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Cowboys free agents: Evaluating the potential return of 14 players in 2024

They have some major holes unless they can re-sign some of their own.

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Green Bay Packers v Dallas Cowboys
Is this the end of an era?
Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys are still waiting on what will happen with Dan Quinn. Until his future is determined, with a departure still the most likely outcome, they cannot do anything about potential changes on the defensive side of the ball, and for now it looks like they will stand pat, at least in large part, with the offense and special teams staffs.

That turns our focus to free agency. While the team will not be able to do anything about outside free agents until the legal tampering period begins, they can always sign their own free agents to new deals. They also may have some players still under contract they chose to part ways with, but their new free agents are a much bigger concern. The list is not just a bit lengthy. There are a lot of 2023 starters and key role players on it. Add in that the team is already over the cap for 2024, with some moves imminent to create space, and this is going to be a topic of great interest for us.

Here are the names they have to work with. Remember, first they have to decide who they would like to retain, and then they have to negotiate a mutually acceptable contract. There is no guarantee all the free agents want to return. Fresh starts and new opportunities can be attractive. There are cases like that of Dalton Schultz, who the Cowboys let go last season. He found considerable success down the interstate with the Houston Texans. Some of these players might well be thinking they could have a similar experience.

THE STARTERS

LT Tyron Smith

He has been a fixture in Dallas for thirteen seasons, yet was playing at a very high level last year. He still battled injuries, but started thirteen games and earned the fifth All-Pro recognition of his career.

There aren’t many bigger holes to worry about than losing your left tackle. It would be a sizable gamble to not try and bring him back, forcing them to figure out what to do. There is still the possibility of moving Tyler Smith out to tackle, but he just earned his first All-Pro nod at guard. Moving him is a questionable plan at best. Otherwise, they would have to go with trying to replace him from within, signing an outside and likely more expensive free agent, or throwing the dice in the draft. Tyron could also elect to retire as well, throwing a sizable wrench in the works.

It’s a mess, but if he wants to play another year, the Cowboys should definitely make a run at him. They would obviously be looking for a team-friendly deal. In a sense, the eight-year extension he signed back in 2014 turned out to be an incredibly favorable deal for Dallas, although the savings were mitigated somewhat by the many games he missed due to injury over the years. He might want more money as a way to make up for things a bit.

This is as complicated a situation as the team faces. And we have no idea just how it will work out.

C Tyler Biadasz

It is never good news when you have a hole to fill on your offensive line. It is even worse when you have two, and as things stand, that is the situation for Dallas.

Biadasz is an average to good center who sometimes can be a liability but usually isn’t. He should not be overly expensive, but might want to test the market before agreeing to a deal with the Cowboys. His status does not exist in a vacuum, because the team might be more eager to re-sign him if Smith is not coming back. As we mentioned, filling two holes is more challenging than one.

RB Tony Pollard

This one is far less convoluted, but not exactly cut and dried. Many look on Pollard’s 2023 campaign as a disappointment, but he still was 12th in yards rushing in the league. Like Schultz last year, he is coming off playing on the tag.

Clearly the team would expect him to play for much less than the $10 million he got on the tag, with Spotrac estimating his value at $6.6 million per season. Further, running back is pretty much the opposite of left tackle. It is considered to be one of the easiest positions to replace. While the Cowboys like their own guys, he may be one they choose to let seek employment elsewhere.


We discussed this group on the latest episode of Ryled Up on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network so you do not miss any of our shows! Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.

CB Stephon Gilmore

He was a great acquisition via trade last year. But he is coming off injury, one that affected him a lot in the playoff loss, and is older than anyone else on the team except punter Bryan Anger. Trevon Diggs is returning from his injury next season and gives them a way to plug this hole. If Gilmore were to come very cheaply, he could be an option to bring back, but with a lot of needs and a tight cap, he may well have been just a one-year gun for hire.

CB Jourdan Lewis

Just like on the offensive line, the Cowboys probably don’t want to have to replace two starting cornerbacks. If Gilmore is more than likely out, that makes Lewis a high priority to bring back. If they retain him, it puts Dallas in very good position in the secondary.

Lewis is worth the cost just on his ability and talent. He has usually been the least noticed corner, playing mostly slot, but he is very good and consistent. They need to find a way to get him back to the roster.

S Jayron Kearse

Since coming to Dallas, Kearse has been a crucial cog in the defense, playing a hybrid safety-linebacker role. But that was a feature of Quinn’s scheme. Kearse’s value to the team may be entirely dependent on what happens to Quinn. However, he is also one of the older members of the roster. And there is a very real possibility the defense is going to go back to more traditional linebackers no matter how the coordinator shakes out. But if Quinn is a head coach somewhere else, then Kearse is almost certainly not getting offered a new deal.

LS Trent Sieg

Technically, he’s a starter. And technically, it doesn’t matter. We all wondered how they would replace L.P. Ladouceur. Jake McQuaide came in, and we hardly noticed. Then Sieg took over, and things just rolled merrily along. The team will either get him back for vet minimum money, or sign another LS to the same kind of deal, and we likely won’t care. Good long snappers are not a scarce resource at all. It’s a good job, one that can last for years and not beat you half to death. The pay isn’t astronomical, but you can make a car payment on it.

DE Dorance Armstrong

He’d be nice to keep as a rotational/backup, but this is another case where the player might be much better served testing the market rather than signing early. Armstrong has shown enough in his career to be seen as a possible starter. As long as DeMarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons are around, that is not happening with the Cowboys. Don’t expect him to be with the team next year unless his market is soft.

DE Dante Fowler

Fowler was another good depth piece on the edge, and while he is older than Armstrong, he also cost half as much. This may make him the choice if the team wants to retain some pass rushing depth. The staff seems to like him. They could elect to roll with Sam Williams and Viliami Fehoko, with some draft capital invested here. Fowler may come down to how much cap they wind up having to work with.

DT Johnathan Hankins

Hankins wants to come back, With the Mazi Smith experiment still very much a work in progress, he makes a ton of sense. And his price tag is another very affordable one, given that he signed another vet minimum type deal after testing the market last year. He seems a no-brainer.

DT Neville Gallimore

He has been a bit lackluster since being drafted, but did have some flashes last season. Still, he seems more likely to be seeking employment elsewhere as the team has Osa Odighizuwa and also seems to like Chauncey Golston.

OL Chuma Edoga

He was used in a variety of positions. Offensive line depth is precious and that may lead to him coming back as another low cost re-signing. It really depends on how the staff graded him.

CB Noah Igbinhoghene

We rather expect this to be the last time we have to get the spelling or pronunciation of his name right.

RB Rico Dowdle

Let’s end with one player who may be in for a promotion, depending on how things go with another free agent. If Pollard is gone, we frankly expect Dowdle to be re-signed and to be RB1 going into camp. He should be affordable, since he has seen limited work for the rest of the league to evaluate him through. Even if Pollard stays, Dowdle may have shown enough to stick around. It makes for a nice story after his injury frustrations early on.

That’s how we see this bunch. Soon, we should start to hear about deals getting done.

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