It's the moment Antwaun Woods was waiting on, or rather he's at least one step closer to it. His relationship with the Dallas Cowboys got off to a roaring start when he ascended from camp body to starting nose tackle, his fiery demeanor leading to an unwillingness to back down from anyone on the field, including future Ring of Honor inductee Travis Frederick -- the two having had an eye-opening scuffle in Woods' first training camp. Things took a left turn in 2020, however, when Woods became an exclusive rights free agent, considering he was hoping to land a bigger payday than the NFL would allow.
As an ERFA, the Cowboys controlled 100% of Woods' rights, which meant if they tendered him, he had but two choices: play for the minimal pay or not play in the NFL last season. He didn't sign his tender immediately, but rather at the last minute, and it was clear he took no pleasure in putting pen to that piece of paper. Fast forward to this offseason and he's coming off of a season in which he's battled injury but also reasserted himself as a starter when healthy, now set to become a restricted free agent with more control of his destiny.
More, but not complete.
The team will issue a Right of First Refusal tender on Woods this time around, sources confirm to CBS Sports, a move that allows him to negotiate with other teams but will also allow the Cowboys to match any offer sheet he might receive. If they choose to not match it, he's free to go earn elsewhere but, if they do match, he's required to remain in Dallas on the higher salary. At worst, his base pay will be $2.133 million, but can obviously now go a bit higher, something that wasn't possible in 2020, and Woods has all eyes on trying to maximize his income this time around.
"Plot twist: last 3 years my back ups made more money than me," Woods said, via Twitter.
Of course, this statement doesn't take into account Woods was an undrafted free agent when he entered the league while others like Trysten Hill and Neville Gallimore were second- and third-round picks, respectively, their pick status guaranteeing them a much bigger initial payday than Woods -- who was active for only one game in his two seasons with the Tennessee Titans before joining the Cowboys in 2018.
The lack of accrued seasons is what initially forced him into the seat of an exclusive rights free agent and now a restricted free agent, now sitting one accrued season away from entering unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career. That makes what he does in 2021 paramount to finally having a shot at landing the huge payday he's hoping for, and time will tell if his prove-it (more) year will take place in Dallas or elsewhere.
But, for their part, the Cowboys have established their intent by putting a tender on him to open free agency.