State of the (Cowboys) Nation

The Cowboys: Back in the muddled middle, again…

Result: Missed Playoffs

2019 Regular season record: 8-8

2019 Scoring Offensive Rank: 6th 27.1 PPG 

2019 Scoring Defensive Rank: 11th 20.1 PPG

2020 Draft First Round Pick: 17 

Coach: Mike McCarthy

The Offseason Scenario

This team should have been better than their 8-8 record, for what seems like the tenth time in the last decade. That’s not true.  They’ve only been 8-8 in four of the last ten seasons, and they did win the NFC east in 2018. But the Cowboys are beginning to feel like more sizzle than steak yet again. 

That mediocre record is a tough one to swallow, especially if you consider that the Cowboys lost to both the Jets and Lions this year (both should have been walk away victories), and a week sixteen loss to the Eagles that sealed their fate.  The Cowboys were, by far, the best team in the division…on paper at least. When we see teams with scoring offense and defense both in the top third, we expect a playoff berth. The Boys posted a scoring differential of +113, that was the third-best in the NFC, and 82 points better than the Eagles, who won the division. 

So, the question that the Cowboys face is this: How do they get back to the playoffs?

Free Agent Frenzy

Logic would dictate that the first thing would be to retain Dak Prescott, who ranked second in the league in passing yards, with over 4900, and fourth in touchdown passes, with 30.  The Cowboys did so, but had to get the job done with the franchise tag, a move that is both expensive (not unbearably so with Prescott, who would have commanded near top of the market salary in any case), and runs the risk of frustrating one of the league’s top players. 

Many QB contract discussions stumble over length, and this one was no exception, but not in the way you’re imagining. The Cowboys wanted to lock Dak up for the long haul, but the QB wanted to jump into a short, sweet deal that would allow him to renegotiate after the new CBA takes effect.  That’s pretty much exactly the opposite of every contract dispute that you’ve ever heard of.

As for Dak’s targets, the Cowboys were successful in locking down their number one receiver, Amari Cooper, to a five-year, $100 million dollar deal. Pair that with last season’s long-term deals with RB Ezekiel Elliot and DE Demarcus Lawrence, and the Cowboys should have some decent continuity on both sides of the ball heading into 2020.  Now we’ll see if they can parlay that into a playoff spot.  

Seriously Premature Draft Hunches

With Jason Witten gone, some Cowboy fans will be screaming for Mike McCarthy to jump all over the hole at tight end.  The problem is…there just aren’t too many NFL-ready tight ends to be had in this year’s draft. With that said, there’s probably a glaring need that the Cowboys CAN answer with that number 17 overall pick: safety.  This draft is more or less loaded with WR and secondary talent, and the top safeties might well still be in play when Dallas picks.

I’d expect that to be one of the top SEC defenders, like Alabama’s Xavier McKinney or LSU’s Grant Delpit.  McKinney is definitely NFL ready and was extremely versatile in Alabama’s ever shifting defense. If he’s still on the board, I don’t see how Dallas can look past him. Delpit is almost sure to be available but is perhaps better suited to a more specific strong safety role… if he bulks up.  At his current weight (6’2”, 213lbs.) he’s likely to get bulldozed by more powerful tight ends and receivers. If he’s the best safety left on the board, it might mean a last second judgment call for Mike McCarthy and his team.  

For more thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.

Image Source: AP Images

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