Analysis

Dallas Cowboys Free Agency Outlook

Dallas Cowboys Free Agency Preview

A year after seeing star quarterback Dak Prescott go down with a dislocated ankle just four games into the season, the Dallas Cowboys rebounded by winning the NFC East for the first time since 2018 and clinching a top-three seed in the NFC. Furthermore, the defense did a complete 180 thanks in large part to former 33rd Team alum Dan Quinn, Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons, and All-Pro corner Trevon Diggs among a plethora of other players; however, this rebound season did not end the way Dallas wanted it to as they suffered an upset loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the Wild Card Round. Now, with the Cowboys about $21.5 million over the cap, they will have an interesting offseason to say the least. With a number of large salaries, the Cowboys will have some hoops to jump through in order to continue building this contender in a division that is bound to get tougher. 

Update: The Cowboys are now only $1,110,518 over the cap.

Dallas’ Pending Free Agents:

  • LB Leighton Vander Esch
  • IDL Carlos Watkins 
  • IDL Brent Urban
  • RT Ty Nsekhe 
  • CB Maurice Canady 
  • S Damontae Kazee
  • S Jayron Kearse
  • P Bryan Anger
  • RB Corey Clement
  • TE Jeremy Sprinkle
  • WR Malik Turner
  • EDGE Dorance Armstrong Jr.
  • LB Keanu Neal (Void)
  • LB Luke Gifford (RFA)
  • LB Francis Bernard (ERFA)
  • RT Mitch Hyatt (ERFA)

While former first-round linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is one of the bigger names on this long list of free agents, the Cowboys have many contributors who could hit the free agent market due to Dallas’ cap situation. Wideouts Cedrick Wilson and Michael Gallup have both had their fair share of bright moments in a Cowboys uniform, especially to help take some of the pressure off of star receivers Amari Cooper and Ceedee Lamb. Meanwhile, tight end Dalton Schultz really came on this past year and helped Dallas to have one of the most potent passing attacks in the league. On this list of free agents are also edge rushers Randy Gregory and Dorance Armstrong Jr. who both made huge plays throughout the course of the season for Dallas. If the list wasn’t long enough already, left guard Connor Williams is on this list, who was a solid contributor on the offensive line the past few years, and even second team All-Pro punter Bryan Anger is a free agent. The Cowboys are going to have a lot of tough decisions to make this offseason. 

Franchise Tag:

Even though the Cowboys have some bigger names on their list of pending free agents this offseason, it is entirely possible that the Cowboys decide to franchise tag tight end Dalton Schultz after a career-year in 2021. The cost to franchise tag Schultz is only $10.834 million, which is not bad considering how important Schultz was to their offense last season. This would allow the Cowboys to have more time to secure one of Dak Prescott’s favorite targets long-term while also giving them an opportunity to get back under the cap with an affordable one-year deal for the former Stanford product. This would be the most affordable option for the Cowboys to utilize their franchise tag on one of their bigger name free agents. 

Update: The Cowboys elected to use their franchise tag on tight end Dalton Schultz. 

Top Team Needs:

  1. Linebacker
  2. Safety
  3. Youth on the Offensive Line
  4. Revamped Receiving Group
  5. EDGE 

Although it is entirely possible that the Cowboys are able to bring back Dorance Armstrong Jr. on a more team-friendly deal, Randy Gregory may be valued higher by other teams with a struggling pass rush. With DeMarcus Lawrence not looking as dominant as he once was, this team could use a serious boost off the edge in order to make life easier for rookie sensation Micah Parsons as he continues his development. At safety, Jayron Kearse’s versatility could be sorely missed if he is not re-signed.

The Cowboys are going to have to revamp their receiving group this offseason regardless of if Amari Cooper is traded, cut, or kept. Down the stretch, this Cowboys offense looked completely different from what it once was, and potentially losing Cedrick Wilson, Michael Gallup, and maybe even Dalton Schultz does not help matters. Not every linebacker position in the Cowboys’ defense is a need as Parsons is coming off a fantastic year, but with Keanu Neal and Leighton Vander Esch as free agents, the Cowboys could really use some younger and cheaper players in that group to pair with Parsons. As far as the offensive line is concerned, they need to get younger in this area as only two starters from last year were under the age of 28. Both right guard Zack Martin and left tackle Tyron Smith are getting older and injured more often, so getting more youth on this line could certainly help if those two stars go down again this upcoming season.