The 3 best values on the Dallas Cowboys’ roster now that QB Dak Prescott is set to make big money - John Owning, Dallas Morning News
With big money starting to hit the Cowboys cap, these players are on ultra-team friendly deals.
After two years of flashy but middling play at right tackle, La’el Collins finally played like the elite talent he was deemed to be coming out of LSU. Collins was flat-out dominant in 2019, a road grader in the run game and incredibly consistent in pass protection. Collins faced some of the best pass rushers the NFL has to offer, including Khalil Mack, Cameron Jordan and Danielle Hunter — all of whom are regarded as top-10 edge defenders — but he remained consistently effective.
The 6-foot-4 and 320 pounder cleaned up a lot of technical deficiencies while amplifying his considerable physical talents. His hand technique and balance in pass protection were the most noteworthy improvements. Collins had a tendency to lunge with his strikes in pass protection, which would get his weight over his toes and hurt his balance. He lunged much less frequently last season and did a much better job of playing from a balanced position, which enabled him to properly react and counter a pass rusher’s attack. As far as his hands go, Collins developed a nuanced toolkit of techniques, including an impressive bait move that took advantage of pass rushers who looked to counter his heavy strikes.
The effect on Collins’ pass protection was notable. In 2018, Collins finished 51st among starting tackles (those who played at least 50% of the offense’s snaps, according to Pro Football Focus) in pass-blocking efficiency (95.6). He jumped all the way up to 14th (97.5) in 2019. Playing from a more balanced position also led to fewer penalties in 2019, when Collins was flagged just five times (51st most among tackles) — two of which were declined. That was a stark improvement over the 10 times he was flagged in 2018 (13th most) — three of which were declined.
Overpaid you say?
The player: RB Ezekiel Elliott
The contract: Six years, $90 million with $50.1 million guaranteed (signed as an extension, expires in 2027)
Determining the most overpaid member of the Dallas Cowboys wasn’t easy.
DeMarcus Lawrence—the third-highest-paid defensive player in the NFL—is coming off a five-sack season, with that total plummeting for the second year in a row. Dak Prescott wasn’t even a Pro Bowler last year but is slated to carry the league’s largest salary-cap hit next season. And Cooper is the league’s second-highest-paid wide receiver, even though he ranked outside the top five in receptions, yards and touchdowns in 2019.
But Elliott’s $15 million average annual salary still takes the cake.
He’s averaged a phenomenal 96.5 rushing yards per game in four NFL seasons, but that number dropped to 84.8 last year. Besides, despite all of his success, the Cowboys have won just one playoff game in the Elliott era.
Teams oughta be learning their lesson regarding running backs. According to Spotrac, seven players at that devalued position had non-rookie contracts with average annual salaries higher than $7 million in 2019, and none of those participated in the postseason.
With the days counting down, here are five contract options for the Cowboys and Dak Prescott.
3) GIVE INTO THE 4-YEAR REQUEST: As we’ve long-reported in this space, Prescott agent Todd France of CAA has counter-proposed to Dallas’ five-year/$35 million average per year offer a four-year idea.
The dollars in that four-year proposal (designed to give Dak another bite of the financial apple after 2022, when there will be a new TV contract and a cap explosion upward) are not known.
Assuming the existing four-year idea coming from Dak’s camp is “realistic’’ (in terms of the APY) ... give into it. Get it over with.
POSITIVE: Long-term “labor peace’’ between the franchise and its “face of the franchise’’ is highly-desirable, in whatever form.
NEGATIVE: Dallas doesn’t want to do this dance again any time soon. Nor does it want to expand its APY to the point where “all the slices of the pie fit.’’
Everyone loves some good, friendly competition.
C Tyler Biadasz & G Connor McGovern
Because their positions are so connected let’s talk about Biadasz and McGovern together. While most have Joe Looney and Connor Williams penciled in as starter in 2020, these two newcomers will be competitive for their jobs.
McGovern isn’t a rookie but is still a fresh face, having missed all of 2019 with an injury. Before he went on injured reserve, there was talk that McGovern might have ousted Connor Williams as a starting guard at some point.
Looney stepped in at center when Travis Frederick missed 2018 and is assumed to do it again now. But even though Dallas made the playoffs that year, Joe wasn’t that great. He did just enough and the Cowboys could easily be looking for more.
That also could be McGovern, who played some center in college, or it could be 4th-round rookie Tyler Biadasz. If either of them outperform Looney, or at least make it a narrow margin, Dallas may go ahead and give them the job so they can further develop through playing time.
I don’t expect either of these switches to happen right away. Williams is entering his 3rd season and will hopefully be growing his own game. And with the disruptions to the offseason process from COVID-19, Looney’s experience will be more valuable than ever.
But Biadasz and McGovern are young talents with prestigious college careers. If they’re ready for the NFL then the Cowboys could have major competitions in the works at both center and left guard.
The Cowboys have a lot of potential on defense, but also have some concerns.
#2 – Replacing Byron Jones, More turnovers
While pass rush is the Cowboys’ biggest defensive issue entering the new season, the absence of Pro Bowl corner Byron Jones is a close second. Losing Jones was a major blow for the defense despite his severe lack of takeaways over his career, just two interceptions over five seasons.
Creating turnovers will be a much bigger focus for the defense in 2020 under Mike Nolan. Dallas posted just seven interceptions last season, which was tied for lowest amount in the NFL. The team’s 17 total takeaways in 2019 ranked them tied for 25th.
Yet, the Cowboys still have the trio of Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Anthony Brown in-house. That gives Dallas a good balance of talent and experience as a basement of solid play. You have to believe these three could keep the ship afloat as starters from day one.
But Dallas did add several wildcards to the mix. Most notably, second-round selection Trevon Diggs, the cornerback out of Alabama. Diggs was a borderline first-round talent that fell to the Cowboys 51st overall. If he is able to crack the starting lineup in year one, it would help to cement the position beyond Awuzie and Lewis whose rookie contracts expire at the end of the season.
Versatility is key.
I have a simple but intriguing question: is cornerback Jourdan Lewis the most versatile athlete on this team?— JOHN WALKER / AUSTIN, TX
Jonny: That’s interesting. I’d say he’s a candidate, for sure. In terms of pure physical abilities, Jaylon Smith and Zeke are far from one-dimensional athletes. It’s also pretty safe to say that CeeDee Lamb falls in that category. Lewis adds instinct to his quickness and that’s why he’s able to really shine in certain moments. But my pick would probably be Michael Gallup. He’s barely over 6 feet tall, but his ability to pace his speed according to the play and catch balls in creative ways is pretty remarkable. Go back and watch his three touchdowns in the regular season finale against Washington and tell me who on the roster has a better command over his athleticism.
CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs III, Jerry Jeudy, Tee Higgins React to Madden Ratings - Adam Wells, Bleacher Report
Lamb will start his NFL career with a 75 overall rating. The Cowboys receiver has a chance to immediately improve upon that number if he takes advantage of opportunities that opposing defenses give him while they are busy trying to stop Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup on the outside.
Higgins said EA Sports “did me dirty” by giving him a run-blocking grade of 48 after he predicted a rating of “about a 90.” The Bengals wideout was also surprised to see his catch grade at 82 since he thought it was “100 percent” a 99.
Still, none of Higgins’ reactions could compare to Jeudy. The two-time All-SEC first team receiver had to walk out of his room to take a breath upon learning he was given an overall rating of 75.
Who won the offseason for the Dallas Cowboys? We discuss on the latest episode of Girls Talkin ‘Boys.
Make sure that you never miss an episode from Blogging The Boys by subscribing to the Blogging The Boys podcast feed!
Also make sure to subscribe to the official YouTube Channel from Blogging The Boys. We’ve got big plans coming there throughout the offseason and you don’t want to miss a thing!