Keeping Cole Beasley would have been nice, but it certainly wasn’t a priority. Beasley was a productive player and deserves our appreciation for what he did in Dallas. He’s the quintessential slot receiver and his sweet payday from Buffalo wasn’t out of line. So why didn’t Dallas pay him? A few reasons.
One, the Cowboys are cheap in free agency. That’s just how it is. Second, Beasley is getting up in years and the Cowboys are reluctant to give long-term deals to players no longer in their prime age range. But probably the biggest reason they didn’t match Buffalo’s terms and keep Beasley is they have options to replace him. Good options.
Obviously there is the draft. Guys like Deebo Samuels, Andy Isabella, and Parris Campbell are among the many receivers that should be available for the Cowboys if they want them. Generally receivers are one of the slower developing rookies in terms of production, so this might not be the ideal solution for 2018, but picking one up for the long-term is certainly a possibility.
The Cowboys could also dip into free agency. Guys like Golden Tate and Randall Cobb are still available. Tate, especially, has been very productive his whole career, but he is on the wrong side of 30 and will likely still command a nice-sized contract. That kind of signing just doesn’t fit the Cowboys M.O. Of course, there are other, less expensive options out there, including one of their own, Tavon Austin. They may still re-sign Austin, but he just doesn’t seem like the answer in the slot; he’s yet to show that he is and he’s been in the league for a while.
Then there is their own roster. We still don’t know what kind of player Cedrick Wilson can be since he got hurt early on in his rookie campaign last year. Lance Lenoir is perennially hanging on with the Cowboys in one way or another, but is he the guy the Cowboys want to trust out there? They could go with a committee approach but that doesn’t sound overly enticing after last year’s committee approach in the receiving department.
There has been talk about Kellen Moore moving guys around more in pre-snap formations, and Amari Cooper has shown proficiency in catching the ball out of the slot. That said, the Cowboys certainly don’t want to him playing in the slot too often, he is a beast on the outside.
Instead, the Cowboys are likely to turn to Allen Hurns. He of the disappointing 2018 season. His name could bring groans from some fans, but moving him to the slot might just end up being a master stroke. Why? Because he’s basically a slot receiver.
Physically, he’s much bigger than your traditional slot guy. But over the years, he’s done his best work out of the slot. He was forced to play out of position last year on the outside as a lead dog until Amari Cooper came along and rescued the Cowboys offense.
This year, as long as he returns to health after his brutal ankle injury in the playoffs, he’s almost certainly going to be the slot guy. Here’s what Stephen Jones had to say back at the combine before we even knew Cole Beasley was leaving.
“Then you’ve got to take a look at Hurns. When you look at Hurns and what he was at Jacksonville, he was a slot,” Jones said. “He’s certainly an option if we lose Beasley in terms of filling that role, but we’ll just have to see how that plays out.”
Here’s another take on Hurns in the slot, this time from former Cowboy Barry Church who played a season with Hurns in Jacksonville.
“To me, he’s more of an inside slot receiver who can also play outside. It’s going to be interesting to see how they put him in there just because you guys got a great slot receiver already in [Cole] Beasley. So, it’s going to be interesting to see how they do him.”
”But, in my opinion, he’s a great slot receiver with the ability to play outside. He’s a good blocker, ultimate teammate, so there’s a great pickup for the Cowboys.”
When pressed on why he thinks Hurns is a slot guy, Church continued:
”That’s just where I saw him do a lot of his damage this season. It was my first year playing with him, and first year really kind of watching him out there, and I felt like he was able to get open more and basically be able to find the ball more being in the slot.”
”He was a key guy on third downs for us. He’s one of our leading receiver on third down, and that’s where he worked out of — the slot. I feel like he did a lot of his damage in there, and best damage in there.”
Hurns has had one thousand yard season in the NFL, 2015, and he did a lot of his damage that year from the slot.
In that 2015 season where Hurns went for more than 1,000 yard receiving on just 65 receptions to go along with 10 touchdowns, Hurns caught 29 passes out of the slot and seven of his touchdowns.
That article also goes deeper into how Hurns is really a slot guy because he does some of his best work on more horizontal routes. The slants, outs, drags, things that allow him to put a foot in the ground early and drive horizontally or at angles instead of going vertical and trying to challenge a defensive back at the top of a deeper route. His size may not say it, but his route running style says slot receiver.
Given Hurns’ poor production in 2018 and his ankle injury, it’s understandable that Cowboys fans are thinking Dallas needs to look elsewhere to replace Cole Beasley in the lineup. A betting man, though, would put his money on Hurns being the guy the Cowboys organization turns to as the primary slot guy in 2019 as long as he’s healthy.
And it looks like Hurns is going to be healthy.