The craziness of the NBA world with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George teaming up with the Los Angeles Clippers, Jimmy Butler finding his way to the Miami Heat, and Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant forming a potential deadly duo with the Brooklyn Nets has us thinking: what would it look like if the NFL had max contract slots available and a free agency as active as the NBA?
The Cowboys are obviously the biggest brand in the NFL and Dallas is a big market, so it would not be hard to envision free agents wanting to wear the silver and blue, if the dynamics of the NFL player movement was anything similar to the NBA.
For the purpose of this fun exercise, everybody is on the free agent market.
This is an easy, obvious choice. Aaron Donald is the best overall player (non-QB) in football right now with his ability to impact the game in a multitude of ways from his defensive tackle position. Could you imagine if the 6-foot, 284-pound beast was on the market and the Cowboys had the money available to make it work?
It is no secret that one of the bigger weaknesses on the Cowboys roster is the defensive tackle spot. Maliek Collins has been a solid player, but he has dealt with injuries during his career. David Irving was once supposed to be ‘the guy’, but things went south there. Dallas is hoping that their second-round selection, Trysten Hill, emerges; but, that is an unknown at this point in time.
Dallas has pass rushers in DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn, two stud linebackers in Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, and a secondary full of promise with Byron Jones, Xavier Woods, Chidobe Awuzie, and Anthony Brown.
Donald is a five-time Pro Bowl selection, a four-time All-Pro selection, and is a two-time AP Defensive Player of the Year. Obviously, in this dream scenario, the Cowboys would finally have somebody to not only fill the void in the middle of the defensive line, but somebody that can take a game over in ways that very few can.
With Donald being 28, the Cowboys would still be able to have a nice chunk of his prime.
The Cowboys’ first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft turned out to be really good in Leighton Vander Esch, but fans also had their eyes on another prospect: Derwin James out of Florida State. James fell to the 17th pick in the draft, just two prior to the Cowboys selection, and some were wanting Dallas to make a move up.
James had a monster season with the Chargers: 105 tackles, four TFLs, six QB hits, 13 passes deflections, and three interceptions during his rookie campaign in L.A. James earned first team All-Pro honors thanks to his impressive year.
With the glaring need at safety, imagine if the Cowboys could go after Derwin James to patrol Kris Richard’s secondary in Dallas. The Cowboys already have one of the best defensive units across the league, and there is no telling how scary that side of the ball could be with an upgrade in the secondary.
James is only 22, so in this totally unrealistic scenario, he would be able to play out his prime in the biggest brand in the NFL.
With the previous two spots focusing on the defensive side of the ball, let’s transition to the offensive side. The Cowboys built The Great Wall of Dallas, but injuries to Tyron Smith and an unexpected illness to Travis Frederick has caused the offensive line to hit a decline.
Enter David DeCastro. The All-Pro offensive guard has been a major factor in the success of the ground game in Pittsburgh. James Conner filled in nicely for Le’Veon Bell last season, and DeCastro was a huge reason why he ran for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2018.
Furthermore, DeCastro is more than just a run blocker. His ability to protect the passer is another trait that makes him one of the elite offensive linemen in the game. Check out this tidbit from Athlon Sports:
A key contributor in an offense that produced a franchise-record 54 TDs in 2018. He amassed 958 snaps without allowing a sack despite playing with an injury.
The Cowboys are pretty set at most other positions on the offense, aside from tight end. It would make sense to target a weapon like a Travis Kelce for Dak Prescott, but re-establishing the greatness of the offensive line would give the Cowboys its run-first, hard-nose identity back.
In this totally fun, hypothetical scenario, which player would you target with a max contract for the Dallas Cowboys?