How important is fixing the defensive backfield this offseason?
THE BREAKDOWN: All of the Cowboys’ free agents at this position group are unrestricted, which means the Cowboys are going to have to be strategic about who to keep. Jones would appear to be the highest priority. But the Cowboys have taken great care to try and cultivate depth behind him. Awuzie is already a starter. Lewis is making a case to be a full-time starter in 2020 if Jones leaves. The hinge player at corner might not be Jones, but Brown. If the Cowboys feel that Brown can’t be their third corner moving forward that could put them in position to spend on Jones and allowing Brown to hit the market. If the Cowboys conclude that Brown can, then it may be Jones that’s out the door.
This is, perhaps, the Cowboys’ most critical decision this offseason. Jones is a quality corner, even if his raw numbers don’t necessarily make that case. But will the Cowboys pay him like a quality corner? We’ve been reporting what that answer will be for over a year ...
After “Big 3” in Cowboys 2020 Free Agency, What’s the Next Major Priority? - Jess Haynie, Inside the Star
While Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Byron Jones eat up most of the headlines, the Cowboys have many other free agents this offseason to sort through as well.
On the defensive line, Robert Quinn and Maliek Collins are starters with expiring contracts. And while there are some young prospects at their positions, none of them have shown enough yet to be fully trusted as replacements.
If Quinn leaves, third-year DE Dorance Armstrong is an athletic pass rusher who has flashed potential in limited opportunities. There’s also Joe Jackson, but his skills are more as a run stopper.
At defensive tackle there’s Trysten Hill, last year’s 2nd-round pick, plus veteran Tyrone Crawford. Both are built to play the same “3-tech” position on the line that Maliek Collins has.
It seems pretty clear that keeping or replacing Quinn, though, is of vital importance to the Cowboys for 2020. You expect guy like Trysten Hill to move into a starting role in his second year, or at least to be given that opportunity. You shouldn’t have drafted him otherwise.
You can’t say the same for guys like Armstrong or Jackson at defensive end. They certainly could emerge as starters one day but making that part of your strategy now would be foolish based on what we’ve seen.
Cowboys free agency focus: The case for Dallas making a run at TE Eric Ebron - Michael Sisemore, Blogging the Boys
Could Eric Ebron be in the Cowboys free agency plans?
TE Eric Ebron, Colts
Eric Ebron was selected 10th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions after having a breakout junior year for North Carolina with 62 receptions and over 900 receiving yards. Everything from his measurables to his combine testing numbers screamed that he could potentially be a NFL superstar in the mold of others before him like Jimmy Graham.
In his rookie training camp, Ebron struggled to grasp the Lions playbook and his assignments, winding up being third on the depth chart behind Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria. Midway through his rookie year, Ebron would be sidelined with a hamstring and finished the year with 25 receptions, 248 yards, and a touchdown. In his second season he was TE2 behind Pettigrew, and he put up decent numbers despite missing two games with another hamstring. Ebron would snag 47 of 70 targets, for 537 receiving yards, and five touchdowns.
In 2016, Ebron would be thrust into the starting role when Brandon Pettigrew went down to a torn ACL. Though a knee injury sidelined Ebron from weeks 5-7, he did very well in his first year as the TE1. He recorded a season-high eight receptions for 93 yards in a 42-21 loss to the Cowboys. Overall, Ebron caught 61 of his 85 targets (72%) for 711 yards, with one TD reception, and one rushing TD. In 2017, he would play in all 16 games but finished the year with just 53 receptions, 573 yards, and four touchdowns. Right ahead of the 2018 season, Ebron was cut by the Lions but signed a two-year deal worth $13M with the Indianapolis Colts five days later.
What five free agents should the Cowboys say goodbye to when free agency kicks off?
Maliek Collins was one of the players that made up Dallas’ historically great draft class of 2016. The 6-foot-2 308 lb monster in the middle took some time to develop as a pro and find him hitting free agency coming off his best season.
Collins’ 4 sacks, 12 hurries, 5 knockdowns, and 21 pressures are career bests. He finished in the top-5 of Next Gen’s pass-rush win rate (among interior pass-rushers) and proved he’s one of the rising stars in the middle. So why not pay the man?
Basically because he’s going to cost a ton of money, he’s abysmal against the run, there’s a ton of DT talent hitting free agency this offseason, and I’m prioritizing edge rusher Robert Quinn instead (who is expected to be a little cheaper given his age).
For the money, I’ve identified D.J. Reader as my favorite DT to target in FA. He’s going to cost more than Collins but he’s basically the same age, plays at a higher level, and is able to play both 1-tech in a 4-3 and NT in a 3-4 (something the Dallas Cowboys will tinker with). I’m fine playing the waiting game and getting Collins on a bargain deal should interest dry up in free agency – but I don’t see that happening. he’s too good of a pass-rusher for that.
Congrats to Amari Cooper for scoring in the Pro Bowl, and R.I.P Kobe Bryant.
Wide receiver Amari Cooper caught a 6-yard touchdown pass in his fourth career Pro Bowl appearance, but it wasn’t enough for the NFC squad in a 38-33 defeat to the AFC at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
Tragic news overshadowed the annual NFL all-star game, however, as multiple reports surfaced before and after kickoff that basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna had passed away earlier Sunday in a helicopter accident in the Los Angeles area. Camping World Stadium held a moment of silence in the first half.
The Pro Bowl went on as scheduled featuring the Cowboys’ five representatives on the NFC team: Cooper, running back Ezekiel Elliott, linebacker Jaylon Smith and offensive linemen Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick.
Could the Cowboys look to bolster the cornerback position even if Byron Jones is retained?
Think about it, cornerback is a team need even if Byron stays.
Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis will hit free agency in 2021. Awuzie hasn’t been consistent and at times has looked terrible. On the other hand, Lewis has shown promising signs. But after all, has he played enough for the Cowboys to feel confident enough about paying him after his rookie deal is up?
The Cowboys passing defense ranked 23rd in pass defense according to DVOA. After praising Kris Richard’s work in 2018, the team’s secondary was constantly beaten last season. Simply put, the Cowboys need an upgrade at CB.
Letting Byron Jones walk in free agency would put this unit in a terrible position, but even with him on the 2020 Dallas Cowboys, this is a position Dallas needs to address even as early as the second round of the NFL Draft.