The Cowboys season ended Saturday night in Los Angeles after a divisional playoff round loss to the Rams, but looking at next season, Dallas looks like a dangerous squad.
Could this Cowboys bunch be the first to win the NFC East in consecutive seasons sine 2004? Certainly the Giants, Eagles and Redskins will have a lot to say about that, but Dallas seems to be set up well for next year, even if the money looks dicey in 2020 and beyond.
Offensively, Jerry Jones made a bold move in the middle of the 2018 campaign by trading for wide receiver Amari Cooper. Dallas gave up a first-round pick to the Raiders for Cooper, and while it was panned at the time, it looks strong now.
In just 11 games with the Cowboys, Cooper established himself as a real deep threat and game-changer for QB Dak Prescott. And the team went 8-3 once Cooper arrived.
In 2019, Prescott, Cooper and running back Ezekiel Elliott will be in the final year of their contracts. Dallas retains a fifth-year option for 2020 on Elliott, but with Cooper and Prescott, it's pay up or face free agency. Franchise and transition tags could be in play too.
On defense, the Cowboys will be focused on getting a deal done with pass rusher Demarcus Lawrence. That's no sure thing, and Lawrence already played the 2018 season on a $17 million franchise tag. Dallas seems unlikely to pay the mandatory increase to tag Lawrence again, especially as the team must work on deals for Elliott, Cooper and Prescott.
The good news for a surging Cowboys defense is that young linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith are on rookie deals. Veteran linebacker Sean Lee seems like a salary cap casualty, but that would require Dallas making the logical and not emotional decision.
There's not much good news for Redskins fans here.
Before the trade to acquire Cooper, Dallas was a one-dimensional offense. After the Cooper trade, Dallas became dangerous. The defense was good before and after the trade.
In the NFC East, Dallas could easily be expected to win the division in 2019. And that's before the team makes a draft pick or spends any of its more than $50 million available under the salary cap for next season. Some of that cap room could be swallowed up by deals for Prescott or Cooper.
It's also worth nothing that for many teams, paying $25 million or more per year to a quarterback becomes a losing proposition. Rookie deals are incredibly important for NFL clubs, especially at the league's most important position. What will that mean for the Cowboys and Prescott?
But for Redskins fans, it was probably hard to watch the Dallas loss Saturday night and think the Cowboys would not be a factor in 2019 in the NFC East.
In fact, if fans are being honest, this Cowboys team has the foundation of something that could be quite difficult for Washington to overcome.
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