It may be unsettling, but the Cowboys won’t re-sign wide receiver Terrance Williams. Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns’ recent four-year 40 million dollar contract (with 20 million guaranteed) sent waves throughout the NFL. After all, Hurns is a guy who had come into the NFL as an undrafted free agent. He has enjoyed two solid seasons thus far for the Jaguars, and as a result is getting rewarded with a big contract. It certainly makes quite the story; the kind of story that gives every undrafted player hope. It also brought up the question for each NFL team: how much is your favorite team’s number two wide receiver worth?
In addition to Hurns, we’ve also seen Mohamed Sanu, Travis Benjamin, and Marvin Jones cash in this past off-season. Their salaries average out to roughly 7.6 million per season. The number two wide receiver on a team (often referred to as the ‘Z’ wide receiver) is often matched up in single coverage (provided the defense is running man coverage), which tends to make them look better than they actually are.
The Cowboys Shouldn’t Overpay Terrance Williams
This is especially true when considering Williams. He gets the benefit of playing across from one the best in the game in Dez Bryant. Williams, as the number two receiver, has often received the softer coverage. As a result, he has benefited greatly from not being the focus of the defense.
Any wide receiver worth his weight in salt should be successful when routinely facing off-coverage and single coverage looks. This is especially true when the team has an above average quarterback, tight end, slot receiver, and the best offensive line in football. Defenses simply can’t key in on what the Cowboys are trying to do offensively, which makes Williams expendable.
While stepping up his production from year to year, we haven’t really seen much of an improvement in his route tree. He’s essentially a fly route, comeback, and slant wide receiver. This is fine though, considering this is what the Cowboys are asking him to do. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, however, that this is all he is capable of. A far different story if the latter is indeed true.
A third-round pick out of Baylor, the Cowboys seem to be pleased with the return on their investment. Why shouldn’t they be? Williams brings a deep threat who is capable of stretching the field even he’s not elite in that area. He has made some pretty big plays in his three-year career. Salaries are inflating more and more each year and Williams doesn’t figure to be a player the Cowboys could keep. With so much invested on offense, it doesn’t make any sense to continue to invest on that side of the ball with the Cowboys’ cap dollars. Sporting a below average catch percentage, the metrics don’t seem to favor Williams either. He is certainly a solid player, but simply doesn’t warrant the contract he will garner in free agency.
What Will the Cowboys Do at Wide Receiver?
It doesn’t seem likely that Williams will return. Even if he were to take a hometown discount of three to four million dollars per year, he likely still would not be re-signed. A bigger need for Dallas is a receiver who can stretch the field and go deep. Alvin Harper type speed is the only missing element on this team’s offense. Lucky Whitehead figures to get a chance at this role, as he proved that his speed did translate from college to the NFL. He was able to take advantages of the opportunities afforded to him, albeit predominately in the run game.
Brice Butler also figures to get a crack at seeing some playing time as well. After missing the NFL combine, he showed off his blazing speed at his pro day, recording a 4.37 40-yard dash. He posted a 39 inch vertical compared to Williams’ 32.5, showing off his impressive leaping ability. This is exactly what the Cowboys need from the fourth-year player, if he can stay healthy (he struggled with hamstring injuries throughout last year).
In the end, the Cowboys would be much better off using their cap dollars to extend their very young and talented offensive line. In addition, re-signing players at valuable positions like Morris Claiborne and J.J. Wilcox should also be a priority. The Cowboys have slowly assembled a program and are inching closer to escaping from cap hell.
The Cowboys have some big decisions to make if they are going to continue to build on the solid foundation they have established during the Will McClay and Stephen Jones era. Unfortunately for Terrance Williams, he will likely not be a part of that foundation going forward.