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The ‘how-to’ offseason guide for fixing the 2023 Dallas Cowboys

How to fix the Dallas Cowboys over the 2023 offseason.

NFL: AUG 20 Preseason - Cowboys at Chargers Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys went 12-5 in 2022 and made it all the way to the Divisional Round for the first time since 2018, only to be knocked out of the playoffs by the San Francisco 49ers for the second consecutive year. By all accounts it should be considered a successful season, but for a team who has their sights set on the Super Bowl they fell just a little short.

The 2023 offseason will be critical for them to not only make it back to the playoffs, but to figure out a way to give themselves the best shot at being the final team standing in the end. Changes are already underway to the coaching staff in Dallas, but what other new faces might join the organization this offseason has yet to be determined.

With that in mind, we’re going to put together a ‘how-to’ offseason guide for the Cowboys that will take us through free agency, the 2023 NFL Draft, and will ultimately build the roster for the upcoming season. Let’s start by determining which of their pending free agents they should definitely re-sign, and some veterans they should release.

3 contracts to renew, 2 to let go

Chicago Bears v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Players to Re-sign

  • Terence Steele, Right Tackle

Terence Steele isn’t going anywhere. He is a restricted free agent and will receive either a first round, second round, or right of first refusal tender from the Dallas Cowboys. A long-term extension could be in play as well.

  • Leighton Vander Esch, Linebacker

Running it back with Leighton Vander Esch as their starting MIKE LB gives the Dallas Cowboys defense their best chance of success in 2023. He finds himself in the middle of the pack of free agent LBs this year, so he shouldn’t be too expensive to re-sign.

  • Donovan Wilson, Safety

Donovan Wilson was not only one of the Cowboys best defensive players in 2022, but was a tone-setter as well. With both Jayron Kearse and Malik Hooker entering the final years of their contracts, re-signing Wilson long-term is a wise investment with the future in mind.

Players to let go

  • Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back

There are rumors Ezekiel Elliott is willing to take a significant pay cut to remain in Dallas, but it’s probably time the Cowboys sever ties altogether. By designating him as a post-June 1 cut they can save $10.9 million this season.

  • Jourdan Lewis, Cornerback

The emergence of DaRon Bland, and the fact he is coming off a season-ending ACL injury, pretty much guarantees Jourdan Lewis will be playing elsewhere in 2023. By releasing him the Dallas Cowboys can save $4.6 million.

1 player to franchise tag

Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Tony Pollard, Running Back

The Dallas Cowboys last used the franchise tag to retain TE Dalton Schultz and are rumored to do so this year to keep RB Tony Pollard around for the 2023 season. The franchise tag would pay Pollard a little over $10 million next season while the transition tag would pay him $8.4 million. Considering how much the Cowboys offense relied upon him and his explosive plays in both the running and passing game in 2022, it seems highly likely this is the route they choose to go instead of a long-term extension.

Free agent moves to make

New York Giants v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
  • DT A’Shawn Robinson

With both Jonathan Hankins and Carlos Watkins possibly departing be a free agency, the Dallas Cowboys could be losing their best run defenders from 2022. A’Shawn Robinson has been one of the best interior defensive lineman against the run the past few seasons and would be an upgrade over both. He is also just 28 years old..

PFF Contract Projection: 1-year, $2.5 million; $1.5 million total guaranteed

  • CB Patrick Peterson

With Anthony Brown probably leaving via free agency and Jourdan Lewis a likely salary-cap casualty, Patrick Peterson would be the perfect free agent addition and upgrade opposite Trevon Diggs. The soon to be 33-year-old (July 11) still has a lot of left in the tank and could share his vast knowledge/experience with his younger counterparts.

PFF Contract Projection: 1-year, $5 million; $4 million total guaranteed

  • WR Odell Beckham Jr.

It was painfully obvious the Dallas Cowboys needed more WR help outside of CeeDee Lamb in 2022, hence their interest in Odell Beckham Jr. in the latter part of the season. He wasn’t quite 100% healthy then, but is expected to be now ahead of the 2023 season. He’d make an excellent WR2 if added to the Cowboys wide receiver room.

PFF Contract Projection: 3 yrs, $33 million ($11M per year); $21.5 million total guaranteed

2023 mock draft after offseason moves

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 05 Navy at Cincinnati Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
  • Round 1, Pick 26 - OG O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida (6’5”, 347)

Add O’Cyrus Torrence to the Cowboys offensive line and the unit would once again become a dominant force. He is the top-ranked OG in the 2023 draft class and would be a plug-and-play starter for Dallas’ OL, immediately upgrading both the running and passing game.

  • Round 2, Pick 58 - CB Deonte Banks, Maryland (6’2”, 205)

Despite adding Patrick Peterson earlier via free agency, the Cowboys CB room still needs a long-term solution opposite Trevon Diggs and Deonte Banks would be an excellent fit. His size, length, and athleticism make him a near perfect fit for Dan Quinn’s system.

  • Round 3, Pick 90 - WR Tyler Scott, Cincinnati (5’11”, 185)

Adding Tyler Scott to the Cowboys passing game would add a much-needed explosive threat to their aerial attack. He possesses elite speed to take the top off of defenses as a vertical threat, but also has short-area quickness/gear change to be a threat underneath.

  • Round 4, Pick 129 - RB Kendre Miller, TCU (6’0”, 220)

Even running it back with Tony Pollard on a one-year franchise tag shouldn’t stop the Cowboys from updating the RB position. Kendre Miller has RB1 potential to be the Cowboys long-term starter, but could help form a dynamic duo with TP as a rookie in 2023.

  • Round 5, Pick 163 - DT Zacch Pickens, South Carolina (6’4”, 305)

Zacch Pickens is a big, powerful defensive lineman who can play any position along the interior of the Cowboys defensive front. Add him to the mix with A’Shawn Robinson and Dallas’ once struggling run defense would immediately get a boost.

  • Round 5, Pick 170 (compensatory) - CB Julius Brents, Kansas State (6’3”, 202)

Julius Brents is a big, physical corner with an impressive 82 7/8” wingspan and 33 3/4” arms. He would add much-needed depth to the Cowboys CB room and could compete with Deonte Banks to be the future starter opposite Trevon Diggs.

  • Round 5, Pick 176 (compensatory) - LB Dee Winters, TCU (5’11”, 223)

Dee Winters would provide some much-needed depth behind Leighton Vander Esch and Damone Clark for the Cowboys at linebacker in 2023 and beyond. Early on he likely plays a backup/special teams role as a rookie, but has starting potential if/when needed.

  • Round 6, Pick 204 - EDGE BJ Thompson, Stephen F. Austin (6’5”, 238)

BJ Thompson is a small school, developmental prospect who The Athletic’s Dane Brugler recently said reminded him of former Cowboys pass rusher Randy Gregory due to his similar size, first-step quickness, bend, and speed.

  • Round 6, Pick 212 (compensatory) - OT Nick Saldiveri, Old Dominion (6’6”, 311)

Nick Saldiveri is a small school prospect with intriguing intangibles worth developing. He was predominantly an offensive tackle during his time at Old Dominion, but showed off his positional versatility kicking inside to offensive guard and center at the Senior Bowl.

  • Round 7, Pick 246 - QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA (6’2”, 197)

With Cooper Rush likely leaving via free agency, the Cowboys need to find a new QB2 behind Dak Prescott. Dorian Thompson-Robinson is an intriguing dual-threat developmental QB prospect who could be added to groom into that role for the 2023 season and beyond.

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