FRISCO, Texas – Over the next week, a lot will change in terms of the Cowboys roster, especially when the official free-agent signing period opens on March 16.
But between now and then, there will be a few other deadlines, including Tuesday, the last day teams can place the franchise tag on a player. Also, there will be a two-day window in which other teams can start negotiating with free agents before the start of the new league year.
So expect some chaos to occur regarding the this team, which has over 20 unrestricted free agents on the list.
Today, let's focus on players who have either started games and/or been big contributors to special teams. However, the market price might not correlate to the Cowboys' wish list. These four players will likely get plenty of interest from other teams, but will the Cowboys be able to keep them?
Damontae Kazee – Coming off an Achilles injury, Kazee signed a one-year deal to not only reunite with Dan Quinn, but to bet on himself and his recovery. In both aspects, it worked out for Kazee, who was a regular starter on a defense that led the NFL in interceptions. Kazee played his role in that and even had some timely plays for the Cowboys. But will it be enough to bring him back? There's likely to be mutual interest from both sides but heavy speculation hints at Kazee likely to get more money from another team, meaning a return to Dallas is unlikely.
Jake McQuaide – The veteran deep snapper spent the last season with the Cowboys and had no issues in any of his snaps for punts, field goals or extra points. That kind of consistency is something they had for over 16 years with L.P. Ladouceur, who was replaced by McQuaide last year, reuniting him with special teams coach John Fassel. The Cowboys will probably want to re-sign McQuaide again, but probably not before he tests the market. The former Ohio State standout and native of Cincinnati could be looking to play closer to his home as he gets into the final stages of his career. But a return to the Cowboys is definitely not out of the question.
Keanu Neal – Another player who signed over to Dallas to play with Quinn. But Neal was looking to transition from safety to linebacker and while he played in the nickel packages for most of the season, he didn't have a major impact on the defense. Neal also had two different dealings with Covid-19, causing him to miss a total of three games. It'll be interesting to see what move is next for Neal, who turns 27 in July and still has some good years left. He might try to find another team to play safety again or a hybrid linebacker role. But a return to the Cowboys doesn't seem likely, especially early in free agency.
Connor Williams – A regular starter at left guard for the majority of his career, Williams will probably get the chance to test the market. There are plenty of teams – even ones who made it deep into the playoffs, that are in need for veteran linemen. For the Cowboys, it appears both sides are looking to move on, but don't be surprised if Williams gets a rather hefty contract with another team. He might return to his guard spot, but since he played tackle in college and even dabbled at center this past year, perhaps another team might ask him to make a position switch. Either way, there's a better than decent chance he has a different uniform next year.
On Thursday, we'll focus on a few players the Cowboys are hoping will return, but only at the right price.