The 2021 season has just ended, and from March 16, the 2022 campaign will open its doors. DNA of Sports therefore takes the opportunity to offer you an overview of the different franchises during the off-season. Which players to keep and cut? Which free agent to extend? Which rookies to watch? Here are some ideas, franchise by franchise. In the spotlight today, the Dallas Cowboys.
The defeat against the 49ers barely digested, it was necessary to get back to work quickly for the leaders of Dallas. And the least we can say is that they have a job. First, they decided to play continuity with the retention of Mike McCarthy and his two coordinators (Moore and Quinn). What about the workforce now?
Many players are on the verge of becoming free agents and the Cowboys are not going to be able to keep them all. It’s simple, the Texas franchise is in one of the worst financial situations in the league. Dallas is 21 million over the cap. It will therefore be necessary to part with some to keep others. The balance will not be easy to find for this team which will necessarily have great ambitions in 2022.
1. Dak Prescott (QB)
2. Micah Parsons (LB)
3. Tyron Smith/Zack Martin (OL)
4. CeeDee Lamb (WR)
One thing is certain, this Dallas team has no shortage of good players. It is now up to them to have real leaders. Some are already there while others are in the process of imposing themselves. If we had to take out a player on each side of the ball, it would be Dak Prescott and Micah Parsons. By necessity, the quarterback is the anchor of the attack. Dak Prescott came back very strong from his injury, to the point of finishing the season in the Top 10 quarterbacks in the number of yards (4449, 7th) and touchdowns (37, 4th). Nothing should prevent another good season from the pitcher in 2022. Be careful, however, to finish better. In recent years its performance has tended to drop as the season progresses. There lies its next evolution.
In defense, after only one year in the league Micah Parsons has established himself as a centerpiece of Dan Quinn’s group. His physical abilities and versatility not only allowed him to win the title of defensive rookie, but also to be a credible candidate for the trophy of best defender of the year. The Cowboys have a player of the future there. For the rest of the captains, they are mainly in attack. Tyron Smith and Zack Martin once again delivered a terrific season. Symbols of an offensive line that remains a strong point of this team. Finally, CeeDee Lamb is now the number one option on offense. In front of Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott (see below), the receiver is now the blaster of this attack.
– Amari Cooper (WR)
– Anthony Brown (CB)
– Ezekiel Elliott (RB)
– Greg Zuerlein (K)
This must be the first phase of this whole off-season: making room. The success of these negotiations depends on the success of the following stages. And the big maneuvers have already begun. Amari Cooper, the team’s No. 2 receiver is about to pack his bags. The former Raider is too expensive for his current output (15 games, 865 yards and 8 TDs) and cutting him could free up $20 million. A significant sum when you are so high above the salary cap. Except that cutting Amari Cooper will only allow the Cowboys to return to equilibrium. The effort must be greater to give yourself a little leeway. Unfortunately, we need other victims of this big cleaning.
Anthony Brown could be one of them. The defender is expensive and Dallas had already anticipated his replacement. The Cowboys could decide to trust the two cornerbacks drafted in 2021. Kelvin Joseph could be that man. For Ezekiel Elliott, the cut seems less likely, but beware, we are not immune to surprises. On the other hand, a restructuring of the contract for the running back could be topical. The player drafted in 4th position in 2016 now shares playing time with Tony Pollard and therefore costs too much money to be a number 1 bis runner. Finally, as there is no economy, the leaders could separate from Greg Zuerlein. Parting with the kicker would free up around $2 million, for a player who has struggled a lot this season on extra points.
The summer man
Mike McCarthy (Head Coach)
Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys. We don’t teach you anything if we tell you that the position is attractive. This year, even more than any other, Mike McCarthy must feel the pressure of greed. First from within the franchise itself. While we imagined them leaving to take up a coaching position somewhere, Kellen Moore and Dan Quinn stayed in Texas. Good news for the team which has two of the best coordinators there, but a concern for McCarthy. He means that at the slightest drop in speed, Jerry Jones will have an internal option to replace him very quickly.
Then he can also be worried by the outside. For several weeks, many journalists have been convinced that Sean Payton is the next Dallas coach. The former New Orleans player has decided to take a year off the bench, but hasn’t ruled out a return next season. It was enough for some to make the link with the Cowboys. Despite all that, Mike McCarthy has so far been confirmed. But he knows it, his room for maneuver is extremely small. It is now up to him to deliver a good season to establish himself as the obvious in this position and keep it as much as possible.
The main free agents
1. Michael Gallup (WR)
2. Dalton Schultz (TE)
3. Randy Gregory (DE)
4. Jayron Kearse (S)
5. Leighton Vander Esc (LB)
Dallas enters this offseason with no less than 24 free agents in its workforce. 21 of them are unrestricted free agents. Among this list, some players are essential parts of the workforce. The problem is that the financial leeway is slim. As we said, the Cowboys already have one of the highest payrolls. So choices will have to be made. On offense first with two Dak Prescott targets who could pack their bags. Michael Gallup and Dalton Schultz are both free agents. In the idea, Dallas would certainly like to keep the two players. The first being the designated successor as number 2 receiver next year, while the second has established himself as one of the best tight end catchers in the league.
On the other side of the field, too, there will be many priorities. Starting with Randy Gregory. Mike McCarthy is in need of a rush pass and the qualities of the defensive end are certain. Still, his extra sporting problems are a brake on his resignature. There is no doubt, however, that the Cowboys will have competitors on the record. Finally in the defensive back field, Jayron Kearse is at the top of the worrying free agent list as it is long. Who to keep? Who to let go? The choices will be difficult this year.
Top 5 Needs
1. Defensive backs
4. Offensive line
In Dallas, the needs are many. Firstly because a team that is eliminated in the first game of the playoffs necessarily needs to strengthen. Then, because the many free agents mentioned above will not all be able to stay in Texas. Especially the Cowboys will not be able / will not want to keep them all. Let’s look at the back lines first. Between free safetys and cornerbacks (Jayron Kearse, Malik Hooker, Damontae Kazee, Maurice Canady…) and those who could be released (Anthony Brown,…), a lot of changes are coming in this group. And so many needs.
It’s simple, all the lines of defense are in danger of undergoing a minor facelift. Either by choice or by obligation. So, it might be smart to take a look at prospects or free agents to reinforce the groups of linebackers and pass-rushers. On the other side of the ball too, we need additions. The offensive line is far from a liability for Dallas, but improving it at the margin could be beneficial to the Cowboys. Why not via the draft (see below) ? As for receivers, CeeDee Lamb will remain the first option. But if Amari Cooper is released, and even if Michael Gallup is resigned, it will still be necessary to add depth to this position.
Whenre Diggs (S)
Historically, Dallas hasn’t been a headline-grabbing team in free agency. Except that this time, it will be necessary to replace the potential departures. And we have just seen the post of safety could be deserted if all the free agents went elsewhere. Unfortunately, without money, the Cowboys cannot work miracles. It is obvious that a franchise like this, and especially its supporters, would certainly prefer a flashier signing in this position like Tyrann Mathieu, Marcus Williams or even Jesse Bates. Sweet utopia.
The idea being to then turn to names that are a little less high-sounding, but of high quality. On this side, Quandre Diggs could be the player Dan Quinn needs. Now a free safety, the Seahawk is a versatile player that can fit into multiple schemes. Since 2019, he has intercepted 11 balls (3rd best total among safety), or 21.6% of the passes thrown in his direction. Signing Quandre Diggs won’t change the Cowboys’ defense, but it could bring quality to a squad that struggled in the air last year (238.2 yards/game, 20th in the league).
The new blood
Zion Johnson (OL, Boston College)
Dallas’ offensive line is already among the best in the league right now. But we know, in the NFL, we can’t wait for a player’s level to drop to think about his replacement. If so, it’s already too late. This is why the leaders of Dallas would be well advised to choose a player capable of coming to maintain the high level of requirement of this group in Texas. Especially since with the 24th choice, the Cowboys would even have the possibility of recovering a rookie who could come directly to improve the line.
Take for example the left guard post. Conor Williams, the current holder, may be considered one of the weak links in this group of 5 players (Tyron Smith, Tyler Biadasz, Zack Martin, La’el Collins). At the end of the first round, Zion Johnson, the Boston College guard, could still be available. Bringing him to Texas might help fix that. He is one of the best prospects in his position for this 2022 draft. Physical and versatile, he would fit perfectly into Kellen Moore’s system.
Other possible choices: Tyler Linderbaum (OL), Kenyon Green (OL), Trevor Penning (OT), Garrett Wilson (WR), Tyler Smith (OT)…