FRISCO, Texas - If you're not getting better, you're getting worse. That's a phrase that can be used often in any circumstance, but especially in football, where the NFL is driven by parity every season.
The Cowboys were able to make a run and get into the playoffs, winning the NFC East for the third time in five seasons. But even owner/GM Jerry Jones has made it clear, his team needs to keep improving and take its success to the next level.
So as we head into the 2019 offseason, let's look at each position on the team, and just what needs to transpire so the Cowboys can indeed, take that next step.
Today, we'll break down the wide receiver position.
His Next Step?
Amari Cooper was unquestionably the story of 2018 for the Cowboys' wide receivers, but he was already a two-time Pro Bowler when he got to Dallas. In terms of growth, it's hard to argue against the progress Michael Gallup made in his rookie year. At the outset of the season, the third-round pick looked like the stage might be too big for him, as he struggled with route running and drops during the first month of the season. His play began to pick up midseason, though, as he scored his first touchdown in Week 7 and put up a five-catch, 76-yard effort against New Orleans. By the playoffs, he was an integral part of the offense, scoring a touchdown in the win against Seattle and putting up his first 100-yard game in the loss to the Rams. To do all of that while dealing with the tragic loss of his brother made it that much more impressive. To take the next step, he simply needs to do it more consistently. Gallup was a solid complement to Cooper down the stretch of the season, but he did disappear on a regular basis. To keep opponents from focusing too much on Cooper, Gallup will need to show consistency in his second season.
Their Next Step?
It applies to Gallup, but honestly the same can be said for the entire receiving corps. This is a unit that struggled with consistency. Even Cooper, who made the Pro Bowl, had outings of 36 yards, 32 yards and 20 yards during the playoff push. Obviously, some of that can be attributed to the quarterback, the play calling and the offensive line, but the play of the wide receivers was up and down throughout the season. Hopefully, with an offseason to build this thing around Cooper, rather than shuffling a makeshift rotation of eight different receivers, the offense can generate some more consistency with its receivers.
Decisions to Make?
Outside of DeMarcus Lawrence, there is not a bigger free agent decision facing this team than Cole Beasley. The Cowboys' longtime slot receiver is out of contract, and he has made it very clear he'll be looking for the best fit from both a usage and monetary standpoint during free agency. The question, as always, is how much the Cowboys will be willing to pay to retain his services. Beasley's last deal averaged roughly $3.5 million per year, and it's fair to say he has earned a pay raise. But what will competitors be willing to offer on the open market, and will the Cowboys want to match it. Beasley said himself earlier this offseason that he wouldn't rule out coming back to Dallas, but that's undoubtedly going to depend on the price tag. On a smaller scale, it'll be interesting to see what the front office does with Tavon Austin. The speedster was hurt much of the year and didn't have the impact the Cowboys hoped he would, but he did show flashes of his big play ability. Perhaps most importantly, his price tag in free agency probably won't be huge.
As it stands right now, this is a unit that could use some depth. Cooper is the undoubted centerpiece of the group, and Gallup is a promising young talent to pair with him. After that, there's an awful lot of unknowns. Beasley and Austin are free agents. Allen Hurns didn't have as large of a role as many anticipated, but had some nice moments in 2018. Unfortunately, he suffered a gruesome leg injury in the wildcard win against the Seahawks, and it remains to be seen how quickly he'll recover. Terrance Williams hasn't been heard from since he went to injured reserve in the first month of the season. After that, the young trio of Noah Brown, Lance Lenoir and Cedrick Wilson have combined for just nine NFL catches – all of which belong to Brown. Something needs to be done. That could mean free agency, whether it's Beasley, Austin or an outside option, or it could mean a draft pick. One way or another, it'd probably be a good idea to add another option to this receiver corps.