There is not exactly a lot going on with the Dallas Cowboys at the moment. So for a change of pace, let’s get cranky today.
Free agency isn’t over, but...
The Cowboys espouse a desire to go into the NFL Draft with no glaring holes so they can try and avoid drafting for need. It’s a plan that they don’t always follow, but it is still a good approach. Directly related to this is that they don’t get drawn into the first wave of free agency when the big dollars fly, preferring to wait and find more cap friendly options. So far, they actually seem to have found some potentially good answers for what they need with players like Keanu Neal, Damontae Kazee, Ty Nsecke, Brent Urban, and the crucial addition of punter Bryan Anger.
So why haven’t they done anything about linebacker and cornerback? We saw what appeared to be a brief but unfruitful flirtation with LB KJ Wright, and really have heard nothing at all about corners coming from inside The Star. At the moment, they only have five off-ball linebackers on the roster, plus a couple of “hybrid” candidates in Neal and Jayron Kearse. That is getting close to the bare minimum for the 53-man roster, and they certainly need to have more bodies than that for training camp. It’s a key position for special teams as well. Cornerback has the numbers, with eight currently under contract, but past the top three of Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis, there is little proven talent outside of a couple of special teams aces, and you don’t want to rely too much on those players to step up. Both are positions that seem to need some veteran help, even if it turns out to just be insurance in the end.
Yet nothing has been accomplished to address those needs. Perhaps the Cowboys are still being very patient and hoping the relatively slow pace of free agency across the league will work in their favor. Maybe some things are in work behind the scenes that we just don’t know about.
But that just seems unnecessarily risky. Dallas has for years leaned too hard into “bargain shopping” for comfort. The slow market should be seen as an opportunity to get the player you want instead of the player you are left with taking.
Perhaps the team is waiting to see what they get in the draft, believing that both positions offer good options there. That is still a bit concerning. While there are some attractive options at cornerback for the Cowboys’ first pick at 10 overall, that is not a place they should even consider linebacker. It is just a bad use of draft capital. However, the team has over-drafted the position before, taking Leighton Vander Esch in the first round. They also have done so at another position that is not seen as a smart way to use such high picks in recent memory in Ezekiel Elliott. The idea that they might consider Micah Parsons for the first round is worrisome.
We still have over two weeks to go before the draft, and the brain-trust may think they can backfill in free agency if that does not provide sufficient answers at the two positions. It is just not a comforting thought.
The NFLPA want a virtual offseason again, and that would be bad
The COVID pandemic is still driving the idea of a virtual offseason.
NFLPA President JC Tretter told players on a call today the union is pushing for an all-virtual offseason — and would urge players to boycott if teams conduct in-person OTAs this spring, per sources.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 9, 2021
Said Tretter: “We’ve been telling them, it’s voluntary and we’re not gonna go.”
Now with the vaccines available, the teams should be able to have actual practices and OTAs without any real risk to the players or staff. The idea of a boycott would leave the Cowboys facing the risk of another year of being limited in installing a new defense. We remember how terribly that went last season.
Even with face-to-face practices, any risk should be mitigated with vaccines and some precautions, such as maintaining social distance in meetings. Practices would be held outdoors or in facilities where sufficient ventilation should make the risk of transmission extremely low even if a vaccinated player is carrying the virus according to the best evidence to date.
The reluctance of the NFLPA to have full OTAs may have other origins besides just the concerns over the virus. In any case, it is a possible trouble spot that the league has to face. All the medical evidence so far seems to point to the fact that this can be done safely. Given that many states are planning on full attendance at games to start the season, it is hard to see how going virtual is really needed. If it does happen, though, it could be another bumpy ride for Dallas this year.
There seems to be way too much concern about the board getting wiped out in the first round
It is hardly a universal concern, but it still is being bandied about quite a bit. The idea is that the nine teams that wind up picking ahead of Dallas don’t do what is expected, which is take a lot of quarterbacks and wide receivers, leaving the Cowboys with no player they really like at 10. This would force them to seek a partner to trade back or take someone that really is not worth it in a class that is seen by many to be a bit thin in legitimate blue-chip players.
It just seems extremely improbable. Some draftniks think five QBs could go before the tenth pick, and there are three WRs that could wind up there. Even if that is inflated, it is hard to imagine that there are not at least five of the first nine picks going to those positions. That would leave Penei Sewell, Kyle Pitts, Patrick Surtain II, Jaycee Horn, and Rashawn Slater. If the Cowboys had to take the one of those five left over when they go on the clock, we should not be unhappy with whichever it is. And there is almost always a team or two that makes a surprise selection early.
Even if they wound up trading back, as long as it wasn’t too far, the team could still come out in good shape. They would want to know what player the trade partner is coming up for to make sure they weren’t moving off one they really want, of course.
All in all, this just seems like something that is not going to come into play. They will probably stay at 10 and come away with a really, really good addition to the team.