Setting the scene for the Dallas Cowboys’ roster moves

Free agency and then the draft threaten for the NFL. With all the problems the Dallas Cowboys faced last season, they have to do everything right to perform better this year. Before the official free agent signing begins and the draft rolls around, we need to look at where the roster is. Most of the players next season will be familiar faces after all. This is an attempt to identify where to take action and what type is most likely. First we will look at the offense and also the specialists.


This one is pretty easy, so let’s get it out of the way before we dive into the offensive.

They will likely re-sign LP Ladouceur, keep Greg Zuerlein and Hunter Niswander, and release Chris Jones. While Ladouceur always has the option to withdraw, he seems to want to come back. Since he’s still Mr. Perfect, this should be the logical choice for the team. And in a year of very little need to find extra space, the Jones release will free up $ 2 million. Assuming Ladouceur signs the same minimum veteran contract that he signed last season, the cowboys will be assigned a space volume of around $ 1 million. This type of compromise will be at play with many other roster decisions, but this one is formulated because it is so easy to explain and has so few parts.


Expect them to re-sign Dak Prescott on a multi-year contract, keep Garrett Gilbert and Ben DiNucci, and release Cooper Rush. Andy Dalton is going to be way too expensive to even start a conversation about bringing him back. If somehow you haven’t noticed, it’s important for the team to resolve this contractual situation for Prescott. Without repeating the entire debate again, this assumes that Dallas (i.e. the Jones family) have no choice but to strike a deal. If he were to play on Franchise Day again, it would not only hinder the Cowboys from managing the cap, but it would also potentially lead to his departure in 2022 and get the team back on the market for starters. The decision to part ways with him is even worse as they won’t find a better QB in either the free agency, or any deal, or draft (to avert an argument, Deshaun Watson is likely a wash in that regard). With a four-year contract (the most likely outcome, regardless of what the owners prefer), they can cut the cap hit from the $ 37 million that the tag would bring to about $ 10 million less.

All of this assumes that recent reports of concerns about his injured ankle don’t indicate a real problem. If he can’t recover enough to return, try to find a happy place in your head to escape to during this season.

Gilbert looked pretty good in his appearance against the Pittsburgh Steelers and could be of long term support. Unfortunately, DiNucci was just the opposite. PFF rated him the worst starting QB of the season in his one game. But how can you expect more from a seventh round development selection? Cooper Rush can be released, although they likely want to keep him as insurance should DiNucci fail to develop. If they approve of Cooper and need a fourth arm in stock, they can add that after the design.

Running back / fullback

There’s not much to do here with Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, and Rico Dowdle all under contract. They will likely put a late round / UDFA back into the draft, but that may not even be necessary.

This gives them a choice between Jamize Olawale and Sewo Olonilua as defenders. It just seems difficult to justify putting two candidates on the list, even so early on. Olawale sat as a COVID opt-out last year, making a decision more uncertain. If they don’t designate Olawale for a cut after June 1st, it actually saves them less space than Olonilua. As they may need this designation for other purposes, Olonilua may be released early.

Close end

Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz give the Cowboys a solid one-two punch in position. With Blake Bell, a free agent, Cole Hikutini and Sean McKeon open up spaces to get at least one shot through training camp. Bell was good last year, but there are better places to spend free agent dollars. As with walking back, they may look at what’s available on the third day of drafting or in the UDFA pool to bring another one into camp.

Broad receiver

You play with the starting trio of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb. Some have suggested swapping Gallup or even Cooper and relying on the usual WR depth in the design, but assuming Prescott is back and healthy, the established chemistry with all three is enough to make a change here undesirable.

Depth is another problem. Noah Brown is a free agent and Cedrick Wilson is a restricted free agent. That means they can likely re-sign Wilson if they choose, and the market may not be too high to bring Brown back. The question arises again of where to put your resources. Concerns about finding enough space for all of the things they need can make it harder for the team to bring one or both back.

Outside of the players listed above, they have Jon’Vea Johnson, Stephen Guidry and Aaron Parker under contract. WR depth is now a problem. As mentioned earlier, it’s almost always possible to find good ones on the second and third days of drafting. They proved that with Gallup. See them grab one, or possibly even two, this way and then add more as UDFAs as they have brought a lot of broad recipients into stock in the past. These first year newbies are cheap, and that’s not a minor consideration.

Offensive tackle

Now it’s getting really dark. We know about Tyron Smith and La’el Collins’ injury problems last year. Smith has missed time in the past five years in a row, and we cannot rule out the possibility of retirement for him. And when Collins’ own injury wasn’t a cause for concern enough, it showed up over the weekend.

To address the rumors – no, my client La’el Collins is not retiring. He loves soccer and the @dallascowboys and works for a Super Bowl ring.
Have a good weekend everyone!

– Deryk Gilmore (@DerykGilmore) February 13, 2021

This was a little strange as most of the rumors about it seemed unfamiliar. This supposed reassurance really only raised questions.

Brandon Knight and Terrence Steele certainly gained valuable experience filling out the form, but neither of them had a starting caliber at the end of the season either. The need to have high quality OTs was brutally illustrated by the way the Tampa Bay Buccaneers utterly abused the backups that the Kansas City Chiefs had to use in the championship. For all the uncertainty surrounding Smith and Collins, OT suddenly looks like one of the positions Dallas may need to spend premium design capital, maybe even tenth overall pick. It is perhaps the only position on crime that would warrant a look at available free agents for most years. But good OTs are one of the most expensive goods out there. You could try to sign what they think is one of their bargain specials, but that’s not the way to go.

The Cowboys also have Isaac Alarcon and William Sweet under contract. Alarcon is fascinating, but still a project that will likely take more than a year to bear fruit. This is a position on criminal offenses that needs serious attention in the draft.

Inside offensive line

The guard appears to be in good shape provided Zack Martin has no setbacks. Connor Williams proved to be the most reliable player on the line, and Connor McGovern’s extensive dedication should make him a better backup. The question is if Tyler Biadasz is the starter they need in the middle. He had somewhat mixed reviews in his games before he was injured. But Joe Looney will almost certainly be too expensive to bring back as a free agent. This leaves Adam Redmond as a backup center. The bodies are there, but the quality has not been proven.

This is one place where we may see an unexpected draft pick, especially if there is a mid to late round candidate who can play both center and guard. As with tackle, we may also see an inexpensive third or fourth wave signing here.

If you’ve got the hang of it, you might notice that the only free agents mentioned here as an option were those of the cowboys or when they are likely to the bottom of the barrel they seem to like. On the offensive, there are simply no obvious places where the team needs to sign a high value outside of seasoned talent. The relatively few holes they need to fill seem much more likely to be addressed by the design.

The defense picture is very different. The holes are far more numerous and there are definitely places that a veteran could be of great help. We will come back to this soon in the second part of this analysis.

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