In 2019, the Dallas Cowboys finished a disappointing 8-8. They finished second in the NFC East and missed the playoffs. But, like most off-seasons, the Cowboys dominated headlines from the get-go.
Dallas Cowboys Offense
It began early last season. They decided not to extend quarterback Dak Prescott early and let him play out his rookie contract. At the time, the decision made sense.
Although Prescott had a 32-16 record through three seasons, critics argued that he was a product of the talent around him. Boasting one of the most talented offensive lines, and a generational running back in Ezekiel Elliott, they wanted to see more.
Prescott bet on himself and proved his worth. In the 2019 season, throwing for 4,902 yards, 30 touchdowns, and only 11 interceptions. With negotiations continuing in the early days of the league year, the team decided to place the franchise tag on Prescott, with hopes of a long-term extension in the near future.
Early in free agency, there was speculation that the Cowboys would let Amari Cooper walk. He is a young and talented receiver in his prime, and the bidding would shoot his price up exponentially. Cooper and the Cowboys reached a 5-year, $100 million dollar extension to avoid that disaster.
Losing Cooper would’ve made wide receiver a glaring need for this team, with Randall Cobb deciding to sign with the Houston Texans on a 3-27 deal.
Dallas Cowboys Defense
Defensively, Dallas needs work. They decided against paying cornerback Byron Jones big money, and let starters Maliek Collins, Jeff Heath, and Robert Quinn walk. That’s a lot of talent to lose in one off-season, and the Cowboys acknowledged this by making moves of their own.
These moves will bolster the interior of their defensive line. To attempt to replace Quinn, the Cowboys made a low-risk move that can make them look like the smartest team in the room, or clowns. They signed Aldon Smith, the former stud pass-rusher to a one-year “prove-it” deal, with hopes he can regain his form.
The team made some other moves, such as signing Ha-Ha Clinton Dix and Maurice Canady to bolster their secondary. However, with a little over two weeks until the NFL Draft, it is clear the Dallas Cowboys still has work to do if they look to improve under new coach Mike McCarthy.
On paper, the pass-rush and the secondary are the two biggest needs for the Dallas Cowboys. When they attempt to address them is the bigger question.
Picking at #17 in the draft, the Cowboys are hoping to land one of the top-tier cornerbacks, interior linemen, or pass rushers. However, there is talk out of Dallas that they Cowboys may target one of the top three receivers in the draft, (CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs) if they fell to them at #17.
Should one of these receivers were to drop, it would leave the Cowboys in an interesting situation. Their offense remains largely intact from a season ago, with the only losses being Randall Cobb and Travis Frederick. With the wide receiver depth in this draft, they should be able to replace Cobb’s production with a mid-round pick.
However, these receivers are believed to be game-changers. With the Cowboys already having Cooper and Michael Gallup, adding another stud receiver could make this offense borderline unstoppable. If they decide on pulling the trigger, their goal for next season will be clear: score so many points that other teams can’t keep up.
However, it’s much more likely the Dallas Cowboys go defense early on. There had been talk they were enamored with LSU safety Grant Delpit, but with concerns of his tackling ability, he is slowly dropping out of the first round.
If Florida cornerback CJ Henderson was available at #17, then the Cowboys should run to the podium. He is an athletic corner who has shown the ability to blanket the best receivers in the SEC. With the loss of Jones, Henderson could slide right into his spot without missing a beat.
Other names to watch include LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson (LB), South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw (DT), Alabama’s Trevon Diggs (CB), and in a dream scenario, Auburn’s Derrick Brown (DT). Each of these defenders would improve this defense, and with the free agency additions, it could be vastly improved in 2020.
As always, the Cowboys will be the talk of the league. What they choose to do can signal to the rest of the league their plans for next season. By choosing to go defense, they’re confident they can replace their lost production. If they choose to go with one of the star receivers, they’re choosing to neglect their defense, and look to score 40 points each week. If I was the Cowboys braintrust, I’d go offense.