Going into the offseason, one of the Dallas Cowboys most glaring needs was upgrading their defensive line. In 2019, the interior of the Cowboys line really struggled, helping contribute to their overall struggles as a defense.
The Cowboys did not waste much time addressing this issue, signing Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe by the end of March. Dallas did not stop there in addressing the line. In April, they spent a third-round pick on defensive lineman Neville Gallimore out of Oklahoma.
The Cowboys spending a third-round pick on Gallimore was not too shocking, but bringing in McCoy and Poe was. The additions were something different than we had become used to seeing under the old regime. Former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli was a big proponent for bringing in guys who fit a specific mold, on cheap deals that he could coach up, instead of signing proven players for decent money.
One of those guys Marinelli campaigned for is still technically on the Cowboys roster. His name is Antwaun Woods. There have been many question marks surrounding what Woods’ status really is. Is he a free agent? Can he sign with other teams? To understand what role he may play on this Cowboys team next season, we must first lay out what is really going on with his situation.
At the start of the offseason, Woods became an exclusive rights free agent. ERFA’s are defined by NFL.com as...
Exclusive rights free agent (ERFA): Any player with fewer than three accrued seasons and an expired contract. If his original team offers him a one-year contract and the league minimum (based on his credited seasons), the player cannot negotiate with other teams.
Woods’ two years of playing time for the Tennessee Titans did not qualify as accrued seasons, a season in which a player has been on a team’s roster for six or more regular season games. Due to this, the Cowboys have complete control over if Woods can go to another team.
Dallas decided to offer Woods the minimum ERFA tender of $750 thousand, according to Mickey Spagnola he will sign it soon. With the Cowboys doing this, he is locked into one of two options. He either signs the tender and plays this season on a one-year deal, or he sits out the entire year and gets nothing. He does not have the ability to negotiate with another team.
It’s a tough deal for a guy who has been a solid rotation player on the Dallas defense for two years now. Dallas getting Tyrone Crawford back healthy and adding McCoy, Poe, and Gallimore on the line has caused Woods to fall from 1-tech starter, to a rotational player at best. To make things even more complicated, Woods was arrested last December on marijuana and tampering charges.
It’s safe to say this has been less than an ideal past few months for the defensive tackle. Getting on the field, or just making the team, is going to be tough for Woods in 2020, but when he was out there the past two seasons he has preformed fairly well. Last year he battled injuries and was only able to play in ten games, recording 23 total tackles. In the six games the Dallas defense gave up 120 yards or more on the ground, Woods was on the field for only two.
Antwaun Woods is a monster. At 300+ lbs, this dlineman chases down the receiver 19 YARDS DOWNFIELD and brings him to the turf. Lined up as a 1Tech and NEVER GAVE UP ON THE PLAY. Them 'hotboyz' man #takenotes pic.twitter.com/EXwVqwPDWS— Nathan Jones (@__nathanjones) September 10, 2019
Once he got back healthy towards the end of the season, Woods played very well. In Week Twelve against New England and Week Fifteen against Los Angeles, Pro Football Focus gave him an 81 and 78 rating in run defense. He also graded out with an overall defensive grade around 80 in both of those contests.
Antwaun Woods had quite the day. pic.twitter.com/xCin7KJU3e— Bob Sturm (@SportsSturm) December 18, 2019
Despite his sold play for this two-year stretch, with McCoy, Poe, Gallimore and Crawford all in the fold, and last year’s second-round pick Trysten Hill still around, it’s hard to see a scenario where Woods is on the field much this season. Last year, Woods played 310 defensive snaps in 10 games. Even if he is healthy for all 16 this year, that number will surely decrease.
There is a real chance that Woods could not be with the team come the regular season. If Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory both make the team, that will give Dallas seven locks for the roster on the defensive line, eight if you count Trysten Hill. If Smith and Gregory are available, Crawford will be playing more tackle, making it even harder for Woods to see the field.
He still seems to have some solid play in him, but with a new regime in town, Woods could be a victim come final roster cuts in favor of a younger player.