This is the part of the offseason that is very anticlimactic for Cowboys fans. The team sits back and patiently lurks for value signings in free agency while all the big name talent goes elsewhere. While it can be boring at times, it’s necessary. The team will do its thing as they attempt to fill holes so they can do their real damage once the NFL Draft begins. But even though the draft is where they have the most success, what the team has done so far this offseason shouldn’t be swept under the rug. Here are five reasons things are off to a pretty darn good start for the Cowboys.
1. Witten Returns
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. The Cowboys got a stroke of good fortune when their future Hall of Fame tight end delayed his enshrinement just a bit by returning to the Cowboys. The team is still on the prowl for their tight end of the future, but having Jason Witten return to the team means that Dak Prescott will at the very least have a reliable target at his disposal.
One might say that the Cowboys did nothing that deserves praise for Witten returning, however - it speaks to how much the iconic tight end loves this organization. He wants to be out there with his teammates and playing for these coaches.
Nobody is running down the halls screaming about this move, but it’s solid. Witt’s always solid.
2. Shore up the DL
I would venture to say that many of us Cowboys fans can remember when players like George Selvie, Nick Hayden, Drake Nevis, Everette Brown, Jarius Wynn, Edgar Jones, Caesar Rayford, Corvey Irvin, Landon Cohen, Frank Kearse, and David Carter all logged snaps along the defensive line for the Cowboys....in the same season! Certainly, things have gotten considerably better since those times, but the team continues to strengthen their depth in the trenches.
Neither Christian Covington or Kerry Hyder are full-time starters or three-down players. But both of them have the talent to challenge for some solid playing time along the defensive line. Covington is a real good run-stopping defensive tackle and Hyder is a good pass-rushing defensive end. The team still has the usual suspects to log playing time (except possibly Randy Gregory), but having this type of talent available off the bench is a nice achievement for the front office.
3. The Slot Machines
The team lost Cole Beasley to free agency. Beasley left for Buffalo where he’ll finally have a chance to win football games, because let’s face it - the Cowboys never do any of that.
Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup are now handling the outside work, but who’s playing the slot? The Cowboys have a few choices. First, they picked up Allen Hurns option so he’ll be back. Then, they re-signed Tavon Austin after acquiring him last year during the draft for just a sixth-round pick. Now, they’ve signed Randall Cobb to a one-year, $5 million deal. While it’s way early to predict how the receiving arrangement is going to play out, the team definitely has quite a few options at their disposal. May the best slot win.
Not only did the Cowboys get Cobb for cheaper, but they may have gotten the better player as well.
4. Blindside insurance
The Cowboys most underrated signing a year ago was when they signed former New England Patriots Cameron Fleming to a one-year, $2.5 million deal. After the Chaz Green/Byron Bell debacle in Atlanta in 2017, the Cowboys were committed to making sure that type of disaster didn’t happen again. It was a smart move because just like 2017, Tyron Smith missed three games, only this time they were ready with Fleming.
The Cowboys were so pleased with what they saw from Fleming that they re-upped him for two more years, giving him a raise worth $4.25 million annually. The team is simply renewing their insurance policy because Smith continues to miss games. After five seasons where Smith only missed one game, he’s now had three-straight seasons where he’s missed exactly three games.
It seems like a pricey investment to make for a swing tackle that you are hoping doesn’t see the field very much, but the alternative is much worse.
This video doesn't get old... watch EVERY Adrian Clayborn sack vs. the Cowboys. pic.twitter.com/uCLYHlVpoA— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) November 13, 2017
5. Get that 19-sack guy!
Okay, so this one hasn’t happened yet, but if it does - you might as well just give a gold star and plaster this on the refrigerator for the Cowboys front office. The team is currently in talks to possibly trade for veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn. The Cowboys love trading cheap draft capital to get former first-round picks of the Los Angeles Rams. They did that last year for Tavon Austin and are trying to do it again this year with Quinn. Only this time, it’s not the Rams they are trading with; it’s the Miami Dolphins. Not only that, this guy offers much more upside.
Quinn is a former All-Pro from his 19 sack season in 2013. He’s posted double-digit sacks three times, which is more than any Cowboys pass rusher has done since DeMarcus Ware. He’s only 28 years old and he can still play. This is the type of front office move we plead for the Cowboys to pull off. It’s sneaky as they’re taking advantage of the Dolphins in rebuild mode, but it’s also aggressive. They’re making a move so they can get DeMarcus Lawrence and Quinn pinning their ears back and going after the quarterback.
The Cowboys defense already showed great improvement last year thanks to Van Jaylon and solid play from the secondary. Could you imagine how better they’d be with an improved pass rush?
The Cowboys are doing a great job so far this offseason. Eight of their 11 projected offensive starters this upcoming season have been Pro Bowlers. And the great news is, we haven’t even gotten to the draft yet.
Dallas Cowboys’ projected Week 1 starters:— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) March 19, 2019
QB: Dak Prescott
RB: Ezekiel Elliott
WR: Amari Cooper
WR: Randall Cobb
WR: Michael Gallup
TE: Jason Witten
LT: Tyron Smith
LG: Connor Williams
C: Travis Frederick
RG: Zack Martin
RT: La’el Collins
The Cowboys have taken care of business to where they can just draft as pure as they want without any pressing needs. Hasn’t that always been their goal? Some will say that the team is in a little trouble this year because they don’t have a first-round pick, but as my colleague Tom Ryle pointed out yesterday, that’s not a problem. Four teams didn’t have a first-round pick last year and all four of those teams made the playoffs. I like those odds.
With a solid free agency, the team sets themselves for success as they enter the draft where they do their best work. Rejoice, Cowboys fans. Things are shaping up nicely.