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Cowboys news: What the Cowboys need even more than talent on defense

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NFL: DEC 13 Cowboys at Bengals Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Entering free agency, Cowboys need to prioritize leadership, culture changers for their defense - Michael Gehlken, DMN

The Cowboys certainly need talent on defense, but they made need something even deeper than that.

This defense needs leadership.

It needs culture changers.

The Cowboys are about three months removed from an embarrassing Dec. 8 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. And it wasn’t embarrassing solely because of poor gap discipline, the more than dozen missed tackles or an overall lack of physicality when allowing 285 rushing yards.

There was an inexcusable lack of effort.

Days later, coach Mike McCarthy had to address his defense’s underwhelming finish in a team meeting. Mike Nolan, the then-defensive coordinator, had to show players video examples of where their finish fell short.

The shameful showing derived from the same defense whose heart became reasonable to question in Week 6. When trailing 31-10 to the Arizona Cardinals, with less than two minutes remaining, it surrendered a 69-yard touchdown run, right up the middle.

NFL free-agency notes and rumors: Last-minute news, teams to watch and everything we’re hearing for 2021 - Dan Graziano, Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

The Cowboys have been linked to Richard Sherman because of Dan Quinn, but there are actually three of his former coaches who may have an interest.

Many people around the league are pegging an established vet corner with experience — think Peterson or Richard Sherman or Xavier Rhodes — to Las Vegas, which has talent but needs a leadership example on the back end. Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is just one of Sherman’s former defensive coordinators whose teams are looking for help. Dan Quinn, the new Cowboys defensive coordinator, is another. And Robert Saleh, the new Jets coach who was the 49ers’ defensive coordinator, is the third. With connections in those three spots among others, Sherman could reunite with a former coach for the final stretch of his career.

Will the Cowboys finally pay for a top safety?

The Saints’ decision to franchise-tag safety Marcus Williams — along with the Broncos’ and Jets’ decisions to tag Justin Simmons and Marcus Maye — should be a big help to Rams free-agent safety John Johnson, who’s the top option on the market now for teams looking for help at that position. He’d be a fit in Dallas, but the Cowboys don’t seem inclined to spend at the top of the market for free agents and likely will look to middle-tier free agents and the draft to address their myriad needs on defense. Anthony Harris (Vikings) and Rayshawn Jenkins (Chargers) are two other safeties who could attract interest on the open market.

Bolstering Safety Spot Should Be The Cowboys’ Top Free Agency Priority - Kevin Brady, Inside the Star

Speaking of safety, it really should be a priority

By the end of the year, Xavier Woods and Donovan Wilson were the two names you expected to see at safety for Dallas. But now that Woods is a free agent, it could be the perfect time to move on from the former sixth round pick. Woods has been an absolute win as a sixth round pick, but the Cowboys can do much better. Should do much better going forward.

This year’s free agent class is filled with solid options at the safety position. So much so that it will be a “pick your position” type class.

Want to go with a younger player that maybe hasn’t performed to their pre-draft hype but still offers a ton of upside? Sure thing, take a look at Malik Hooker. Looking more for a proven veteran that can give you a higher floor, but will be less of a home run swing? Then Tre Boston could be the perfect player for you.

We know that the Cowboys aren’t known for spending their money frivolously in free agency, but the safety spot should be one area where they can overspend a bit to immediately help their Super Bowl chances in 2021.

Grading Dak Prescott’s four-year, $160 million extension: A+ for Dak, D- for Cowboys - Doug Farrar, Yahoo Sports

While praising Dak Prescott as a franchise quarterback, there is still criticism that the Cowboys waited too long to get a deal done.

And as great as Prescott was in his first four seasons, 2020 was supposed to be the year he broke out into the stratosphere. Not that he had much to prove — from 2016 through 2019, his first four years in the NFL, the Mississippi State product had already done more than enough to be considered a franchise quarterback. In those four seasons combined, Prescott ranked seventh in the league in passing attempts (2,071), seventh in completions (1,363), sixth in passing yards (15,778) and eighth in passing touchdowns (97). His 36 interceptions tied with Matthew Stafford for the sixth-lowest total over that time among quarterbacks with at least 1,500 passing attempts. Prescott also ranked sixth in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt (6.92), seventh in yards per completion (11.58) and seventh in passer rating (97.0).

Prescott gets a per-year average of $40 million, which is the second-highest in NFL history behind Patrick Mahomes’ $45 million. Prescott also broke Russell Wilson’s record for the most first-year money in any NFL deal.

Prescott’s $126 million guarantee is the highest three-year guarantee in NFL history, exceeding Deshaun Watson’s $124 million. Per Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com, Prescott’s cap figure will drop from $37.68 million to either $25.5 million or $22.2 million depending on the presence or absence of void years in the contract. In the end, as Fitzgerald also pointed out, Jones and the Cowboys really stuck it to themselves by not successfully negotiating a contract extension with Prescott before the first franchise tag became necessary. Dallas’ financial commitment to Prescott will average $38.3 million per season with $157.4 million in guarantees, and there’s no question that would have been less before Mahomes’ 10-year, $450 million contract extension last July reset the market for every superstar quarterback.

Still, the Cowboys escaped the fire of their own making to a point, and Dak Prescott will be paid what the market will bear based on his performance and potential. As contentious as this has been all along for no good reason, that amounts to a win-win situation — it’s just that Jerry Jones negotiated himself out of a much better deal.

Dallas Cowboys: 5 first-round draft targets for 2021 - Jarrett Prendergast, The Landry Hat

Is this a real target or not for the Cowboys?

Kyle Pitts, TE – Florida

Tight End would not be considered one of the biggest needs for the Cowboys coming into the draft. But if a player like Pitts was available at No. 10, the Cowboys have to seriously consider taking him.

This would be the classic example of BPA (Best Player Available), just like when the Cowboys took wide receiver CeeDee Lamb in last year’s draft. That is never a bad way to build your roster.

Pitts was easily one of the most dynamic players in college last season. In the eight games, he finished with 43 receptions for 770 yards and 12 scores. Scoring 12 touchdowns in only eight games is ridiculous production.

When I see Pitts he looks like a wide receiver playing tight end to me. His speed would be a mismatch for many linebackers and he would be an immediate upgrade over the Cowboys’ current tight ends, Blake Jarwin or Dalton Schultz. Pitts is a complete matchup nightmare, having the speed to beat linebackers, and the strength to overpower smaller defensive backs.

The aforementioned Jarwin and Schultz are quality tight ends which is why taking Pitts would be more of a luxury pick due to the pressing needs on defense. But, if he does indeed become a Cowboy, look out NFL. This offense is going to be impossible to stop.

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