Dallas Cowboys: Time for a new ERA?
2019 was a really strange season for the Dallas Cowboys. Despite appearing to be one of the more talented teams in the league at times, they failed to turn that talent into consistent performances on the field. They lost four of their last six to finish 8-8 and miss out on the division by one game to the Philadelphia Eagles.
As a result of another disappointing season the Cowboys decided to part ways with 10-year head coach Jason Garrett. They replaced him with long-time Packers head coach Mike McCarthy who they will look to to get the most out of their assembled talent. This upcoming offseason is a fascinating one for the Cowboys, as they not only have a new head coach but they have some crucial decisions to make with their free agents.
General Manager: Jerry Jones
Head Coach: Mike McCarthy
McCarthy has 13 years experience as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers. In that time he went 135-85-2 including the playoffs. He had nine winning seasons and won a Super Bowl in 2010, so he comes to the Cowboys with not only experience, but experience of winning. At his peak with the Packers he took them to the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons, which is the kind of consistency the Cowboys are craving.
Jerry Jones has a mixed history as a general manager, with many believing he is a major obstacle to the Cowboys producing consistently going forward. They have not won a Super Bowl since 1995 and have only been in the playoffs seven times in the last 20 years, having never once made it beyond the divisional round in that time.
Cap Space: $81.1 million
On the surface of it that looks like a lot of cap space, and then you realise that neither Dak Prescott or Amari Cooper are under contract for 2020 and suddenly things look a little tighter.
They do have some options for opening up more cap space, especially in the case of offensive lineman Cameron Fleming, who has a club option and could free up a further $4.5m. Two other names that could open significant cap space are Tyron Smith ($8.255m) and Tyrone Crawford ($8m). Of the two Crawford is the one with a higher potential to be cut after he played just four games last year. It would be a stunning turn of events if Smith was to be cut given the way he has played for this franchise in his career.
Impending Free Agents
There are 29 free agents for the Cowboys to consider this offseason, and within that are some monster names. The immediate stand out is Dak Prescott, who has been rumoured to be seeking a $40 million contract this offseason. After playing out a third-round draft pick deal he is going to be looking to cash in with this contract.
We then have two more names that are fascinating in Amari Cooper and cornerback Byron Jones. Both are going to be looking for significant increases, which when you consider the Cowboys already have Ezekiel Elliott, Demarcus Lawrence, Tryon Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick and likely Prescott on high cap numbers will leave the Cowboys short on depth on their roster. Did the Cowboys see enough from Michael Gallup this season to suggest he could be their #1 next season?
Lower down the list we have the likes of Randall Cobb, Maliek Collins, Robert Quinn and Sean Lee. Unless they are willing to take reasonable deals all four could easily be on their way out in 2020. The one option there worth true consideration would be Collins, but I expect him to be seeking a big deal to make up for dropping from the first to third round in the draft.
Major Need: Wide Receiver
How the Cowboys manage their free agents may change this, especially if by some miracle they let Prescott out of the door, My expectation is that both Cooper and Cobb are on their way out in Dallas. That leaves a massive need for some receivers for the Cowboys. Gallup is talented but not always consistent and reliable, meaning they likely need to bring in at least one veteran they can trust to move the chains.
If Cooper does stay then the Cowboys have a chance to target some more young talent in this stacked receiver class to give Prescott a plethora of weapons at his disposal.
Major Need: Defensive line
Quinn and fellow defensive end Michael Bennett are free agents this offseason. They lost their big defensive tackle David Irving when he retired after another positive drugs test and Tyrone Crawford could be a potential cut candidate. By no means is this the only part of their defense which requires help, and the fact the two biggest needs on defense are defensive line and the secondary is a major concern.
If the Cowboys do not address those two positions with experience and talent then they are going to be in a situation where they may need to score a lot of points to win football games in 2020.
Image credit: Dak Prescott USA Today