Free agency is here. And with that comes a new opportunity to acquire players who the front office believes will help their football team. The Dallas Cowboys aren’t typically big spenders in free agency, and with more limited cap resources this offseason, that’s not likely to change. Not only do the Cowboys need to be thrifty in perusing outside free agents, but they’re going to have to be careful in what they spend on their own free agents.
Today, we’re going to take a look at the Cowboys offensive players hitting the free agent market, and try to predict which of these players will stick around.
The team’s rising star quarterback was atop this list last season too, and since no long term deal got done, here he is again. It’s more of the same with Prescott as a possible franchise tag is once again on the table as the front office continues to preach that he’s their guy and how a deal will eventually get done. The only thing that has changed is that the price of poker has gone up.
Prescott only played in five games last season because of a gruesome ankle injury, but in the games he did play, he was lighting it up. He completed 68% of his passes (career high) at the tune of 371 yards per game (career high, and it’s not even close). Dak is clearly this team’s quarterback for the future, and the only thing that remains is whether he’ll get signed in the next couple days or sometime before the mid-July deadline.
Prediction: Stays. Eventually signs a four-year, $166 million ($41.5M annually), with $110 million guaranteed
When the Cowboys signed Dalton to a one-year, $3 million deal last offseason, the team gave themselves a low cost insurance policy just in case Prescott, who had never missed an NFL start, missed a game. And as bad luck would have it, Dak would go down, and he would go down early.
That sprung the veteran quarterback into action. While things were rocky at first, Dalton got better as the season progressed, helping the team win three of their last four games. In those three wins, the Cowboys scored 30+ points, and Dalton had a passer rating above 120 in two of them. Dallas got what they wanted, and Dalton got what he wanted as he proved he’s still a viable quarterback in this league. He won’t command big money, but it will be more than the Cowboys are willing to shell out for a back up.
Prediction: Signs elsewhere, two-year, $12 million ($6M annually), with $8 million guaranteed.
Cedrick Wilson Jr.
Wilson was a sixth-round draft pick in 2018, so for those doing the math, it would seem like he still has another year left on his rookie deal. But those four years turned to three years after Wilson didn’t make roster cuts his second year in the league in 2019, only to then be signed to the practice squad on a two-year, $1 million deal a couple days later.
Wilson has been essentially non-existent so far in his career; however, he did come to life a bit in early of last season before Prescott got hurt. That included a five catch, 107-yard, two touchdown performance in Week 3 against the Seahawks. His skills make him an ideal fourth receiver, and considering he’s a restricted free agent, the Cowboys could retain his services with a right of first refusal tender of $2.1 million. Keeping Wilson might be the plan, but the Cowboys should be able to do it a little cheaper than that.
Prediction: Stays. Signs a two-year, $2.6 million ($1.3M annually) deal.
Like Wilson, Brown is another receiver who quietly provides value to the team despite not being that involved in the passing game. And like Wilson, he missed a full season due to an injury he suffered in training camp. And again like Wilson, he is coming off his first ever full 16-game season.
While these two receivers have a lot in common, Brown provides more value as a blocker and contributes more on special teams. With a definitive role on the team and a cost of almost nothing, bringing Brown back is a good move. And while both Wilson and Brown could easily get beat out should the team add another young receiver (late in the draft or priority free agent), both could still be re-signed for the moment since their costs are so low.
Prediction: Stays. Signs a one-year, $920,000 deal.
Signing Bell to a one-year, $1.7 million deal last season turned out to be a smart move by the Cowboys as the veteran tight end saw 31% of the offensive snaps last year. Of course, that was largely due to losing Blake Jarwin for the season as Dalton Schultz moved into the receiving tight end role, thrusting Bell into the blocking tight end spot. Surprisingly, this combo worked well as both did a nice job in their respective roles.
Bell would be a great player to retain as his contributions are more valuable than some realize, but other teams in the league are privy to this. He won’t command a lot of money in free agency, but considering Schulz will be shifting more into the blocking tight end and the team also has Sean McKeon, Bell is likely to get a better offer from another team.
Prediction: Signs elsewhere, two-year, $4.2 million ($2.1M annually).
Looney is a guy you love to have on the roster. He’s such a lovable personality, and he’s been far more serviceable than one could have expected for the amount of money it has cost the Cowboys. And in some ways, it’s just hard seeing Looney ever leaving the Cowboys.
While it would be great to keep Joe on the roster yet again, there are a couple things working against that happening. First, the Cowboys just don’t have much of a need for him. The addition of Tyler Biadasz not only gives the team a young starting center, but the amount of depth along the offensive line pushes Connor McGovern to the team’s top reserve spot. The Cowboys would again have to be really banged up before having to call Looney’s number in 2021. When you consider his versatility and that he plays well enough to give more needy teams a starter, it’s just hard seeing the Cowboys being willing to offer a comparable salary.
Prediction: Signs elsewhere; two-year, $7 million ($3.5M annually)
The Cowboys were so adamant about shoring up their tackle depth that they signed Cam Erving to a one-year, $2.5 million deal where $2 million of that was guaranteed. It seemed like a bit of a head scratcher at the time as second-year tackle Brandon Knight offered comparable skills at a much lower cost, but it turned out that Erving’s services were needed. Injuries to Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, and then Knight as well put Erving in action. And although he only played in six games before getting hurt himself, that added depth certainly came in handy.
Hopefully, the Cowboys tackle position is in much better shape this upcoming season as they should get their starters back. They also have Terence Steele, who logged the most snaps along the offensive line for the Cowboys last season. While Steele received a lot of criticism, the undrafted free agent was solid considering he was thrown to the wolves, and he’s definitely worth developing. Erving himself actually played well and should receive some interest in free agency.
Prediction: Signs elsewhere; one-year, $5 million
We are going to throw L.P. in here with the offense because there won’t be a special teams edition. When it comes to L.P., he’s as reliable of a long snapper as they come, and the only thing to consider is - does he want to return? And from what we’re hearing, he does.
He’s the team’s longest tenure Cowboys player and he’ll be 40-years old when the new season starts. If L.P. wants to keep playing, the Cowboys would love to have him back. He’s received three-straight one-year deals with the team giving him a slight pay raise each time. Look for it to be four-straight.
Prediction: Stays. Signs a one-year, $1.26 million deal