Fantasy Football Free Agency Preview: Dallas Cowboys

Free agency has a major impact on fantasy football. For dynasty team owners it’s never too early to start thinking about how player values could change.

I’m going through each team’s free agency and salary cap as a thought exercise. As an avid dynasty player, knowing how player values could change is key to making good decisions about which players to stash and which to put on the trade block. Once I finish running through the teams, I’ll circle back and do some more player or position-specific analysis.

Dallas Cowboys

Free Agents1

PLAYER POS TEAM TYPE 16 SAL 16 GUAR TEAM CAP
Mark Sanchez QB Cowboys UFA $2,000,000 $0 $(10,754,938)
Kellen Moore QB Cowboys UFA $710,000 $0 $(10,754,938)
Darren McFadden RB Cowboys UFA $1,500,000 $200,000 $(10,754,938)
Lance Dunbar RB Cowboys UFA $1,250,000 $100,000 $(10,754,938)
Gavin Escobar TE Cowboys UFA $1,052,624 $2,213,566 $(10,754,938)
Terrance Williams WR Cowboys UFA $724,243 $619,472 $(10,754,938)
Brice Butler WR Cowboys UFA $556,875 $67,500 $(10,754,938)

Cut Candidates

TEAM PLAYER POS DEAD $ CAP SAVINGS
COWBOYS A.MORRIS RB 0.5 1.7
COWBOYS J.WITTEN TE 4.9 7.4
COWBOYS T.ROMO QB 19.6 5.1

Needs – WR, RB

Fortunately for the Cowboys, they’ve got a young, cheap starting quarterback and running back. They’ve also got a solid, if aging, veteran tight end and a once-if-not-presently dominant wide receiver. With a negative amount of cap space,2 Dallas will be limited in free agency.

Discussion

Looking at the cut candidates, I think Alfred Morris is gone, because of Dallas cap situation. He could be a starter again elsewhere, but there’s probably not much value to holding on to him except in very deep leagues. I don’t think Jason Witten gets cut. But I do think Dallas might ask him to restructure his contract in order to create some cap space. At both positions, a backup is in order, but it will probably come via the draft or a very low-level free agent.

Dallas has an interesting situation at wide receiver. Terrance Williams is a free agent, and he hasn’t done much in his career to warrant re-signing. Dallas might take him back for the right price, but again, given their cap situation, it seems like they’ll probably just let him go. That means stock up for Cole Beasley. Beasley was PPR WR32 this year, and earned nearly 100 targets. Should Williams depart, another 60 targets are vacated. Those might go to someone like Brice Butler, who makes for a deep-league stash in his own right, but I think some would go to Beasley, who should easily be the team’s WR2. And if Dez Bryant misses time, Beasley benefits. Beasley scores about two points per game more when Bryant misses a game over the last two years. In 2016 that split jumped to almost six points per game more.

ColeDez

Beasley probably doesn’t cost much to acquire, and although his upside isn’t great, there’s a role for a solid WR3 on most dynasty rosters.

Unlike Beasley, Bryant probably carries a premium price in dynasty trades, but I’d be a seller, not a buyer. That’s not because of any concerns about the offense. Under Dak Prescott, Dallas actually ran more plays, and threw about the same number of passes as they did under Romo. I just think Bryant is fading on his own. His 13.7 PPR points per game this year were his lowest since his rookie season (excluding his injury-shortened 2015). Using the RotoViz Screener, here are the five performances most similar to Bryant’s 2016.

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Bryant earned just a 20 percent market share in games he played. He was very efficient on a per-target basis (0.24 points over expectation per target), but he was actually less efficient than Beasley (0.28). It’s also the case that Prescott had a higher AYA when targeting Beasley (9.2, vs. 9.0 for Bryant). It’s probably true that Bryant has a better chance of returning to elite status than someone like Cameron Meredith has of becoming elite. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s fair to continue to value Bryant as an elite wide receiver.

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I included a lot of names there to make my point. On a per-game basis (so no penalty for missed games), Bryant trails the field. If you’re a Bryant owner and can find someone who still thinks he’s elite, see how much you can get for him.

  1. Available cap space was compiled in mid-December, 2016, and may have changed since. I’ll update that once I finish reviewing all the teams.  (back)
  2. Even updated for the new league year, they’re still about $6 million in the hole.  (back)

Charles Kleinheksel

Editor and contributor since 2013. Director of Special Projects August 2017. Occasionally found at numberFire, Rotoballer, and FantasyPros.

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