After the Combine, I think Dallas will get good value at No. 24, do you? Do you believe Dallas really has to nail free agency more so than the draft to position themselves for a deep run? — CARL DORSEY / BUFFALO, TX
David: I don't think I've ever felt this good about the pool of talent that'll be available in a year when the Cowboys are drafting in the back half of the first round. The beauty of a draft class that isn't top-heavy means there should be an impressive amount of good players still available as we move into the 20s and 30s. Even still, let's not kid ourselves. It's rare when you hit on a draft class that features more than 1-2 big-time contributors. Even the Cowboys' best-ever draft classes, with just a few exceptions, have needed at least a year or two to truly blossom. Even if they knock the draft out of the park, they're going to need to manage a few hits in free agency if they're going to improve.
Rob: I also think a really good player should be there at No. 24. Remember, because of the pandemic, more talented prospects are draft-eligible this year because the NCAA granted players that extra year of eligibility for last season. As for free agency, yes, that's the bigger challenge in my opinion. The Cowboys will have seven total picks if they get a compensatory selection. How many of the rookies realistically will have significant roles in 2022? You hope for seven, but usually it might be three or four to start off? Meanwhile, there are over 20 unrestricted free agents on the roster. Surely some will be re-signed, but that's a lot of holes to fill with veteran players who can step in right away.
If the Cowboys release DeMarcus Lawrence and Amari Cooper, will it be necessary to restructure Dak's contract? If I understand these restructures correctly, it just pushes that money to another year's cap and you end up dealing with it then. Seems like releasing these two would provide the room needed without mortgaging the future. — JEFF PARSONS / AMARILLO, TX
David: It's important to remember that restructuring Dak's contract was always part of the plan when it was devised. That's why he has two voidable years at the end of the deal. Those extra years allow for restructures that can make his salary flexible in the short term without biting the team in the longterm. The expectation is that the salary cap will have jumped an impressive amount by the time Dak's cap number starts to inflate. We give the Cowboys a lot of grief for not thinking ahead, but this restructure was something they envisioned from the get-go, so they can do it without mortgaging the future.
Rob: As Dave said, the contract was structured for these restructures. They did the same thing with Dak's deal last year, creating about $5 million in room. Yes, releasing DeMarcus Lawrence and Amari Cooper would create over $20 million in space. Guess what, though? That would mean you've got two more unrestricted free agents on the current list of 22 to re-sign or replace. And, they've got to have space set aside for the draft class, which is typically like $10 million. So when you think about everything they need to accomplish in the next few weeks, gaining that extra $15 million in space from this expected Dak restructure will be very helpful.