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The talent distribution of free agency and the draft, and what it could mean for the Cowboys offense

How does the landscape of the talent available influence the Cowboys decisions when it comes to their offense?

NFL: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that the Dallas Cowboys have their work cut out for them this offseason when it comes to filling out their roster for the upcoming season. With so many of their own players on expiring contracts, the Cowboys have to decide who they should keep and who they can afford to let leave in free agency. The team will then look to outside free agents and the 2020 NFL Draft to add new faces to their roster.

There are a lot of different factors that go into those decisions, but we wanted to examine one possible element that may come into play - talent distribution of new acquisitions.

Let us take a look at the landscape of the top 100 free agents as well as the top 100 prospects in the upcoming draft. From these lists, we’ve done the leg work to break down where the talent falls in each area. This allows us to see what’s available for each position group, and what choice of talent acquisition may be more likely this offseason. It may even provide a clue as to how the Cowboys choose to approach some of their tough decisions that lie ahead.

For today, let’s take a look at the offense...

Each position group contains the number of players available in the top 100 for both the draft (green) and free agency (yellow), with the net surplus available to the right. This tells us position groups are the deepest as well as which method of talent acquisition has more to offer.

What can we get from the offensive talent distribution as it pertains to the Cowboys?

Dak Prescott will be re-signed

You don’t need a color-coded table to tell you that the Cowboys will re-sign their franchise quarterback, Dak Prescott. He’s the top ranked free agent this offseason and for good reason. He’s young and he’s a proven commodity. Sure, there are other outlets to acquire a quarterback, but with those routes there are trade-offs. A veteran like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, or Phillip Rivers only provides immediate help and offers you nothing for the future. And if you go to the draft for your quarterback, you have to inherit the growing pains while they develop, if they develop. With Dak, you don’t have to worry about any of those things, and it will be the easiest choice this organization has to make this offseason.

Amari cooper has to be re-signed as well

Whether it’s draft or free agency, the wide receiver position group offers more options than any other offensive position group this year. That might lead some to consider moving away from Amari Cooper if his asking price is too high. That’s a mistake.

While there is certainly some good talent available, it would be very difficult to find a player comparable to that of Cooper. Nobody in free agency is even close to Cooper’s ability, and if they looked to the draft to find a player of his talent, that’s a huge risk that statistically speaking is likely to result in failure. The Cowboys have already taken that risk when they traded a first-round draft pick to get him, so it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to pick up the dice and re-roll. The Cowboys are almost assured to cash in on that Yahtzee and give Cooper a second contract.

Having said that, the layout does paint a good picture of how to go about replacing players like Randall Cobb and Tavon Austin. This is a ridiculously deep draft class for wide receivers and there will be some good players out there even after the first couple days. The team may also look for a low-cost free agent signing as well.

They are out of luck when it comes to tight end

For years, the front office has done next to nothing to bolster the tight end position as the reliable presence of Jason Witten has allowed them that freedom. As it turned out, even a Witten-less Cowboys team didn’t influence the team to make a stronger push to strengthen this position group. Years of doing a whole lot of nothing has put the team in a little bit of a predicament moving forward.

To exacerbate this problem, neither the draft or free agency offers many solutions. It would be lovely to have a player like Austin Hooper on this team, but the Cowboys aren’t going to spend top free agent money to address this position. And when it comes to the draft, there are no glaring stars to be had in this class. The best prospects all fall outside the top 60 players.

With limited options, the Cowboys are stymied at tight end where another yearly lease of Witten seems likely.

Being proactive has them set along the offensive line

This is a good year to have a need at offensive tackle as there are some good options in the draft as well as free agency. For the Cowboys, they already have two really good starters signed long-term. They do need to find a new swing tackle as it would be shocking to see them pick up Cameron Fleming’s second-year option on his contract. They have a couple undrafted youngster like Brandon Knight and Mitch Hyatt in their pocket, but don’t be too surprised if the Cowboys make an earlier than expected draft selection to take advantage of the talent pool, similar to what they did with Connor McGovern last year.

Speaking of McGovern, the interior lineman group is weak this year, both in free agency and the draft, so that makes the McGovern pick look a little smarter now. You have to grab the talent when you can.

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