We wait for free agency and the inevitable contract manipulations for the Dallas Cowboys. A couple of developments have already come in. They used the franchise tag for Tony Pollard and a second-round RFA tender for Terence Steele. But news is fairly slow. So to help you get your Cowboys fix, here are some things my podcast partner Roy White and I wonder about.
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Would you rather add Jalen Ramsey or DeAndre Hopkins as a “splash” trade/free agent move?
Tom: I would definitely go with Hopkins. He doesn’t bring speed, but he still knows how to get open and bring the ball in. If they brought him in to join CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup, that could be a formidable set of targets. In the draft, they should then look for a WR or even two that are burners. Ramsey would be great to add, but I think Dallas has its starters in Trevon Diggs, DaRon Bland, and Jourdan Lewis. That makes Ramsey more of a luxury in my mind, and he would definitely want a big multiyear deal.
Roy: I get the urge to add another dynamic WR - especially given what we saw last year - but I just can’t pass up the opportunity to add a legitimate #1 CB to the Cowboys secondary room. The addition of Ramsey would not only provide a versatile weapon for DC Dan Quinn, but his talent pushes every other CB on the roster into a better position defensively. Trevon Diggs gets to go up against a team’s #2 option instead of their #1, and that benefit extends further to guys like Daron Bland and Jourdan Lewis. Against today’s NFL offenses, you’re only as good as your weakest link on D. Adding Ramsey virtually guarantees that teams will have to look elsewhere, other than the secondary, if they want to exploit the Cowboys’ defense in 2023.
Do they get a long-term deal done with Terence Steele and Tony Pollard, or let those one-year tenders play out?
Tom: How about one of each? If Steele does not get an outside offer, he will not have much leverage. A long-term deal could actually get him a nice pay raise. The second-round tender the team is reportedly using means he would make $4.3 million if no other team is prepared to part with their own second-round pick to acquire him. A long-term deal might easily net him more in average per year money, while the cap can be managed by paying him a big chunk of the contract as a bonus to sign. The franchise tag for Pollard basically sets his floor for an extension at $10 million per year, and that is too much. Draft a back in the third or fourth round and grab a couple of UDFAs to try and grow his replacement next year.
Roy:I see it playing out the exact same way. While another team could swoop in and pluck Steele from the Cowboys for their second-round pick, it will also require that team to make a larger financial commitment than the Cowboys already would. Since teams almost never do this, one way or the other, the Cowboys are gonna get Steele at below market value. Similarly, $10M for any single year of a RB’s short NFL lifespan is too much, in my mind. I’m happy for Tony to get the most he can while he can, but unlike Steele, his tag only makes long-term negotiations more difficult; not easier.
In wake of the Daniel Jones deal with the New York Giants, could we see the Cowboys go “all-in” if the NFC QB talent doesn’t improve before next week? (Right now, it’s Dak Prescott, Jalen Hurts, and everyone else if Aaron Rodgers goes to the AFC, as looks likely.)
Tom: Could we? Why in the wide world of sports wouldn’t they? Even if some strange thing lands another top level quarterback in the division, they need to go all in because THEY HAVE DAK PRESCOTT. It doesn’t matter what we think about him, they have declared in letters $40 million high that they believe he is. Don’t look around at the conference to see how hard or easy the path is. Look at your own roster and figure out what else you need. No quarterback, no matter how great, can do it all by themselves. Look at Rodgers. He is talented enough to have more skins on the wall. He doesn’t, and a large part of it is the poor job the Green Bay Packers did with the roster around him. Now, will they go all in, as we think of it. Sadly? I have little faith in that.
Roy: This should probably be the motto every season as long as Dak Prescott is at the helm, but the calls will be heightened due to the NFC losing two top-tier QBs (Tom Brady to retirement, and Rodgers to wherever GB sends him). But we know the front office better than that, and we know the aversions they have to sacrificing too much of “the pie”, even if it leaves glaring deficiencies on their roster. As much as it would make sense, I don’t expect the fans’ version of “all-in” to be achieved this offseason.
What might a new Dak extension look like, and is there a number that Cowboys fans would be happy with?
Tom: Yeah, simply put, it will set the market and be the biggest QB deal in the league until the next one is signed somewhere else, and the fan base is probably going to rend their clothing and dump ashes on their heads. It is just the way it works. Don’t fret like it was your money being paid him. Jerry Jones can afford it financially, and son Stephen just needs to work out the cap room. The important thing is how long it drags out, which will likely just raise the price tag, and how rancorous the negotiations get.
Roy: Some fans will never be happy with what Dak Prescott is making, but there does seem to be a little bit of a sweet spot here for the Cowboys if they move quickly and learn from their previous mistakes. As Tom pointed out, he’ll only be the highest paid until the next guy gets paid, and there’s a slew of guys - Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, Trevor Lawrence, Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa, Jalen Hurts, to name a few - that are either looking for their payday or will be in the market very soon. If they believe he’s the guy (spoiler: they do!) two extra years for $100M and extending his contract to 2026 sounds reasonable enough to me. Get an extension done now, and by this time next year, he might not even be in the top five of average annual salaries for QBs.
Is there an under-the-radar FA available next week that you’re interested in the Cowboys pursuing?
Tom: I like safety Terrell Edmunds, who was a first-round pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but did not have his fifth-round option picked up and played last year on similar one-year prove it deal as Leighton Vander Esch. His stats are not that dissimilar to Donovan Wilson, who it doesn’t look like will come back to Dallas. That is a big hole. While Edmunds may not be the enforcer and tone-setter Wilson is, I like the idea of seeing what Dan Quinn can do with him.
Roy: I would be thrilled if the Cowboys go and make a move for safety Jessie Bates III from Cincinnati. After playing out last season on a franchise tag, the Bengals opted to let him go on the open market, and he is now primed to be among the highest paid free safeties in the game. Once again, this is probably more wishful thinking on my part, as the Cowboys don’t have much history in either paying big money for safeties or bringing in high-priced free agents. Still, Bates plays single-high safety as well as anyone in the league, and brings with him some ball-hawking ability (four INTs last season). Just like Ramsey, Bates would provide another versatile weapon for Dan Quinn to utilize.