2017 NFL Free Agency: 5 Big-Name Targets for Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys’ season ended, but they have a bright future that could be made brighter by adding one of these big-name targets in 2017 NFL free agency.

The dream has died for the Dallas Cowboys. After rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott seemingly changed the rules regarding what an offense led by first-year players is capable of, they  fell short in the Divisional Round. Aaron Rodgers and Mason Crosby—and the rest of the Green Bay Packers—cut them off short. However, there’s still time to move forward and time to get even better. For that, the Cowboys have the offseason and 2017 NFL free agency.

Especially with the potential to get Tony Romo off of the books via trade, the Cowboys could have plenty of money to work with in free agency this offseason. This is an intriguing crop of free agents set to hit the open market, but it’s a bit shallow. Subsequently, having a solid foundation to lure players in will be huge. Dallas clearly has that going for them.

So as they look to improve, they should be going after the big names on the open market in free agency. With that in mind, here’s a look at the five big-name free agents they could target that would help them continue to build another dynasty for America’s Team.

Dallas Cowboys

Jan 3, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Washington Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon (88) catches a pass and scores a touchdown in the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

5. Pierre Garcon, WR – Washington Redskins

There’s a large portion of the Cowboys fanbase collectively groaning at seeing an offensive player as the first mentioned in regards to free agency. Rest assured, Pierre Garcon is the only offensive player that will be discussed. It’s obvious that the defense is the biggest concern that Dallas needs to address in free agency. However, targeting a player like Garcon would be huge considering what the Cowboys might be looking at heading into 2017.

With Terrance Williams slated to hit free agency, the assumption among many is that Dallas will let him walk. Though he’s shown flashes at times throughout his career, he’s rarely been the consistent No. 2 that the Cowboys would like for him to be. Subsequently, letting him go would make sense. In that case, then looking to bring in Garcon to fill that role opposite of Dez Bryant in the offense would be a massive upgrade.

Though he’s not the player he used to be, Garcon is a reliable target still capable of making big plays. Even at 30 years old, the veteran wideout was able to haul in 79 catches for another 1,000-yard season with Washington in 2016. Adding him as another weapon for Dak Prescott in the passing attack would be huge for the signal-caller’s continued development and make their offense overall even more daunting moving forward.

Oct 18, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn (24) celebrates his tackle against the Kansas City Chiefs in the first quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings win 16-10. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 18, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn (24) celebrates his tackle against the Kansas City Chiefs in the first quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings win 16-10. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

4. Captain Munnerlyn, CB – Minnesota Vikings

Whenever you look at the headlines regarding the Minnesota Vikings defense, much of the talk about their secondary centered around the electric Xavier Rhodes. Without question, Rhodes was phenomenal throughout the season and is a star in Minnesota. That being said, the Vikings and Rhodes also benefitted from a fantastic season from his counterpart on the opposite side, veteran Captain Munnerlyn.

Munnerlyn shined outside for the Vikings this season, consistently being graded by Pro Football Focus as one of the top corners in the entire league. Despite the struggles that the Vikings experienced, they were rarely (if ever) the fault of the veteran. That’s exactly the type of player the Cowboys could use to bolster their secondary moving forward. They need that guy who’s name isn’t called throughout games for all the right reasons.

With Morris Claiborne hitting free agency, the Cowboys are left quite thin at the position. Though Anthony Brown showed promise as a rookie, I’m not too sure he’s ready for the task of taking a starting corner spot on this defense. Slotting in Munnerlyn if Dallas could lure him out of Minnesota would be huge for the Cowboys and for Brown’s development. He could keep the secondary as a strength for this defense and help them to not put the offense in tough positions—like they did in the Divisional Round.

Jan 3, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; St. Louis Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson (22) reacts after a play against the San Francisco 49ers in the second quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 3, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; St. Louis Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson (22) reacts after a play against the San Francisco 49ers in the second quarter at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

3. Trumaine Johnson, CB – Los Angeles Rams

Trumaine Johnson was originally slated to hit the open market a year ago, but instead was hit with the franchise tag to stay with the Los Angeles Rams for the 2016 season. Now slated to hit the market again, the Rams would certainly love to retain the cornerback to help bolster their secondary for the future. However, if the Cowboys were to come calling with a big number on paper, Johnson might be looking for a bit more team success moving forward.

Dallas would obviously provide that for him, but he would also be huge for the Cowboys secondary. Despite showing up big throughout the season, the Cowboys were also playing with fire a bit this season in their defensive backfield. When Morris Claiborne (who is also a free agent this offseason) was injured, they relied on sixth-round rookie Anthony Brown to step in. While he performed well and showed real promise, that shows the need for quality and quality depth with this unit.

Johnson provides that and more. No matter what the Cowboys decide with Claiborne, they need to add a body. While Munnerlyn would be a great option, going after Johnson would be swinging for the fences. And for a team like Dallas that seems on the cusp of a dynasty with their offense, swinging for the fences when they can should be exactly the move they make this offseason.

Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (90) celebrates after recovering a fumble during the first half against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (90) celebrates after recovering a fumble during the first half against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

2. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE – New York Giants

Perhaps the most glaring weakness in the Cowboys loss to the Packers was their absent pass rush. If you’re going up against Aaron Rodgers, you can only ask your secondary to do but so much. When the Green Bay superstar has time to move around and survey the broken play, you’re toast. That ultimately helped the Packers offense get into a rhythm and get out to their early lead. Subsequently, Dallas has to address that in the offseason.

So why not go after a player likely departing a division rival in defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul? Yes, JPP has struggled with injuries—both accident-related and not—over the past two seasons. Meanwhile, he’s also in the wrong half of his career in regards to age. However, don’t let that overshadow the fact that he was still massively productive in the 12 games when he was on the field for the New York Giants this season.

Pierre-Paul finished the season with 53 combined tackles, seven sacks, and three forced fumbles in the dozen games he was healthy for. Though there were many other aspects aiding the cause, having a healthy JPP helped to revitalize the dead-in-the-water Giants defense from a year ago. Subsequently, perhaps adding him to the front four could do the same for the Cowboys pass rush in 2017 and beyond.

Sep 18, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell (93) takes the field to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 18, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell (93) takes the field to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

1. Calais Campbell, DE – Arizona Cardinals

Once again, the ugly truth for the Cowboys that showed in the Divisional Round was their lack of consistent pass rush. Blame holding, blame DeMarcus Lawrence and David Irving, or place blame wherever else (Randy Gregory continuously hitting the bong might be a good place to look, as well), they simply couldn’t get pressure on Rodgers. It was a problem all season and one that the front office has to adequately address in the offseason. Calais Campbell could be a force in that regard.

Though he’d be transitioning out of his role with in Arizona as a defensive end in the 3-4 base scheme, Campbell has the size and versatility to succeed both as a 4-3 end or on the inside at defensive tackle if he were to show up in Dallas. He’s a load at 6-8, 300 pounds, but also has the quickness and explosion to get after the passer that a man his size shouldn’t possess. Campbell has accrued 29 sacks over the past four seasons with the Cards. However, that doesn’t credit all of the pressure that he puts on that doesn’t result in a sack.

Adding Campbell to the Cowboys defensive front affords them the opportunity to use him in a number of roles and to also retain flexibility in regards to other free agency decisions and in the draft. Yes, he’s 30 years old, but he posted another big season for the Cardinals this year with no sign of slowing up. It’ll be costly, but Campbell should be at the top of Dallas’ wish list in free agency.

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