The first two weeks of free agency are in the books and the Dallas Cowboys definitely look different. Gone is their top cornerback and in are two new defensive tackles. There might be a hole at the moment at slot receiver (the draft will likely bring a new option) but there is a new safety in town. Overall things have changed in a very noticeable way.
It is fair to say that at present time the Cowboys have a weaker roster than they did throughout the 2019 season. As mentioned, the draft will alter that to some degree, but the thing about where we are in the NFL calendar is that everybody looks different.
Free agency has changed every team in the NFL, both in good and bad ways. Here are the five biggest ways that the 2020 Cowboys’ opponents look different.
The Arizona Cardinals now have DeAndre Hopkins
One of the worst games that Byron Jones ever had as a member of the Dallas Cowboys was when they traveled to take on the Houston Texans two seasons ago. DeAndre Hopkins is a problem.
Byron Jones is likely grateful that he won’t have to face Hopkins and the Cardinals when they visit AT&T Stadium in 2020. How the Cowboys are able to contain Hopkins is going to be their biggest challenge that week. With second-year quarterback Kyler Murray, Kenyan Drake in the backfield, and Larry Fitzgerald continuing to fight off father time, Arizona is going to be a tough out in 2020.
You can expect many people to hope the same for Murray’s second season that Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson experienced during their second seasons in the NFL (both MVP season), but it won’t exactly be easy to be that great. Still, though, the reality is that the Cardinals are going to be tough in the air and the Cowboys are lacking in that department.
The Los Angeles Rams look like a shell of themselves
For the last two years the Rams have been the talk of the NFL world. People thought they would appear in Super Bowl after Super Bowl, a season void of the playoffs last year cooled that talk off quite a bit.
The only new thing that the Rams really have is a logo that all of their fans hate seeing. Many of their pieces are now elsewhere or potentially going to be (this appears to be the case with Brandin Cooks). Dallas took it to the Rams near the end of least season and it doesn’t seem like, as of now at least, there is any reason to fear Sean McVay’s squad the way that football minds did for a good run there.
Perhaps the most notable move that the Rams have made has been the release of running back Todd Gurley. It’s not like he was a big part of their success recently, a reason why they were willing to part with him, so it is certainly possible that a “less is more” approach works better for them overall.
The Atlanta Falcons have first-round picks everywhere
Shortly after Todd Gurley’s departure for the Rams, he found himself with the team not too far from his Georgia Bulldogs, the Atlanta Falcons.
Atlanta’s roster, thanks to also adding Laquon Treadwell, is positioned in such a way that in certain personnel they can literally trot out first-round picks at all 11 offensive positions. While there are no rewards for that it is obviously an indication of talent, or at least what was once regarded as talent.
The Falcons rebounded nicely last season after a rough start and saved Dan Quinn’s job. They feel like a team that people are sleeping on entering 2020, but to be fair it’s been a whole four years since they appeared in the Super Bowl.
The San Francisco 49ers traded away DeForest Buckner
One of the bigger moves that the entire NFL saw throughout free agency was the reigning NFC Champions shipping away one of their more prominent defensive players. Trades like that are always fascinating.
The San Francisco 49ers traded DeForest Buckner to our old friend Matt Eberflus’ Indianapolis Colts, and that means that San Fran won’t have him when they visit the Cowboys this season (that uniform matchup is going to be glorious by the way).
Travis Frederick’s retirement obviously leaves a huge void in the middle of the Cowboys offensive line which means that not having to play against someone like DeForest Buckner is a win for Joe Looney or whoever the new starting center is. Obviously the 49ers wouldn’t have made that trade if they didn’t feel ready to compete without Buckner, but still, this is welcome news overall especially in the aftermath of last week.
The Baltimore Ravens have loaded up for a return
Seeing the Baltimore Ravens lose in the divisional round of the playoffs was shocking in a lot of ways, the Tennessee Titans deserve all the credit in the world for that.
Lamar Jackson is the reigning MVP so by that fact alone the Ravens are going to be one of the more difficult road games for the Cowboys in 2020. On top of finding a way to contain Jackson, the Cowboys are going to have to find a way to stop a Ravens defensive front that added Calais Campbell this offseason, and as noted they’ll have to do that without their own all-world center.
Baltimore is led by head coach John Harbaugh and will be a Super Bowl pick by many entering the season. It was already going to be very hard to beat them, especially on the road, in 2020, and after free agency it’s only going to theoretically be a taller task.