Cowboys news: Draft class still receiving praise, but intriguing free agents still available

Cowboys land 4 players in ESPN’s top-100 draft values – Mario Herrera Jr., Inside The Star

The Cowboys may have gotten good value with a lot of their draft picks, but will they get the starting-caliber talent they need?

A few days ago, ESPN NFL Journalist Matt Miller published an article with his top-100 draft values and the top two on the list feature the Chicago Bears picks of QB Caleb Williams and WR Rome Odunze.

There are several Philadelphia Eagles on the list, headlined by cornerbacks Quinyon Mitchell and Cooper DeJean making the top 12.

The Dallas Cowboys were honored four times. Their first selection at #36 on the list and their last locking in the 88th slot out of 100.

#36 OT Tyler Guyton

The Cowboys’ 1st-round pick, Tyler Guyton also tops the list for Dallas’ selections to Miller’s top 100, coming in at #36.

“Entering the draft, the Cowboys had issues at left tackle, running back, center, and linebacker. The front office waited and played the board well, trading back and still getting one of the top tackles in the class.

“Guyton should be seen as a developmental player after just 15 starts in college, but Dallas does a great job identifying talent and coaching it up on the line (as we saw with Tyler Smith before him).”

The massive offensive tackle from Oklahoma was almost a telegraphed pick to the Cowboys based on how they’ve drafted before.

He is raw but he has the traits the Cowboys look for in offensive tackles, standing nearly 6’8″ tall and weighing in at 322lbs with 34 1/8″ arms.

Free Agents Cowboys Should Pursue After 2024 NFL Draft – Kristopher Knox, Bleacher Report

The Cowboys seem comfortable with what they have, but some names that could help remain available in free agency.

Dallas did turn back to the free-agent market post-draft, signing former running back Ezekiel Elliott to a one-year, $2 million deal. The Cowboys may not be done bargain-hunting, though, with just $4.5 million in cap space remaining, they may also have to get creative with their contract construction.

Here, we’ll examine three available free agents Dallas should pursue in the post-draft window of free agency.

WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling

The Cowboys have one great receiver in CeeDee Lamb and a lot of questions after him. Brandin Cooks was mostly just fine in 2023, Jalen Tolbert is still developing and Michael Gallup is gone.

Dallas did take a sixth-round flier on Southern Missouri State’s Ryan Flournoy, but it could stand to have more depth at receiver.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling is one of the more notable names left on the market, and his skill set would also fit with the Cowboys. The speedy, if sometimes inconsistent, receiver can play on the perimeter or in the slot. He would also give Dallas another potent deep threat to help back off opposing defenses.

Valdes-Scantling had his fair share of ups and downs with the Kansas City Chiefs over the past two years, but he came up big in the 2023 postseason. He caught eight passes for 128 yards and a touchdown in the playoffs and had two grabs on Kansas City’s overtime game-winning drive in Super Bowl LVII.

For a Cowboys team that hasn’t advanced past the divisional round since 1995, Valdes-Scantling’s Super Bowl experience could be quite valuable—if Dallas can land him on a team-friendly deal.

Stephen Jones blames failure to pursue Derrick Henry on salary cap – Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk

The Cowboys were not willing to spend anywhere close to the top market price for a free agent RB this offseason.

Appearing with Adam Schein of SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio, Cowboys executive V.P. Stephen Jones addressed the failure to make a phone call to Henry.

“Well, first of all, nothing but respect for Derrick Henry,” Jones said. “I mean, he’s one of the top backs in this league. He’s had one of the great careers in this league. I wish him nothing but the best with the Ravens. I’m sure a great place for him. Our situation is just, you know, and no one ever wants to say it, but it’s salary cap, and we just didn’t have the money to allocate to that position in terms of where we were from a cap standpoint, knowing what we’re looking at with Dak [Prescott] and certainly Micah [Parsons] and CeeDee Lamb. We just didn’t have those type of resources to allocate to that position or we probably would’ve already had it filled with Tony Pollard. We hated to lose Tony Pollard. We had to lose Zeke the year before from a cap standpoint. And, you know, we just didn’t have the dollars to allocate to the running back position. And, certainly, looking to do it in a more efficient way in terms of how it complements the rest of our offensive roster.”

If they had reached a deal to extend the contracts of Prescott and/or Lamb, however, their cap numbers for 2024 — $55.45 million and $17.991 million, respectively — would have dropped, creating room for other positions. That’s how these things go. Cap space gets created, can gets kicked, team can go all in, or something like it.

How CeeDee Lamb, WR corps help Cowboys running game in 2024 – Reid Hanson, The Cowboys Wire

The Cowboys may not have a true lead running back, but they have plenty of players that can line up in the backfield.

Using WRs as an extension of the running game is nothing new in the NFL. It doesn’t take Deebo Samuel or a Shanahan offense to get the ball into the hands of these untraditional ball carriers, Mike McCarthy showed last season even he can find ways to give carries to his top pass catcher.

Averaging just under one carry per game, Lamb was quite the formidable weapon on the ground. Whether it was a handoff around the edge, or a run between the tackles, Lamb was consistently successful. His 85.7% success rate as a runner was far and away better than any of the Cowboys’ traditional ball carriers. His 8.1 yards/attempt were staggeringly efficient with over 57 percent of his carries going for either a first down or touchdown.

Given the wear and tear associated with the ground game and Lamb’s importance in the passing game, he’s obviously limited in terms of volume. But Lamb isn’t the only WR on the roster, and given the rawness of the WR room overall, rushing attempts may be exactly what this group in Dallas needs to manufacture opportunities.

Behind Lamb and Brandin Cooks are a number of viable candidates in the WR room. KaVontae Turpin leads the list of explosive playmakers starving for opportunities. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound human joystick averaged 10 yards per carry as a runner last season. The problem was he only logged 11 attempts. While Lamb is too valuable to the passing game to risk overusing as a runner, Turpin is primarily just a return man. The risk isn’t as severe with Turpin and the reward could be astronomical.

Even if Turpin just averaged one rushing attempt per game, he’d establish himself as a threat and could be used in motion as a decoy to spread out defenses and create more opportunities for others.

Bland talks prep after historic season, Diggs return – Patrik Walker,

It will be exciting to see what DaRon Bland and Trevon Diggs can do together in Mike Zimmer’s defense.

“It’s definitely harder to keep a low profile after last season, but I’m enjoying it,” said Bland, wearing a big smile after enjoying the 2024 Reliant Home Run Derby to benefit The Salvation Army.

But don’t plan on him changing his approach this offseason because, well, it ain’t broke so Bland isn’t trying to fix it.

“It’s all been the same,” said the First-Team All-Pro of his offseason approach heading into Year 3. “Gotta keep it the same. “I always have the same expectations. It [did] improve my confidence, going into more years in this league as well. I’m going into my third year so, yeah, I’m more confident now.”

It certainly works in the Cowboys’ favor that Bland isn’t the only record-setting cornerback that will take the field for them in 2023, seeing as Trevon Diggs is currently on track to be available at the start of training camp after suffering a torn ACL last September.

The loss of Diggs was a massive blow to Dallas’ defense, and Bland’s excellence helped to stop the bleeding. In the months to come, however, Diggs will return to a defense that features an ascended Bland playing the opposite boundary, versus the version that was previously set (in 2023) to split reps with Jourdan Lewis in the nickel before injury rocked the depth chart.

For his part, Bland could not be more thrilled with Diggs’ return.

“A lot of people aren’t expecting what Tre is gonna come back with,” he said of his fellow First-Team All-Pro and former NFL interceptions leader. “I know what Tre is gonna come back with, and it’s gonna be something dangerous. I can’t wait.”

A huge reason for the instant success of both Diggs and Bland at the NFL level is attributable to a coaching staff that features Al Harris, who received a promotion this offseason to assistant head coach — while also retaining his original duties as defensive backs coach.

Cowboys already have significant disadvantage in quest for back-to-back NFC East titles – Mauricio Rodriguez, A to Z Sports

The 2024 NFL schedule will be released this month, possibly as early as next week.

Cowboys have a much tougher schedule than the Eagles do in 2024

Although many insist on using last year’s win-loss record to determine strength of schedule, things change so quickly in the NFL that is always a better idea to use Las Vegas’ win total projections for the upcoming season. Although the betting world doesn’t get everything right, they’re usually pretty darn close in the grand scheme of things.

Using this method, popularized by Warren Sharp from Sharp Football, the Cowboys’ schedule ranks 22nd in the league (32nd being the toughest). Meanwhile, the Eagles will face the 9th easiest schedule.

The difference is massive for a division that has consistently come down to the wire in recent years. After finishing first in the NFC East last year, the Cowboys will be squaring off against the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions, which appear to have a lot of continuity after finishing 2023 as the best NFC teams. Meanwhile the Eagles avoid both squads in a relatively thin NFC.

The Cowboys also get the Houston Texans as their “17th game” which means they’ll need to face the rising C.J. Stroud, who will now count with Stefon Diggs to target in the passing game.

Ultimately, the division will largely come down to how the Cowboys fare against the Eagles in their two games next season. But any advantage (or disadvantage) matters in a race that hasn’t been won in back-to-back years by any team since 2004, which is the case for the NFC East crown.


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