How the NBA is affecting the NFL QB market, what it means for Dak Prescott and the Cowboys - Calvin Watkins, DMN
Are the quarterbacks ushering in a new era of “player power” in the NFL?
So if you thought LeBron James, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard asserted power in the NBA with player movement, welcome to the NFL’s version with quarterbacks.
“The NBA has a tradition of superstars planning their next stops through their own volition,” said agent Leigh Steinberg, who represents Kansas City quarterback Pat Mahomes. “You see players not simply take themselves to new franchises but try to attract people. At the same time, it’s like they’re packaging. The NFL has never had that.”
Wilson and Watson wanted to be heard by management and were rebuffed. Brady had his own concerns with the Patriots’ handling of the personnel before departing after the 2019 season.
“That’s always been the case,” Steinberg said. “You go back to Troy (Aikman), he always talked to Jerry Jones about roster enhancement. It always goes on. It’s not a confrontational process where the player is trying to continue his point of view and management is not listening. They are listening, he may have good suggestions.”
Quarterbacks normally have the power in the NFL especially with their high salaries. The number of teams devoting cap space to the quarterback increases every year.
In 2018 no team invested $30 or more million in cap space at the quarterback position. At least eight teams will do so in 2021 with three teams spending over $40 million in cap space to the position. That could change once the Steelers restructure the contract of Roethlisberger, to lower his salary cap number.
The Cowboys will likely have a new punter in 2021.
For the last eight games, the Cowboys had first-year pro Hunter Niswander, who finished the season with 26 punts, two more than Jones.
He also performed well enough in some areas to beg the question if the Cowboys will make a permanent change at the position moving forward.
And this brings us back to the aforementioned Prescott, who most certainly will demand a high price on the Cowboys’ salary cap, whether he gets a new extension or is on the franchise tag again.
With that, means the Cowboys must be smart with their spending choices at just about every other position.
That’s where Chris Jones comes back into the picture. Not only does he have a $2 million base salary and a $2.5 million cap charge, but his statistics have dipped throughout the years.
In fact, Niswander averaged 47.5 yards per punt in 2020, which ranked him tied for seventh in that category.
To compare, Jones has a career 44.5 yard average and his best season finish was 45.9 yards back in 2016.
Opt-out players make this draft a little unusual.
Another concern has to be the effects on players having taken off an entire season.
Let me give you a few examples, two cornerbacks consistently mocked to the Cowboys, Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II and Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley, reasonable selections for the Cowboys at No. 10 since the team must repair the position either by re-signing its own unrestricted free agents (Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis), dabbling in free agency and/or then in the draft.
Farley, a red-shirt sophomore has played just two seasons at Tech, a torn ACL in 2017 costing him his freshman season. He opted out in 2020. How much you trusting his two years of tape vs. Surtain playing three full seasons at Alabama, winning a national championship this past season and playing in the title game as a freshman?
Then there is this guy, Penn State’s Micah Parsons, a super-talented linebacker being mocked as high as seventh and usually no lower than 15th, and no reason why he shouldn’t be on the Cowboys’ radar. Not like they have a plethora of linebackers on hand. But he’s another opt-out guy, having played just two seasons for the Nittany Lions, though at a high level. Parsons was an All-American as a sophomore and actually won Cotton Bowl Most Outstanding Defensive Player honors with 14 tackles, two sacks and a forced interception in Penn State’s 53-39 victory over Memphis.
Bet you could watch Penn State game tape and pick out Parsons (6-3, 245 and can run) without even knowing his number, and have seen him being compared to the likes of Rolando McClain and K.J. Wright.
Xavier Woods hasn’t exactly locked down a safety spot in Dallas.
Last season, two former sixth-round selections started most of the Cowboys’ games at safety. Those players being Xavier Woods and Donovan Wilson. While the latter is viewed as an up-and-coming defender in Dallas, the other is not. And Woods is set to hit free agency.
The very definition of mediocre, Woods has played just well enough to earn consideration as a reserve. But as a starter, his lack of any sort of playmaking ability and inconsistency as both a run defender and in coverage makes him a liability. And one the Cowboys should pass on re-signing.
Last season, Pro Football Focus gave Woods an overall grade of 61.9 for his performance, the lowest grade of his four-year career. That after he allowed 18 receptions on 24 targets and failed to notch a single interception.
While new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn may be tempted to retain a veteran like Woods in an already thin secondary, the Cowboys could likely find players who possess much higher upside in either free agency or the draft.
2021 could be a very pivotal season for the Cowboys.
This upcoming season will be pivotal for several players and perhaps Head Coach Mike McCarthy as well. If Dallas doesn’t get back to playoff contention in 2021 then a major overhaul of this team is probably coming.
It’s reasonable that the Cowboys would give this current group one more shot. After all, McCarthy’s first offseason with Dallas was severely impacted by the pandemic and then injuries rocked the roster to its core.
Moving on from Jason Garrett to McCarthy last year was based on a belief that this was a good roster which needed a better coach. While 2020 didn’t speak well for McCarthy, it’s fair to say the jury is still out given all that he had to overcome.
Dallas is banking on better roster health and consistency at head coach, plus a change at defensive coordinator from Mike Nolan to Dan Quinn, to be the biggest solutions to 2020’s problems. But if 2021 is another down year, then Jerry Jones may push the big red button.
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