One of my favorite episodes of any television show ever was titled “Remedial Chaos Theory” from the not-talked-about-enough Community. It’s fantastic.
The basic premise of the episode is that there is a group of people in an apartment having a get together and they’ve ordered pizza. The delivery guy shows up, rings the doorbell, and nobody wants to go downstairs to get it.
Someone suggests rolling a dice and, after numbering the members of the group, notes that whatever it ultimately lands on is the number of the person that will have to go and pick up the pie. The episode then goes through every “timeline” in which all six people go to pick up the pizza and showing the audience what happens in the short time span that each person is gone and how it is potentially different each and every time. Timelines, so to speak.
The Dallas Cowboys aren’t exactly in that sort of position but there is so much of football that is a lot like rolling the dice. We are in the offseason which means games aren’t being played but there are, without question, decisions being made that are going to drastically affect the club.
Thinking along those lines, what are the most impactful non-quarterback things going on with the Cowboys here in 2020? Which one is the largest/would create the most chaotic timeline?
The Amari Cooper and Byron Jones decisions sort of go hand in hand
This is of course a difficult exercise to do without factoring in Dak Prescott’s potential contract as the size of it will obviously limit other decisions when it gets done. For the purposes of this exercise we’ll keep in the neighborhood of $35M per year.
If that is the financial case for the Cowboys, they obviously then need to decide how valuable Amari Cooper is to their franchise. If Dak were to get an actual contract before the franchise tag deadline then Cooper certainly feels like the most likely to get the tag as a result, but what would that do to the rest of the field?
Things already feel like an “Amari Cooper or Byron Jones” situation with the Cowboys and the way they decide to prioritize them will drastically influence the composition of their roster. Looking at the projected tag numbers (per OverTheCap) for wide receivers and cornerbacks lends one to think that giving Jones the franchise tag and Cooper the transition makes the most sense.
- Projected WR Franchise Tag: $18,491,000
- Projected WR Transition Tag: $15,926,000
- Projected CB Franchise Tag: $16,471,000
- Projected CB Transition Tag: $14,570,000
If the Cowboys are able to hand them both out to non-Dak players (which requires an extension with him before March 10th), then you can either have the sum of the top and bottom numbers of the middle two. Simple math tells you that the transition tag for Cooper is the way to go/save the most.
The Jason Witten decision
Outside of Amari Cooper and Byron Jones, again we’re excluding Dak Prescott, there aren’t many high-profile free agents on the Cowboys. Sure there are players that the organization would like to keep, but there aren’t many others that are going to make a night and day difference.
While Jason Witten does not present an enormous on-the-field impact anymore, the decision that the Cowboys make with him will say a lot. If they ultimately do move on from him (we’re qualifying this as “allowing” him to play elsewhere, as in not preferring to sign him themselves) it will, as other things have already recently, show that the franchise is more committed to the future than notable players who have played for the team.
We all recognize that Witten has done some great things for the Cowboys, but if the team decides to finally fully move on, it will allow them to grow and develop younger players at tight end (Blake Jarwin truthers unite!). That would be nice and set the precedent which would certainly be valuable for the future.
The Robert Quinn decision
Obviously the Cowboys have a star pass rusher in DeMarcus Lawrence, but it never hurts to have more of those things. Robert Quinn finally gave Cowboys fans the bookend pass rush that we’ve envisioned for so long in 2019.
Whether the Cowboys are able to bring Quinn back or not is sneakily close to the decisions surrounding Cooper and/or Jones as failing to do so would put them back where it feels like they’d been for a decade and a half... missing a legitimate presence opposite of their star.
There have been several times where we’ve all held out hope that Randy Gregory could consistently be the guy to fill that void, but right now that isn’t enough for the franchise to rely on. If Quinn were to leave who is the next man up opposite of DeMarcus Lawrence? I’m legitimately asking. Maybe Dorance Armstrong?
Losing Quinn would make the pass rush feel very unreliable week in and week out, which is not a fun place to be. He is among the top priorities for the Cowboys this offseason but, like the others, he is going to cost a lot of money.