The Dallas Cowboys have grown famous for maintaining the status quo at receiver but here’s why that could all change a year from now.
The Dallas Cowboys have fielded the same starting three receivers for the past five seasons. In league where roster churn is unavoidable, I don’t have to tell you how rare that is in this day and age.
Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley comprise the top of the Cowboys’ pecking order in the receiver ranks. Once considered among the best in the league, the trio is now under fire after collectively turning in the most disappointing campaign of their tenure.
While it’s very possible all three will line up together again this season in Dallas, it’s possible none of them will be wearing a star in 2019.
Dez: The writing is on the wall
Dez Bryant has faced some harsh criticism this offseason from both Cowboys Nation and the Dallas front office. Even as replacement options dry up in free agency, calls for his release continue. Bryant will count $16.5 million against the cap this season and releasing him will free up roughly half that amount. But with no clear replacement on the roster, such a move would be bold if not outright brash.
But next season things change considerably.
Cutting Dez Bryant next season would incur half of the dead money penalty (only $4M). It would also give the Cowboys two NFL Drafts in which to find his replacement.
Williams and Beasley
This season, Terrance Williams is in an exceptionally safe position, financially. According to Spotrac, he’s on the books for $4.75M this season but if the Cowboys cut him he’ll cost $7.25M in dead money. Since he’s cheaper to keep than he is to cut, he might be the safest receiver on the roster.
But, like with Dez, next season things change.
In 2019, Williams will cost the same amount to keep but only $2.5M in dead money if he’s cut. If he doesn’t live up to his contract this season, he’s easily expendable next season.
Cole Beasley will count $4.25M this season and will saddle the team with only $1M in dead cash should he be released. But since he’s only one-season removed from his best NFL season, the Cowboys will probably try resurrect their prized slot man in 2018.
But no matter what, Cole Beasley is an unrestricted free agent in 2019 and his replacement in the slot, Ryan Switzer, is already on the roster.
So with all three starting receivers financially expendable in 2019, the only task is replacing their productivity…
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As we know, the Dallas Cowboys prefer to do most of their important shopping in the NFL Draft. They rarely turn to free agency for much more than rounding out the roster and temporarily plugging mid-level holes.
The upcoming draft in 2018 appears to be deep in No. 2 receiver talent, but thin, if not devoid, of elite No. 1 receiver talent. Cutting Dez in 2018 would pin all hope of finding his replacement, on this draft. That’s pretty risky considering how thin it is at the top and how high the bust-rate for receivers tend to be.
Getting two shots at the draft is the ideal solution. If someone turns out to be a bust this year, the team has time to adjust next year.
If a highly drafted player proves to be only a solid No. 2, then the Cowboys found their replacement to Terrance Williams and still have another year to find the replacement to Dez.
And if they hit big this year, and find an elite talent at WR, then everyone drops a notch on the depth chart and the entire unit gets upgraded a season early.
Today’s to-do list
Today, the Cowboys must focus on the draft and finding replacements to Dez and/or Williams. The time to cut them will be at this time next season. Find the replacements now and cut bait tomorrow. It makes sense from a talent perspective as well as a financial perspective.
The Dallas Cowboys have long boasted stability in their WR ranks but that stability may be thrown out the window, at this time next year, when all three starting receivers are sent packing.