd. 4, 135th overall)

It would be fun to talk about how brilliant the Cowboys were to just patiently wait it out on the quarterback position and then pounce on the steal of the draft in Dak Prescott, but we all know better. We know they were close to trading back into the first round to secure the rights to Paxton Lynch and we know that they were interested in Connor Cook in the fourth round. Thankfully, the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders were willing to offer up more for those guys. Both those teams have taken turns finishing at the bottom of their division over the last two seasons. They got all kinds of problems and don’t know what the Flacco they’re doing.

As for Dallas, they’ve finished with three straight winning seasons behind that Dak Prescott fella. Maybe he fell into their laps, but Jason Garrett was very interested in this kid and the Cowboys are the ones who called his name during the draft. To the victor goes the spoils and right now the Cowboys are one of the teams that have a young franchise quarterback who they are excited about for the future. Those things don’t grow on trees.

The Cowboys will make a long-term investment in Prescott. The question is just - when and for how much. Last week we predicted what it would cost the team to extend Prescott. Many others are predicting north of $30 million annually. It’s going to cost the team a lot of cap space, but in the “have” or “have-not” category of teams with a franchise quarterbacks, you want to be in the have group.

Prediction: Five-year, $142.5 million (average $28.5 M) contract extension coming in the summer.

Charles Tapper (Rd. 4, 101st overall)

The ol’ saying, “you can never have enough pass rushers” rings true in Dallas. After the release of DeMarcus Ware in 2014, the Cowboys invested a fourth-round or better draft resource in a pass rusher in each of their next five drafts. In 2016, that investment was SPARQ star Charles Tapper.

Tapper is the only one of the nine draft picks that is no longer on the team. Right from the get go, Tapper exhibited durability concerns. In training camp his rookie season, he was diagnosed with Pars Defect (back) that caused him to miss a lot of time. He was placed on injured reserve without playing a single down. The following year, he broke his foot which placed him on IR again. And then last season, he didn’t even make the team. The Cowboys initially put him on their practice squad, but he was cut a few days later. Currently, Tapper is with the New York Jets on a reserve/future contract.

The Cowboys took a flyer on an athletic pass rusher in the fourth round, but it didn’t work out.

Prediction: Tapper’s gone, so this one has already been decided. We wish him the best in New York, but it would be surprising if he stayed healthy enough to sustain an NFL career.


Tomorrow, we’ll conclude this series with the team’s top three draft picks - Ezekiel Elliott, Jaylon Smith, and Maliek Collins.