When owner Jerry Jones hired ex-Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy to take over the reins in Dallas, it seemed that Big Mike had landed in the ideal situation. Despite their 8-8 record and failure to make the playoffs in 2019, Dallas was considered by many NFL followers to have had the most talented personnel in the league. As April dawns, however, free agency has taken a big bite out of the Cowboys’ roster.
Since free agency opened on March 18, here’s a list of free agents who have left Dallas and signed on with other teams, along with the average annual value (AAV) of their new deals:
CB Byron Jones – to Miami – $16.5M
DE Robert Quinn – to CHI – $14M
WR Randall Cobb – to HOU – $9M
DT Maliek Collins – to LVR – $6M
TE Jason Witten – to LVR – $4M
T Cameron Fleming – to NYG – $3.5M
G Xavier Su’a-Filo – to CIN – $3M
SS Jeff Heath – to LVR – $3M
Others who have left Big D and signed elsewhere, but for less than $2 Million per year, include DE Kerry Hyder, and CB Donovan Olumba.
Dallas has so far managed to re-sign these free agents from its 2019 roster: CB Anthony Brown, Kicker Kai Forbath, OLB Justin March, and CB C. J. Goodman – though only Brown (at $5.2M) re-signed for an AAV of more than $1.2 M.
Here’s are the Cowboys’ incoming free agents (from other teams) with an AAV of over $2M:
DE Gerald McCoy – from CAR – $6.1M
FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix – from CHI – $4M
K Greg Zuerlein – from LAR – $2.5M
The Dak Prescott Problem
Mike McCarthy has an even more daunting task than does Matt LaFleur, though both coaches are facing the prospect of having an inferior roster to that of 2019.
What’s the problem in Dallas? Under his rookie deal, quarterback Dak Presott averaged earnings of $680,000 per year. But according to NFL Network’s Jane Slater, Prescott has agreed to a 1-year deal for the 2020 season, in which he will make $33 million under the franchise tag. This explains why Dallas has had to let a bunch of high-pay players go.
It gets even worse for Jerry and Big Mike. The team continues to try to work out a long-term deal with Prescott, but negotiations are reportedly deadlocked. It seems Dak wants a short contract so he can take advantage of an expected salary cap rise (under the new CBA) in the coming years. He also wants lots of guaranteed pay over the first two years.
In sum, Prescott is getting a huge salary in 2020, though he’s currently scheduled to become a free agent in 2021. He’s inclined to shop his services around next year, rather than commit long-term to Dallas. This doesn’t make for a contented starting quarterback who was supposed to be the Cowboys’ franchise player over the next decade or more.
The Packers have a similar free agent scenario to that of Dallas: their departing talent is well exceeding that of their new free agent acquisitions. Green Bay lost Blake Martinez and Bryan Bulaga, and let Jimmy Graham go – their new AAV’s are $10.25M, $10M, and $8M respectively. The Packers might also part ways with Tramon Williams, Jason Valdheer, and Ibraheim Campbell, among others.
To date this contract season, Byron Jones has the highest free agent AAV of any non-quarterback, and Robert Quinn is only three slots behind him.
HaHa Clinton-Dix went from making $3M last year with the Bears to getting $4M from Dallas.
Ex-Packer Randall Cobb must possess a good luck charm. In his last three seasons in Green Bay, he never exceeded 66 catches, 653 receiving yards, or four TDs, but still averaged $10M per season. With Dallas last year, his pay slipped to $5M, but he rebounded with 825 receiving yards, though he started only six games and played in only 15 games. He averaged 15.1 yards per catch, the best of his career.
Though his production has been so-so for several seasons, he’s now back up to an average of $9M with his 3-year deal with Houston. The Texans obviously believe Cobb’s stats during his last three years in Green Bay was not an accurate reflection of his abilities.
Coach McCarthy is going to have a great challenge in 2020. He’ll have a lot of key players who weren’t with the team a year ago. Unless Dak gets a long-term contract, he’ll also have a petulant QB to deal with. Also, the Cowboys have a rabid fan base that’s demanding much better than an 8-8 season. I can see why Jerry Jones was inclined to hire a veteran NFL head coach. If McCarthy is not up to the task, then Dallas has a further problem, for McCarthy is under contract for the next five years – I don’t believe salary terms have ever been disclosed.