Remember the wide-open TD to Tavon Austin last year? With all of the offensive weapons this year and remembering the offensive mindset of Mike McCarthy's Packer teams, I feel like we might be seeing this more regularly, like at least once every game or two, those type of plays where the defense loses track of someone for a big play. Do you think this is over-excitement on my part or a real possibility? - MARCO ASPAAS*/ *VANCOUVER, WA
Rob: I do remember that play, and I remember thinking a defensive breakdown like that almost never happens, and should never happen, in the NFL. But to your point, last year the Cowboys tied with the Rams for the fifth-most pass plays over 25 yards, according to STATS. They would've had more if not for a few drops and penalties. CeeDee Lamb gives them another explosive playmaker -- in college he set an Oklahoma career record with 24 catches of at least 40 yards. The offense will make big plays. As always, the key will be finishing off drives in the red zone.
Nick: I think it's a real possibility. Now, that was one play, and it probably was just a bust in coverage. But busts like that happen when you're focused on other things throughout the game. My question to you is just who will be this year's Tavon Austin? Tavon had plenty of speed to get out there and become so wide open to make that play. So I wonder who the fourth or fifth receiver will be that gets on the field enough to take advantage of that. In all honesty, and it likely won't be plays like that one, but the guy who will probably get open a lot is Blake Jarwin. I can see him streaking down the field wide open because Cooper is doubled and Gallup and CeeDee are already getting their attention plus the defense just bit on the play-action to Zeke. That's the guy who probably finds himself open a lot this year.
Now that Dak has the exclusive franchise tag this year, can the Cowboys give him the non-exclusive franchise tag or transition tag next year to lower the cost of his salary on the tag? -BRENDAN HOULIHAN / SPRING, TX
Rob: I believe the 2021 franchise and transition tag total would be the same next year, around $37.7 million, because league rules state that it must increase 20% from the 2020 tag. So, no difference. They might have to give Dak the tag again temporarily next spring so they can extend the window fornegotiating a long-term deal. But it's certainly not a guaranteethat Dak would be on the tag again this time next year. They've still got a chance to get something done after this season, and that 2021 tag number would be difficult to fit if the cap is flat or drops next year.
Nick: It sounds like the second year of a franchise tag is locked in. Think of it this way, the Cowboys reportedly offered him a five-year deal worth around $34-35 million per season. Well, in this franchise scenario of two years, it's basically giving him $31 and almost $38 million in consecutive years. That's pretty much like a two-year deal worth $34.5 million. So it's not ideal for the Cowboys because they would've preferred a longer deal to stretch out the cap hit. But that's one way to look at this. Then again, if next year's cap is the same or even lowered, it might make it impossible to franchise Dak a second time.