Free agency is here, but the majority of the 2019 roster is already in place. In the coming weeks, DallasCowboys.com will feature players who are currently under contract for next season, analyzing their past season and their future prospects.
Today, we continue the series with linebacker Joe Thomas.
What's Been Good: The Cowboys signed Thomas last offseason for linebacker depth given his part-time starting experience in Green Bay from 2015-17. He played in 10 games and posted six tackles, including one for loss, but his biggest impact was on special teams. Despite playing just over half the season, he ranked sixth on the team with six stops for the coverage units.
What's Been Bad: When healthy, the 27-year-old Thomas can play the middle and weak-side spots and maybe the strong side in a pinch, too. But a foot injury sidelined him in Week 5 at Houston and the next four games. He wasn't on the game-day roster again until Week 13 against the Saints.
2018 Highlight: Again, Thomas had a small sample size in his first season with the team. But we got a glimpse of his versatility in the regular-season finale against the Giants. He played a season-high 19 snaps on defense and posted two tackles – one for loss, along with a fourth-quarter stop to force a late fourth-down situation – plus a special teams tackle.
What's Next: Thomas is signed through 2019, and he'll likely settle into a similar role as last season: backup linebacker and core special teams contributor. Sean Lee is back in a to-be-determined role alongside starters Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. There could be an opportunity for strong-side snaps now that Damien Wilson has moved on to Kansas City. Last year's sixth-round pick Chris Covington could compete there.
A foot injury sidelined Joe Thomas for part of 2018, but when healthy he helps the Cowboys on a couple of fronts.
Bryan Broaddus' Bottom Line:Joe Thomas is the perfect example of when your pro scouts have a nice feel for what the coaches want to play with on the field. His movement skills translate well especially for this scheme. He has always been a career backup and special teamer which is the role he had for the squad last season. What I like about Thomas is that if he had to start for Leighton Vander Esch or Jaylon Smith there would not be that intense drop off in ability. On a club without quality linebacker play, Thomas could start. I feel like his ability is that good. Thomas did spend a few weeks on the injury report with a foot injury but returned to lead the team in special teams tackles during the post season with three stops against the Seahawks and Rams. I expect to once again see him in that backup role and core special teamer and along with Sean Lee be prepared to make an injury start if needed.