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Cowboys news: 2015 draft class a thing of the past; Dallas focused on fresh faces at WR

The latest Cowboys headlines as minicamp begins.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys Rookie Minicamp Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Class Cancelled: Randy Gregory’s Exit Erases Cowboys 2015 Draft - Jess Haynie, Inside The Star

The Cowboys haven’t gotten much longevity out of some recent draft picks.

So why is any of this noteworthy? Players come and go all the time.

While that’s very true, guys like Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and DeMarcus Lawrence from 2011-2014 are still here and key players for Dallas. Travis Frederick would be among them if not for a freak medical issue.

Or on the other side, consider the impact that Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and Anthony Brown from the 2016 Draft are still having on their second contracts.

Considering that the 2015 class still has multiple NFL starters and backups to its name, it’s unfortunate that none of those players are contributing to their original team. And while it’s for a variety of reasons, it seems to come back to Dallas’ recent struggles with contract negotiations and cap management.

Gregory was reportedly about to re-sign with the Cowboys in March before a last-minute snag in contract language sent him bolting for Denver. And while there are signs that Collins’ release was more about personal issues, the official reason from the team was to create cap space.

Byron Jones, one of the NFL’s top corners when he became a free agent in 2020, wasn’t offered what he wanted from Dallas and wound up signing with the Dolphins.

The problem with not having any contributors left from 2015 is that it means having to throw assets at replacements in stead of improvements at other positions. For example, if Gregory was still here, Dallas could’ve used their 2022 2nd-Round pick somewhere else instead of defensive end.

NFL minicamp storylines include how QBs Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz look with new teams - Todd Archer, ESPN

Timing between QBs and WRs can be worked on as early as minicamp, and the Cowboys have plenty of new faces to incorporate here.

The Cowboys’ offensive line will likely be the key to their success, but let’s not get bogged down in that stuff in pad-less practices. Let’s wonder about Dak Prescott’s connections with his receivers. Amari Cooper is gone. Michael Gallup is rehabbing from a knee injury. CeeDee Lamb is the new No. 1. But Prescott has not gotten much on-field work with free-agent pickup James Washington or third-round pick Jalen Tolbert just yet because of minor injuries to both receivers. Prescott will need both to be factors, especially early in the season in Gallup’s absence, so any work in the minicamp will be good. — Todd Archer

Hot Takes, Predictions for Cowboys’ Most Impactful Free-Agent Signings - Kristopher Knox, Bleacher Report

This would be a best case scenario for the Cowboys receivers.

James Washington Will Have Bounce-Back Season in Dallas

Three years ago, James Washington looked like a receiver on the rise. He was in his sophomore campaign and finished the year with 735 yards and three touchdowns on just 44 receptions.

However, the 26-year-old’s production slipped in 2020 and again in 2021—he had only 285 yards and two touchdowns last year—prompting the Pittsburgh Steelers to allow him to walk in free agency.

Washington can get his career back on a positive trajectory in Dallas, though. Improved quarterback play will be part of the equation. Dak Prescott is a Pro Bowl-caliber signal-caller leading an offense that ranked first in both points and yards last season.

And let’s be honest, Ben Roethlisberger struggled to push the ball downfield over the last few seasons. Prescott won’t have the same struggles getting the ball out to the speedy Washington.

The Cowboys also have a prime role waiting for Washington. The Cowboys lost slot receiver Cedrick Wilson Jr. in free agency. Washington has experience playing both inside and out while rookie Tolbert projects as a perimeter pass-catcher.

“Overall, Tolbert projects as an outside receiver who is best taking the top off the defense on vertical passing concepts or on in-breakers where he can keep his longer legs going,” Nate Tice of the Bleacher Report Scouting Department wrote before the draft. “He doesn’t make many defenders miss in a phone booth.”

Given the potency of Moore’s offense, Washington could be in store for a career year this season. At worst, expect him to be a valuable addition to three-receiver packages in 2022. An 800-yard season is not out of the question.

4 trades that could make the Cowboys contenders in 2022 - Terence Watson, The Landry Hat

Adding another defender with ties to Dan Quinn is still a possibility for the Cowboys.

1. Deion Jones, LB Atlanta Falcons

Dan Quinn and this defense need another linebacker, especially with Devante Bond sustaining a season-ending knee injury during OTAs. Deion Jones has a successful on-the-field history, and at the moment, the options are only Leighton Vander Esch and Jabril Cox.

Both have injury concerns and with the rest of the linebackers on the roster having barely any playing time (or none at all), they need to get some insurance. Jones would be that insurance. He’s already been a part of Quinn’s defense so he wouldn’t need a lot of time to get acclimated to the new scheme. He’d also bring the speed that the Cowboys desire at the position along with cover ability potentially making him and Micah Parsons a very good duo.

Role Call: How Much Can Tolbert Do In Year 1? - David Helman, DallasCowboys.com

Dak Prescott and Jalen Tolbert are trying to form a connection that can help the Cowboys pass offense early in the season.

What’s next: High expectations don’t typically fall on a late third-round pick, but that’s the scenario facing Tolbert in his first season out of South Alabama. Amari Cooper was traded to Cleveland back in March, and Michael Gallup is still recovering from a January ACL tear. Tolbert was already going to have a chance to contribute early, but he’ll now have an opportunity to be a Day 1 starter. CeeDee Lamb is this team’s obvious No. 1 option, and James Washington has signed on as veteran depth and another potential starter. But it would be a big boost to an offense in transition if Tolbert is ready to hit the ground running and make starter-type contributions right away.

Bet you didn’t know: It was a bit of a departure for the Cowboys to draft a South Alabama so highly – but this is new and exciting territory for the Jaguars, as well. South Alabama was established as a program in 2009 and didn’t make the jump to the top level of college football until 2012. In those 13 years, Tolbert is just the third Jaguar player to be drafted into the NFL, joining Gerald Everett in 2017 and Kawaan Baker in 2021. Interestingly, all three South Alabama draftees so far have been pass-catchers.

Quotable: ”Right now it’s about picking up the playbook, getting as much as he can down and as those questions grow for him, I’ll answer those. That’s when the time will come of getting him one-on-one, watching film and making sure we’re seeing things the right way. He’s a smart guy, has already picked up on a lot. Those questions have already started so we’re moving fast.” – Dak Prescott

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