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Who stays, who goes? Evaluating the Cowboys pending free agents during the bye week

The Dallas Cowboys may have some tough decisions to make in the offseason.

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While the Dallas Cowboys bye week will no doubt be best utilized to rest and recuperate, it should also be used as a time to reevaluate everything. Whether it’s the game plan moving forward or future personnel decisions, the Cowboys brass should leave no stone unturned before they start preparing for their next opponent in Week 8, the Minnesota Vikings.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at current players on the Cowboys roster who will become free agents at the season’s end. A rough estimation says there are 21 pending free agents. To simplify things, we’ll break them up in three groups; those who won’t be retained, those who they’d like to retain, and those they should absolutely retain.


Thank you for your service!

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Connor Williams - This one is the big one. The Cowboys probably have Williams’ replacement on the roster in Connor McGovern, who would be a cheaper, and potentially better, option for 2022. Williams will likely draw interest on the free agent market given his starting experience, leaving the Cowboys to save some money by going with McGovern.

Corey Clement - No need to waste money re-signing a RB3. Can easily fill that position with a younger, cheaper player next year.

Malik Turner - Depth WR with very little upside as a starter. Could be a progress-stopper for anyone added to the roster next year.

Jeremy Sprinkle - Sprinkle may or may not even make it through the year with the Cowboys, but regardless, his days in Dallas are likely numbered one way or another.

Ty Nsekhe - His age likely works against him and the Cowboys are probably hoping Josh Ball can add more depth at tackle next season.

Dorance Armstrong - With Chauncey Golston’s emergence and with reinforcements on the way, Armstrong’s long-term job security is in doubt as he’s replaceable.

Brent Urban - Urban was signed to help upgrade the run defense and be a stopgap player while they rebuild the defensive line. Not much future for him in Dallas though.

Carlos Watkins - Like with Urban, Watkins will likely serve his purpose this year as a stopgap player, but has shown little to nothing to suggest he should be retained further.

Maurice Canady - Despite being the talk of camp, Canady hasn’t really been productive on the field this year. With younger prospects waiting in the wings, his future will lie elsewhere.


Let’s make a deal, if possible?

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Noah Brown - Brown provides excellent value as a special teamer and a depth WR. If he can be retained on another one-year deal the Cowboys would probably love to have him back.

Michael Gallup - It’s unlikely the Cowboys will be able to match Gallup’s price tag in the offseason, but they’d consider it if it’s reasonable. They likely let him walk though.

Dalton Schultz - Schultz has emerged as a top TE in the NFL this year and as such will likely be looking to be compensated like one. Dallas would love to retain him if they can.

Keanu Neal - Neal’s transition from SS to LB has been a relatively smooth one. The Cowboys will need depth at the position next year, which keeps the door open for his possible return.

Leighton Vander Esch - Despite not picking up his fifth-year option, LVE could still be in the Cowboys future plans. Health and money permitting, he’s got a 50-50 chance of returning.

Malik Hooker - Hooker has a chance of returning next year based solely on the fact Dallas will be severely depleted at the safety position next year.

Damontae Kazee - Kazee has been an upgrade at FS, but not so much as to make him a coveted free agent. Money will likely decide his future in Dallas one way or another.

Bryan Anger - The Cowboys will likely take it or leave it with Bryan Anger. They will explore all options before making decision about who their punter will be next year.


Welcome back!

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Cedrick Wilson - Wilson is the current and future WR3 for the Cowboys if Gallup leaves. He’s filled in well for Gallup and should cost a fraction of the price to retain. He may not be a “must sign”, but the lack of depth at the position next year, plus his versatility to play anywhere, makes him a valued piece moving forward.

Randy Gregory - Pass rushers are hard to come by, which is why the Cowboys have been patient for so long with Gregory. His off-the-field issues will always be a concern and that could hurt his market value a bit. He’s someone they will try their hardest to retain because of his talent and the lack of depth at the position next year.

Jayron Kearse - Kearse has found a home in Dallas. He’s been one of their better defensive players so far this year, despite being signed mostly because of his special teams value. He should be relatively cost-effective to re-sign and would provide much-needed depth at the position next year. His starting and special teams ability makes him a win-win re-signing.

Jake McQuaide - McQuaide is a John Fassel guy dating back to their days together with the Rams. There’s no reason to believe he won’t be retained after the 2021 season unless he’s asking for more money than what the Cowboys want to pay for a long snapper.