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Wesley Hitt / Contributor

There was a ton of pomp and circumstance surrounding the Dallas Cowboys when they jettisoned longtime head coach Jason Garrett and signed a more proven commodity in Mike McCarthy last January. That was before they, like every other NFL team, ran up against the COVID-19 pandemic that essentially shut down the entire offseason -- save for a truncated training camp. Several players opted out of the season entirely and the Cowboys got off to a slow start, made worse when quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a season-ending fractured ankle in Week 5 against the New York Giants

The team was never the same offensively without Prescott under center and, still tied to the historically worst defense in NFL history, floundered to a 6-10 finish that saw them finally come alive in December only to gut themselves in the regular-season finale. As they enter the offseason, priority No. 1 remained signing Prescott to a long-term deal, because things remain complicated in all facets of the team until/unless it was done, which includes free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft

And now that the long-term deal is in the books, paying Prescott a hefty sum on all fronts, it's time to for the Cowboys to turn their eyes to other tasks at hand. The club will need to sift through a Rolodex of in-house free agent names to determine who stays and who goes. The front office is already hard at work on all of this, but must also balance it assessing prospects ahead of the draft -- making for the busiest part of the offseason for the Cowboys. 

Additionally, they're racing against NFL deadlines to see it all done, and done well, adding to the level of difficulty in an offseason that's already seen another tectonic shift in the firing of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan after just one season, replacing him with Dan Quinn and setting the stage for yet another reset of sorts on that side of that ball. 

Welcome to the official CBS Sports hub of the Cowboys offseason, where we break down every single item of interest. Bookmark this, as it'll be updated often.

[Latest update: April 21]

Key upcoming dates

There are a slew of dates you'll need to circle on your calendar as you keep track of the Cowboys this offseason -- such as OTAs, mini-camp and training camp. For now, most of them are already known and worth noting. It's also key to note things remain fluid during the coronavirus pandemic, because although the league hasn't yet made any changes to the 2021 draft or free agency, much like last year, those could arrive at a moment's notice.

More dates will be added as the Cowboys and the NFL finalize them, and assuming no changes due to COVID-19..

  • April 19: Teams with returning head coaches can begin offseason programs
  • April 29-May 1: The NFL Draft takes place in Cleveland
  • May 12: The NFL will release the 2021 regular season schedule.   
  • Early May: Teams can hold their one three-day post-draft rookie minicamp from Friday through Sunday or Saturday through Monday
  • Mid-May: Teams permitted to hold one three-day rookie minicamp
  • Late May-early June: Beginning of organized team activities (OTAs)
  • Mid-June: Mandatory minicamp begins
  • July 15: Deadline to negotiate a multiyear extension on a tagged player
  • Late July: Training camp 
  • Early August: Preseason begins with Cowboys vs. Steelers in Hall of Fame Game (Canton, Ohio)

2020 Opt-out updates

  • Maurice Canady, CB: Canady signed a one-year, $1.25 million deal with the Cowboys in 2020, but opted out due to concerns with the raging COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 season will act as a mulligan for that contract, and the Cowboys look forward to seeing if the 26-year-old can help with their issues in the secondary.
  • Jamize Olawale, FB [UPDATE: The Cowboys have released Olawale, saving $1 million toward the cap after $1.2 million is deducted for dead money.]: Things aren't the same at the position as they were when he opted out, because Sewo Olonilua has become a spicy addition to the roster. Considering how Olawale hasn't yet lived up to expectations, and with a notable drop or two on his résumé, he'll have to hit the ground running in a very real way in 2021.
  • Stephen Guidry, WR: The team will finally get a look at Guidry, who will still be a rookie in 2021 after having not played in what would've been his first professional season last year. The speedy receiver out of Mississippi State will finally get his first chance at catching passes from Prescott, an MSU legend. He joins a WR corps loaded with talent at spots one through four, contingent upon what happens with Cedrick Wilson in free agency.

2021 opponents and previous-season record

Needless to say, the Cowboys better reboot as nothing short of contenders in 2021, because their schedule is a series of haymakers with little relief from what's coming. At first blush, it'll be all about taking care of home, and especially against teams they should be better than on paper. At full power, and assuming some type of improvement on defense, they should be able to overpower the Falcons, Broncos and Raiders; and possibly the Panthers as well, depending on if they get their hands on Deshaun Watson or not (which would make it a much more even bout). The toughest opponent outside of the division that's set to visit AT&T Stadium would be the Cardinals and Kyler Murray, conjuring flashbacks of the 2020 matchup between the two, and the usual NFC East suspects won't be an easy out, either.

Home

  • Atlanta Falcons (4-12)
  • Carolina Panthers (5-11)
  • Las Vegas Raiders (8-8)
  • Denver Broncos (5-11)
  • Arizona Cardinals (8-8)
  • New York Giants (6-10)
  • Philadelphia Eagles (4-11)
  • Washington Football Team (7-9)

Stringing together wins at home is paramount when dissecting what they're up against on the road, with matchups that include both teams from Super Bowl LV as well as the wily Saints, a cerebral challenge in head coach Sean Payton even if Drew Brees does hang up his uniform for good. Maybe the Vikings contend in the NFC North and, in the process, avenge the 2020 loss to the Cowboys, and maybe they don't, but you can bet it'll be another toe-to-toe dance that could help determine playoff seeding down the road. Can the Cowboys defense halt upstart QB Justin Herbert and use added division wins on the road to pad their totals as they try to reacquire the NFC East crown? We'll find out soon enough. 

Away

It's also key to note that, when looking at the below combined win-loss records, the losses are heavily weighted toward an abysmal performance by the NFC East as a whole in 2020. When extrapolating for that reality, the combined win-loss record for the Cowboys schedule is much tougher than the math would indicate, and even though their division opponents finished poorly last season, NFC East clashes are always wildly unpredictable. 

NFC East opponents: 17-30-1
Non-NFC East opponents: 88-87

In other words: strap up and get ready for the unforgiving 2021 gauntlet. 

Home opponent 2020 win-loss record: 47-80
Away opponent 2020 win-loss record: 75-68

2021 restructures: 

The running savings total from the above restructures is approximately $17 million toward the cap, and no voidable years were added to the contracts on Smith, Collins or Martin. This isn't the first time the Cowboys have restructured Smith and Martin, and it inherently doubles down on their belief Smith will be around for awhile as he works to return from neck surgery undergone in 2020 and, to a lesser but still important degree, Collins as well. Both starting tackles are ahead of schedule in their recovery.

Free agent scorecard 

Here's where the rubber truly meets the road for the Cowboys. 

They enter the offseason with a list of in-house free agents they must attend to before and while also surveying the landscape outside of Dallas to see who deserves an offer to join the team in 2020. The longer it takes to get a deal done on Prescott, the more challenging that becomes, though. With the team currently in a cap crunch despite having rolled over more than $25 million from 2020, they'll have to get creative to free up more money for potential signings, and striking a long-term deal with Prescott will potentially make it a lot easier to do so -- if it happens before a second franchise tag needs to be applied at a tab of $37.7 million.

That said, here a complete list of in-house free agents for the Cowboys:

Exclusive rights free agents

These players don't have any control over their rights in 2021, unless the Cowboys decide to not make an offer, as defensive lineman Antwaun Woods found out the hard way last offseason. These players have fewer than three accrued seasons in the NFL and, as such, the Cowboys could offer them a qualifying one-year deal on a league minimum salary (based upon number of credited seasons) and the player can not negotiate with any other club. So if an offer is made, they can either sign it or sit out the season and be in the same situation one year from now. Should the Cowboys not make an offer and an ERFA signs elsewhere, Dallas would receive no compensation for the loss.

  • Ron'Dell Carter, DL [UPDATE: The Cowboys have tendered Carter, and he's signed, making his return for 2021 official]: The talented lineman out of James Madison garnered a ton of interest immediately following the 2020 NFL Draft, signing on with the Cowboys who protected him weekly only to lose him the moment they didn't -- Carter having been poached by the Indianapolis Colts before eventually rejoining the Cowboys later in the year. A promising young talent who can also flex along the defensive line, it would stand to reason if Dan Quinn would like to get eyes on him to see if there's anything Mike Nolan might've missed in choosing to not activate him in his first NFL season.
  • Sewo Olonilua, RB: Technically, he's a fullback but more importantly, he can be much more. The former TCU standout found his first NFL home not far from his home of Kingwood, Texas, as one of the team's undrafted free agents alongside Carter. He spent much of his time on the practice squad but saw action later in the year before being reverted back to the 16-man unit on both occasions. Olonilua is a promising young speedster whom the Cowboys should be inclined to hang onto and develop behind Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, putting Olawale in a precarious situation in his attempt to return from a 2020 opt out.

Restricted free agents

Unlike Olonilua and Carter, the following four players have accrued greater than three years but not yet four, and the latter would qualify them for unrestricted free agency in 2020. Instead, while they are allowed to negotiate with other clubs, each can be assigned a respective tender -- first-round, second-round, original-round -- or the Right of First Refusal to give the Cowboys a chance at receiving compensation in the event they decide against matching another team's offer. The caveat lies in the original-round tender and the Right of First Refusal, because if a player went undrafted there is no compensation by default, making them basically one in the same. 

The Cowboys must be strategic in how they label each, because the higher the tender, the higher the salary if the player is retained -- e.g., the second-round tender on David Irving in 2018.

Per Over the Cap (projected): 

First-round tender - $4.766 million
Second-round tender - $3.384 million
Original-round tender - $2.133 million

  • Antwaun Woods, iDL [UPDATE: The Cowboys have issued a Right of First Refusal tender on Woods.]Unlike last year, Woods has some control over where he lands in 2021. He'd like to remain in Dallas as the starting nose tackle. His absence due to injury was felt in a major way in 2020, and the play in return solidified him as a key talent on a defensive line that desperately needed/needs beef in the trenches. Seeing as the Cowboys can't simply force him to take whatever qualifying deal they offer him, however, it'll be much more of a dialogue this time around, albeit not as much as if he were an unrestricted free agent.
  • Cedrick Wilson, WR [UPDATE: The Cowboys have issued an original round tender on Wilson]The curious case of Wilson, who has proven he can be a dynamic fourth WR option when Prescott is on the field, but was often deleted as an option during the carousel of other QBs. The fact is Wilson had a breakout season before losing his starting QB, which hints heavily as his ability to deliver more of those S'mores with Prescott back under center. He did just enough to get the Cowboys' attention this offseason, and probably enough to catch the eye of a WR-needy team elsewhere, so the Cowboys could either hold on to him or try to get a sixth-round pick out of losing him (original-round tender) and hope Guidry can replace him as WR4. 
  • Malik Turner, WR [UPDATE: The Cowboys opted to not issue a tender on Turner, but he has re-signed with the team as an unrestricted free agent on a one-year deal.]: A former undrafted free agent signed by the Seattle Seahawks, Turner also spent time with the Green Bay Packers in 2020 before joining the Cowboys. His addition helped salve the wound created by the loss of wideout Ventell Bryant to injury, with Turner being viewed as a special teams piece more than another weapon for the quarterback. He was active in six games for the Cowboys and logged zero catches on just two offensive snaps all season, and his 73 special teams snaps accounted for only 17 percent of the total workload. It's doubtful he'll return to Dallas, unless it's as a last resort or some sort of insurance policy for the offseason.
  • Greg Senat, OL [UPDATE: The Cowboys opted to not issue a tender on Senat.]: Given how desperate the Cowboys were to try and stop the bleeding on their injury-riddled offensive line, it doesn't bode well for Senat that he was able to earn only two offensive snaps in 10 games played. Mostly relegated to special teams, where his 48 snaps accounted for only 11 percent of the total taken by the team in 2020, Senat didn't establish any value with the Cowboys and, as such, is an afterthought heading into an offseason that will also see the return of Tyron Smith and La'El Collins from season-ending injuries. At best, he might be considered developmental, of the practice squad variety.

Unrestricted free agents

Grab the keys to the Brinks truck and back it up right into this section of Cowboys free agency, because it's where the big money can be found, but only one player can truly break the bank here in 2021 (hint: his last name rhymes with desk cot). A second tag on Prescott would've cost the Cowboys a hefty $37.7 million, and it wasn't expected the team would attempt to transition tag any of their free agents this offseason, but here are the values for your consideration. 

Per Over the Cap (projected):

Defensive end - $14.811 million
Wide receiver - $14.269 million
Linebacker - $13.406 million
Cornerback - $13.202 million
Offensive line - $13.156 million
Defensive tackle - $14.178 million
Safety - $9.55 million
Running back - $8.942 million
Tight end - $8.576 million
Special teams - $4.382 million

Under normal circumstances, a team can only utilize either the franchise tag or the transition tag, and not both in the same offseason. So if the franchise tag has to be used on Prescott, while no one else arguably deserves the use of a franchise tag on their current roster this offseason, the less expensive transition tag will be off of the table.

Each of the following players have accrued four or more seasons of NFL service, and that means the Cowboys have no control over where they sign unless either the franchise tag or transition tag is used. If the latter is deployed, they won't receive a compensatory pick if they choose to not match an offer from another team on the player it's tethered to, however, unless they rescind it first. And then there's the fact the franchise tag itself is divided between an exclusive and non-exclusive ranking, the former preventing a player from outside negotiations while the latter allowing it, but granting the Cowboys two first-round picks if they let the player walk.

It's all a game within a game, and the Cowboys played it exactly how we expected they would.

  • Dak Prescott, QB: [UPDATE: The Cowboys and Prescott have agreed to terms on a record-setting multiyear deal. View the details here.] Stop me if you've heard this before, but, a long-term deal on Prescott must still be worked out. Any talk of trading for another QB is rooted in nothing more than a headline grab, because the bottom line remains the Cowboys want Prescott to be their franchise quarterback for at least the next five years, whereas he'd like to cut that to four. There's also the matter of perennial increase in market value at the position and the deepened value of the two-time Pro Bowler displayed by his absence in 2020, which means revisiting the numbers on the proposal is again a must-do. Take a look at the list of insider notes in the appropriate section below for the latest on negotiations with Prescott, as Dallas remains all-in on trying to finally secure him for the foreseeable future.
  • Andy Dalton, QB [UPDATE: Dalton will sign a one-year deal with the Bears.]: It was never expected Dalton would remain in Dallas for more than his one-year contract signed last season, mostly because he still fancies himself as a starting QB and the Cowboys have told him directly that won't happen in North Texas, because "it's Dak Prescott's team," as noted by team exec Stephen Jones. That leaves Dalton to look for greener pastures elsewhere, but while he had admirable moments in 2020, his final few in the regular season finale with a playoff berth on the line won't exactly have teams falling over themselves to overpay him.
  • Sean Lee, LB: The longtime veteran is still mulling retirement, and hasn't leaned in one direction or the other just yet. In his interview to end the season, Lee sounded like a man who still wants to hit people on the field, and he's only one year removed from having one of the best and most durable seasons of his otherwise injury-riddled career. Should he choose to play one more year, it would be of benefit to the Cowboys and a linebacker corps that saw Jaylon Smith take another step back and Leighton Vander Esch miss more games due to injury.
  • Blake Bell, TE [UPDATE: Bell is reportedly set to rejoin the Chiefs on a one-year deal]: The aptly nicknamed "Belldozer" did exactly what he was paid to do, which is clear paths as a blocking tight end, but he also added some oomph by reminding teams he could catch the ball as well, if asked to. Bell is a perfect complement to Blake Jarwin -- who'll return in 2021 from a season-ending torn ACL -- and a leveled-up Dalton Schultz, so if he wants to return to Dallas, they'd likely love to have him stick around.
  • Joe Looney, OL: Not many thought much of it at the time, when Looney opted to remain with the Cowboys and forego following Jason Garrett to the New York Giants, but then came the retirement of perennial All-Pro center Travis Frederick. Suddenly, it was a coup to have retained Looney, who served as a solid stopgap at starting center but also suffered injury that allowed the Cowboys to see what they have in Tyler Biadasz -- a player they traded up to acquire in last year's draft. Looney is both a team- and fan-favorite and has at least earned a role as backup on the interior offensive line, something he's accustomed to anyway.
  • Cameron Erving, OL [UPDATE: Erving agreed to terms with the Panthers on a two-year, $10 million deal.]: The season didn't go as planned for Erving, and that could put him on the outs this offseason. He struggled initially in attempting to take over the absent starting tackles, and while he eventually played better, he also battled injury himself. The 28-year-old former first-round pick finished the year on injured reserve, making it difficult to presume the Cowboys would look re-sign him quickly. If they decide to add him back to the roster, it could be after they've worked their way through free agency and the draft, to see where they stand at a position that also contains Brandon Knight and an at least improving Terence Steele.
  • Aldon Smith, DE [UPDATE: Smith has agreed to terms with the Seahawks.] : As CBS Sports reported in late September and again in November, both the Cowboys and Smith are motivated to get a deal done, but that was before a few things became more clear. What a deal for Smith would look like is anyone's guess, considering the team would also like to unleash Randy Gregory. That could mean a reduced role for Smith, who cooled noticeably as the season wore on (something that is also as attributable to the defensive scheme of Mike Nolan than anything else). It was the Cowboys and McCarthy who gave Smith a chance to return to the NFL, and that counts for loyalty points, but they also fired his longtime friend and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, which might delete any loyalty earned. This is an interesting one to keep an eye on, especially with former fifth-round pick Bradlee Anae waiting in the wings.
  • Tyrone Crawford, DL [UPDATE: Crawford has retired from the NFL]: The veteran defensive lineman is, like Lee, considering retirement but, like Lee, hasn't yet made a determination on his NFL future. His return to the field after suffering a season-ending hip injury didn't go even remotely as planned, and certainly not for the cap hit that came tied to him in 2020. That said, considering the Cowboys need depth on the defensive line until/unless they repair the issue in free agency and/or the draft, you can't rule Crawford out as a possible return on a veteran minimum deal. Not unless he rules himself out first by hanging up his cleats.
  • Joe Thomas, LB [UPDATE: Thomas is signing a one-year, $2 million deal with the Texans.]: From minute one, Thomas has impressed in Dallas. One of the unsung heroes of a struggling LB corps, attempting to retain Thomas would be an absolute no-brainer. He may not be a week-in, week-out starter, but he's a more than capable backup that can play all three linebacker positions and deliver a handful of quality starts in a pinch. He's also the consummate professional and a great teacher of the younger group, and the Cowboys can't afford to lose either of those things right now. 
  • Justin March, LB: Now here's a guy ... sorry ... I really just had to scratch that itch when it comes to March, mostly because he's always been willing to do the dirty work without complaint. The 27-year-old provides both depth at the position and talent on special teams, always willing to do what's needed. Much of his damage is done on kickoffs and punts, where he logged 211 snaps (49%) last season. Having now learned how special teams can change games, while also having a depth need at LB, March is a good player to keep around; and he won't cost much to do so.
  • L.P. Ladouceur, LS [UPDATE: The Cowboys are choosing to move on from Ladouceur, an unexpected move detailed in the story links below.]: This man needs no introduction, nor does the living legend require a wordy take on why he needs to be re-signed. He is literal perfection at the position and if he's not ready to retire, he'll be back in Dallas. And even if he is ready it call it a career after 16 years, put more money on the table and convince him otherwise, because the NFL might never see a long snapper of this caliber ever again.
  • Xavier Woods, S [UPDATE: Woods agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Vikings.]: In an offseason that will see the Cowboys possibly losing anywhere from one to four key players in their secondary, it's Woods that headlines the group. One of the more promising safety talents in the league, the wheels fell off of Woods when he was hurled into Nolan's scheme, and in a contract year, no less. He looked wholly out of sorts and nothing like the player from seasons prior -- one who was on the continual upswing in his career. Now he's headed to Minnesota under Mike Zimmer and is expected to take over for the departed Anthony Harris.
  • Chidobe Awuzie, CB [UPDATE: Awuzie has agreed to a three-year deal with the Bengals]: Like Woods, Awuzie's contract year was nothing to write home to mother about but, unlike Woods, his story is one that is also tied to durability issues. Once a promising cornerback in the Cowboys system, Awuzie hasn't progressed over the last couple of seasons and that's not been aided by the time he's missed due to soft tissue injuries. He showed flashes at the tail end of the season and that's something that might catch Quinn's eye, however, along with the fact Trevon Diggs can't do it all on his own. Awuzie won't (and can't) command top dollar or anywhere near it on the open market, and there was talk of potentially moving him to safety in 2020, something that could add value in Dallas. So even if they were to grab a top CB with the 10th-overall pick, Awuzie could still squeeze his way back onto the roster.
  • C.J. Goodwin, CB [UPDATE: Goodwin and the Cowboys have agreed on a two-year, $3.5 million deal]: A depth player who has stepped in as needed, Goodwin has been mostly praised by the organization for his ability to operate in more than one capacity. He didn't log any starts in his first three seasons with the Cowboys, but was activated in all 32 games over the last two seasons, while others struggled to climb off of the practice squad. Much more of a special teams ace than anything else, coordinator John Fassel loves Goodwin and will ask the brass in Dallas to find the pennies to keep him around, because that's really all it would cost, figuratively speaking.
  • Jourdan Lewis, CB [UPDATE: Lewis has re-signed with the Cowboys on a three-year deal]: He's proven he can be a starter in the league and has often been the team's defensive ballhawk prior to the arrival of Trevon Diggs and the ascension of safety Donovan Wilson, but 2020 was uneven for Lewis. The team is already committed to Anthony Brown at starting nickel corner and while they'd like to keep Lewis onboard, it would have to be at a price he may not be cozy with. Add this to the fact there's still an inevitable slight he might be feeling from having been continuously shelved due to his size, and he could look to head elsewhere. Despite his antics in Week 17 against the New York Giants, losing Lewis wouldn't be an "it is what it is" type of situation. Brown has battled injury issues and if he does again in 2021, not having Lewis around would sting mightily.
  • Eli Ankou, DL: One word comes to mind here: no. The Cowboys decided to not jump into the trade waters for any headline names in 2020, instead pulling a strange trigger that, to this day, adds up about as well as two plus two equalling one. They sent a seventh-round draft pick to the Houston Texans in exchange for Ankou, who was claimed off waivers by the only two weeks prior, which happened six weeks after the Indianapolis Colts claimed him after the Cleveland Browns sent him packing in early September. Despite all of this, and the fact he had only 1.5 sacks and 15 solo tackles in three NFL seasons, the Cowboys gave up an asset to acquire him, only to witness him deliver them no sacks and just one solo tackle in seven games. Just eat this mistake and move on.
  • Noah Brown, WR [UPDATE: The Cowboys have agree to terms on a one-year deal with Brown]:: My my, how the hive has fallen. At one point, Brown was the proud owner of a strong hive within Cowboys fandom that routinely pleaded with the team to give him a fair shot, and once he returned from injury, they did just that. It didn't end well, to say the least, because Brown struggled mightily in late 2020 and the Cowboys exacerbated the matter by oddly trying to force feed him the ball in situations where others might've excelled -- e.g., Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb and Cedrick Wilson. Brown has talent, yes, but not enough good film to warrant pushing aside an upstart like Guidry or someone with great film like Wilson to make room for him on the roster. He might get a shot though, considering it's a 90-man head count to start the offseason, but any deal granted would be limited in years and money, with little of the latter being guaranteed (if any).

2021 NFL Draft 

Top positional needs: CB, S, iDL, OT, LB

The Cowboys have six traditional draft picks -- non-compensatory -- in this year's draft, and it's key to remember compensatory picks can be traded away. This is a lot of draft capital for a team that desperately needs to rebuild its defense this offseason.

  • Round 1 - 10th-overall
  • Round 2 - 44th-overall
  • Round 3 - 75th-overall
  • Round 3 - 99th-overall (compensatory pick: Byron Jones)
  • Round 4 - 115th-overall
  • Round 4 - 138th-overall (compensatory pick: Robert Quinn)
  • Round 5 - 179th-overall (compensatory pick: Randall Cobb)
  • Round 6 - 192nd-overall
  • Round 6 - 227th-overall (compensatory pick: Jeff Heath)
  • Round 7 - 238th-overall

Signings that impact the 2022 compensatory pick formula

These are signings of unrestricted free agents whose contract expired with their previous team, as they directly impact and are matched against any in-house free agents the Cowboys lose to determine how many compensatory picks -- if any -- Dallas will receive in next year's draft. As seen directly above, the losses of Jones, Quinn, Cobb and Heath are expected to garner the Cowboys a draft pick for each, but it's a fluid game that includes two separate deadlines. One in April draws a hard line and prevents new signings of UFAs to be calculated in the formula, but the Cowboys could help their case depending upon which of those newly-signed free agents they release during the season before a second predetermined NFL deadline.

Yes, it's football chess of the highest order.

  • Tarell Basham, DE - Two-year deal ($6.5 million) 
  • Keanu Neal, DB - One-year deal ($5 million)

Signings of players cut by other NFL teams 

Why is there a difference in these two categories? I'm glad you asked. 

It's important to differentiate between the players signed as unrestricted free agents and those signed after being cut by another team, because players who are signed after being released by another team do not count in the compensatory draft pick formula for the team who signs them. This is how the NFL sorts through its complex formula to award picks in next year's draft, or to not.

  • TBD 

Signings not used in compensatory pick formula

  • Jake McQuaide, LS - One-year deal ($$ TBD)
  • Ty Nsekhe, OT - One-year deal ($1.75 million max value)
  • Carlos Watkins, DL - One-year deal ($1.75 million max value)
  • Brent Urban, DL - One-year deal ($1.75 million max value)
  • Jayron Kearse, S - One-year deal ($$ TBD)
  • Damontae Kazee, DB - One-year deal ($1.23 million)
  • Jeremy Sprinkle, TE - One-year deal ($1.08 million)
  • Bryan Anger, P - One-year deal ($990K)

Free agents lost to other teams

  • Joe Thomas, LB: Signed to Texans on one-year, $2 million deal
  • Cameron Erving, OL: Signed to Panthers on two-year, $10 million deal (comp pick potential)
  • Chidobe Awuzie, CB: Agreed to three-year deal with Bengals (comp pick potential)
  • Andy Dalton, QB: Agreed to one-year, $10 million deal with Bears (comp pick potential)
  • Blake Bell, TE: Agreed to one-year deal with Chiefs
  • Xavier Woods, S: Agreed to one-year, $2.75 million deal with Vikings
  • Aldon Smith, DE: Agreed to one-year deal with Seahawks

Insider analysis, rumors, reports and updates

There isn't an angle we don't have covered for you when it comes to the Cowboys this offseason, and here are the latest from credible sources including CBS Sports' own original reporting, as the team wades through the waves over the next several months.

APRIL

Teams interested in acquiring No. 10 pick, calling Cowboys to discuss - April 20

Aldon Smith wanted for alleged second degree battery in New Orleans - April 19

Cowboys report to voluntary workouts amid NFL, NFLPA issues - April 19

Kyle Pitts confirms he's spoken with Cowboys ahead of draft - April 19

Aldon Smith agrees to one-year deal with Cowboys; 2022 comp pick? - April 15

Gerald McCoy free agency: 'I can still play at a high level' in 2021 - April 13

Cowboys perfect 2021 draft plan unveiled - April 12

Ex-Washington tight end Jeremy Sprinkle heads to Dallas - April 8

Dak Prescott shows off progress in recovery from injury - April 7

Cowboys sign Bryan Anger to create competition at punter - April 7

Top CB prospect Jaycee Horn: Being drafted by Cowboys would be 'big' - April 5

L.P. Ladouceur wants to continue playing, despite Cowboys decision - April 3

MARCH

Cowboys seven-round mock draft unleashes talent on Dallas - March 31

Xavier Woods parts ways with Cowboys, joins Vikings - March 29

Damontae Kazee agrees to one-year deal with Cowboys, how he fits their plan - March 26

(TWEET) Deal on Damontae Kazee, Malik Hooker expected to be short-term - March 25

Tyrone Crawford to retire in 2021, Sean Lee still deciding - March 25

Cowboys sign safety Jayron Kearse, still discussion Kazee, Hooker - March 25

(TWEET) Aldon Smith, Cowboys to part ways in 2021 - Mach 24

Grading first week free agency moves by the Cowboys - March 23

(TWEET) Kazee, Hooker set for no later than Wednesday - March 22

Cowboys agree to terms with ex-Falcons safety Keanu Neal - March 20

Keanu Neal mulls offer from Cowboys, team to meet with two other top safeties - March 20

Special teams shakeup continues in Dallas, as coordinator puts stamp on unit - March 19

Tarell Basham, Brent Urban join Cowboys D-line as team's FA plan takes shape - March 19

Cowboys sign Carlos Watkins to D-line, lose Blake Bell to KC reunion - March 18

Jourdan Lewis agrees to return to Cowboys on three-year deal - March 18

Dallas adds former Washington swing tackle Ty Nsekhe in free agency - March 17

Andy Dalton signs one-year deal with Bears - March 16

Cowboys re-sign special teams ace C.J. Goodwin to two-year deal - March 16

Andy Dalton drawing interest from Bears, not expected to return to Cowboys - March 16

Chidobe Awuzie, Bengals agree to terms on three-year deal - March 16

Antwaun Woods looking for more money, Cowboys issue ROFR tag - March 16

Cedrick Wilson gets tendered, Noah Brown lands one-year deal in Dallas - March 16

Cowboys make unexpected decision to move on from L.P. Ladouceur - March 16

Todd France fires shot at Russell Wilson's agent for dirty tactics - March 12

(VIDEO) Dak Prescott confirms CBS Sports reporting, details health status for 2021 - March 11

NFL reveals 2021 compensatory draft picks, Cowboys land maximum amount - March 10

Roger Staubach, Emmitt Smith wildly support Dak Prescott deal - March 10

Jerry Jones has 'no regrets' on awarding Dak Prescott a historic deal - March 10

Dak Prescott cites Alex Smith as motivation in recovery from injury - March 10

Danny White reacts to Cowboys record-setting QB deal for Dak Prescott - March 9

(TWEET) Cowboys tender Ron'Dell Carter, will return in 2021 - March 9

Complete breakdown of Dak Prescott megadeal, cap impact on free agency - March 9

Dak Prescott, Cowboys agree to terms on record-setting long-term deal - March 8

NFL considering delaying franchise tag deadline, would work in Cowboys favor - March 8

Former teammate of Russell Wilson warns Cowboys: 'Pay and build around Dak Prescott' - March 3

(TWEET) Source: Dak Prescott working out daily at DAL facility, has ability to run, talks have 'good' tone - March 2

FEBRUARY

Cowboys injury update: Dak Prescott protectors Tyron Smith, La'El Collins, on schedule for 2021 return - Feb. 24

Dez Bryant sets timeline for NFL retirement, former Cowboys star receiver will not return to Ravens in 2021 - Feb. 24

Dak Prescott contract: Cowboys restart opening dialogue with QB, franchise tag viewed as last resort - Feb. 23

NFC East 2021 offseason needs: Cowboys top needs are clear, as are those for Giants, Eagles and Washington - Feb. 17

Dak Prescott contract: Cowboys hope to avoid tag, confident in QB's recovery after added clean-up surgery - Feb. 8

Dak Prescott contract: Cowboys legend Jimmy Johnson skewers team for not having deal done yet - Feb. 3

Jason Witten retirement: Cowboys legend named head coach for local high school team - Feb. 1

JANUARY

Dallas hasn't ruled out interest in Richard Sherman, but lots to consider - Jan. 29

Cowboys interested in re-signing Gerald McCoy, but decision falls on Dan Quinn - Jan. 26

Cowboys coaching hire: Aden Durde reunites with Dan Quinn as D-line coach, Maurice Linguist won't return - Jan. 20

Cowboys' George Edwards drawing attention from Bears as defensive coordinator candidate - Jan. 19

Cowboys' Dak Prescott reacts to Tom Brady, Bucs advancing to NFC title game: 'Hold my crutches' - Jan. 18

Troy Aikman approves of Cowboys decision to hire Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator, but has roster concerns - Jan. 18

Cowboys coaching hire: Joe Whitt Jr. signs on as position coach in reunion with Dan Quinn, Mike McCarthy - Jan. 13

Dan Quinn to the Cowboys: What change at defensive coordinator means for Dallas' scheme, staff, draft and more - Jan. 12

Cowboys coaching search: Dan Quinn to interview for defensive coordinator role, adding to list of candidates - Jan. 12

Five-step plan to fix the Cowboys in 2021: Dak Prescott extension, revamping defense key factors in reboot - Jan. 11

Grading Cowboys 2020 rookie class: CeeDee Lamb, Trevon Diggs lead the pack with impressive NFL debut - Jan. 6

Jerry Jones: I don't know how Dak Prescott 'could have any more leverage' - Jan. 6

Andy Dalton looking forward to NFL free agency, wants to sign somewhere as QB1 - Jan. 4

Kellen Moore lands new deal with Cowboys rooted in the future of Dak Prescott, passes on Boise State - Jan. 3

Troy Aikman on Dak Prescott, Cowboys contract talks: 'I would pay him. He's going to have a great career' - Jan. 1