2021 NFL Offseason: Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys (Last Year: 6-10)

2021 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
OT Ty Nsekhe, DT Brent Urban, DT Carlos Watkins, S Malik Hooker, S Keanu Neal, S Damontae Kazee, P Bryan Anger.
Early Draft Picks:
LB Micah Parsons, CB Kelvin Joseph, DT Osa Odighizuwa, DE Chauncey Golston, CB Nahshon Wright, LB Jabril Cox, OT Josh Ball. Cowboys Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Andy Dalton, C Joe Looney, DE Aldon Smith, DE Tyrone Crawford, LB Sean Lee, CB Chidobe Awuzie, S Xavier Woods.

2021 Dallas Cowboys Offense:
Dallas’ 2020 season ended in a home game against the Giants. Dak Prescott’s knee was crushed in the second half of that affair, forcing the Cowboys to use either Andy Dalton or Garrett Gilbert instead. The result was a miserable six-win campaign.

Prescott is slated to return to action in the 2021 opener, but it’s unclear if he’ll be 100 percent. Nevertheless, he’ll be a big improvement over the signal-callers from the prior season. Prescott’s health is one question, but the other is the offensive line. Dallas’ blocking was elite in Prescott’s early years, but it has regressed tremendously in recent seasons.

Tyron Smith’s declining health is a big part of that. Smith barely played last year, which was far from a surprise because he hasn’t been on the field for a full season since 2015. Smith’s neck problems will continue to persist, which is bad news for the remainder of the left side of the offensive line. Guard Connor Williams is mediocre at best, while center Tyler Biadasz is a woeful blocker.

The Cowboys are at least very strong on the right side. Tackle La’el Collins and guard Zack Martin are elite blockers, though Collins didn’t play at all last year. Having him back will be a huge boon for the offense.

Assuming Prescott has more time in the pocket than he did last year, he’ll make great use of his terrific receiving corps. CeeDee Lamb was as good as advertised in his rookie year, and he’ll be even better now that he has some experience. Lamb should be the top receiver instead of Amari Cooper, though Cooper is still going to be very productive if he’s healthy coming off an ankle injury. Michael Gallup is one of the top tertiary receivers in the NFL.

Meanwhile, Prescott will be hoping to get better production out of Ezekiel Elliott. The talented running back is coming off a down year. Poor blocking was only part of the problem, as Elliott gained weight and began fumbling more often. Elliott could rebound if he’s more motivated, but it’s also possible that this regression is the beginning of a trend. Reports indicate that Elliott is in better shape this summer.

2021 Dallas Cowboys Defense:
Dak Prescott and the majority of the offensive line will need to remain healthy this year, considering the utter abysmal state of the defense. The Cowboys have one of the worst stop units in the NFL, and there are major problems on every level.

The Cowboys determined they had huge issues at linebacker, as evidenced by their decision to use their first-round pick on Micah Parsons. The Penn State linebacker has off-the-field issues, but is a highly athletic player with tremendous upside. It’s unclear if Parsons will be highly productive right away, but the Cowboys will need him to be. Dallas doesn’t trust Leighton Vander Esch to remain healthy because of his frequent neck problems. Vander Esch’s play has declined lately, and the same can be said about Jaylon Smith, whom the Cowboys tried to trade during the 2021 NFL Draft, according to Charlie Campbell.

Dallas used its second-round pick on another huge position of need, selecting Kentucky cornerback Kelvin Joseph. He’ll be asked to start opposite of Trevon Diggs, who was also chosen in the second frame. Diggs didn’t play very well as a rookie, but he wasn’t a liability either. Diggs started with Chidobe Awuzie last year, but Awuzie is no longer on the roster. It’ll be Joseph instead, with the inconsistent Anthony Brown stationed in the slot.

The rest of the secondary isn’t in good shape either. The Cowboys have nothing but mediocre or pedestrian options at safety. Donovan Wilson is probably the best of the bunch, but he misses one too many tackles. Keanu Neal was signed to play next to Wilson, but he’s been extremely injury-prone throughout his career. He was once a great player, but all of his injuries have sapped him of his ability. If he gets hurt, the mediocre Damontae Kazee can step in as a replacement.

It’s not all bad for Dallas’ defense, as the team has a strong edge rush. Demarcus Lawrence is a special player, though his sack totals in the past two years (6.5, 5.0) have diminished since his double-digit sack seasons. Randy Gregory also got after the quarterback well in the second half of the season. He recorded 3.5 sacks, but played better than that. Still, Gregory is a big risk, which is why Dallas selected Chauncey Golston in the third round.

Another third-round choice was used on Osa Odighizuwa, who will compete for a job in the interior of the defensive line, which is also a weakness. All of Dallas’ other options at defensive tackle seem abysmal. Carlos Watkins, Neville Gallimore and Trysten Hill all struggled last year.

2021 Dallas Cowboys Schedule and Intangibles:
The Cowboys signed Greg Zuerlein last offseason, and he didn’t exactly pay off for his new team. He was 34-of-41, including 3-of-9 from 50-plus. He missed three extra points.

It’s unclear who Dallas’ punter will be in 2021, as Hunter Niswander and Bryan Anger will compete for the job.

Dallas did well on special teams, scoring a touchdown while failing to give up a score.

The Cowboys needed to have some easy divisional battles because they’ll have to take on the tough squads of the NFC and AFC West.

2021 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.

2021 Dallas Cowboys Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2021 Dallas Cowboys Analysis: The Cowboys are the Vegas favorite to win the division, but that should not be the case. Even if Dak Prescott returns to 100 percent, the Cowboys will be a very poorly coached team with a horrendous defense and issues on the offensive line. There’s a chance Dallas will come close to achieving a .500 record, but it seems unlikely that it’ll finish first in the NFC East.

Projection: 6-11 (3rd in NFC East)

2020 Projection: 8-8. 2019 Actual Result: 6-10.
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 Individual Grades:

NFL Draft Team Grade: C- Grade

Goals Entering the 2021 NFL Draft: The Cowboys had an extremely weak defense last year, so they must fix every level of that unit. They must also address the offensive line, given their massive blocking issues in 2021. Some of that was due to injury, but it’s not like Dallas can count on Tyron Smith staying healthy.

2021 NFL Draft Accomplishments: What a disaster! The Cowboys desperately wanted Patrick Surtain in the first round, yet the Broncos plucked him off the board one pick earlier. And if that wasn’t enough, Dallas coveted both Trevon Moehrig and Jevon Holland in the second frame, but both were chosen before the team was put on the clock.

The Cowboys had to settle for Micah Parsons and Kelvin Joseph as a result. Both aren’t ideal because they carry character concerns. They have nice potential, but their floor is quite low. They probably should have gone a bit lower than where the Cowboys drafted them.

I at least like that the Cowboys traded back once Surtain was off the board – screwing the Giants out of Devonta Smith in the process – but this was just an underwhelming draft class overall. It’s a shame for Dallas because poor circumstances ruined its plans, but it’s not like I can adjust my grade for that. Four of the Dallas’ first five grades scored a “C” grade or worse, so the team grade must be in that area.

12. Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State – C+ Grade
Charlie Campbell, who was 8-of-8 in his 2021 NFL Mock Draft, reported a few years ago that an NFL team removed Leighton Vander Esch from their draft board because of concerns regarding his neck injury. Now, we see why that team was so worried. Vander Esch hasn’t been able to stay healthy, while Sean Lee just retired. The Cowboys needed a linebacker, and Micah Parsons is a mega talent. He has some glaring off-the-field concerns, however, so I can’t grade this too favorably.

44. Kelvin Joseph, CB, Kentucky – C- Grade
Ouch. The Cowboys really wanted Trevon Moehrig and Jevon Holland, yet both safeties were snatched off the board before their pick. The Cowboys had to settle for Kelvin Joseph, a raw cornerback with character concerns. Joseph belonged in the third or fourth round, so this was a reach. That said, Joseph could meet his upside and fill a big need.

75. Osa Odighizuwa, DE/DT, UCLA – B Grade
This is an upside pick for the Cowboys, as Osa Odighizuwa is a very athletic player who can get after the quarterback. The problem is that he’s a tweener and a liability against the run. This selection has a low floor, but I like Dallas taking a chance with this selection.

84. Chauncey Golston, DE/DT, Iowa – C Grade
I mocked Chauncey Golston to the Cowboys, but in the fifth round. He’s a high-motor, high-effort player, but he’s not very talented. The Cowboys could have done better, but this isn’t a terrible pick.

99. Nahshon Wright, CB, Oregon State – F Grade
Nahshon Wright is a tall cornerback (6-4), but that’s all he has going for him. He’s very thin and frail, and he’ll be beaten up by tougher receivers. Wright is the first prospect chosen I never slotted in my mock draft, so I have to flunk the Cowboys for this pick.

115. Jabril Cox, LB, LSU – A+ Grade
Jabril Cox would have been chosen in the second round if he didn’t have any injury issues. At this point in the draft, it’s worth it to take that sort of risk. This is a steal for the Cowboys, who needed a second linebacker because of Leigthon Vander Esch’s neck problems, which one team flagged him for prior to his draft.

138. Josh Ball, OT, Marshall – C- Grade
The Dallas offensive line was a huge problem last year, so it’s not a surprise that the team addressed this area. It’s a bit of a surprise that they took Josh Ball at this juncture because I had him in the seventh round, so I’m not a fan of this value.

179. Simi Fehoko, WR, Stanford – A Grade
For the second year in a row, the Cowboys spent a great value pick on receiver without needing to address the position very much. Simi Fehoko was pegged in the fourth round, so this is a steal. Amari Cooper won’t be around much longer, so Fehoko could start in the future.

192. Quinton Bohanna, NT, Kentucky – C+ Grade
The Cowboys struggled to stop the run last year – or do anything positive on defense – so Quinton Bohanna will help in that regard. I didn’t think Bohanna would be drafted, but I don’t hate this pick because he could address a big need.

227. Israel Mukuamu, CB, South Carolina – A+ Grade
Here’s another great value! Israel Mukuamu was once in the first round of my mock draft. He ended up in the fourth frame of my final mock draft because of some major injury problems. He continued to fall, but Dallas could be getting a talented starter if Mukuamu can recover.

238. Matt Farniok, G, Nebraska – B Grade
It’s no surprise that the Cowboys addressed the offensive line once again, given what occurred last year. Matt Farniok never made my mock draft, but I like the upside because he’s so athletic for his position.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The Cowboys had very high expectations heading into the season, but a horrendous defense was responsible for some early losses. Once Dak Prescott suffered a season-ending injury, it was all over.

Offseason Moves:
  • Cowboys sign P Bryan Anger
  • Cowboys sign S Damontae Kazee
  • Cowboys sign S Keanu Neal
  • Cowboys sign DT Brent Urban
  • Cowboys sign DT Carlos Watkins
  • Cowboys sign T Ty Nsekhe

    Team Needs:
    1. Two Defensive Tackles: The middle of the defense was extremely weak for Dallas last year. The team must beef up the interior of the defensive front, perhaps even using a first-round pick on a player at the position. Signed Carlos Watkins and Brent Urban

    2. Safety: Keeping with the theme of bolstering the middle of the defense, there’s a huge need at safety as well. Signed Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee

    3. Left Tackle: The Cowboys can no longer rely on Tyron Smith to remain healthy. They could look for a replacement, or at least insurance, this offseason.

    4. Defensive End: Dallas doesn’t have many players to get after the quarterback beyond DeMarcus Lawrence. An early draft choice could be used on a defensive end.

    5. Center: Joe Looney is an impending free agent, but Dallas was probably looking to upgrade him anyway.

    6. Cornerback: Trevon Diggs looked good at times as a rookie. Help will be needed across from him if Chidobe Awuzie isn’t retained.

    7. Linebacker: Sean Lee is a free agent, but he needed to be replaced regardless.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2021 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Bryan Anger, P, Texans. Age: 32.
      Signed with Cowboys (1 year)

      Bryan Anger finished 12th in net punting last year. And the Jaguars still drafted him instead of Russell Wilson in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

    2. Keanu Neal, S, Falcons. Age: 26.
      Signed with Cowboys (1 year, $5 million)

      Keanu Neal was once a terrific safety, but injuries have sapped his ability. He’s still a quality player, and he’s also still young (26), so he could rebound in 2021 and beyond.

    3. Malik Hooker, S, Colts. Age: 25.
      Signed with Cowboys

      Malik Hooker is an exceptional talent, but simply cannot stay healthy. He’s never played a full season, and he’s missed 28 games in four years. The good news is that he’s only 25, so he still has time to turn his career around.

    4. Damontae Kazee, S, Falcons. Age: 28.
      Signed with Cowboys (1 year)

      Damontae Kazee logged 10 interceptions in the two years leading into 2020, but played just four games this past season because of a torn Achilles.

    5. Brent Urban, DE/DT, Bears. Age: 30. — Signed with Cowboys
    6. Ty Nsekhe, OT, Bills. Age: 35. — Signed with Cowboys (1 year)
    7. Carlos Watkins, DT, Texans. Age: 27. — Signed with Cowboys

    Dallas Cowboys Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys. Age: 28.
      Re-signed with Cowboys (4 years)

      Dak Prescott suffered a gruesome injury in Week 5, but appears to be healthy. This means Jerry Jones will likely give Prescott a colossal deal, given that Prescott was throwing for 450 yards every week prior to his injury.

    2. Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Cowboys. Age: 26.
      Signed with Bengals (3 years)

      Chidobe Awuzie was the best cornerback on Dallas’ roster last year, though that’s not saying very much. Awuzie missed some time with an injury as well. He’s only 26, so he should continue to improve.

    3. Xavier Woods, S, Cowboys. Age: 26.
      Signed with Vikings (1 year, $2.25 million)

      Xavier Woods was a decent starting safety for the Cowboys last year, covering well but struggling with some missed tackles. He’s only 26, so there’s room for improvement.

    4. Aldon Smith, DE, Cowboys. Age: 31.
      Signed with Seahawks

      Aldon Smith hadn’t played since 2015, but came back from his long hiatus and performed well. He logged five sacks in 2020.

    5. Joe Looney, C, Cowboys. Age: 33.
      Joe Looney struggled with a knee injury last year, but he can be a passable starting center.

    6. Andy Dalton, QB, Cowboys. Age: 33.
      Signed with Bears (1 year, $10 million)

      Andy Dalton is one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL, but that’s not saying much. He played well down the stretch of 2020 after a rough start.

    7. Jourdan Lewis, CB, Cowboys. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Cowboys (3 years, $16 million)
    8. Tyrone Crawford, DE, Cowboys. Age: 31.
    9. Noah Brown, WR, Cowboys. Age: 25. — Re-signed with Cowboys
    10. Cameron Erving, OT, Cowboys. Age: 29. — Signed with Panthers
    11. Blake Bell, TE, Cowboys. Age: 30. — Signed with Chiefs
    12. Sean Lee, LB, Cowboys. Age: 31.
    13. Joe Thomas, LB, Cowboys. Age: 30. — Signed with Texans
    14. C.J. Goodwin, CB, Cowboys. Age: 31. — Re-signed with Cowboys (2 years, $3.5 million)
    15. Justin March, LB, Cowboys. Age: 28.
    16. Eli Ankou, DT, Cowboys. Age: 27.

    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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