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The 2022 NFL Draft is in the rear view, and the Dallas Cowboys did a solid job of addressing needs.
Dallas added Tulsa lineman Tyler Smith in the first round, which should help mitigate the departure of right tackle La’el Collins. In the second round, it took former Mississippi linebacker Sam Williams. This should help a run defense that ranked 23rd in yards per attempt last season.
In all, Dallas made nine selections over draft weekend, which will help reload players like them Collins, Amari Cooper, Cedrick Wilson Jr., Connor Williams and Randy Gregory are in the offseason. However, the Cowboys should strongly consider diving back into the free-agent pool.
Dallas still has $ 13.4 million in cap space available, and while a chunk that will be used to sign draft picks, the Cowboys have enough flexibility to make moves happen.
Here, we dive into three unsigned veterans the Cowboys should target post-draft and why.
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It would take some work to fit pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney into Dallas’ financial plans, as he was not going to be cheap after a bounce-back season with the Cleveland Browns. The 29-year-old finished 2021 with 37 tackles, nine sacks and 32 quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Reference.
Dallas may also have to exercise patience, as Clowney does not appear to get under contract.
“Jadeveon Clowney, as I understand it, does not have a great deal of interest in being under contract right now and either voluntarily reporting to OTAs or having to report to the mandatory minicamp in the first, second week of June,” Jonathan Jones CBS Sports HQ said (h / t Matt Howe of 247Sports).
However, Clowney would be an excellent addition to the Cowboys losing Gregory. The Cowboys added Dante Fowler Jr. In free agency, but he’s been underwhelming away from the Los Angeles Rams. They didn’t draft a pure edge-rusher either.
Dallas logged a solid 41 sacks in 2021, but six of those were tallied by Gregory. Signing Clowney would help replace his production and then some.
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Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. There is more chance to fit into Dallas’ budget than a player like Clowney. The 32-year-old is no longer going to command a huge salary and is coming off a series of one- and two-year deals with the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers.
However, Harris is still a capable pass defender who logged 37 tackles, six passes defended and an interception last season.
Secondary depth should be a priority for Dallas. Yes, the Cowboys were great at taking away the football last season — they led the league with 26 interceptions — but they also had a feast-or-famine defense. The Cowboys ranked 20th in passing yards allowed and went 1-3 in games without a turnover.
Dallas didn’t add a starting-caliber corner in free agency and didn’t draft one until taking DaRon Bland in the fifth round.
Now, I like Bland quite a bit and believe his physicality and size (6’2 “, 200 lbs) will get him onto the field as a rookie. However, Harris is a proven difference-maker with 162 games under his belt. A team with championship aspirations like Dallas can never have too many corners, and it should scoop up a one- or two-year deal on Harris.
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Like Harris, receiver Cole Beasley could be a financially viable option for the Cowboys. The 33-year-old is not going to command a huge multiyear salary. He might, however, help the Cowboys navigate any early absence by Gallup.
With both Cooper and Wilson out, Dallas could use depth at receiver. They did add James Washington to free agency and draft Jalen Tolbert in the third round, but Beasley is a proven vet who has worked lately with Dak Prescott in Dallas.
Beasley spent the first seven years of his career with the Cowboys before migrating to the Buffalo Bills in 2019. This past season, he caught 82 passes for 693 yards and a touchdown. He’s a crafty route-runner and a capable inside-outside target who would give Prescott another reliable option.
The challenge here would be to convince Beasley to take a one-year deal, as he’d largely be an insurance policy and a placeholder while Tolbert develops. The rookie out of South Alabama is a versatile target who also possesses enough straight-line speed (4.49-second 40-yard dash) to keep defenses honest.
Dallas’ playoff window is still open, and the Cowboys need to take advantage. Ensuring they have enough reliable targets to continue rolling on offense — they rank first in both yards and scoring last season — should be part of the equation.