There is no debating the three most important offseason moves for the Dallas Cowboys in 2020. But once they’ve made their free agency decisions on QB Dak Prescott, WR Amari Cooper, and CB Byron Jones, what will be the team’s next biggest priority?
Anything involving the starting quarterback is always the top priority. Whether it’s getting Prescott signed to a new contract or letting him walk and finding a replacement, this is obviously the biggest story for the Cowboys from now until it’s finalized.
The same really goes for Cooper and Jones as well. If either leaves, the team will not be content to allow the remaining players to move up into those number-one roles. Replacing either in the starting lineup will remain a primary objective for offseason business.
But once QB1, WR1, and CB1 are all settled, where do the Cowboys turn next?
Among the other major free agents this offseason are WR Randall Cobb and DE Robert Quinn. Given how much they contributed to the team in 2019, keeping or adequately replacing them this offseason is vital.
Cobb had a strong first season in Dallas as the number-three receiver. While a starting duo of Cooper and Michael Gallup makes life easy for anyone, expecting guys like Noah Brown, Devin Smith, or Cedrick Wilson to move into that role would be a major leap.
With Mike McCarthy now the Cowboys’ head coach there’s little doubt that Cobb, a longtime Packers receiver under McCarthy, will be re-signed. But that factor aside, keeping or replacing Cobb with a talented third receiver would still be a significant move for the offseason.
Even if Cobb walks, though, he was still just the third receiver. Dallas could make do far better there than if they lose one of their starting defensive ends.
On the defensive line, Robert Quinn and Maliek Collins are starters with expiring contracts. And while there are some young prospects at their positions, none of them have shown enough yet to be fully trusted as replacements.
If Quinn leaves, third-year DE Dorance Armstrong is an athletic pass rusher who has flashed potential in limited opportunities. There’s also Joe Jackson, but his skills are more as a run stopper.
At defensive tackle there’s Trysten Hill, last year’s 2nd-round pick, plus veteran Tyrone Crawford. Both are built to play the same “3-tech” position on the line that Maliek Collins has.
It seems pretty clear that keeping or replacing Quinn, though, is of vital importance to the Cowboys for 2020. You expect guy like Trysten Hill to move into a starting role in his second year, or at least to be given that opportunity. You shouldn’t have drafted him otherwise.
You can’t say the same for guys like Armstrong or Jackson at defensive end. They certainly could emerge as starters one day but making that part of your strategy now would be foolish based on what we’ve seen.
Some might argue that the safety position should be discussed here. After all, Jeff Heath and Kavon Frazier are both free agents. But Donovan Wilson is a guy who has generated a lot of excitement and I think would be a worthwhile experiment in a larger role.
The one potential mitigating factor for losing Robert Quinn at DE would be if Randy Gregory can finally return to football. It sounds like he’s spent 2019 trying to put his life in order to make that return a lasting success, so perhaps that finally comes in 2020.
But again, counting on Gregory would be foolish given his history. If he gives us anything in the future it has to be a luxury rather than a necessity.
So yes, Robert Quinn and his starting role at defensive end are key components to our offseason needs. If figuring out what to do with Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Byron Jone are the top three items on the Cowboys’ 2020 to-do list, then Quinn should be number four.