A return of a healthy Dak Prescott and the offensive line would bring about a lot of optimism for the upcoming season, and for good reason. This offense can be fantastic at full strength. But for this Dallas Cowboys team to do some real damage, they must make improvements on the defensive side of the ball. The defense allowed a franchise-worst 473 points last season, and that’s just not going to cut it if this team expects to return to the playoffs in 2021.
The defense needs help in the trenches, particularly at the defensive tackle position as the Cowboys finished with the second-worst run defense in the league last year. They also need help at safety as it’s been a position of weakness that will get even weaker if they lose Xavier Woods to free agency this offseason.
While those positions make up the biggest needs for this team, the upcoming draft doesn’t offer any elite talent at those spots, especially with the Cowboys 10th overall pick. That means the Cowboys are going to have to look for players later in the draft or attempt to find gems in free agency to fill those needs.
Of course, there is one other way.
Yesterday, we set the table for the Cowboys to attempt to exploit some of the teams in dire shape when it comes to the salary cap. Those teams have been identified as:
We also set down some ground rules for what type of players are realistically good targets to pull off a deal, and they are:
- Rule #1 - Premium draft capital & pricey contracts are deal breakers
- Rule #2 - Attack the desperate teams
- Rule #3 - Restructured players are off the board
- Rule #4 - Must be a starting-caliber player at a position of need
Today, we’re going to throw three names out there, each with different cost to the Cowboys. The cost will come in two parts - the base salary of the player they are trading for as well as what type of draft capital it would take to sway their current team to make the deal. We’ll start cheap, then work our way to even bigger impact players.
DL MICHAEL BROCKERS, Los Angeles Rams
Brockers is a nine-year veteran who is 30 years old, but he’s a guy who is still a contributing force in the trenches. For those who love to play the “what if” game, you might recognize Brockers as the player the Cowboys would have selected in the first-round of 2012 had they not traded up for Morris Claiborne. And the only reason that resonates so strongly is that it was also stated that the second-round pick the Cowboys gave up would’ve been used to select All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner. What a misstep that turned out to be.
Brockers was a free agent last offseason and ended up re-signing with the Rams after a deal with the Baltimore Ravens fell through. He signed a three-year, $24 million deal, but a good portion of his guaranteed money has already been paid out, making him an inexpensive dead money hit should he be traded or released. Here is how the financials would work out if the Cowboys made a deal.
Note: When we examine these contracts closely, we’re not just looking at the 2021 cap savings, but the total savings. Often times when players are released, it’s not driven by the savings for just the current year, but rather what the team ultimately saves long term, which is essentially base salaries and roster bonuses. And it’s those savings that will then be taken on by the Cowboys.
The Rams have good depth along the defensive line which helped them have the no. 1 ranked defense in the league last season. Brockers was certainly a part of that, but would the Rams be willing to sacrifice some depth to save some money? Under the current circumstances of the Rams salary cap situation, Brockers is on the fringe of being a possible cap casualty anyway, but if a team sweetened the pot by throwing in a draft pick, it could be enough to pull him away from the Rams.
Estimated cost: Fourth-round draft pick
FS ADRIAN AMOS, Green Bay Packers
The Packers have done a great job remodeling their secondary with some high draft picks spent on quality players in recent years. Darnell Savage Jr., Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson, and Kevin King are just a few defensive backs Green Bay has selected within the top 45 picks of the last few drafts.
In 2019, the Packers also spent some money in free agency as they signed former Bears safety Adrian Amos to a four-year, $36 million deal. He has served them nicely and has now reached a point where the Packers have a potential out as his cap hit now exceeds $10 million in each of the next two seasons.
Amos is a good player and he’s not a guy the Packers would give up frivolously. Last year, he combined with Savage Jr. to form a very strong safety duo which contributed to the Packers defense allowing the seventh-fewest passing yards on the year. Green Bay is going to have to make some cuts and it’s highly unlikely they’ll move on from Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, or their edge rushing free agent investments, Za’Darius & Preston Smith. Amos could be a candidate if the Packers manage to get a solid draft pick in return.
Estimated cost: Third-round draft pick
DT David Onyemata, New Orleans Saints
A fourth-round pick in 2016, Onyemata has turned himself into a reliable fixture on a very good Saints front. With quality players all along the defensive line, the Saints defense ranked top five in both points and yards allowed last season, including the fourth-best run defense in the league.
Onyemata seems to get better with each year, racking up a career-high 6.5 sacks last season from the defensive tackle position. His progress has been so good that the Saints rewarded him with a three-year, $26 million extension last offseason. It was a wise investment, but it’s one that could be transferrable if they are forced to make some drastic changes.
The Saints have a league-high $267 million tied up in salary for the 2021 season putting them an estimated $70 million over the salary cap. The team currently has 13 players on their roster who will count at least $10 million against their cap for the upcoming season. New Orleans is going to have to do all types of contract wizardry to get themselves under the cap. That will include some straight-up cuts and a handful of restructures to push off some of the expense into future seasons.
It also could open the door for them to shop some of their talent in exchange for good draft capital, and Onyemata is definitely a nice bargaining chip. The Cowboys would be fortunate to land this talented defensive tackle, even if it cost them a premium draft pick.
Estimated cost: Second-round draft pick
That might seem steep, but they’d be getting a proven talent at one of their weakest positions on the roster. The boost to their interior defensive line would be huge! He has been a disruptive force and Cowboys fans shouldn’t have to be reminded how much he can wreck a game.
Do any of these trades interest you?
Which of these trades would you prefer?
This poll is closed
Give up a fourth-round pick for Michael Brockers
Give up a third-round pick for Adrian Amos
Give up a second-round pick for David Onyemata