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Dallas Cowboys 2024 NFL offseason primer: 'All-in' season ahead, per Jerry Jones

Dallas Cowboys' 2023 season: 12-5, won NFC East, lost in wild card

Overview: The Cowboys played the hits this past season, looking strong for lengthy stretches of the regular season and winning the NFC East before face-planting well short of the NFC championship game. Sound familiar?

Dak Prescott turned in an MVP-level campaign, CeeDee Lamb had his best season as a pro (1,749 yards and 12 touchdowns receiving) and Micah Parsons was a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year. And all we'll be talking about all offseason is a hideous wild-card loss at home to the younger and more inexperienced Packers that left Cowboys owner Jerry Jones at a loss for words and Mike McCarthy's job in limbo (it's since been announced he'll be back, but with no contract extension). And Dallas is searching for the same answers it has been seeking since it last won the Super Bowl, made the Super Bowl and reached the NFC title game, all after the 1995 season.

As talented as the Cowboys are, this is a big year ahead. Jones called 2024 "all-in" at the Senior Bowl, with less emphasis on the future than on this upcoming season. It starts in the offseason, which has already seen Dallas pass on making a run at Bill Belichick, Dan Quinn leave to be head coach of the Commanders and Mike Zimmer replace him as defensive coordinator. Now there are key questions to be answered across the roster.

(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)
(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

Key free agents

OT Tyron Smith
RB Tony Pollard
C Tyler Biadasz
CB Stephon Gilmore
CB Jourdan Lewis
S Jayron Kearse
DE Dorance Armstrong Jr.

Who's in/out: Gilmore wants to "run it back" with the Cowboys in 2024, but do they want the same? Smith is going to the New York Jets after 13 seasons anchoring the left tackle spot, which means the team may be searching for a replacement in the draft. And who will be the featured running back after the Cowboys let Tony Pollard walk to the Tennessee Titans? The Cowboys have some big question marks as they address key areas of their star-laden roster.

This NFL offseason will be critical for the Cowboys, as Jerry Jones said the team was
This NFL offseason will be critical for the Cowboys, as Jerry Jones said the team was "all-in" for 2024. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

Key free-agent needs

Running back
Left tackle
Defensive line

Why the holes? Pollard didn't move mountains as the feature back in Dallas' offense, and now he's gone. Tyron Smith, meanwhile, started only 30 of a possible 67 regular-season games the past four years due to injury. The pass rush is pedestrian at best (21.3% pressure rate, 16th in the NFL), and that's with Parsons' impact. Maybe 2023 first-round nose tackle Mazi Smith takes a step forward next season. Don't expect the Cowboys to simply hope for it.

Do they have the money?

Dallas is a projected $8.8 million over the cap, according to Spotrac.

Potential notable cuts

LB Leighton Vander Esch
WR Brandin Cooks

Why they might be gone: Injuries plagued Vander Esch, preventing him from rediscovering his rookie year potential. With a $2.8 million cap hit in 2024, Vander Esch was cut two days after free agency began. Cooks, meanwhile, was a solid contributor on the Cowboys' offense (657 yards, eight TDs receiving) but is due $10 million next season. The Cowboys did pass on Michael Gallup, designating him for a post June 1 cut, saving the team $9.5 million in salary cap space.

2023 NFLPA report card

(Yahoo Sports)
(Yahoo Sports)

Draft picks

1st round: No. 24
2nd round: No. 56
3rd round: No. 87
5th round: No. 173 (compensatory)
6th round: No. 216 (compensatory)
7th round: No. 233 (via Raiders)
7th round: No. 244

Good draft fit

Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma

Why him? Though hardly a finished product, Guyton has rare physical gifts and, according to Yahoo Sports NFL Draft expert Nate Tice, his "size and movement ability are hard to teach." Sounds a lot like a young Tyron Smith. Could Guyton be drafted as his replacement?

What can move the fantasy football needle this offseason?

The playoffs didn’t end the way they wanted but there is no denying the Cowboys' offense was anything but a rousing success in the regular season. The passing game players should all be back in full force but fantasy gamers should be interested in what takes place in the backfield. Tony Pollard was a disappointment in 2023 based on over-inflated expectations but still turned in 1,300 total yards and an RB15 finish. There’s room for improvement here simply based on the offensive ecosystem. Whether it’s a veteran free-agent addition, an upstart prospect on Day 2 or early Day 3 of the draft, we should be ready to invest in the starting back on this scoring unit. — Matt Harmon