The Dallas Cowboys ended their offseason program on June 14. Here’s a look at how they fared:
Offseason goals: By now Dak-friendly should be burned into everybody’s brain. The retirement of Jason Witten wasn’t friendly to Dak Prescott, but the Cowboys believe the release of Dez Bryant will help Prescott and the passing game. As great as Bryant was, the Cowboys believe Prescott is best when he goes through his progressions and makes the right decisions to find the open receiver instead of forcing it to one person. The Cowboys did not make the flashy free-agent signing, but they made some complementary additions (Allen Hurns, Cameron Fleming, Joe Thomas) and were able to find pieces in the draft that could help immediately (Leighton Vander Esch, Connor Williams, Michael Gallup).
Move I liked: The Hurns signing allowed the Cowboys to move on from Bryant, and it came at a lot cheaper price than the deal they were willing to fork over to Sammy Watkins, who ended up with the Kansas City Chiefs on a three-year, $48 million deal. The Cowboys have said many mistakes are made in free agency but were willing to overpay to get Watkins. It would have gone against their philosophy. Hurns can play multiple spots, has received rave reviews for his professionalism and has the chip on his shoulder to perform after two down seasons in Jacksonville because of injury. While the Cowboys will say they will go with a committee approach at receiver, Hurns could end up as at least the leader of the committee.
Move I didn’t like: Not signing DeMarcus Lawrence to a long-term extension. They were able to keep him on the franchise tag at a cost of $17.1 million this season, but that chews up a lot of cap space this year and ultimately means they could need to use the tag again in 2019 at around $20 million to keep him. They have until July 16 to get a long-term deal done with him or he has to play on the tag, but Stephen Jones said no talks have been scheduled with Lawrence’s agent. Perhaps the Cowboys want to see Lawrence follow up his big season (14.5 sacks) with another big season, but they could be forced to pick a player to use the tag on in 2019 (Lawrence or guard Zack Martin) if they can’t sign either guy to an extension. That’s not a good position to be in.
Biggest question still to be answered in training camp: Are the Cowboys set at safety? Ever since Earl Thomas told Jason Garrett to “come get me” after the Seattle Seahawks beat the Cowboys last December, there has been a dream among fans that Thomas will wear the star. Everybody is still waiting, although the teams did talk before and during the draft. The Cowboys are presently going with Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods as the starters with Kavon Frazier as the third safety. Veteran options remain available and the Cowboys could look at the spot again if they don’t see in-house progress once training camp begins.
Quotable: “I don’t necessarily know what you mean by 'in transition.' Transition to what? But we’re definitely a team that we got a lot of new things to us, a lot of new weapons, a lot of new guys. We’re a young and excited team. We’re all excited about it. We’re coming in, we know we have a long way to go, but that’s the fun part about it. It’s knowing that and coming in each and every day trying to get 1 percent better.” –- Dak Prescott on if the Cowboys are a team in transition in 2018.
Salary-cap space: $9,172,140 (per ESPN Stats & Information)
2018 draft picks: 1. LB Leighton Vander Esch (Boise State); 2. OG Connor Williams (Texas); 3. WR Michael Gallup (Colorado State); 4. DE Dorance Armstrong (Kansas); 4. TE Dalton Schultz (Stanford); 5. QB Mike White (Western Kentucky); 6. LB Chris Covington (Indiana); 6. WR Cedrick Wilson (Boise State); 7. RB Bo Scarbrough (Alabama).
Undrafted rookie free agents signed: QB Dalton Sturm (UT-San Antonio); RB Jordan Chunn (Troy); WR Marchie Murdock (Iowa State); TE David Wells (San Diego State); OT Jacob Campos (Iowa State); OL Bryce Johnson (St. Cloud State); DE Austin Larkin (Purdue ); DE James Hearns (Louisville); LB Joel Lanning (Iowa State); LB Kyle Queiro (Northwestern); CB Charvarius Ward (Middle Tennessee); CB Kam Kelly (San Diego State); CB Donovan Olumba (Portland State); S Tyree Robinson (Oregon)
Unrestricted free agents signed: WR Allen Hurns (Jacksonville Jaguars); OT Cameron Fleming (New England Patriots); LB Joe Thomas (Green Bay Packers); WR Deonte Thompson (Buffalo Bills); OL Marcus Martin (Cleveland Browns); Kony Ealy (New York Jets); OL Joe Looney (Cowboys); DE DeMarcus Lawrence (Cowboys)
Restricted free agents signed: DE David Irving (Cowboys)