Dak Prescott is now under contract. The real free agency for the Dallas Cowboys begins.
Jerry Jones and company will need to build Dallas back into a contender. Offensively, things should run smoothly since 10 of the 11 names from the 2019 No. 1 offense are signed through for 2021.
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Defensively? Not so much.
Dan Quinn's defensive approach will hopefully be better than Mike Nolan's. It can't get worse after Dallas regressed to 31st in stopping the run and 23rd overall.
Quinn and Joe Whitt Jr. will have their hands full this offseason in rebuilding the trenches, but there's little help in the secondary. Xavier Woods, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis are expected to hit free agency. Will Donovan Wilson step up? Can Trevon Diggs be the top cornerback?
Quinn's defensive style has been known to run a base five-defensive back set with Atlanta. So ...
How about Anthony Harris of the Vikings? Scouts believe he can succeed in any scheme, and while last year was a down year in Minnesota, he played at a Pro Bowl level in 2019.
Problem? He's projected to be a $12 million APY guy - and that doesn't fit Dallas' plan as we know it.
How about John Johnson III of the Rams? He's 25, four years younger than Harris, and while he's not known as a ballhawk, he has been a playmaker. But ... you guessed it: If he's a $10 million APY guy, Dallas is likely to lose out on the bidding.
We've mentioned Patrick Peterson of the Cardinals, and the concept of asking him to shift to safety. But a) we're not sure he likes that idea and b) he's been a $14 mil corner. Seems unlikely.
A name floating around the realm would be Keanu Neal to take over for Woods. However, Dallas would need a "rover" type defender to do a little of both.
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Would former Raiders defensive back LaMarcus Joyner fit the bill?
Joyner, who was released Monday two years into his four-year, $42 million deal with Las Vegas, struggled to find stability. He finished last season with 66 tackles, five passes defended and six tackles for loss in 14 games.
One of the biggest knocks against Joyner was his usage in Paul Guenther's defensive look. Before Vegas, the 30-year-old thrived with the Los Angeles Rams as a free safety, helping Wade Phillips' defense finish third in interceptions with 18 total takeaways, four coming from him in a contract season.
He struggled immensely when asked to play the slot cornerback role for Las Vegas.
Back in free agency, Joyner will maybe looking for a "prove-it" deal after failing to cause a turnover in two seasons. According to Over the Cap has his value at $3.5 million per year, well within the Cowboys reach.
Does he fit Quinn's system?
Joyner's saving grace is he's a willing tackler in the open field. Although his coverage skills have declined over the season, was that due to coaching? In nine years, Joyner has tallied 420 tackles,21 tackles for losses and five sacks.
Dallas needs cheap contracts and veteran talent. The connection game with Quinn is a factor; the Joneses say he'll be involved in major personnel decisions. ...
So that's why we list Neal and others like him. (See here.)
But we think Joyner should be on the "realistic wish list,'' too. ... again, viewing guys like Harris and Johnson as maybe a bit too pricy. (By the way: Xavier Woods deserves mention, and we should touch on Malik Hooker, too, though the injury issue is a concern.)
Adding a name like Joyner's shouldn't stop the Cowboys from adding multiple defensive backs in the draft, but it could buy them time to allow the young names to learn the system.
Everything comes down to price. On a low deal, we think Joyner's name might be one to watch for come signing time.
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