Dallas Cowboys’ NFL free-agent signings 2021: With Dak Prescott signed, cross rush and secondary get a lift


NFL free company is off and working, and we’re preserving monitor of each main signing, commerce and launch of the 2021 offseason, with evaluation from our NFL Nation reporters and grades from our consultants. The brand new league yr started March 17, which means free-agent signings could possibly be made official after that. The primary spherical of the 2021 NFL draft begins April 29 on ESPN.

The largest transfer the Dallas Cowboys made thus far is preserving Dak Prescott on a four-year, $160 million deal. Many of the strikes they’ve made in free company thus far has been designed to plug holes in a protection that had far too many leaks in 2020. The Cowboys had been and aren’t going to play within the excessive finish of the market, however they’ve been capable of finding assist in the secondary and line of defense with preserving slot nook Jourdan Lewis and including security Keanu Neal, defensive ends Brent City and Tarell Basham and defensive sort out Carlos Watkins. They managed so as to add a swing sort out in Ty Nsekhe, which is an enormous spot contemplating Tyron Smith’s well being.

Not one of the strikes made thus far take the Cowboys out of utilizing a draft choice so as to add an instantaneous starter, future starter or depth participant subsequent month.

This is a breakdown of each 2021 NFL free-agent signing by the Cowboys, and the way every will influence the upcoming season:


Security Keanu Neal and the Dallas Cowboys have reached settlement on a one-year, $5 million deal, a supply confirmed to ESPN on Saturday. Neal, 25, has spent all 5 of his seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, the place he performed for brand new Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn after being chosen seventeenth general within the 2016 draft.

What it means: The security market is beginning to type itself out, and Neal’s deal that maxes out at $5 million falls consistent with what different veterans have obtained. However will he play security or might he transfer to linebacker? Nothing is about in stone however that’s an choice. Neal performed for brand new coordinator Dan Quinn in Atlanta and had three 100-tackle seasons, whereas making the Professional Bowl in 2017. He has simply two profession interceptions, however he has been a stable performer. His arrival might spell the top of Xavier Woods’ time in Dallas. Woods began the final three seasons and can also be a free agent.

What is the threat: Expertise-wise, he’s an improve to the protection. He had 100 tackles final season after getting back from a torn Achilles tendon. He’s extra of a field participant, therefore the potential of taking part in linebacker, however the Cowboys suppose Donovan Wilson has some flexibility. They may additionally look to pick out a security early within the draft. If Neal performs linebacker, what does it imply for Leighton Vander Esch or Jaylon Smith? Smith’s $7.2 million base wage is about to turn into totally assured for the season. If he moved to the strong-side linebacker spot, that’s an terrible lot of cash for 20-30 snaps per recreation. Vander Esch’s greatest season was his rookie yr because the weak-side linebacker, however accidents have minimize quick his final two campaigns.


The quarterback signed a six-year deal (a contract that voids to 4 years) for $160 million.

What it means: The Cowboys know Prescott will probably be their quarterback for a minimum of the following 4 years. It took longer than anticipated to return to the settlement, however either side acquired what they wished. Prescott has the best signing bonus in NFL historical past ($66 million) and $126 million assured over the following three years. The Cowboys paid a premium however they’ve salary-cap flexibility within the first two years. With Prescott, the Cowboys imagine they’ll contend — and extra than simply within the NFC East.

What is the threat: All indications are Prescott is forward of schedule in his rehab from the dislocated and compound fracture of his proper ankle he suffered final October. He’s anticipated to be a full go for the offseason program, however the Cowboys will probably be good together with his work earlier than coaching camp. The danger is that if Prescott would be the similar participant after having such an harm. Additionally, the $40 million annual wage makes him the second highest paid QB within the NFL. And whereas the Cowboys say they may be capable to area a workforce round Prescott, the contract will make issues tight in opposition to the cap within the third and fourth years of the deal.

The Cowboys have agreed to a one-year cope with the previous New York Jets defensive lineman.

What it means: Basham involves the Cowboys as a chosen pass-rusher. Though he has 7.5 sacks in 58 video games, he had a career-high 3.5 sacks final season together with 13 hurries. The Cowboys had him amongst their top-30 draft guests in 2017 and have stored their eye on him in his time with the Indianapolis Colts and Jets. At 6-foot-4, 269 kilos, he has first rate dimension to carry up on the level of assault. This doesn’t finish the potential of Aldon Smith returning, however Basham can pair with DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory as their pass-rushers as they hope for extra from Dorance Armstrong and Bradlee Anae.

What is the threat: The Cowboys have had some success with low-cost pass-rushers, like Jeremy Mincey and George Selvie. This has a really feel of the Benson Mayowa signing from a couple of years in the past as a restricted free agent. He had six sacks in his first season in 2016. Of their additions thus far, Basham may be the most important, however they really feel they’ve plugged holes on their entrance whereas not taking them out of probably including extra gamers by way of the draft.


The Cowboys have agreed to a one-year deal with the previous Houston Texans defensive lineman.

What it means: Watkins supplies depth to a defensive entrance that wants depth. Whereas he was a defensive finish within the Texans’ 3-4 scheme, he’s extra suited to play sort out in coordinator Dan Quinn’s scheme. The Cowboys have Trysten Hill, who’s getting back from a torn ACL, and Neville Gallimore as three-technique choices. Watkins had 27 tackles and two sacks in a career-high 11 begins in 2020. This may be an indication the Cowboys won’t be signing Gerald McCoy. He signed a three-year cope with the Cowboys final yr, however suffered a quadriceps harm within the first padded apply of coaching camp and missed the 2020 season.

What is the threat: Little or no, and that is a part of a theme of the Cowboys’ free-agent additions. Including Watkins doesn’t take them out of choosing a defensive sort out within the draft, simply as re-signing Jourdan Lewis or including Ty Nsekhe does not taking them out of including a cornerback or sort out. Like Rod Marinelli earlier than him, Quinn desires to have a rotation of linemen to maintain his guys recent. It’s what labored nicely for him in Seattle. (Properly, that and the Legion of Increase.)

The cornerback returns to Dallas on a three-year deal price a max of $16.5 million, together with $8 million assured, per his agent.

What it means: A slot nook, he began 13 of 15 video games in 2020 and had 60 tackles with two sacks, 5 tackles for loss, two cross deflections and a fumble restoration. The Cowboys like his instincts in taking part in the slot, however he had a team-high eight penalties final season. The re-signing of Lewis doesn’t preclude the Cowboys from deciding on a cornerback early in subsequent month’s draft. They’ve been linked to Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II and Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley with the No. 10 general decide in lots of mock drafts. The Cowboys even have final yr’s second-round decide Trevon Diggs, who led the Cowboys with three interceptions in 2020, Lewis and Anthony Brown as their prime corners for the time being.

What is the threat: Because it won’t take them out of the nook market within the draft, the chance is minimal. The $8 million assured falls consistent with what slot corners have made and the bottom worth of the contract is $4.5 million a yr. The Cowboys paid extra to Brown final yr as a free agent on an annual common worth. Lewis has some battle to him, which the protection wants extra of. He will probably be working together with his fourth completely different defensive backs coach in his 5 seasons.


The previous Buffalo Payments offensive sort out has agreed to a one-year cope with the Cowboys.

What it means: Having misplaced final yr’s swing sort out, Cameron Erving, to the Carolina Panthers on a two-year, $10 million deal, the Cowboys changed him with one other veteran in Nsekhe, who’s coming into his eighth season following a two-year run with Buffalo. With Tyron Smith (neck) and La’el Collins (hip) coming off surgical procedure, the Cowboys proceed to take a look at a veteran swing sort out. Nsekhe has by no means began greater than 5 video games in a season, however he can play a number of roles.

What is the threat: The largest needs to be his age. He turns 36 throughout the season. The Cowboys had 2020 undrafted rookie Terence Steele begin 14 video games at proper sort out and 2019 undrafted rookie Brandon Knight begin 9 at left sort out. The Cowboys have dedicated themselves financially to Smith, Collins and Zack Martin. In some unspecified time in the future, Dallas needs to be snug with younger gamers as backups, however Nsekhe’s price ticket should be favorable.


The Cowboys have agreed to phrases with the cornerback on a two-year, $3.5 million deal that features $2 million assured.

What it means: The Cowboys have retained their greatest particular groups’ participant. He’s a staple on each unit, however significantly excels as a gunner on the punt workforce. His pace makes him tough to match on the skin, however he doesn’t get reckless to the place he over-pursues a returner. Goodwin can play cornerback in a pinch if vital and performed a spy position final season as an additional defensive again in opposition to Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.

What is the threat: There actually isn’t any threat. In actual fact, this value may be rather less than what another top-end special-teamers have obtained thus far this offseason. Goodwin is a reliable special-teamer and his return will assist the protection models in 2021.

The previous Los Angeles Rams long-snapper has agreed to a one-year cope with the Cowboys.

What it means: The Cowboys stated goodbye to their long-snapper for the previous 16 seasons, L.P. Ladouceur, and are including McQuaide. Ladouceur was three video games away from setting the franchise mark for many video games performed and confirmed no indicators of slowing down in 2020. The Cowboys acquired seven years youthful with the addition of McQuaide, who’s 33. He has not missed a recreation in his profession and was chosen to the Professional Bowl in 2016 and 2017. He will probably be reunited with coordinator John Fassel and place-kicker Greg Zuerlein from their days with the Rams.

What is the threat: If McQuaide has a slip up at any level on a snap, Ladouceur’s perfection will probably be talked about. There actually isn’t any value distinction between the 2 gamers from a salary-cap perspective, and Ladouceur has been wholesome as nicely. Generally a coach simply desires his man and Fassel’s lengthy relationship with McQuaide might have performed an element on this transfer. For 16 years, the Cowboys by no means needed to fear about Ladouceur, however they do not really feel like there will probably be any fear with McQuaide, both.


The previous Chicago Bears defensive lineman has agreed to phrases on a one-year cope with the Cowboys.

What it means: City (6-foot-7, 295 kilos) had 36 tackles and a couple of.5 sacks in 16 video games (eight begins) for the Bears final season. Like Carlos Watkins, who agreed to a deal earlier within the day, City is seen as a rotational piece at defensive sort out. He has performed for 3 groups since coming into the league in 2014 (Baltimore, Tennessee, Chicago) and might play some finish if vital. This probably means the Cowboys will cross on Gerald McCoy whereas the thought has been that Tyrone Crawford is leaning towards retirement.

What is the threat: Financially, there’s now draw back, like the entire Cowboys’ additions thus far. He turns 30 in Might, however the Cowboys won’t ask him to play 60 snaps a recreation. The addition won’t preclude the Cowboys from going after a defensive sort out within the draft, both. In some unspecified time in the future, the Cowboys must add some bulk to the inside of their line to assist the run protection, however a part of Quinn’s scheme is for the linemen to stand up the sector off the snap to disrupt the offense.



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