Cowboys’ QB Dak Prescott mentioned how vital it was for his offensive lineman to be back healthy in 2021.
“They’re the most important if you ask me,” Prescott said, via Todd Archer of ESPN. “From the time that I got drafted until now, this offense is built off of those guys. They’re the three most veteran guys on this team, and that’s for a reason. Those guys are walk-in Pro Bowl guys when they’re healthy, future Hall of Famers. Just to have those three guys lead the five guys up front, everything starts with them. The run game, that allows the passing game to open up. When you have those guys back healthy, energized, it’s special.”
Cowboys’ HC Mike McCarthy knows that there is positivity among the group of linemen and thinks that having each player in good health only helps the situation.
“I’m loving the positive vibes. They look great out there,” McCarthy said. “Tyron, going off last year’s experience, I have never seen him smile as much. A big part of it is he is healthy. He is pain-free. He looks great. LC looks great and the big man can run. … We definitely are a different line when those two guys line up. There is no question about that. It will be great to have them out there on an individual basis [after] what they have gone through last year. It definitely makes our line, our whole process up front, move a lot smoother.”
Cowboys’ No. 2 RB Tony Pollard also put his two cents in on what it meant to have a healthy offensive line.
“That’s definitely a big thing, getting our O-line back, getting a lot of guys we didn’t have — a lot of key guys, like Pro Bowl O-linemen, you know, La’el Collins, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin,” Pollard said. “All three of those guys are big for us.”
Giants’ DC Patrick Graham is thrilled about having two good cornerbacks as starters in James Bradberry and Adoree Jackson. He is also excited about having other talented cornerbacks at his disposal such as Darnay Holmes, Isaac Yiadom, and rookie Aaron Robinson.
“Whenever you have two corners that have a history of being playmakers and that can take away guys one-on-one, it frees up some other people in the secondary and it frees up stuff [against the run],” Graham told SNY on Tuesday. “So, we’ve got a chance to be a little bit more creative. But again, the guys that we had last year were working hard, too. It’s going to come down to the competition come fall camp and we’re looking forward to it. Not only just with Bradberry and Adoree’, but you have Darnay Holmes, you have Aaron Robinson, and a lot of guys we’ve added [the past two seasons]. You know, like [Isaac Yiadom]. Those guys are good players and you can’t have enough good corners, I’ll tell you that much.”
For now, the defensive line is the clear strength of Washington’s team and one of the best groups in the entire NFL with DE Chase Young, DT Jonathan Allen, DE Montez Sweat, and DT Daron Payne, plus DT Matthew Ioannidis. The first four were all first-round picks in successive years and Allen is the first one up for a new deal this offseason. After that, Washington could face a challenge in keeping the entire group together.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Washington HC Ron Rivera said via the Athletic’s Ben Standig. “The one thing that we’re fortunate (about) right now is we don’t have a high-ticket, high-price quarterback that we’ve got to worry about for the future. Now, eventually, that may come about, and we’ll see what happens. We’ll see if we can figure out how to handle that. But right now, we’re gonna take it one year at a time and just try to make sure we’re putting together as many of these great players that we have and be able to keep them around.”
Allen is set to play on the fifth-year option in 2021 at $10.05 million, with the rate for a long-term deal probably north of $17 million a year. Payne and Ioannidis are each in contract years in 2022 at around $8.5 million, while Sweat and Young will in theory have fifth-year options in 2024 and 2025. Young could reset the market for defensive ends by the time he signs his deal, while Sweat will also command big money if he keeps up his pace.
While the cap will go up, this presents a challenge Washington is aware of. They plan to make a run at keeping the unit together even if it proves unsuccessful in the end.
“I think you’ve got to make sure the contracts are fair, first and foremost, for both sides,” Rivera said. “At the end of the day, if both people are griping about it (and) both people are happy about it, then you’ve gotten a fair contract. That’s what you hope to do. You’ve got to do your research. You got to do your studying and then go from there. The nice thing is you’d be able to do one each year, and you’ll see how it goes. It’s about getting the right contracts for the right positions and the right guys.
“What we’ve tried to do is evaluate which positions are the most important for us. We look at this and say, ‘These guys are the types of guys that have impact, so we’re going to go from there.’ I can’t tell you what is going to happen with each one of those guys, but we’re mostly going to take a really good run at it. You’d like to be able to keep them all. We do know that the cap has potential to grow. We’ve also seen the cap has the potential to go down. That’s why they have to be fair contracts. They have to be contracts that as you look at going forward, you can say, ‘OK, with this contract, we can add on this, we can add on that.’”