It is said that 10% of the people in the world control 90% of the wealth. Successful business folks will tell you that safe, surface-level ideas will get you nowhere.
When you see the masses migrating in one direction, cut through them, and head the opposite way.
The Cowboys have some unsettled contract business on offense. QB Dak Prescott, WRs Amari Cooper, and Randall Cobb are all technically set to be free agents at this time. Now, we all know that Prescott will not be turned loose, even if the franchise tag must be applied to secure his services for the immediate future.
The Cowboys have optimism about retaining Cooper. Cobb, who really seemed to enjoy his first season as a Cowboy, now has the chance to stay in Dallas and play for the man who drafted him. Retaining Cobb with a fair offer shouldn’t be much of a task.
The defense also has some key players heading for free agency, and there is much less certainty about how things may shake out on that side of the ball. If the borderline condescending tone the front office has taken lately regarding cornerback Byron Jones is any indicator, the best player in the Cowboys secondary is headed out the door.
The team would probably like to retain defensive end Robert Quinn, but crossing age 30 and coming off a nice bounce-back season, the veteran may be looking for one last big payday. Coming off 11.5 sacks in 14 games, he may very well get it.
Defensive tackle Maliek Collins is set to hit the market, along with linebackers Joe Thomas and Sean Lee, and sub-set corner Anthony Brown.
If the Cowboys needed to field a defense today, it would be DeMarcus Lawrence and a bunch of guys. The unit would need substantial contributions from guys like DE Dorance Armstrong, DT Trysten Hill, and CB Chidobe Awuzie. Thank goodness the season doesn’t start in February because imagining that squad is one unsettling mental exercise.
Of course, the Cowboys will have a free agency like every other team in the league, but we know that the Cowboys’ modus operandi in free agency in recent years has not included big spending in free agency. With so much unfinished contract business to be done just to keep its own guys, it’s even harder to imagine this team making any sizeable ripples in the free agency waters.
The Cowboys’ defense, a unit that underwhelmed in 2019 and stands to lose some key pieces, can not be fixed in one draft, and certainly cannot be repaired by one player.
The offense, however, averaged over 27 points per game and led the league in yards per game by a comfortable margin.
What if the Cowboys went against conventional, surface-level thinking, and with it’s a single most valuable resource (17th overall selection in 2020) opted to turn it’s strength (offense) into an unstoppable superpower, rather than plug one of many holes on it’s the defense? One player cannot solve all of the team’s deficiencies on defense, but the right guy can absolutely put the Cowboys offense over the top.
Four 1st round prospects come to mind when envisioning players who could make the Dallas offense virtually impossible to stop.
Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy, Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III, and TCU’s Jalen Reagor could each add a different flavor of firepower to the Cowboys passing game.
The just otherworldly, blazing, coverage-wrecking speed of Ruggs and Reagor is something we haven’t seen in a Cowboy uniform really since the days of Joey Galloway and Raghib Ismail. Either of these speed merchants would change the look of the field for the quarterback, and the 2nd and 3rd level looks for ball carriers, as both Ruggs and Reagor absolutely demand special vertical attention.
Ruggs is an absolute blur, and much more than just a track athlete in a football player’s costume. Ruggs is a smooth athlete with sudden feet, a good route runner, and surprisingly good at going up and fighting for the football despite being a bit on the thin side.
Jalen Reagor is a burner in the same echelon as Ruggs but comes with a sturdier, more compact build. Reagor also has experience handling the ball on jet sweeps and doubles as a return man. The perpetually pedestrian Cowboys special teams desperately need a shot in the arm, and a dose of Reagor would do wonders.
Lamb and Jeudy can both run as well, though neither is in the same class speed-wise as the aforementioned two. Jeudy has elite agility and footwork and is a route running master beyond his year’s a` la Amari Cooper. Jeudy, like Cooper, is suited to play both inside and outside. Having he and Cooper on the field at the same time would be an absolute nightmare for defenses.
CeeDee Lamb is a good route runner himself, but his strengths are fighting for the football, and being an absolute wizard after the catch. Lamb teleports out of impossible situations like a ball carrier and is always a threat to score. Like Reagor, Lamb is also a dangerous kick returner, amplifying his potential value to the Cowboys.
The Cowboys offense is tantalizingly close to being a 31-34 point per game offense. With any help from a kicking game that was dismal in 2019, this team could be fit to hang pinball scores weekly. Investing in a game-busting wideout doesn’t only benefit you in high scoring affairs. The low scoring defensive slugfests are where offensive playmakers really prove their worth.
Think of how many games the Cowboys literally needed just one big play to turn the tide. Games where the offense is bogged down and just needs a chunk when sustained drives are too tough to come by.
Think of the road games in New Orleans, New England, Philadelphia. One busted coverage, one broken tackle, one punt return in the Cowboys’ favor and they win those games. Sometimes all you need is just one play.
Where can the team find the snaps for another WR?
Devin Smith, Tavon Austin, Ventell Bryant, and Cedrick Wilson combined for 538 WR snaps in 2019. Let’s start there. Give the newly acquired 1st round wideout every single one of those, to begin with. That’s almost half of the Cowboys offensive plays in 2019. Jason Witten was out there clogging up the offense for 845 snaps last season. While most of those snaps should go to Blake Jarwin, any snaps that Witten didn’t take as an inline tight end could theoretically go to a WR. It’s not hard to carve out a way to get a rookie wideout up to 720 snaps. That’s the number Randall Cobb played last season, and he is pretty much universally thought of as a valuable cog in the offense.
Furthermore, Amari Cooper’s lower body is a ticking time bomb, and while Randall Cobb was able to participate in 15 games in 2019, I’d take the under on him duplicating that number given his age and injury history. It’s not at all difficult to envision a scenario where a rookie wideout logs 800-900 snaps in this offense.
The ultimate ideal, that every NFL team strives to have is a dominant offense and a dominant defense. In a capped league, attaining dominance on both sides of the ball is a virtual impossibility, but it’s still the target for every franchise. Until you have a dominant unit, you have a debt on that side of the ball. That debt is paid off by talent acquisition whether it be through free agency or the draft.
The Cowboys, like most teams, are in debt on both sides of the ball. While Dallas’ defensive debt is seemingly headed for collections, it’s offensive debt is minuscule, small enough to be canceled out with a single transaction.
One of the chief rules of credit health is; you pay off and cancel out smaller debts before you start throwing resources at higher balances that are likely to take much longer to pay in full.
The Cowboys would be wise to use their 1st selection to close out that offensive account and ensure they are great at something in 2020 before they begin to chip away at their defensive debt.
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