Cowboys’ 2024 Free Agents, Targets and Draft Needs After NFL Playoff Loss

The Dallas Cowboys had another strong run during the 2023-24 season. Dak Prescott stayed healthy, Mike McCarthy’s offense found a rhythm down the stretch, and Dallas’ defense emerged as one of the league’s best.

The Cowboys were nearly unbeatable at home, and they surpassed the Philadelphia Eagles as the top team in the NFC East down the stretch.

Unfortunately, things came to an abrupt end on Sunday with a 48-32 loss to the seventh-seeded Green Bay Packers at AT&T Stadium in the NFC Wild Card Round.

With many centerpiece players under contract long-term, the Cowboys should be right back in the playoff mix next season. However, reloading or improving a playoff-caliber roster will take some work from McCarthy, team president Jerry Jones, CEO Stephen Jones and vice president of player personnel Will McClay.

With Dallas’ postseason run at an end, let’s take a look at what’s in store for the franchise in free agency and the draft.

Free agency may not be a totally straightforward affair for the Cowboys in 2024. Dallas could potentially lose McCray if he seeks a general manager position elsewhere. However, Dallas would reportedly “likely spend big” to retain him, according to ESPN’s Dan Graziano.

Along with some potential front-office shuffling, the Cowboys may also have to work out a new contract for Prescott. He’s entering the final year of his current deal and is deserving of a raise following a Pro Bowl campaign.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported back in December that the Cowboys and Prescott are expected to work out a long-term deal in the offseason. A restructuring will likely be involved, as the Cowboys are projected to be close to the salary cap, while Prescott is set to carry a cap hit of $59.5 million.

Dallas will have some work to do along the offensive line, which could lose starters Tyron Smith and Tyler Biadasz, along with versatile backup Chuma Edoga. The decision on Smith could be particularly difficult.

Smith has played at a Hall of Fame level when healthy, but he’s struggled to stay on the field in recent years and turned 33 in December.

The Cowboys will also have to decide whether to retain cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who was acquired in an offseason trade and went on to be a full-time starter. Jayron Kearse and Johnathan Hankins are other defensive starters, while Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler Jr. filled valuable complementary roles.

The Cowboys could also potentially lose their top two running backs, Tony Pollard and Rico Dowdle.

It would behoove Dallas to keep as many key contributors as possible, though some cap gymnastics may be required to make that happen. It’ll be interesting to see if the Cowboys change up their offseason approach in the event McCray heads elsewhere.

The Cowboys’ offseason approach has recently involved re-signing key players, adding budget pieces in free agency and seeking opportunistic deals on the trade market. This past offseason, for example, Dallas acquired both Gilmore and wide receiver Brandin Cooks for Day 3 draft selection.

Players with expiring or unwieldy contracts could interest Dallas if teams are looking to get out from under those deals. Expect a running back like Alvin Kamara or a pass-rusher like Joey Bosa to be on Dallas’ radar if they reach the trade market.

In free agency, we probably won’t see the Cowboys chase big-money targets, as they prefer to spend big on their own players first. This could change if Dallas decides to replace Gilmore with a top young cornerback like Jaylon Johnson or L’Jarius Sneed.

A top-tier linebacker like Lavonte David or Patrick Queen could also become a prized Cowboys target, given the team’s inconsistent run defense—Dallas ranked 16th in rushing yards allowed.

Realistically, though, Dallas probably won’t be a major player in the first wave of free agency. Expect the Cowboys to be more interested in players like defensive lineman Teair Tart, center Aaron Brewer, safety Jordan Fuller, guard Jonah Jackson and running back D’Onta Foreman in the second and third waves.

Gideon Canice

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