The roster turnover is about to begin. Free agency opens in less than one month, and the 2017 NFL Draft isn't far behind it. Over the next two months, the Cowboys will lose and replace a sizable portion of their roster.
For every new face, however, there are dozens of familiar ones that will return to begin a new campaign. From established veterans to second-year players, the vast majority of the Cowboys' 2017 team is already on the roster. In the coming weeks, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will preview those players, analyzing where they've been and where they're going.
The series continues with wide receiver Cole Beasley.
What's Been Good: "Beasley is always open." That was Dak Prescott's assessment of his new teammate back in September after he'd assumed the starting quarterback spot for an injured Tony Romo.
Beasley turned out to be one of Prescott's favorite and most reliable receiving targets. Beasley led the Cowboys with a career-high 75 catches and 833 receiving yards (833). Three of his five touchdown catches were in three games Dez Bryant missed with a knee injury.
Beasley also ranked 12th in the NFL catching 76.5 percent of the passes thrown his way (75 of 98, according to STATs via the Washington Post).
What's Been Bad:It's simply hard to pinpoint a negative part of Beasley's game. He did have a couple of quiet performances in December: two catches for 23 yards in a hard-fought Cowboys win at Minnesota, and four catches for 41 yards in a second straight loss to the Giants after posting a season-best eight catches in the season opener against New York.
At 5-8, he's primarily a slot receiver, though the catches he makes over the middle of the field create space for his teammates to operate on the outside. And Beasley's making more plays down the field. He had six explosive plays (20 yards or more) in the passing game in 2016, up from five in 2015 and four in 2014.[embeddedad0]
2016 Highlight:In something of a statement game for a young Cowboys team – a 30-16 win at Lambeau Field to move to 5-1 before the mid-October bye week – Beasley stepped up with a single-game best two touchdown catches with Bryant sitting out a third straight game with a leg injury.
What's Next: There are questions about the Cowboys' receiver depth leading into free agency. No. 2 wideout Terrance Williams and backup Brice Butler are scheduled to hit the open market when the NFL's signing period begins March 9. Whether or not both return remains to be seen, but Beasley is signed through 2018 and should be a focal point in the offense for at least the next two seasons.