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Free agency focus: If Cowboys lose Cole Beasley, will they find value on open market?

The Cowboys hope it works out with Cole Beasley but what if it doesn’t work out?

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Jones has made it fairly clear that he would love to keep Cole Beasley with the Dallas Cowboys. Cole Beasley has been one of the better slot receivers in the NFL over the course of his career. He also happens to be one the best third-down options in the league along with teammate Amari Cooper. Cole Beasley has been very communicative on social media that he would like to remain in Dallas but would like an increased role along with a significant increase in salary. With an overstocked checklist of items to complete this offseason, re-signing Cole Beasley is something a little further down from the top priorities.

The rumors about Beasley’s asking price have been all over the place and the latest refuted by Beasley himself is that he’s looking for guarantees around $20M. That’s not something the Cowboys are likely to give him and the value of a slot receiver is something that this front office is wrestling with. Just last season, the Patriots re-signed Julian Edelman to a very team-friendly deal worth $11M, with a $5M per season average. Edelman wanted to stay with his quarterback and happily took less than he may have been worth. Edelman coincidentally won this year’s Super Bowl MVP honors.

Stephen Jones is not naive, he knows that he will get no-such hometown discounts for Beasley’s services, therefore, he has to contemplate the big picture. The Cowboys have a bigger slot target, Allen Hurns, that they signed last free agency, but he’s coming off a broken leg suffered in the playoffs. The Cowboys could also consider making Hurns a cap casualty and save about $5M. Then again, we know this team really likes Hurns, he may be a bigger part of future plans. Amari Cooper is most assuredly going to be extended at some point and sooner rather than later and that’s going to be one hefty price tag.

For Cole Beasley, he’s shown that he is a valuable receiver in the Cowboys passing game and has been a big help for young quarterback Dak Prescott. Beasley would like to see his value appreciated but the odds are favorable that someone else will offer him a much more appetizing deal. If the Cowboys indeed lose Cole Beasley, there are a plenty of young receivers in the mid-rounds of this draft to consider. However, they should at least give the free agent market a peek because there are deals to be had.

The following is a list comprised of receivers set to hit the open market and their most recent production, we’ll keep Cole Beasley at the top for comparisons.

Player Age 2018 Salary 2018 Snap % Targets Rec. Rec. Yds TD Catch %
Cole Beasley 30 $3,401,550 66% 87 65 672 3 75%
Tyrell Williams 27 $2,914,000 76% 65 41 653 5 63%
Jamison Crowder 26 $706,406 42%% 49 29 388 2 59%
Chris Hogan 31 $4,000,000 72% 55 35 532 3 64%
Adam Humphries 26 $2,914,000 70% 105 76 816 5 72%
Randall Cobb 29 $10,000,000 43% 61 38 383 2 62%
John Brown 29 $5,000,000 64% 97 42 715 5 43%
Cody Latimer 27 $2,500,000 20% 16 11 190 1 69%
Phillip Dorsett 26 $1,394,373 36% 42 32 290 3 76%
Jordan Matthews 27 $790,000 29% 28 20 300 2 71%
Chris Conley 27 $780,922 77% 52 32 334 5 62%
Breshad Perriman 26 $705,000 20% 25 16 340 2 64%
Russell Shepard 29 $1,250,000 18% 19 10 188 2 53%
Tavon Austin 28 $7,000,000 11% 13 8 140 2 62%

As we have in all of these free agent focus pieces, it’s important to show players all over the spectrum of the free agency market. At the top of it all, some guys may be far too expensive for the Cowboys. Tyrell Williams, who plays both slot and outside could command over $9M per season. Adam Humphries could be over $10M per year but whoever signs him will get plenty of production from one of the breakout slot stars. Randall Cobb was paid $10M last season and he’s not going to get that again but he could be around $8M per year. Jamison Crowder is looking like he will get around $8M per year as well.

If Dallas was even considering paying close to $7-8M per season, they would just re-sign Cole Beasley because he will be around or over that number. What about 31 year-old Chris Hogan, who has enjoyed a few productive seasons in New England? If he doesn’t re-sign with the Patriots, it may be one of those one-year bargains for the Cowboys to consider. At the same time, it’s hard to visualize the Cowboys being interested in Hogan’s age and injury history.

John Brown is a player that’s really interesting from a Cowboys’ perspective as he’s coming off quite a good year in Baltimore. Brown has an extensive injury history as well but if you can keep that asking price around or under $5M per year, the Cowboys should give him a thought. Brown has incredible speed and has been very successful in stretching the vertical passing game. When you look at his catch percentages, it reads like a big-play deep threat-type. The Cowboys may want someone with a little more production and experience in the slot but if he’s blowing past coverage, Brown may open up the middle of the field.

Phillip Dorsett, Chris Conley, and Russell Shepard are all former draft darlings of the BTB forum. Shepard is an undrafted free agent from LSU and he’s more of a journeyman-type than a big-time contributor. However, the fact that he’s playing 53% of the snaps shows that he’s valuable in other ways such as run-blocking perhaps. Shepard is one of those low-cost prospects that you bring in to kick the tires. Now, Dorsett and Conley are intriguing though their careers haven’t jum-pstarted the way they may hoped, there is still plenty of time, and a lot to like about each of them.

The last guy to mention is Tavon Austin, who was spotted working out at the Cowboys’ facilities. Working out at The Star suggests that Austin has no plans on leaving the Cowboys, just days away from the start of free agency.

Austin dealt with a groin injury that set him back last season while also dealing with a coordinator that sold him on a plan that wasn’t implemented. Tavon Austin may be a guy that Kellen Moore wants to see more of in this offense. Austin’s 40+ yard “go-grab-it” catch in a loss to the Texans was one of the better deep passes for Dak Prescott last season. Austin also had a few flashes as a punt returner, something the Cowboys need desperately on a stale unit. The market value for Tavon Austin is going to be very friendly for a Cowboys front office that is hesitant to spend. Re-signing Tavon Austin is the exact type of signing the Cowboys make every year by plugging a hole and shifting focus to the draft.

The Cowboys have a lot of straightening out to do at receiver but they know they have an emerging star in Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup came on strong at the end of this past year and could be a viable WR2. The Cowboys are also anxious to get Cedrick Wilson back from IR, he was a sixth-round selection in last year’s draft. How much do the Cowboys value Cole Beasley’s contributions to the offense? Are they better off just going with a low-cost approach or will they spend some cash to load up talent around QB Dak Prescott?

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