Cowboys' biggest 2023 offseason priorities


The Dallas Cowboys have a clear picture of where they stand heading into the offseason, but the path forward has a series of challenges. Dallas has finally established itself as a perennial postseason contender, winning 12 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in two decades. Now they have to figure out what it will take to make it to the next level and not just be talked about as championship contenders, but prove it with an appearance and hopefully victory in the NFC's final game.

Dallas wasn't far off, falling for the second year in a row to the eventual NFC runner up San Francisco 49ers. They were severely outplayed by Kyle Shanahan's bunch, though. They weren't at all overmatched by the Philadelphia Eagles this past season, and their division rivals are currently favored to win this Sunday's Super Bowl. So what tweaks have to be made for the Cowboys to be in this position in February 2024? It starts by addressing the following questions.

Get CeeDee Lamb some help

The Cowboys' plan at WR for 2022 was inherently flawed. Letting Amari Cooper go (yes, even for a fifth-round pick) wasn't the problem. The problem was their misguided attempt to replace his production.


(Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Think about it, Dallas' primary plans to augment the ascending Lamb were an ACL-recovering Michael Gallup and an ACL-recovering Odell Beckham, Jr.

How, Sway?

There will likely be three high-level veteran WRs to choose from this free agency as Keenan Allen and Michael Thomas could join Beckham if released by their respective teams. There's a tier below those guys as well. The draft isn't deep at WR prospects but there are certainly names to consider early. Whatever the case, Dallas can't rely on a Jalen Tolbert ascension nor a full Gallup recovery to 2019 levels.

FIgure out RB room


Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas has a decision to make on what they can do with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. Elliott's guaranteed money is up, but he has reportedly said he'll accept a pay cut. Structuring a deal with a base salary near league minimum and incentives that will balloon his pay (while not hitting the cap until earned) if he has to be the man again seems ideal. He's still capable of being a strong contributor in limited carries and his short-yardage game and pass pro remains elite. There's a role for that guy on any team.

Pollard is a more difficult choice. Despite the broken leg, he'll likely command north of the franchise tag amount on the open market. Dallas needs to decide what they want to do here. But the draft class seems to be loaded with talent from top to bottom at this position. Dallas could theoretically draft both a RB1 and RB2 on Days 2 and 3 (or just Day 3) and role with Elliott as the elder statesment RB3 who doesn't play special teams.

There's a lot to be considered here for Mike McCarthy and Stephen Jones, along with Will McClay's scouting team's insights.

What to do about Trevon Diggs' contract, CB depth chart


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Diggs is a No. 1 corner and his negotiation window is now open after completing his third year in the league. As a second-round pick, there's no fifth-year option as there is with Lamb, so time is of the essence for a new deal.

If Dallas feels a deal is reachable, they may not feel it necessary to go CB early. If it looks like Diggs is out the door after 2023 or he'll need to be franchised in 2024, then drafting a top corner could make a ton of sense.

It might make sense anyway, as even though DaRon Bland was a interception machine he gave up a ton of catches. Anthony Brown is out of contract but Jourdan Lewis has a year remaining. The club may also consider Israel Mukuamu as a potential Darren Woodson type, capable of playing safety and slot corner interchangeably.

There's also always a chance to see a bounce back from Kelvin Joseph or ascension from Nahshon Wright, but neither of those things should prevent moves to be made.

Dalton Schultz and the young TEs


Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Schultz proved his worth after a slow start due to injuries and he came through with three touchdowns in two playoff games as well. After a franchise tag, would Dallas pony up or turn the reigns over to youngsters Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot?

There's another option… adding a top-tier TE from this draft class and having three young TE studs for McCarthy to move around as chess pieces. Like RB, TE is very deep and talented in this draft class and there's a strong reason to believe adding another seam weapon to Prescott's options and the new scheme is the best way to move foward in addition to adding boundary talent.

What to do with Tyron Smith


(AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

It's wild to imagine that Smith's eight-year extension (on top of two remaining years) is finally set to expire, but it is. Entering the last year of his deal Smith is set to make $13.6 million. That can't be paid to a backup.

Either he starts at left tackle and they shift Tyler Smith inside, as was planned for 2022, or something is done with his deal. Something might be done anyway.

The choices are extension that lowers his cap hit to something reasonable or outright release. A release means Dallas has to go shopping for an alternative because they can't enter 2023 with only Matt Waletzko behind Smith and Terence Steele. Or they could, who knows what is planned with new OL coach Mike Solari.

Left guard domino effect


Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If Tyron is back, Tyler at left guard is a no brainer, but if not then there's the domino effect of having to replace Connor McGovern. He could be back, the team could draft a left guard of the future, or if things fall a certain way draft a left tackle and still move Tyler to left guard on a permanent basis.

Whatever the case may be, something needs to improve there.

Do they lock in to Dak Prescott for the next several seasons?


(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Prescott and his agent responded to being strung along for two seasons and two tags by using their leverage. Prescott got a four-year deal to again hit free agency when he would have if Dallas didn't delay his deal in the first place. He also got a no-tag clause and a no-trade clause. So his contract is set to end after 2024 and Dallas will have to pony up to keep him from testing the waters.

It behooves Dallas, also, to work something out this offseason. Prescott is looking at $31 million base salary and a $49 million cap hit in 2023.

There are two void years that a simple restructure can use to push cap hits forward, but that's risking New Orleans-Drew Brees territory if they do that too much. There's already $21 million in that boat on the 2025 cap and his 2024 hit is already sitting at $52 million.

Adding another three years to the deal would seem prudent, but there could be a wait-and-see approach as the front office and McCarthy are entering a bit of a dance themselves.

Non-star free agent question marks


Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Besides Pollard and Schultz, Dallas has to make decisions on several mid-tier free agents as well. Safety Donovan Wilson seems to be ascending at the right time. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has had two consecutive strong seasons for low pay.

Here's a full listing of Dallas' 2023 free agents.

Will they finally invest in a stout defensive tackle?


Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Whether draft or free agency, Dallas has refused to throw real money at the situation over the last five seasons or so, and it shows. Will they get Osa Odighizuwa a running mate that makes waves instead of just holding the fort the best they can?

A difference-making run stuffer has done wonders for other teams, but Dallas refuses to prioritize the position. Will that change in 2023?

Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire


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