Not signing a free agent wide receiver could put the Cowboys in dangerous waters…again

Even though it was short-lived, the Dallas Cowboys‘ potential signing of veteran wide receiver Zay Jones kept our interest last week. And it’s not like this would’ve been some great get for the Cowboys. He’s 29 years old, played on three different teams, and he’s never had a 1,000-yard season over his seven years in the league.

But the excitement was there because Jones is above the typical bargain-bin shopping the Cowboys are accustomed to making in free agency. Packaging him with CeeDee Lamb and Brandin Cooks would’ve made a fine wide-receiving trio for Dak Prescott in 2024.

While those carrots are cooked, just the fact that Jones visited with Dallas is telling. The Cowboys had interest. Jones only cost $4.25 million, similar to how affordable veteran receiver Tyler Boyd was ($4.5 million). These are low prices to secure a good WR3. The notion that the Cowboys would entertain signing Jones makes us wonder what they see in third-year receiver Jalen Tolbert.

Now, all indications are they love Tolbert. He’s had two training camps already where he’s created a lot of buzz, but none of that has carried over to the regular season. His rookie year was dreadful as he had just two catches for 12 yards. His most notorious play was when he lined up offsides in overtime against the Green Bay Packers. Last year, the training camp hype grew even more, but once regular football started, Tolbert only came away with 22 catches for 268 yards.

It’s safe to say, we don’t know what the Cowboys have in Tolbert. We suspect we’ll once again start hearing about how great he looks, his growth in year three, and blah blah, but until he produces on the field, it’s hard to trust any of the talks surrounding potential.

The unsettling thing is if Tolbert doesn’t take that next step, where does that leave the Cowboys? They still have a strong wide receiver duo in Lamb and Cooks, but securing a third would be nice. Some like second-year receiver Jalen Brooks and we’re sure others will start building up new rookie Ryan Flourney, but are the Cowboys counting on them to be integral contributors this season?

Having another good receiver on the roster isn’t just important in securing a viable WR3, but they need someone who could step into a larger role if one of the top guys got hurt. Cooks is north of 30 years of age now. While he hasn’t missed any extensive time since his rookie year, he hasn’t played a full season at any point over the last five years. He missed one game last year with a knee injury, but what would the Cowboys do if this aging receiver was out of action for several games nursing an injury? And the team has been extremely fortunate with Lamb staying healthy as he’s only missed one game during his four years in the league. The Cowboys shouldn’t count on good health to always be there.

Twice during Prescott’s career, the Cowboys offense has been hamstrung by an inadequate wide receiving group. We all remember the 2018 season when the arsenal of Allen Hurns (295 yards), Tavon Auston (140 yards), and Deonte Thompson (124 yards) was so terrible it prompted the Amari Cooper trade. And then in 2022 after the team moved on from Cooper, the supporting cast of Michael Gallup (coming off knee surgery), Noah Brown, James “I never caught a pass” Washington, and the rookie Tolbert was extremely disappointing. Surely, the Cowboys don’t want to go through that ordeal again.

The Cowboys could have protected themselves with a little insurance policy in the form of Boyd or Jones for less than $5 million, but that time has passed. They would be wise to continue exploring potential free agents who can contribute in some type of WR2/WR3 fashion. Are there any players like that still out there? The pickings are getting slimmer, but here are a few candidates.

Courtesy of Pro Football Reference

What should the Cowboys do? Roll the dice and hope that one of the Jalen’s work out? Or bring in a low-cost free agent who takes on the WR3 role, but potentially impedes the progress of one of the young guys?


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