4 trade targets for Cowboys after Ezekiel Elliott restructure creates cap space

The Cowboys restructured the contract of running back Ezekiel Elliott on Friday morning, moving part of his hefty salary to the front. In a nutshell, it doesn’t make much difference to Elliott’s financial status as his salary was already guaranteed for the year and he clearly wasn’t in danger of being released either this year or in 2022. That season was also guaranteed.
What it does do is give Dallas some flexibility in what they might be looking to do as the regular season nears and they begin to make decisions on the composition of their roster. Are there any holes on a team the front office believes could compete for a championship? Clearly. Maybe the club is looking to acquire veteran help they couldn’t afford before with their previous amount of cap space which went from $5.3 million to $12.2 million in the blink of an eye.
The easy answer is at cornerback, where after a fast start to camp, rookies Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright’s progress has slowed a bit and it looks like veteran Anthony Brown will be starting opposite Trevon Diggs to begin the season. Could New England’s Gilmore be in play? He’s been held out of team practice all offseason, sitting on New England’s PUP list, even though he’s apparently been ready to practice since late June. He’s disgruntled and wants out and Dallas could certainly be a destination, although he wants an extension and that certainly would stifle the growth of the second and third-round picks. Gilmore, 31, is still seen as a top player in the league despite having a down year in 2020. He had just one interception and two pass breakups in 11 games after 10 picks and 33 PBUs combined over the previous two seasons. As of now, he would cost an acquiring team $7.5 million in base salary and game bonuses in the final year of his contract.
When looking at a recent list of players identified as potential trade-out options, Bufalo DT Vernon Butler fits the profile of a position Dallas might be interesting in pursuing with Neville Gallimore’s injury and Trysten Hill still on PUP after a 2020 ACL injury. Butler is a 6-foot-4, 330-pound plug who flashed some pass-rush ability in 2019 with Carolina that earned him a two-year, $15 million deal with the Bills, most of which has already been paid out. His 2021 base salary is at $3 million.
Also of note, the Cowboys probably don’t feel comfortable with the backup solution at quarterback. Cooper Rush and Garrett Gilbert might not be exciting options for the Cowboys and the Chicago Bears are likely eager to rid themselves of Nick Foles’ contract with Justin Fields and Andy Dalton prepared to be the top two guys. Foles, 32, has been around the league. Most notably he’s shown he’s capable of coming off the bench late in the season when he led the Philadelphia Eagles to their only Super Bowl win after Carson Wentz went down late in the season. Last season he releived Mitchell Trubisky of his starting role in Chicago and passed for a 64.7 completion percentage while throwing 10 TDs against 8 interceptions. He has just under a 2:1 career TD:INT ratio and with the weapons the Cowboys have at their disposal, could be a decent fill-in for the club, though one would think they’d be gun shy about paying a backup any level of big money following Andy Dalton’s 2020 performance. Foles has a base salary of $4 million in 2021, and the deal comes with a 2022 season with the same base salary but also a $4 million roster bonus which basically makes it a one-year agreement for an acquiring team.
Special teams coach John Fassel has made no secret he wants to get his band back together. Last offseason Dallas signed kicker Greg Zuerlein. This offseason they let life-long long snapper L.P, Ladouceur go in favor of two-time Pro Bowler Jake McQuaide. If the Rams are looking to trade Johnny Hekker? Best believe Fassel will be looking closely The club singed Bryan Anger in the offseason and recently released last year’s fill-in Hunter Niswander, but both could’ve been just placeholders waiting for, well, a preferred placekick holder. Hekker has a great leg and perhaps more importantly is a trick-play magnet, having the necessary athleticism to run trick plays and arm to complete passes downfield. His punting grades with PFF have been on a steady decline since 2014 though. In 2020, his first season without Fassel, he had a career-worst 45.6 yards-per-punt average. Hekker has three years, $12 million remaining on his deal and is set to make $3.75 million in base salary in 2021.

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