The 2020 Draft is now less than a month away, but with each loss in free agency it is becoming more and more important for the Dallas Cowboys. Having lost four key defensive starters plus Randall Cobb and Jason Witten, things seem to be getting weaker not stronger in Dallas.
However, expectations have to be managed to a degree. While the Cowboys have a roster that is expected to compete in 2020, there isn’t a lot of money to spend on big-name free agents. With the big contract for Amari Cooper, and Dak’s franchise tag still on the cap, Dallas have under $20 million less to spend this offseason per spotrac.
2020 Draft needs to strengthen the base
And this is the issue with hanging on to a championship-window the way Dallas has lately. Zeke got paid, Cooper got paid, the offensive line accounts for 20.35% of the cap, and Dak will likely occupy around 12% of it assuming he signs a long-term deal.
What all this means is there’s less money for the big free agents and more emphasis on the 2020 draft. Players like Byron Jones, arguably one of the best corners in the league is too expensive to keep. Robert Quinn, responsible for 29.5% of all Cowboy’s sacks last year, is too expensive to keep.
You can argue that’s sensible cap management, but in reality, the only reason the Cowboys can’t keep this skill players is because of hefty contracts elsewhere. By average per year, Cooper is the number two paid receiver, Zeke is the number two paid rusher, and if Dak gets the long-term deal he wants he will be either number one or two on the quarterback pay scale.
Is it wise to have such high paid skill position players? Maybe. But consider this, the Cowboys also have the fifth highest-paid right tackle and the fourth highest-paid guard. On defense, we have the highest-paid edge, and the seventh highest-paid inside linebacker.
All this is not to say those contracts aren’t worth it, just that it leaves less money for everyone else. So instead of keeping a Robert Quinn at $15 million per season, you get a Gerald McCoy. In this era of the NFL, it is unusual for a team to have such a collection of highest-paid players at their position.
What it all means is that you need better scouting, better recruiting, and better drafts. You can replace a Byron Jones with a really good rookie and pay him less over five years, what Jones will earn in two in Miami. The same with Randall Cobb.
If you want to accumulate some great, explosive pieces, you just need to hit on the 2020 draft. And that puts a lot of pressure on the front office, and the new head coach.