While the Dallas Cowboys’ offseason conversations have centered on pass rushers, tight ends, and a certain safety from Seattle, we can’t forget about special teams. Dallas must make at least one move to carry last year’s group into 2019, and they may want to consider upgrades at least one other spot.
It’s already been reported that the team want to bring back longtime Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur, who has an expiring contract. Ladouceur has been with the club since 2005, putting him just a year shy of the returning Jason Witten in total seasons with the Cowboys.
Though he turns 38 in a few weeks, Ladouceur has given no reason to think that his perennial perfection is at risk. He’s never been credited with a bad snap in his 14 seasons.
That performance record has kept him as one of the highest-paid long snappers in the NFL for some time, and that will likely also continue if he’s re-signed. However, that should cost them team a little over $1 million.
Keeping Ladouceur around could be very important, providing stability and no excuses, as the Cowboys decide what do at kicker. Despite some of his highlight moments in 2018, Brett Maher may not be what they’re looking for long-term.
It’s easy to get distracted by his two Special Teams Players of the Week awards and breaking the franchise record for longest field goal. Maher was glamorous at times, but his full body of work wasn’t even average compared to his placekicking peers.
As I wrote about a few weeks ago, Brett’s 80.6% was ranked 25th among NFL kickers in 2018 for total accuracy. He only hit 75% of his kicks between 30-39 yards and 64% from 40-49 yards, though one of those was blocked.
Maher’s proficiency from long distance, and his ability to hit from ranges most kickers can’t, is intriguing. But those kicks are still worth just three points, just like all the ones he missed. The Cowboys may decide that they prefer efficiency to flash.
That’s not to say Brett doesn’t deserve a chance to compete. He does, and his minimal salary makes it easy to keep him for that purpose. But there could be several top kickers on the market this offseason, who can hit from the 50s just as well as the closer ranges, and Dallas would be wise to look at them.
This is also a year when using a late-round draft pick on a kicker might be a good idea. Special teams is where you can wait until Day 3 and still potentially snag the best kicker coming out of college.
Unlike kicker and long snapper, don’t expect any moves at punter. Chris Jones still has three years left on his contract and is one of the best at directional punting and ball placement. Nobody has ever returned one of Jones’ punts for a touchdown in the regular season.
These specialists may only account for about 14% of the team’s total snaps in a season, but those plays have decided plenty of games. They still present the Cowboys with some big decision to make in this 2019 offseason.