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2020 NFL Free Agency: PFF’s top offensive (non-quarterback) and defensive free agents are both Cowboys

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That’s good and bad at the same time!

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Washington Redskins v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys are going to have to make a lot of decisions over the course of the offseason. There is more than enough on their plate to keep them busy. A large portion of the next few months are likely going to be spent trying to figure out how the team can keep key players that are set to be free agents. The trouble with having a lot of talent, besides squandering it in a non-playoff effort, is that at some point the bills come due. That’s where we are at.

Looking at all of the 2020 Dallas Cowboys free agents will likely give you anxiety especially because of the names at the top. Dallas has to figure out a way to sign players like Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Byron Jones before they even can start making other moves.

PFF’s top non-quarterback offensive free agent is Amari Cooper

While signing Dak Prescott will be a challenge in and of itself, it’s unfair to rank the prospective Cowboys free agents with him involved. Dak is the team’s quarterback and therefore his value is inherently more than anyone else’s. That’s common sense.

This is the approach that the fine folks over at PFF took in evaluating the set-to-be free agents of 2020. They put together a list of their top 10 non-quarterback free agents and what do you know, number one is Amari Cooper. We are number one!

1. WR AMARI COOPER

There was a clear increase in production in the Dallas Cowboys’ offense once Cooper arrived in the middle of 2018, and he finished the 2019 regular season with the No. 7 overall grade among receivers (84.1). Cooper set a career-high with 503 yards on deep (20-plus yard) passes, third highest in the league, and he caught them at an efficient rate of 62.5% (tied for fifth). The Cowboys’ passing offense has been one of the league’s best with Cooper on the field, netting 122.0 EPA on his 907 plays compared to just 2.95 EPA on 425 plays without him. That massive difference is the best explanation for quarterback Dak Prescott’s increase in production and Cooper’s spot atop the offensive free agent list.

The second half of the season was obviously very strange for him and unlike the Cooper that we grew accustomed to seeing in Dallas, but that doesn’t at all change his value to the team. There is definitely an argument to be made for Michael Gallup as a number one receiving option, but two of those is always better than one.

Dallas traded a first-round pick for Amari Cooper. They very likely made the decision back in October of 2018 that they were eventually going to pay Cooper when the time came. It’s about that time.

PFF’s top defensive free agent is Byron Jones

While it is typically great to see the players for the Cowboys ranked at the top of lists evaluating their talent and worth, seeing this is yet another reminder at the pickle the Cowboys find themselves in. It’s a tough one.

PFF did more than rank the top 10 non-quarterback free agents of the upcoming offseason. They put together a list of just as many of the top defensive free agents and obviously there is no necessary qualifier. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, one of their players sits at the top of this list, too. Byron Jones is number one.

1. CB BYRON JONES

A move to cornerback rejuvenated Jones’ career in 2018 as he showed that he can play single coverage on the outside at a high level. He finished with the No. 14 coverage grade among corners in 2018 (80.4) before dropping to 21st in 2019 (74.8), but those are extremely valuable numbers as he hits the open market. Many will point to Jones not picking off a pass over the last two years, but his 74.1 coverage grade in single coverage is 11th-best during that time and Jones has also shown the ability to match up against tight ends when called upon. Jones brings youth and coverage ability to the open market, making him the top defensive free agent heading into the offseason.

Jones has long felt like the odd man out when it’s come to Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, so on and so forth. It certainly wouldn’t be ideal for the Cowboys to part ways with their top cornerback but as Jerry Jones says there is only so much “pie” available for the group.

Remember that NFL teams can use both the franchise and transition tags this upcoming offseason (barring a new CBA before then) so they can technically protect two of their players from hitting the true open market. You’d have to think that if they are deployed it will be on some combination of Prescott, Cooper, and/or Jones, but there are only two tags and three top-tier players. It would behoove the Cowboys to negotiate a long-term deal with one of them before any sort of deadline.