The Dallas Cowboys, heading into the 2021 season, seem to be a Rorschach test for observers. People see what they want to see. For many, the Cowboys are projected to be one of the more improved teams and potential playoff candidates. For instance, PFF just recently listed the Cowboys as one of the teams most likely to improve in 2021. There have been a lot of articles of that ilk out this offseason and they all revolve around three general points.
One, the Cowboys will have Dak Prescott back. There’s a general consensus that whether it’s the franchise tag or a long-term deal, Prescott will be the Cowboys quarterback in 2021. Two, the Cowboys play in the NFC East, the very definition of a winnable division for the team. Three, the Cowboys defense has to improve, it can’t get any worse than it was in 2020. All of those add up to the Cowboys being a playoff team in the minds of many NFL observers.
But, of course, that’s not a universal opinion. There will always be contrary opinions, so let’s take a look at one. This one comes courtesy of Bleacher Report. They have the Cowboys as a team that is is destined to disappoint in 2021.
Even in this article, though, concedes that Prescott will be back.
The first thing that comes to mind with the Dallas Cowboys is that Jerry Jones and the front office couldn’t possibly botch the situation with Dak Prescott again.
Meaning, Prescott is sure to be back, whether it’s on an extension in the $39 million average-annual-value range or on a second franchise tag at $37.7 million.
Obviously, Prescott being the quarterback shapes everything about the Cowboys 2021 season. Without him, the team is essentially starting over, unless they pull off some kind of mega-trade for Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson, and the likelihood of that happening is as close to 0% as you can get. It’s likely Prescott or bust.
The core of the disbelief in the 2021 Cowboys is the lack of money under the cap and a defense that needs a lot of fixing.
Either way, we’re talking about a Cowboys team with just $16.3 million in free space and a list of other notable free agents like Aldon Smith, Sean Lee, Tyrone Crawford, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis.
Prescott was never going to be the problem in 2020 or 2021, though. That status belonged to the defense, which was on a historic pace even when Prescott was healthy and finished by allowing 29.6 points per game with just 31 sacks.
Dallas, courtesy of star power and reputation, has favorable Super Bowl odds (+2800) that most teams can’t match. But a shifting defense under a new coaching staff and potential roster losses besides free agents just to make it all work financially (such as tight end Dalton Schultz to save $2.2 million, for example) could leave the Cowboys struggling to flirt with .500.
The idea that the Cowboys are suddenly ditching Dalton Schultz is kind of odd, but outside of that, the article’s arguments can’t be totally dismissed. The Cowboys are going to have to make some hard decisions about their personnel in terms of who to sign and who they let go. They are going to be working in a new defensive coordinator and a new defensive scheme, so there is likely going to be a learning curve on that side of the ball. On top of that, they have to upgrade the personnel on that side of the ball.
So what’s your take BTB? Are the Cowboys playoff contenders? Or will they struggle to even get to 8-8 this season?