There are certainly worse places to spend late January than Orlando, but it's hard to imagine any of the Cowboys coaches and players currently in Florida are all that happy to be there. Like everyone else in the NFL, Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Leighton Vander Esch and Jason Garrett would rather be preparing for the Super Bowl. They'd probably rather be at home, too, getting ready for the NFL's long offseason.
Instead, they're hanging out near Disney World, getting ready for the worst of America's pro all-star games, entertaining mild injury risk and the chance that Elliott gets into a bad spot at a nightclub. Hopefully, when the whistle blows Sunday night, no one in blue star gear will be any worse for wear, and the Cowboys can get down to the real business of the late winter, spring and summer — turning a pretty good team into one capable of playing meaningful, rather than meaningless, games next year in late January.
Here are five things the Cowboys need to do as they try to build for playoff success over the coming months.
1. Sign DeMarcus Lawrence to a long-term contract. — If the Cowboys don't lock up their best defensive player for the foreseeable future, this offseason will have been a failure. Lawrence is the straw that stirs the Cowboys' defensive drink. Without him, the team's remaining defensive linemen wouldn't be able to generate an effective pass rush, shutting down the lanes linebackers Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith need to make plays. Lawrence is a dominant force on his own, capable of multiple 15-sack seasons, and he makes everyone else on the defense better, too.
Unless something goes wrong, Jerry Jones is going to pay him — best guess here is somewhere around $65 million guaranteed — but there's no reason not to keep your fingers crossed until he does.
2. Let Cole Beasley move on. — For the last seven seasons, Beasley has been a fan favorite and one of the Cowboys' most reliable offensive players. He's 30 years old, though, and coming off his lowest touchdown total since 2013, with three. While he remains one of the NFL's best slot receivers, the Cowboys should have no trouble finding a poor-man's version of Beasley on day two or three of April's draft.
Someone is going to overpay for Beasley's services this offseason, and it shouldn't be the Cowboys.
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3. Figure out Travis Frederick's long-term health status. — It's easy to forget, but the Cowboys were missing the All-Pro anchor of their offensive line for all of 2018, thanks to Travis Frederick's diagnosis of Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disease. While Frederick said in December that he believes he'll return to the field in 2019, the effects of Guillain-Barré can stick with those suffering from the syndrome for years. If Frederick's not ready for training camp in July, it could be time to look for a new permanent solution at center.
4. Give Kellen Moore a defined role. — Moore, the Cowboys' quarterback coach, is expected to take over as offensive coordinator sometime this winter. If and when that happens, Moore needs to work with Garrett to establish how much autonomy he'll have in calling plays and running the offense. The more independence he can maintain from the conservative Garrett, the better.
5. Continue to develop Michael Gallup. — Over the last month or so of the 2018 season, Gallup showed his potential, especially in the Cowboys' season-ending loss to the Rams, during which he racked up 119 receiving yards. If he develops a rapport with Prescott and Moore and improves his route-running, the 2018 third-round draft pick has the chance to be an Alvin Harper-like weapon for the Cowboys moving forward. As good as Amari Cooper is, he'll only truly flourish with appropriate support.