The Cowboys make their first big move for their defense.
From the moment the Cowboys hired Dan Quinn to be their new defensive coordinator, it made sense to think he might bring Keanu Neal to join him in Dallas. That’s exactly what happened on Saturday, as the Cowboys agreed to terms with the four-year veteran on a one-year, $5 million contract.
Neal comes to the Cowboys from the Atlanta Falcons, where he was a first-round pick and a five-year starter under Quinn – who drafted him No. 17 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, the second year of his tenure as the Falcons’ head coach.
The connection was too obvious to ignore. Neal has played the entirety of his NFL career under Quinn, and the Cowboys also have need of his services. With Xavier Woods likely leaving in free agency, Donovan Wilson is the only regular starter on the roster – not to mention the fact that the Cowboys haven’t gotten much production from the safety position in quite some time.
Now that the Cowboys have Neal, where will they play him.
Although Neal has played safety in the first five years of his career, there is a possibility the Cowboys could use him as a weakside linebacker, which would have a domino effect on linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch.
If Neal sticks at safety with the Cowboys, he should be penciled in as a starter opposite Donovan Wilson. Xavier Woods, who started all 44 games he played from 2018-20, is also an unrestricted free agent.
Sources told ESPN that the Cowboys are scheduled to have visits this week with free-agent safeties Damontae Kazee, who also played for Quinn in Atlanta, and Malik Hooker. Both players had their 2020 seasons cut short by Achilles tears.
After injuries cut short his 2018 and ‘19 seasons, Neal played in 15 games for the Falcons last season, making 14 starts and finishing with 100 tackles, an interception and a sack.
What can be expected of this Cowboys’ free agent class? According to the last 8 years, not much - David Moore, DMN
Recent Cowboys history in free agency has been pretty lackluster.
But if you look back over the last eight years of Cowboys free agency to collect clues, if you embrace those findings to determine your level of excitement…
Well, you don’t expect much.
None of this should be taken as a blanket indictment of defensive tackle Brent Urban, swing tackle Ty Nsekhe, long snapper Jake McQuaide or anyone else in this group. Contributions will be made.
But there’s a reason Cowboys fans have grown indifferent to the personnel moves their team usually make in March.
Dallas signed 29 players in this phase of free agency over the previous eight years. Eight of those players never made it to the field with a star on their helmet for a regular season game. Four were cut and one other retired before the season was complete.
If that percentage holds, at least one member of the current class won’t make it out of training camp and another should be gone before Thanksgiving.
Five of the last eight free agent classes failed to produce double-digits starts in that season. Combined.
Six of those classes failed to yield 35 games played.
Film room: How Tarell Basham fits with the Cowboys, and a change he can make to improve his game - John Owning, DMN
Get to know a little more about one of the Cowboys newest players, Tarell Basham.
Listed at 6-4 and 269 pounds with 34 1/4-inch arms, Basham is a powerful, well-rounded edge defender with middling athletic traits who should bolster Dallas’ depth at defensive end.
As a pass rusher, Basham doesn’t have the speed or cornering ability to stress an offensive tackle’s pass set vertically; therefore, he must resort to using different footwork patterns to put stress on the OT’s pass sets. When combined with well-timed and coordinated hands, Basham has some of the prettiest pass-rush wins I’ve seen in the NFL.
Before diving into Basham’s film, I have to admit that I wasn’t much of a fan of the signing; however, after reviewing his film, I totally understand why Dallas made the move. Basham is an ascending player who is a couple of adjustments and a little bit of refinement away from being a quality edge defender — the type of player who could turn out to be a notable upgrade over a player like Dorance Armstrong.
Free agency is all the rage, but soon we’ll be heading into the draft.
Needs: CB, DT, OT, Edge
The Cowboys’ top priority this offseason was keeping quarterback off this list. They accomplished that mission with a massive contract for Dak Prescott. But plenty of positions must be addressed to create an optimal roster in 2021.
Signing Ty Nsekhe to a one-year deal is a fine move to build depth at the tackle position. He performed well as a backup in Buffalo, but Dallas has to find an heir to Tyron Smith. The Cowboys restructured his contract to save money, but he’s entering his age-31 season and will continue to be an expensive option.
Most of the organization’s needs still exist on defense. Chidobe Awuzie’s exit hurts. While they were able to retain Jourdan Lewis, they’ll need to find another outside corner to pair with Trevon Diggs with Lewis returning to man the slot.
An edge-rusher to pair with DeMarcus Lawrence and a run-stuffing presence on the inside remain needs. Aldon Smith is on the market after registering five sacks in Dallas last season. The Cowboys had the third-worst run defense with five yards allowed per carry last season.
The Cowboys are going to have to deal with a new weapon in the NFC East.
The best available wide receiver in free agency has found his new home.
Kenny Golladay has signed a four-year, $72 million contract with the Giants, according to multiple reports.
Golladay has spent his entire career with the Lions, who selected him in the third round of the 2017 NFL draft. He led the NFL with 11 touchdown catches in 2019 but had an injury-plagued 2020 season in which he played in just five games.
Now he’ll play with Giants quarterback Daniel Jones and attempt to improve a franchise that hasn’t won more than six games in a season since 2016. The Giants need someone who can make plays on offense, and they’ll hope Golladay proves to be a big part of a franchise turnaround.
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