At the end of the month, the Dallas Cowboys will report to training camp in Oxnard, California, and fans are still hungry for a big signing in free agency.
In April, the Cowboys’ biggest signings were Dante Fowler and James Washington. Fans weren’t happy, and when Stephen Jones appeared on 105.3 The Fan, he said the Cowboys weren’t done in free agency yet.
Since Jones made that remark, Dallas has signed linebacker Christian Sam, linebacker Malik Jefferson and kicker Lirim Hajrullahu. The only player with the potential to start for the Cowboys this season is Hajrullahu, but he seems to be second fiddle in a kicking competition that is Jonathan Garibay’s to lose.
If the front office isn’t going to spend money on big free agents, what else can they do to bring in some (hopefully) difference-making talent?
Last week the Chicago Bears sent a seventh round draft pick to the New England Patriots in exchange for wide receiver N’Keal Harry. The former Arizona State Sun Devil was the 32nd pick of the 2019 NFL Draft. In college, Harry posted 2,889 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns in three seasons. He ranks thirds all-time in ASU history in both stats.
But things haven’t translated to the NFL yet. In three years, Harry has only 598 receiving yards and four touchdowns and has never spent a full season as a starter. The Bears, who are struggling with depth at wide receiver, made a smart move by sending a late-round selection in exchange for a former first round talent. They bought low on Harry, so if it works out, great. If it doesn’t, the deal will be an afterthought.
With the market for players at a similar skill level to Harry, here are two players the Cowboys could acquire that may help fill positions of need:
Andy Isabella, wide receiver
By the numbers, Isabella is the best wide receiver in UMass history. His 3,526 receiving yards and 30 touchdowns are both tops in the school’s record books and by a wide margin. Isabella even led the NCAA in 2018 with 1,698 receiving yards.
Isabella went on to be a late second round draft pick to the Arizona Cardinals in 2019. In three seasons, he’s started in three games and has amassed only 426 yards and three touchdowns. He’s been buried on the roster behind players like DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk and A.J. Brown.
Unhappy with the opportunity he was getting in the desert, it was reported in March that Isabella even received permission from the Cardinals to seek a trade.
Isabella would have a fair shot at a starting job in Dallas. CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup occupy the top spots on the WR depth chart. Past that, it’s a battle between two unproven players in rookie Jalen Tolbert and veteran James Washington.
Isabella, 5’9 and 188-pounds, is similar in stature to Cole Beasley, but Isabella has more big play ability than Beasley. Isabella’s strength is creating separation from defenders by utilizing his speed and quickness.
Jahlani Tavai, linebacker
Tavai was a tackling machine during his time as a Hawaii Rainbow Warrior. He recorded 390 total tackles and 16.5 sacks in four seasons. In 2017, his 124 total tackles were the 10th most in the NCAA.
Tavai was drafted in round two by the Detroit Lions in 2019. He started 16 games over two seasons in the Motor City but was still splitting snaps with other linebackers. The Lions released Tavai after the preseason last year, and he was quickly signed by the Patriots before week one. But he was only on the field for 7% of the Patriots’ defensive snaps, as he got more responsibility on special teams.
Dallas being his third team in four years would drive down his asking price even more. The Cowboys did just sign another bottom-of-the-depth chart linebacker last week, so why not add one more player in to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster.
Dallas is desperately searching for a linebacker who can focus more on stopping the run and dropping back in coverage rather than rushing the QB. If they can find a player capable of doing so, it will allow Micah Parsons to focus solely on pass rushing, which will surely result in him topping his 13 sacks from last season.