The Dallas Cowboys have a large “to do” list this offseason. With so many of their own players hitting free agency, the front office will have to sort through which players they plan on retaining going forward. Dak Prescott is at the forefront of those decisions, but a possible franchise tag could buy the team some extra time to get him signed long term. But for some other guys, the Cowboys may have to get on the ball and make some tough decisions real soon.
Besides Prescott, there are a few other big name players the team will have to look hard in determining if they’ll be around in 2020. Amari Cooper and Byron Jones are two of the names that come up quite a bit as both of them just finished playing out their rookie contract, which included a fifth-year option. Which one of these players should be considered a higher priority?
Let’s break down a few different factors and determine which of these players should be given a greater sense of importance when it comes to an extension.
DEPTH of position
Amari Cooper: The breakout season of Michael Gallup certainly adds a little spice to this conversation as the second-year player had over 1,000 yards receiving last season. Behind Gallup, the team has Randall Cobb and Tavon Austin, however, like Cooper - both guys are unrestricted free agents. Cedrick Wilson and Noah Brown are still on the roster, but the position group will take a hit if Cooper doesn’t hang around.
Byron Jones: In terms of next season, the Cowboys still have Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis on the roster, but both those guys will be free agents after the the 2020 season. Anthony Brown’s rookie deal is up this offseason, so the Cowboys could be looking at losing half their corners this year and half the following year. Dallas isn’t going to let all these guys get away, but a nice hit to this once-deep position group could be on the horizon.
Verdict: Both positions have depth issues that need to be addressed soon.
IMPORTANCE of position
Cooper: A formidable passing attack is vital in today’s game, and the Cowboys have one of the most fundamentally sound route-runners in the league in Cooper. The team has flashed some really incredible moments as the connection of Prescott and Cooper has brought a lot more big plays to the offense. Keeping this area of the team sharp is very important if the team is going to take the next step.
Jones: Fewer positions are more important in today’s NFL than cornerback. Having a player like Jones who is a reliable fixture in the secondary is a valuable commodity. Over the last two seasons, he’s gone toe-to-toe against some of the top receivers in the league, and Jones has proven he can hang with them. And that’s a big deal.
Verdict: It’s always up for debate which positions hold more value, but it’s harder to find strong corners than it is to find good receivers. All things being equal, Jones plays the position of greater importance.
CONSISTENCY from player
Cooper: If there is a knock on Cooper, it’s that he completely disappears for stints within the season. Many will talk about his home/away splits, but there really isn’t any discernible pattern to Cooper’s production. Sometimes he’s amazing. Other times he’s invisible. Not all of this is attributed to Cooper, but his intermittent absences certainly don’t go unnoticed. Not only is sporadic production a concern, but the veteran receiver always seems to be dealing with some type of nagging injury. You could say that speaks to his toughness, but Cooper’s health turns out to be a thing here and there.
Jones: It’s hard to find a player that performs on a more consistent level than Jones. He’s played in all but one game of his five-year career. Not only is he resilient, but you know what you’re getting with Jones. Granted, it’s not turnovers, because he’s consistently not intercepting the ball, but his effectiveness as a pass defender is top notch.
Verdict: Jones runs away with this one.
COST towards the cap
Cooper: The four-time Pro Bowl receiver won’t command Julio Jones or Michael Thomas money, but he’s put up enough of a résumé to bring home a good-size contract. You have to figure he’ll still end up costing some team around $18 million annually. That’s not chump change.
Jones: The price of cornerbacks aren’t cheap, but it should run a little cheaper than Cooper. Extending Jones should cost the team somewhere in the $14 million range.
Verdict: Jones will be cheaper.
While Cooper is the bigger star and appears to be higher on the priority list, there are a few things about Jones that make it just as important to keep him around. I’d still lean toward Cooper as the more critical signing, but Jones is not far behind. And when you look at some of the things listed above, you could make a strong case that he should the bigger priority.
What do you think?