2020 NFL Offseason: Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys (Last Year: 8-8)

2020 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Andy Dalton, OL Cam Erving, DE Everson Griffen, DE Aldon Smith, DT Gerald McCoy, DT Dontari Poe, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, K Greg Zuerlein.
Early Draft Picks:
WR CeeDee Lamb, CB Trevon Diggs, DT Neville Gallimore, CB Reggie Robinson, C Tyler Biadasz. Cowboys Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
WR Randall Cobb, TE Jason Witten, G Xavier Su’a-Filo, C Travis Frederick, DE Robert Quinn, DT Maliek Collins, CB Byron Jones, S Jeff Heath.

2020 Dallas Cowboys Offense:
Will Dallas give Dak Prescott a long-term extension? That’s been the major question concerning the Cowboys recently, and it’s easy to see why Jerry Jones has been reluctant. When everyone is on the field for Prescott, he has shown that he can perform on a high level. However, he tends to struggle when there are injuries. A primary example of that was his horrendous showing at Philadelphia last year in a must-win game. Prescott was abysmal, thanks to Amari Cooper and a starting offensive lineman being injured.

It’s not like Dallas has an alternative at quarterback at the moment anyway, so Jones’ best viable option was to add even more talent around Prescott. If Cooper goes down this year, it won’t be a big deal because CeeDee Lamb fell into Dallas’ lap at No. 17, thanks to some incompetence from the Eagles. Lamb is an explosive play-maker who runs routes very well and possesses a high football IQ. He may emerge as the best receiver from the 2020 NFL Draft, which is saying a lot, given how strong the position was. Given Cooper’s habit of fading down the stretch, as well as his injury history, it’s not out of the question that Lamb could emerge as the No. 1 receiver in the near future.

In the meantime, the Cowboys will possess an explosive receiving corps comprised of Cooper, Lamb and Michael Gallup, who quietly accumulated 1,107 yards last year. There’s also some talent at tight end, as Blake Jarwin displayed some potential last year. Jarwin was blocked by the lumbering Jason Witten, but the long-time Cowboy and former ESPN analyst is now with the Raiders.

Of course, the best skill-position player on Dallas’ roster is Ezekiel Elliott, who didn’t handle a full workload in the beginning of this past season because of his brief holdout. Despite this, Elliott still managed to rush for 1,357 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also caught 54 passes, which was down from the 77 he hauled in during the 2018 campaign.

Prescott and Elliott have had the luxury of being protected by one of the better offensive lines during their brief careers thus far. Left tackle Tyron Smith, right guard Zack Martin and right tackle La’el Collins were all elite players last year. The same could be said of center Travis Frederick in the past, but he suffered an auto-immune disease and had to miss all of 2018. He returned this past season, and while he did fine, he wasn’t nearly the same player he once was. Clearly frustrated, Frederick opted to retire this spring.

Center is just one question mark on Dallas’ front. The pedestrian Joe Looney is the favorite to start there, but third-day selection Tyler Biadasz will have a chance to unseat him. Next to Looney/Biadasz, left guard Connor Williams isn’t very good. It’ll be interesting to see if 2019 third-rounder Connor McGovern can challenge him. And then there’s Tyron Smith, who is excellent when healthy, but has a dubious injury history. He missed some action last year, and given that he turns 30 soon, there could be more maladies on the horizon.

2020 Dallas Cowboys Defense:
The Cowboys planned to address their defense before CeeDee Lamb plummeted to them at No. 17 in the 2020 NFL Draft. They loved K’Lavon Chaisson, and they wanted to select him to replace the Chicago-bound Robert Quinn. Dallas can’t be blamed for eschewing Chaisson because Lamb is so talented, but the decision will mean that the defense will struggle immensely in 2020.

As it stands now, the Cowboys have just one definite, viable edge rusher in DeMarcus Lawrence. The 28-year-old was once a lock for double-digit sacks, but saw his totals regress from 14.5 in 2017, to 10.5 in 2018, to five this past season. Lawrence was never healthy with a lingering shoulder problem, so he could rebound in 2020. The problem is that Dallas doesn’t really have anyone to draw attention away from him anymore with Robert Quinn gone. There is a bit of potential with previous stars Randy Gregory and Aldon Smith. Dallas is taking a chance on both of them, but neither has been productive in quite some time.

Dallas addressed its defensive line elsewhere this offseason, bringing in a pair of former Panthers, Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe. McCoy was once one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL. Those days are long gone, as McCoy turned 32 this offseason. Still, he was an effective interior presence for the Panthers last year, as was Poe, who continues to be a quality run stuffer. Obviously, two veterans at the position weren’t enough, so Dallas spent a third-round choice on Neville Gallimore. They’ll be hoping that either he or 2019 second-rounder Trysten Hill steps up and wrestles a job away from one of the former Panthers.

With some mediocre defensive line play, there will be plenty of pressure on Dallas’ secondary to perform well. This is problematic because the Cowboys lost their top cornerback, Byron Jones, to free agency. They used a second-round pick on Trevon Diggs to replace Jones, but there’s no telling how quickly Diggs will be prepared to start. He also has a dubious injury history worth mentioning. He’ll be part of a cornerback group comrpised of Anthony Brown, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis and fourth-round rookie Reggie Robinson. Awuzie and Lewis are average players, while Brown has been torched often.

The Cowboys also had a big safety need this offseason, which they managed to solve for the short term by signing Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. The 27-year-old has been a journeyman of late, but he’s a solid player who should be able to provide a boost next to Xavier Woods.

As for the linebacking corps, Dallas will be hoping for a healthier year from Leighton Vander Esch, who struggled with injuries last year. One team removed Vander Esch from its board ahead of the 2018 NFL Draft, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that Vander Esch missed extensive action this past season. With Vander Esch out, Dallas’ clear-cut top linebacker was Jaylon Smith, who is an excellent player. Vander Esch’s return would keep Dallas from using Sean Lee, who is well past his prime.

2020 Dallas Cowboys Schedule and Intangibles:
Kicker Brett Maher was terrible for the Cowboys last year, so the team spent money on Greg Zuerlein in free agency this spring. Zuerlein is one of the better kickers in the NFL.

Punter Chris Jones had the worst net average at the position last year.

Dallas was outgained on both punt and kickoff returns in 2019, which was not surprising considering how poorly coached the team is.

The Cowboys have an easy start to their season, as they’ll battle the Rams, Falcons, Browns, Cardinals and Redskins in five of their first seven games. Things will get much more difficult after that. Four of their final five contests are against the Ravens, 49ers, Eagles and Giants.

2020 Dallas Cowboys Rookies:
Go here for the Cowboys Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2020 Dallas Cowboys Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2020 Dallas Cowboys Analysis: The Cowboys are very hyped right now, with the NFL Network’s Steve Smith comparing them to the Dallas teams of the 90s. This is absurd, as this Cowboys squad is poorly coached and possesses a bad defense and miserable special teams. Meanwhile, the offense, while loaded with talent, seems like a glass cannon because of durability issues concerning the offensive line and Amari Cooper. Some will project the Cowboys to win the Super Bowl, but getting to the playoffs will be a challenge for them.

Projection: 8-8 (3rd in NFC East)

2019 Projection: 7-9. 2019 Actual Result: 8-8.
2018 Projection: 5-11. 2018 Actual Result: 10-6.
2017 Projection: 11-5. 2017 Actual Result: 9-7.
2016 Projection: 10-6. 2016 Actual Result: 13-3.

NFL Draft Team Grade: A Grade

Goals Entering the 2020 NFL Draft: The Cowboys lost several key members of their defense this offseason. They must find multiple replacements up front and in the secondary. They also have to get a new center in the wake of Travis Frederick’s unexpected retirement.

2020 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Cowboys stole the Eagles’ soul in the 2020 NFL Draft. Philadelphia tried to move up to No. 16 to select CeeDee Lamb, but couldn’t get a deal done. Dallas jumped on the opportunity to obtain someone many deemed to be the top receiver in the entire class. Then, if that wasn’t enough, the Cowboys moved into Philadelphia’s spot in the fourth round to take their replacement for retired center Travis Frederick, Tyler Biadasz.

These weren’t the only excellent moves the Cowboys made during draft weekend. They also stole Trevon Diggs in the middle of the second frame. Diggs was someone the Cowboys considered a Plan C behind Lamb and K’Lavon Chaisson at No. 17, and yet they somehow obtained him with the 51st-overall selection to fill a huge need, vacated by the Miami-bound Byron Jones. Fourth-round cornerback Reggie Robinson is another talented player who was added to the position.

The Cowboys had a terrific draft. I wouldn’t go as far as comparing to what they have to Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin like Steve Smith did on NFL Network following the third-day broadcast, but there’s no doubt that Dallas improved its roster tremendously.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

17. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma – A Grade
The Cowboys loved K’Lavon Chaisson, but I don’t think they expected CeeDee Lamb to be available. Lamb doesn’t fill much of a need for Dallas with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup on the roster, but Lamb is the best player available, and it allows the Cowboys to have flexibility with contracts at the position. It’s hard to hate this pick, given that Lamb could’ve gone as high as No. 9 without any complaints.

51. Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama – A+ Grade
Want to hear something crazy? Trevon Diggs was the Cowboys’ Plan B at No. 17 if K’Lavon Chaisson wasn’t available. Of course, CeeDee Lamb was, which bumped the Chaisson pick, but Diggs is still Dallas’. Diggs has an injury history, but that clearly didn’t bother the Cowboys, who selected Leighton Vander Esch in the first round despite his medical concerns. Diggs is a first-round talent, and he fills a need, so this is an A+ grade.

82. Neville Gallimore, DT, Oklahoma – C Grade
The Cowboys signed Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe this offseason to go along with last year’s second-round pick, Trysten Hill, so I didn’t think defensive tackle was much of a need. I get picking a defensive tackle here if one is a steal, but Neville Gallimore was pretty much a third-round prospect to begin with. Thus, I don’t really like this pick, but I don’t hate it either.

123. Reggie Robinson, CB, Tulsa – B+ Grade
Reggie Robinson is a raw player, but he’s tall and athletic. He could end up being a good NFL starter, or he could be out of the league in two years. I like swinging for the fences on Day 3, and the Cowboys are potentially addressing a big need.

146. Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin – A+ Grade
As if this draft couldn’t go worse for Eagle fans, they just watched their team allow the arch rival Cowboys to move up to this spot and select their replacement for Travis Frederick. Biadasz was one of the best players on the board, so this is another great pick for Dallas and another dubious move by the Eagles.

179. Bradlee Anae, DE, Utah – A+ Grade
What a steal at the end of Round 5! Bradlee Anae dominated the Senior Bowl, showing some promising pass-rushing ability. He should’ve been chosen much earlier than this.

231. Ben DiNucci, QB, James Madison – B Grade
Ben DiNucci transferred from Pittsburgh to James Madison. He improved his play, albeit against lesser competition. He probably won’t make it, but Mike McCarthy likes developing late-round prospects.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The Cowboys got off to a promising start by beating up on weak opponents. They then suffered through some embarrassing losses, one of which was responsible for them missing out on the playoffs. Perhaps they’ll actually live up to their talent level under a new coaching staff.

Offseason Moves:
  • Cowboys sign QB Andy Dalton
  • Cowboys sign DE Aldon Smith
  • Cowboys sign K Greg Zuerlein
  • Cowboys sign DT Dontari Poe
  • Cowboys sign TE Blake Bell
  • Cowboys sign S Ha Ha Clinton_Dix
  • Cowboys sign DT Gerald McCoy

    Team Needs:
    1. Quarterback: The Cowboys will need to address the Dak Prescott situation. I imagine they’ll franchise him at the very least, but a big contract wouldn’t surprise me either. Meanwhile, a backup will be needed with Cooper Rush heading for free agency. Franchised Dak Prescott

    2. Wide Receiver: Amari Cooper is another big-time free agent. Randall Cobb is set to hit the market as well. Re-signed Amari Cooper

    3. Safety: The Cowboys tried to sign Earl Thomas last offseason because they had a huge hole at safety. That continues to be the case next to Xavier Woods. Jeff Heath will hit the open market soon, but he needed to be upgraded anyway. Signed Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

    4. Defensive Tackle: The Cowboys could use a dominant presence in the interior of their defensive line, especially with Christian Covington and Maliek Collins set to hit free agency. Signed Gerald McCoy

    5. Cornerback: Byron Jones is one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL, but he’s a free agent who will need to be re-signed. Even if he is, another cornerback will be needed.

    6. Guard: Connor Williams is the sole weak spot on the offensive line.

    7. Defensive End: Robert Quinn will have to be re-signed as well. He’s coming off a monster year, but is set to hit free agency. Signed Aldon Smith

    8. Tight End: Blake Jarwin and Jason Witten are slated to hit free agency, too. Re-signed Blake Jarwin

    9. Kicker: Dallas had some major kicking woes this past season. Signed Greg Zuerlein

    10. Punter: Chris Jones had the worst net-punting average in the NFL in 2019.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2020 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Bears. Age: 27.
      Signed with Cowboys

      Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was signed to a 1-year “prove it” deal to be Adrian Amos’ replacement. Clinton-Dix performed very well, so he deserves a big contract.

    2. Greg Zuerlein, K, Rams. Age: 32.
      Signed with Cowboys (3 years, $7.5 million)

      Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein is coming off a down year, but he’s been a spectacular kicker otherwise. He should bounce back in 2020.

    3. Everson Griffen, DE, Vikings. Age: 32.
      Signed with Cowboys (1 year, $6 million)

      Everson Griffen missed a chunk of the 2018 season with mental health issues. He appears to have put that behind him – he played 15 games in 2019 – but something like that could always resurface. Also, Griffen turns 33 during the 2020 campaign. He had eight sacks last year, but he could regress in the near future.

    4. Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals. Age: 32.
      Signed with Cowboys

      Andy Dalton was once capable of leading a talented team to the playoffs. He might still be able to do so, but he turns 33 in October. At the very worst, Dalton will be a great backup who can fill in well for several games in the event of an injury to the starter.

    5. Blake Bell, TE, Chiefs. Age: 29. — Signed with Cowboys

    Dallas Cowboys Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Byron Jones, CB, Cowboys. Age: 27.
      Signed with Dolphins (5 years, $82.5 million)

      Byron Jones is one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL. He’s been excellent for the previous several seasons, and he’s not even 28 yet, so he likely won’t regress throughout the duration of his next contract.

    2. Amari Cooper, WR, Cowboys. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Cowboys (5 years, $100 million)

      Amari Cooper is a big-time receiving talent, but he comes with plenty of risk. He tends to get injured frequently, and he also quit on the Raiders. The same thing could happen in Dallas, especially if Cooper receives a big contract.

    3. Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys. Age: 27.
      Franchised by Cowboys

      Dak Prescott has looked great at times, but that’s when everything has been perfect. He’s had the luxury of playing behind a terrific offensive line for most of his career, but he has struggled when there have been injuries up front. Prescott is not elite, by any measure, and yet he’s asking to be the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL.

    4. Christian Covington, DE/DT, Cowboys. Age: 26.
      Christian Covington is one of the top run-stuffing defensive linemen in the NFL. His pass-rushing skills need work, but he’s still 26, so he has plenty of time to develop moves to get to the quarterback.

    5. Robert Quinn, DE, Cowboys. Age: 30.
      Signed with Bears (5 years, $70 million; $30 mllion guaranteed)

      Robert Quinn looked like the Robert Quinn of old this past season, logging 11.5 sacks. He turns 30 in May, but he should still have one or two more strong years remaining in the tank.

    6. Maliek Collins, DT, Cowboys. Age: 25.
      Signed with Raiders

      Maliek Collins puts good pressure on opposing quarterbacks in the interior of the trenches. He’ll be just 25 in April, so there’s a chance he’ll make a big leap in production.

    7. Randall Cobb, WR, Cowboys. Age: 30.
      Signed with Texans (3 years, $27 million)

      Randall Cobb had a solid first year in Dallas, catching 55 passes for 828 yards and three touchdowns. He played 15 games, which is a rarity. He also turns 30 this offseason, so his injury risk will only rise.

    8. Blake Jarwin, TE, Cowboys. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Cowboys (3 years, $24.25 million)

      Blake Jarwin has shown flashes of talent. At just 26 (as of July), Jarwin has plenty of room for growth.

    9. Jeff Heath, S, Cowboys. Age: 29.
      Signed with Raiders (2 years, $8 million)

      Jeff Heath is a passable starting safety, who probably should be a high-end backup. Safety has been a need for the Cowboys for a reason.

    10. Sean Lee, LB, Cowboys. Age: 34.
      Re-signed with Cowboys

      Sean Lee’s effectiveness has plummeted over the past couple of seasons, thanks to the high number of injuries he has suffered. He can still be a great backup, however.

    11. Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys. Age: 38.
      Signed with Raiders (1 year, $4.75 million)

      Jason Witten is a reliable receiver, but also a plodding player at this stage of his career. He’s still very good at blocking, so he still has some worth at his age.

    12. Kerry Hyder, DE, Cowboys. Age: 29.
    13. Xavier Su’a-Filo, G, Cowboys. Age: 29. — Signed with Bengals (3 years, $10 million)
    14. Anthony Brown, CB, Cowboys. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Cowboys (3 years)
    15. Tavon Austin, WR, Cowboys. Age: 30.
    16. Joe Thomas, LB, Cowboys. Age: 29. — Re-signed with Cowboys (1 year)
    17. Darian Thompson, S, Cowboys. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Cowboys
    18. Cooper Rush, QB, Cowboys. Age: 26.
    19. Malcolm Smith, OLB, Cowboys. Age: 31.
    20. Kavon Frazier, S, Cowboys. Age: 26.
    21. Ray-Ray Armstrong, LB, Cowboys. Age: 29.
    22. C.J. Goodwin, CB, Cowboys. Age: 30. — Re-signed with Cowboys
    23. Justin March-Lillard, LB, Cowboys. Age: 27.
    24. Daniel Ross (RFA), DT, Cowboys. Age: 27. — Signed with Raiders

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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