Free agency is right around the corner and it’s only a matter of time before we learn which “big move” the Dallas Cowboys are going to make. With hopes and dreams of improving the offense, all attention has been focused on the offense and stacking more weapons for Dak Prescott. The time is now for this team to build a group that can keep those chains moving and keeps that scoreboard climbing.
But what will the Cowboys actually do? We’ve been down this road before, and often times it leads to a whole lot of nothing as the front office reminds us that they love their guys. But just suppose this year is different. Just suppose that this is the offseason where a big splash is coming as the brain trust attempts to capitalize on the opportunity. If that’s the dealio, then what do you think the Cowboys will do?
ODELL BECKHAM JR.
Some narratives won’t die. Ever since the weaknesses in the Cowboys' passing game surfaced last year, the hopes of OBJ to Dallas have been strong in Cowboys Nation. And there was a time when some fans believed it was a real possibility that only hinged on two questions, how much will it cost them and when will he be ready to go?
But time went by and Beckham Jr. never signed with Dallas. In fact, he didn’t sign with anyone. As it turned out, he met with teams, but never worked out for them and it became rather apparent that he just wasn’t ready. He never stepped on the field in 2022.
With more time for his knee to recover, OBJ finally held a workout this past Friday, and 12 teams were in attendance. The Cowboys were not one of them. What is going on? How is it that Jerry Jones continuously teases everyone with this “we’re still interested” nonsense only to not seem all that interested?
For the Cowboys, adding Beckham would only require a financial investment. Spotrac projects that OBJ’s market value is $13.1 million annually. We’ve heard rumors he wants $20 million annually. The only question is can the 30-year-old receiver be counted on to produce on the field? The Cowboys love youth, they love availability, and they love bargains. Beckham Jr. doesn’t offer them any of those things. If the Cowboys want to push all their chips in the middle and go after a championship, they better be wise about what hand they play as the once sure-handed receiver is now a big gamble.
When Hopkins was traded from Houston to Arizona for running back David Johnson and a second-round pick, it felt like a complete fleecing by the Cardinals. How could the Texans just give away a 27-year-old receiver who was coming off three consecutive All-Pro seasons?
Hopkins wasted no time making an impact with his new team as he caught a career-high 115 passes for over 1,400 yards in 2020. He did see his season shortened the following year as a hamstring injury followed by a season-ending MCL injury limited him to just 10 games. And he only played in nine games last year as he sat out the first part of the season serving a suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy.
Like Beckham Jr., Hopkins is 30 now and won’t come cheap. He’s under contract for the next two seasons for base salaries/roster bonuses of $21.6 million and $17.1 million respectively. And to acquire his services, it’s going to take a second-round pick in the 2023 draft (it may also include a conditional draft pick as well). That’s a relatively cheap price for a player of Hopkins skill set, but would it still be cheap if it was just for a two-year rental? With a lofty CeeDee Lamb extension on the horizon, it doesn’t seem feasible that the Cowboys would invest in two high-priced wide receivers long-term. But one thing is for sure, it would certainly be fun while it lasted.
Hopkins receiving accolades come with no blemishes. He’s a guy who is quarterback-proof as his first five years in the league consisted of passers like Matt Schaub, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer, Brock Osweiler, and Tom Savage. Make no mistake about it, he can produce. If he’s paired with Lamb, this will instantly give the Cowboys one of the best one-two receiver punches in the game.
And while this may seem too good to be true, let’s just think for a moment. The Cowboys just cleared $30 million in cap space by virtue of working contract restructures for Dak Prescott and Zack Martin. Many identify these moves with opening up room to sign some free agents, whether it’s an outside splash or retaining some of their own guys. But, keep in mind that new contracts don’t carry a big first-year cap hit, so it wouldn’t be necessary to clear out so much space for those types of signings. However, if they need to take on another player's salary, like say DeAndre Hopkins, then that cap space would come in quite handy.
Acquiring a high-priced veteran All-Pro would give them a player who can compete right away, but is that really the Cowboys' way? They just had Amari Cooper on the roster but felt that his $20 million per year was too steep, so they shipped him off to Cleveland to get that money off the books. You have to believe the team would much better prefer to go after a young talent in the upcoming draft who would be far less taxing on their salary cap.
Enter Ohio’s State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
There are a handful of standout wide receivers in this draft, and it’s hard to project when certain players will come off the board. USC’s Jordan Addison and TCU’s Quinten Johnston are sitting atop this year’s draft class, but JSN should be right there with them. He absolutely tore it up in 2021 with over 1,600 yards receiving. This sophomore outperformed fellow upperclassman teammates Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, who were both selected 10th and 11th overall in last year’s draft. Unfortunately, injuries limited JSN last year and he only played in three games.
Smith-Njigba is coming off a nice combine performance that could quiet some of the doubters and possibly put him out of the Cowboys’ reach, but if he does manage to make it to 26, this could be a great score for the Cowboys. He’s an elite route-runner with excellent ball skills. He’s not an explosive player like his Buckeye teammates before him, but he knows how to create separation and this would be welcomed by Dak Prescott and the Cowboys' passing game.
Taking JSN comes with some risk as no rookie offers any guarantees. And even if he is one of the good ones, how good will he be in year one? Adding a first-round rookie at one of the premier positions in the NFL wouldn’t be a bad idea as it would give the team five years of player control at an affordable price.
Recently, PFF’s John Owning wrote an article identifying three dynamic playmakers who could maximize Dak Prescott, and all three of these players were listed. Check it out for more details involved with each of these scenarios.
Considering the cost/risk involved, which receiving addition would you prefer the Cowboys make?
This poll is closed
Odell Beckham Jr.