Five moves Cowboys should make in 2023 NFL offseason: Switch from Ezekiel Elliott, add explosive receiver

With the franchise tag deadline passed and free agency a week away, we’re officially thrust into the NFL’s offseason. Over the next few months, 31 teams will try their best to catch the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. This means that a whole bunch of roster moves are about to happen, in a pretty condensed period of time.

One such team chasing Kansas City (among others) is the Dallas Cowboys. This is a team that has looked relatively close to overtaking the top in recent years, but has been unable to make it past the divisional round of the playoffs. Obviously, this did not satisfy owner Jerry Jones. Alas, the Cowboys haven’t necessarily been aggressive enough to put themselves in a position to capitalize on the top talent on their roster.

With all that in mind, here are five moves the team needs to make this offseason, to ensure the 2023 campaign ends better than the 2022 one.

It has to happen, and it has to be a clean break. No pay cut, no reduced role. It’s not even really a decision the Cowboys have to make on their own; Elliott did it for them with his play.

He’s been pretty clearly outplayed by Tony Pollard for three consecutive seasons, and in 2022, Elliott’s last 50 carries have combined to gain 100 yards. That’s 2.0 meters per span, folks. He finished the season with a career-low average of 3.8 yards per carry, and among the group of 42 running backs with at least 100 bins last season, Elliott ranked 30th in yards after contact. per attempt, 32nd in tackle avoidance and 37th in explosive spike rate.

Right now, he’s expected to be on Dallas’ books for $16,720,000 in 2023, according to If the Cowboys cut it right away, they can save $4,860,000; if they label it as a post-June 1 release, they can save $10,900,000 – which would more than pay for the franchise label they just used on Pollard. More than anything, however, Elliott’s release must take place so that there is no illusion that he is still in the center of the attack, so that the coaching staff is not tempted to use it on more efficient players, or so that Jones can’t demand that they do so. Thank Zeke for his time and for the fantastic first years of his career, and move on.

Add explosive trick(s) for Dak

Here’s a look at the Cowboys’ passing numbers broken down by who the ball was thrown, among their wide receivers and tight ends. Tell me if you see anything that stands out:

Target Lamb CeeDee Not CeeDee Lamb
comp 107 186
Att 156 304
Comp % 68.6% 61.2%
yards 1359 2026
YPL 8.71 6.66
TD 9 16
1st down 67 100
1D/Time 42.9% 32.9%
Explosives 33 33
Expl % 21.2% 10.9%
Hit % 57.1% 47.4%

People, that’s what we call in business not good.

The Cowboys entered last season with a depth chart of Michael Gallup, Noah Brown, Dennis Houston, Simi Fehoko, KaVontae Turpin, James Washington and Jalen Tolbert, behind Lamb at wide receiver, and Dalton Schultz, Jake Ferguson, Peyton Hendershot and Sean McKeon tight end.

Predictably, Gallup did not return to his pre-injury form in his first season following a torn ACL. Houston, an undrafted free agent who outplayed third-round pick Tolbert during training camp, was unceremoniously eliminated earlier this year. Fehoko was placed on the injured list in October. Turpin made the Pro Bowl as a returner but did not contribute on offense. Washington broke his foot in training camp. And Tolbert has been a healthy scratch for most of the season. Dallas flirted with Odell Beckham Jr. for weeks and eventually signed TY Hilton, who immediately took on a big role. The team’s second best wide receiver last season was clearly Brown, a career special team member whose 43 catches for 555 yards and three scores all exceeded what he had accumulated in his first four seasons combined. That’s not the way to help your quarterback.

The free agent market for wide this offseason is virtually barren, with Jakobi Meyers looking like the best option. The Cowboys could make a U-turn with Beckham, but he will be in his freshman year following his second ACL tear. This is not a solution. They should be aggressively watching the trade market for players like DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Brandin Cooks, Courtland Sutton and even making calls to guys who are almost surely unavailable like Stefon Diggs or young stars like DJ Moore. There should be no stone unturned in the trade market, and they should also look at the pool of wide receivers potentially available at overall draft picks Nos. 26, 58, and 90. It’s a move that needs to happen. No more waiting and trying to cook things up by committee.

Schultz is likely to move to free agency, and the Cowboys can probably feel okay with Ferguson and Hendershot replacing him based on their play as rookies last year. But it’s also a team that likes to use multiple ends sets, and an injury to either or both players would leave them dangerously thin at the position. They need to add to the roster, whether through free agency or the draft.

Fortify the cornerback room

The Cowboys have a star-caliber corner in Trevon Diggs. They appear to have found another entry-level player in 2022 fifth-round pick DaRon Bland, who as a rookie has shown the ability to play both in the slot and on the perimeter. However, season-ending injuries to Jourdan Lewis (Lisfranc) and Anthony Brown (Achille) torpedoed their cornerback depth, and they spent most of the second half of the year scrolling through the candidates for the third cornerback spot.

Their 2021 draft picks — Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright — weren’t up to the task. Xavier Rhodes, Mackensie Alexander or Trayvon Mullen either. The best solution was to use safety Israel Mukuamu in the slot, which they did against the Buccaneers in the first round of the playoffs. It’s not a long-term solution. The Cowboys need to add bodies here, first and foremost, and they probably need to add a starter. I would expect them to use one of their Day 1 or Day 2 draft picks on a corner – and they should.

Decide the plan for Tyler Smith and Tyron Smith

Dallas still claims he will enter next season with Tyler Smith, Tyron Smith and Terence Steele all on the roster. Unless Steele’s recovery from ACL surgery isn’t going as well as the team claims, it doesn’t make much sense.

When Tyron Smith tore his hamstring in training camp last year, the Cowboys had to scrap their plan to start Tyler Smith at left guard and move him outside to tackle. He did pretty well, to the point that when Tyron was ready to return from injury, the team turned him over to right tackle – a position he hadn’t played since his rookie year. Hall of Fame career – to end for Steele. Tyron…didn’t play very well at right tackle. But he’s a living legend of the game who has always played at the All-Pro level on the left side of the line pretty much every time he was healthy.

However, he should count for $17,605,000 from the cap this season, and unless he’s playing left tackle, that’s not exactly acceptable. (The Cowboys would be rework Tyron’s contract to keep him in Dallas for 2023). If he plays left tackle and Steele plays right tackle, then Tyler Smith – who has just shown that he is probably your future left tackle – steps back inside to guard. And that’s not a good plan either. Cutting Tyron Smith to immediately save $9,595,000 or $13,600,000 after June 1 makes a lot more sense, unless Steele can’t play and you want to use Tyron on the right side.

If Tyler Smith is your left tackle of the future, then there are really only two options for Tyron: a move to the right side or a release. (It’s long been said that he’d rather retire than take a trade.) Dallas needs to decide if Tyler is left tackle, or if they want to delay their future by moving him inside so they can trying to retain some of their past. .

Keep or find a replacement for Donovan Wilson

In the last two seasons under Dan Quinn, the Cowboys have used all three Wilson, Jayron Kearse and Malik Hooker on the field together for 432 snaps, just south of 20% of the time. It was a big part of their defense, and at different times all three players contributed to an extremely high level.

Kearse struggled with injuries for much of last season, however, and Wilson – with his ability to play both in the box and up high – is clearly the most versatile of the trio. He is also the only one who is currently a free agent. Considering the Cowboys have invested less in the safety position over the past two decades than almost any NFL team, it seems Wilson’s departure is a real possibility.

If he leaves, Dallas can either turn to Mukuamu, change his defense structure, or go out and try to find someone who can replicate Wilson’s skills. They’re not likely to break the bank in free agency for a replacement, or spend a high pick on a safety. So they’ll have to tag someone either on a low-cost flyer (which Kearse and Hooker were in 2021) or with a late draft pick (which Wilson was four years ago). When you look at the results the Cowboys had from the position prior to assembling this trio of players, you see that finding these guys is easier said than done.

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