FRISCO, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' offseason of change started in January with the hiring of coach Mike McCarthy as Jason Garrett's replacement and an influx of new assistants.
Now the Cowboys have to determine the shape of the roster and could have 30 players hit the market -- some as restricted or unrestricted free agents, some under the franchise and/or transition tags, and some who could have their 2020 options declined.
Between now and March, the Cowboys will have many decisions to make. They are free to take this advice regarding which players to keep or let walk, and when to be patient. Today we look at the decisions on offense.
Dak Prescott, QB
2019 stats: 4,902 yards, 30 touchdown passes, 11 interceptions, three rushing touchdowns
Why keep: If the sides are unable to work out a long-term deal by March 10, the Cowboys will place the franchise tag on their quarterback at a cost of roughly $27 million. The Cowboys lucked into finding their franchise quarterback and don't want to start over again. Remember the quarterback drought from Troy Aikman to Tony Romo?
Randall Cobb, WR
2019 stats: 55 receptions, 828 yards, three touchdowns
Why keep: The arrival of McCarthy, his former coach in Green Bay, helps his odds of returning. Having a player who understands what a new coach expects is extremely beneficial. And Cobb played well in 2019, although he had some drops. He was able to stay healthy, too, missing just one game. Price might become an issue, but the Cowboys are a better offense in 2020 if he is around.
Amari Cooper, WR
2019 stats: 79 receptions, 1,189 yards, eight touchdowns
Why keep: The No. 2 goal of the offseason is to keep Cooper on a long-term deal. But what if they don't before free agency begins? The transition tag could be a possibility if there is not an extension of the collective bargaining agreement. Cooper's production tailed off toward the end of the season, but he changed the Cowboys' passing game since arriving in a trade from Oakland. Maybe he doesn't hit the highest end of the receiver market like we assumed, but he will at least be around for 2020.
Blake Jarwin, TE
2019 stats: 31 receptions, 365 yards, three touchdowns
Why keep: He is a restricted free agent and because he was undrafted, the Cowboys will likely have to put the second-round tender on him to keep teams from signing him. Jarwin has developed as a route runner, but still has work to do as a blocker.
Jamize Olawale, FB
2019 stats: He played in every game, with five starts, but he did not catch a pass or have a carry.
Why keep: Technically, he is under contract for 2020, but the Cowboys have to pick up his option for the final year of his deal. McCarthy's offenses have used fullbacks in the past and Olawale can be a valuable special-teamer and is set to make just $1 million. His cost is not prohibitive.
Tavon Austin, WR
2019 stats: 13 receptions, 177 yards, two touchdowns (one rushing).
Why walk: Whatever the Cowboys envisioned for Austin when they traded for him in 2018, it never really happened for different reasons, like being injured for a good portion of his first season. He has a history with new special-teams coordinator John Fassel, but second-year running back Tony Pollard can do many of the same things if needed. Plus, the Cowboys can look to the draft for a receiver to develop.
2019 stats: He played in 11 games, with four starts, before suffering a fractured fibula in Week 16.
Why walk: The Cowboys took Connor McGovern in the third round of last year's draft, but he did not play as a rookie because of a partially torn pectoral muscle. He is healthy and could project into a starting role with left guard Connor Williams rehabbing from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. As much as teams want veteran depth, at some point young players have to get a chance.
Cooper Rush, QB
2019 stats: He served as the backup but did not throw a pass and saw just five offensive snaps.
Why walk: This is only a "let walk" if Rush does not accept a deal for less than the $2.1 million tender as a restricted free agent. Rush should return at a lower figure and the Cowboys can look to add a low-cost veteran or draft pick to compete for Prescott's backup spot. If Prescott's contract is as exorbitant as many expect, then finding a way to save some money will be imperative.
Cameron Fleming, OT
2019 stats: He played in 14 games and made three starts for an injured Tyron Smith.
Why walk: Like Olawale, the Cowboys would have to exercise the option for 2020. Fleming has served as the Cowboys' swing tackle the past two years. While he might not always look the best, he is dependable. Given Smith's injury history, having a veteran reserve in a key spot is a good thing, but the Cowboys could look to get younger and cheaper with Fleming set to make $4 million in 2020.
Jason Witten, TE
2019 stats: 59 receptions, 529 yards, four touchdowns
Why be patient: Perhaps it will be best for both sides to part ways, despite how each feels about the other. Witten played well in his return from a one-year absence despite those who believe he somehow held back an offense that finished No. 1 in the NFL in yards per game. Neither side will be in a rush to get something done.
Joe Looney, C
2019 stats: He was active for 16 games and made one start.
Why be patient: He filled in ably for an injured Travis Frederick in 2018 and his position flexibility makes him a valuable asset. Teams like to have backups who can play two positions. Looney, however, might be able to find a starting spot in free agency, which would take him out of the Cowboys' plans.