Most people probably figured it would be hard for the Cowboys to hold on to Cole Beasley after hearing reports that the slot receiver wanted more guaranteed money than Dallas was willing to pay. Those expectations became reality on Tuesday when Beasley decided to move up north.
Cole Beasley appears to be the first Dallas Cowboys unrestricted free agent to find a new home.
Beasley will join the Buffalo Bills on a four-year, $29 million contract, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
The deal averages $7.25 million a year with $14.4 million guaranteed.
Beasley heads to Buffalo after seven years in Dallas as a reliable underneath target. He caught 319 passes for 3,271 yards and 23 touchdowns with the Cowboys. His best year was 2016, when he and then-rookie Dak Prescott developed rapport to the tune of 75 catches, 833 yards and five scores. Beasley caught 76.5 percent of his targets that season.
Beasley averaged $3.375 million across the last two seasons. As a free agent, the undrafted product out of SMU sought more money and more opportunities than the Cowboys’ run-heavy offensive scheme provided.
Cole Beasley may be moving on from the Dallas Cowboys, but unlike another wide receiver changing teams this offseason, Beasley isn’t leaving the team on bad terms. The slot receiver took to Twitter to express his gratitude to the team and the fans.
I’ll always love #cowboynation and I appreciate the time we have had together. Thanks to the jones family for giving me a shot. Excited for this new journey. Can’t wait to get started in Buffalo. Let’s go! #BillsMafia— Cole Beasley (@Bease11) March 12, 2019
Cole Beasley wasn’t the only player to leave Dallas on Tuesday, as it was announced that linebacker Damien Wilson will be signing a deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. Wilson was expected to move on.
The 25-year-old Wilson is a traditional strongside linebacker in a 4-3 system, giving the Chiefs their first true strongside linebacker on the roster.
With Wilson anchoring the SAM position, fellow former Cowboy Anthony Hitchens is expected to start at weakside linebacker. Reggie Ragland would man the middle. That would make 2018 third-round pick Dorian O’Daniel the team’s top linebacker substitute.
Wilson, originally a 2015 fourth-round pick by Dallas, appeared in all 16 games last season for Dallas, but started just seven. A season ago, he also saw action in all 16 games and started nine.
Because Dallas frequently used the nickel package — one that didn’t feature Wilson — the Minnesota product played on just 28 percent of the team’s snaps in 2018.
As moves are made and free agents agree to deals across the league, names are getting scratched off the list of possible targets for the Cowboys, who are unsurprisingly staying relatively quiet. Still, there are some top-tier free agents out there that the team can pursue if they decide to go that route.
Wide receiver - The Cowboys lost Cole Beasley, but they picked up the option on Allen Hurns. Tavon Austin is still out there as a possibility and the draft has some quality players. But if they wanted to add with the free agency route, they could get some quality.
Tyrell Williams - Likely going to be out of the Cowboys price range.
Golden Tate - A shifty slot receiver who can do damage after the catch.
Randall Cobb - His production has certainly slid over the last few seasons.
Donte Moncrief - Had a resurgent year in 2018.
One big free agent the Cowboys have long been linked to is safety Earl Thomas, who surprisingly hasn’t been in the large group of safeties inking huge deals so far. As it stands, the Cowboys and 49ers appear to be the two contenders, but what are the details?
Make no mistake, though—the Cowboys will be in play for Thomas, as David Moore of the Dallas Morning News reported:
”The Cowboys will make a strong push for Earl Thomas.
”The mutual attraction between Thomas and the Cowboys is no secret. But an assumption has developed in recent weeks that it will be nothing more than a public flirtation, that Dallas doesn’t have the financial wherewithal to land the Pro Bowl safety before the week is done.
”That could be how this process unfolds. But to dismiss the Cowboys’ interest or chances of pulling this off is premature.”
The question for the Cowboys will be whether they are willing to make him the highest paid safety in the game. And the question for Thomas will be whether he can generate enough of a market to guarantee at least one team will offer him such a lucrative contract.
The Cowboys have gotten off to a slow start in free agency, as has been their practice in recent years. But there’s something different about this year, given how close the team is perceived to be to getting a chance at the Super Bowl. Some have started to wonder how committed to that goal the Cowboys front office is.
That the Cowboys were going to be quiet early on is no surprise. That has been the fiscally-responsible plan for the past few off-seasons.
The big money comes off the board first and the Cowboys have no intention of setting the market in free agency. They usually shop at the bargain bin in the second wave.
Their focus in 2019 is on giving big money to their own with free agent defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence at the top of the pecking order followed by possible extensions for quarterback Dak Prescott, receiver Amari Cooper, running back Ezekiel Elliott and cornerback Byron Jones.
One of the reasons the Cowboys haven’t inked a deal with Earl Thomas yet is due to what Thomas is reportedly asking for. His initial request put him out of the team’s price range, but as time progresses, could that change?
Dallas wants a “hometown discount’’ and Thomas wants “big money’’? Those were simply introductory concepts, not conversation-killers, and now, as we move through Tuesday, it’s time for another conversation. We’ll soon have the conversation’s end, and again, the odds for Dallas might seem as high as Earl’s alleged price tag was ... but as the suitors drop off, maybe the price tag does, too.
What I know is that when Dallas watches film of Thomas, the scouting department’s reaction is, “He’s still Earl.’’ And when Thomas watches film of his favorite boyhood team from Dallas, his reaction is, “The Cowboys are still my team.’’ As we await the possibility of another bidder swooping in, we know Earl Thomas and the Cowboys aren’t physically miles apart ... and are about to know if they are philosophically millions apart.
While Earl Thomas seems to represent the biggest fish in the Cowboys’ free agency desires, there are other names to watch as well. There are plenty of players Dallas could look to add from the bargain bin as the week goes on, including the likes of Justin Houston.
The truth is simple, Houston’s job as a pass rusher would not change no matter what the scheme dictates. His job as a OLB in a 3-4 or a DE in a 4-3 would remain the same, get to the QB. In terms of pass-rushing he has been one of the best in the league. According to Pro Football Focus, since 2011 Houston is No.5 in pressure rate (16.3 percent) with a minimum of 2000 pass-rush snaps.
A one-two punch of DeMarcus Lawrence on the left side of the defense and Houston on the right would be formidable.
Unfortunately, there are things to consider with Houston in terms of durability. Towards the end of his time in Kansas City, he dealt with various knee and hamstring issues. That is something to consider for any team looking to ink a new deal for the talented pass-rusher. But the upside could be enough to outweigh all possible doubts.
Now that Cole Beasley is leaving, the next step is about how to replace his production at the slot receiver position. There are several names already on the roster who could fill the hole, as well as some options in free agency and the draft.
That could come by way of Cedrick Wilson, Jr.
No slouch to producing when his number is called, the 23-year-old native of Memphis, TN has been known to impact a game or several. Wilson also has the football pedigree, considering his father,Cedrick Wilson, Sr., is a former University of Tennessee and NFL star at the position. That intangible combines with his above-average wingspan, hand size and vertical jump to create a nightmare assignment for smaller defensive backs. If the ball is anywhere near Wilson’s impressive catch radius, he’s inhaling it. And obvious physical attributes aside, his high football IQ quickly ingratiated him wideouts coach Sanjay Lal — who sounded like a kid in a candy store in describing what he saw from the rookie.
”Ced[rick Wilson] has picked up the offense better than most of the guys in the room,” said Lal in July 2018, via The Doomsday Podcast. “And now it’s becoming like, ‘Okay, we need a guy to run in there? Ced, go in’, and he knows what to do. ...He’s coming along. I’m very happy with it.”
One of the bigger storylines across the NFL over the last year has been Le’Veon Bell not playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Late Tuesday night it was reported that he has a new home, and he’s headed to the New York Jets.
The Cowboys visit the Jets in 2019 so we’ll see if the Hot Boyz can slow him down!