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Cowboys news: Amari Cooper vs. Darius Slay is the new NFC East rivalry

Plus more news on the Cowboys free agency.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Now division rivals, a lot is riding on Cowboys WR Amari Cooper and Eagles CB Darius Slay - Matthew Gehlkin, SportsdayDFW
Amari Cooper vs. Darius Slay will be the marquee matchup for years to come when Dallas and Philadelphia meet.

There are 14 games each year when Cooper and Slay won’t face each other.

These 14 games, of course, matter plenty, and it would be silly to diminish their importance.

But given how Dallas and Philadelphia have jostled for postseason berths in recent years and the importance of their two meetings each year, it is fair to say Cooper and Slay have the opportunity to prove their contractual worth when facing each other.

On his new team, Slay figures to shadow Cooper regularly as he did in 2019.

He allowed little separation at Ford Field. Cooper failed to convert any of his first four targets when Slay was in coverage until the fourth quarter. He then caught two passes on Slay for 31 yards, including a 16-yard reception that sneaked past Slay’s hands.

What does the Philadelphia Eagles trade for cornerback Darius Slay mean for the Dallas Cowboys? - Cole Patterson, Blogging The Boys
More on the NFC East’s newest rivalry.

The move for Slay immediately gives the Eagles secondary a legitimate CB1. You can argue where Slay ranks among NFL corners or that his down season in 2019 is a sign of things to come, but the former Mississippi State defensive back has made a name for himself by consistently defending other team’s go-to guys and making big plays time-and-time again. Hence the nickname Big Play Slay.

Slay has matched up with Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper once since Coop has been in Dallas, coming last season in a 35-27 Dallas victory. The two had a very fun battle at Ford Field:

The Dallas Cowboys’ lack of foresight is costing them money and talent - Adam Stite,
Jerry Jones has been saying for years that Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper are long-term pieces to build around, but did he wait too late to do it?

The Cowboys’ lackadaisical pace allowed key players to leave

Even after tagging Prescott and giving Cooper a mammoth extension, the Cowboys still entered free agency with about $25 million in cap space, according to Over The Cap.

Perhaps that room could’ve been used to retain Byron Jones, a cornerback who received $16.5 million per year from the Dolphins. Or Robert Quinn, the only player with more than five sacks for the Cowboys in 2019, who left to join the Bears.

If Dallas signed Prescott and Cooper earlier, it likely would’ve had more space and time to work on keeping those players. At the very least, the Cowboys would’ve had the franchise tag available to keep at least one.

For the most part, free agency for the Cowboys has been about keeping a few key players on the roster. In addition to a new deal for Cooper, the team also kept tight end Blake Jarwin, linebacker Sean Lee, and safety Darian Thompson. They also signed 32-year-old defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.

But ultimately, the Cowboys’ 2020 offseason has been a half-successful attempt to plug holes in a dam. It didn’t have to be this way.

2020 NFL free agency - Cowboys make crafty move for Gerald McCoy - Bill Barnwell, ESPN

Longtime ESPN analyst Bill Barnwell is a fan of the Cowboys swooping up DT Gerald McCoy.

The deal: Three years, $20.3 million

Grade: B-

It was a surprise when the Bucs cut McCoy last year after he made six consecutive Pro Bowls from 2012 to ‘17, but Tampa was better after replacing McCoy with Ndamukong Suh, and McCoy didn’t have his best season in Carolina. The Oklahoma product tied his lowest totals from that Pro Bowl run in sacks (five) and knockdowns (13).

McCoy was also one of the starting defensive tackles on the league’s worst run defense by DVOA. The Panthers allowed more yards per carry without him on the field, but they gave up 5.0 yards per pop with him present, and their first-down rate was higher with him on the field. I don’t think McCoy was capable of single-handedly saving a decaying Panthers front, and the Bucs added other pieces, but Tampa also went from 31st in rushing DVOA to first in the league after replacing McCoy with Suh.

At this point, McCoy is going to be best as a penetrating interior disruptor who can serve as a team’s secondary pass-rusher. That’s exactly what he’ll be in Dallas, where the Cowboys could move on from Tyrone Crawford. This is a reasonable price, though McCoy’s decline over the past few seasons means the Cowboys might want to get out of this deal after one year.

Veteran OL Joe Looney To Return On 1-Year Deal - David Helman,
One of the best free agency bargains for the Cowboys just re-upped.

Looney has been a versatile and valuable backup for the Cowboys for several years, appearing in 64 games as a guard, a center and occasionally a “Jumbo” package tight end.

But the 2018 season saw him go above and beyond the call of a backup. When Travis Frederick was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome in August of that year, Looney stepped in and started all 16 games. It might not have been up to Frederick’s typical All-Pro level of play, but it was enough to help the Cowboys into the playoffs with a 10-6 record.

Cowboys re-sign versatile backup and special teams LB Joe Thomas -
The Cowboys made another under-the-radar, but quality, signing for depth.

The Cowboys have re-signed linebacker Joe Thomas to a one-year contract, according to Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link).

Thomas, 28, has spent his career oscillating between Dallas and Green Bay. While he played 632 snaps with the Packers in 2016, he’s mostly played in reserve roles. Last season, Thomas was pressed into duty during the latter half of the year following an injury to Cowboys starter Leighton Vander Esch.

Is CB Logan Ryan the Playmaker the Cowboys Defense Needs? - Mauricio Rodriguez, InsideTheStar
The Cowboys lost Byron Jones to the Dolphins and haven't been successful bidding on replacements just yet in free agency, should they look to Logan Ryan?

But what about free agency? This year didn’t feature many big names at the position other than Byron Jones (sigh) but other options raise an eyebrow.

Former New England Patriot and Tennessee Titan Logan Ryan comes to mind. One of the top defensive backs available, Ryan’s market should be interesting to watch. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, his asking price begins at $10M and is willing to take a short-term deal.

Ryan’s versatility has earned him comparisons to Tyrann Mathieu. Although he’s played primarily at cornerback, playing safety is also a possibility for Ryan. His instincts make him a force on defense, contributing to run defense as well as in coverage. Last year, he finished with 113 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 18 pass deflections, and four forced fumbles. All of these were career highs for the 29-year-old defensive back.

Who’s Been The Biggest Loss in free agency thus far for the Cowboys? -
Which free agency loss will hurt the Cowboys most in 2020?

David: Without question, it’s got to be Robert Quinn. I don’t necessarily blame the Cowboys for not wanting to pay the $70 million price tag, but this was your most productive pass rusher in 2019. One of the things that made the loss of Byron Jones easier to stomach was the thought of bolstering the pass rush. Without Quinn, it’s going to be a challenge to do that effectively.

Jonny: I think losing Quinn hurts the most just because I’d guess that Dallas assumed they’d be able to keep him. They were prepared to be outbid for Byron Jones, but the contract the Bears offered Quinn likely took them (and most people) by surprise. The offense was always going to be the Cowboys’ strength next season, but the coaching staff may have been hoping they could have mitigated that with a productive pass rush from Quinn and a revived DeMarcus Lawrence.

Without Quinn, should Cowboys turn focus to Everson Griffen in free agency? - Matthew Lenix, InsideTheStar
The Cowboys need an edge rusher opposite DeMarcus Lawrence now that Robert Quinn cashed in big in Chicago. Should attention go to former Vikings' DE Everson Griffen?

The Cowboys could definitely use some more help in the trenches on defense and there’s one name that could add a lot of value in free agency, and that’s Defensive End Everson Griffen.

Griffen is a former fourth-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings in 2010 out of USC. After not registering a sack his rookie year, he would rack up 17.5 over the next three seasons. His breakout season came in 2014 when he had his first double-digit sack season with 12. In 2015, he made his first Pro Bowl after compiling 10.5 sacks. Over the next two seasons, Griffen received two more Pro Bowl nods including a Second-Team All-Pro selection in 2017 after a career-high 13 sacks. He only played in 11 games and produced 5.5 sacks in 2018, however, he got his fourth Pro Bowl selection after producing 8 sacks last season.

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