Most of the focus on the linebacker position has been placed on Jaylon Smith, as the Dallas Cowboys’ most famous defender. However, there’s another player they invested major capital in who hasn’t lived up to his finest campaign in two years, either. Leighton Vander Esch gets the spotlight treatment.
While that position is a huge question mark, the exact opposite is the case when it comes to the fast and furious wide receiver corps, who stand among the league’s best. Are there any concerns there which need to be addressed this offseason, via free agency or the draft? Modeling Dak Prescott’s contract, changes to the defensive line and a look at the overall salary cap picture round out this edition of Cowboys News and Notes.
2021 NFL offseason: All 32 teams’ WR situations ahead of free agency, draft :: NFL.com
Link The Cowboys may have some roster issues to address, but WR isn’t one of them, according to NFL Network’s analytics expert. Cynthia Frelund says “there’s not a lot of strategy to discuss or problems to address” with the Dallas receivers, provided the starting quarterback stays in the lineup. The Lawfirm of Cooper, Gallup, and Lamb was the 2020 league leader (in yardage) on passes of 10-plus air yards before Dak Prescott went down. They ranked third in the number of such receptions and fifth in touchdowns on those passes during those five weeks.
Dallas Cowboys: Case for drafting an offensive lineman in the first round :: The Landry Hat
Link Injuries were a major storyline for the 2020 Cowboys, especially along the offensive front. After giving up just 23 sacks (second-fewest in the NFL) in 2019, the team’s cobbled-together front five allowed a staggering 43 last season. While Oregon’s Penei Sewell likely won’t be on the board when Dallas drafts in the No. 10 slot, Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater and Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrishaw should warrant serious consideration as the club looks to reverse that trend.
Progress Report: Bounce-Back For Vander Esch? :: Dallas Cowboys
Link After an impressive rookie campaign in 2018, things were looking up for Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. Unfortunately, injuries and declining play have hampered each of his last two seasons. Rob Phillips of DallasCowboys.com breaks down Vander Esch’s most recent season, and outlines how the young defender can get back on the right track.
Leighton Vander Esch must perform well in critical 2021 season :: Inside the Star
Link The Boise State linebacker enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom in his rookie campaign. His last two seasons, though, have been largely marred by injuries. “The Wolf Hunter” now faces a critical fourth season, and how he performs will likely have significant ramifications when it comes to determining his long-term prospects in Dallas.
Cowboys positional review: The changes to expect from Dallas’ defensive line :: The Athletic
Link Kicking off a position-group-by-position-group breakdown, Jon Machota starts with the defensive line. Expect changes under newly-hired coordinator Dan Quinn, for whom D-line is a specialty. Smart money says Quinn will revert to “something that looks much more like the base 4-3 scheme they were running under Rod Marinelli from 2013 through 2019.” The goal is to be fast and aggressive, without being overly complicated from a scheme standpoint.
A short, virtually fully guaranteed Prescott contract? A former agent says yes :: Cowboys Wire
Link It’s common knowledge that the Cowboys want to re-sign Dak Prescott, and that Prescott wants to re-sign with Dallas. However, differing preferences in the details of the contract have caused negotiations to stall. Find out what former agent, Joel Corry, thinks the Cowboys should offer to get a deal done with their franchise quarterback.
Mailbag: Salary Cap Refresher Before Free Agency? :: Dallas Cowboys
Link In the latest edition of Mailbag, Cowboys staff writers Rob Phillips and Nick Eatman do their best to answer two fan-submitted questions. Today’s question revolve around the confusing 2021 salary cap, and what type of franchise tag options do the Cowboys have with Dak Prescott?