The Dallas Morning News considers Awuzie unlikely to re-sign with the organization when the market officially opens March 17.
The starting cornerback had an uneven season slowed by injuries. Awuzie knew 2020 was a big year as he entered a contract year. When he played, Awuzie had one interception and five pass breakups in eight games. Pro Football Reference charted Awuzie with allowing a career-high 14.8 yards per reception. The Cowboys already have a talented corner in Trevon Diggs, and maybe finding another corner in the first or second rounds is the way to strengthen this position.
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A 2017 second-round draft pick, Awuzie has contributed 148 solo tackles, 37 pass deflections, and four interceptions across 49 games (42 starts) for the silver and blue. His best season to date came in 2019 when he appeared in all 16 games and set career highs with 14 PBUs and 79 combined tackles.
Prior to his injury-muddied 2020 campaign, the Cowboys were exploring the possibility of moving Awuzie to safety where the Colorado product would have rotated with below-average incumbents Darian Thompson and Xavier Woods, also an impending free agent.
“I’m very comfortable with the flexibility we have throughout our secondary players,” head coach Mike McCarthy said last April, via The Athletic. “I’m not as caught up in traditional free safety or strong safety as some may be. What I like about our numbers in the back end is that we have great competition and excellent flexibility. We may have some players that can not only play corner but can also slide over and play some safety.”
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Projected Market Value
The 2021 free-agent cornerback class is buoyed by the likes of perennial Pro Bowlers Richard Sherman and Patrick Peterson, both likely to command lucrative contracts. But Awuzie is arguably the best of a second-tier that includes Desmond Trufant, Josh Norman, and Xavier Rhodes, among others.
Spotrac estimates Awuzie landing a four-year, $34.052 million deal that pays $8.5 million annually. That would make him the league’s 15th-highest-paid cornerback, sandwiched in between Detroit’s Justin Coleman (four years, $36 million) and Jeff Okudah (four years, $33.528 million).
Dallas enters the annual signing period with roughly $25.9 million in available salary-cap room, a majority of which will go toward quarterback Dak Prescott’s long-term extension or his $37.7 million franchise tag.
The team faces unenviable decisions on players not named Prescott, however. Its laundry list of scheduled free agents features a slew of starters (Sean Lee, Jourdan Lewis, Joe Looney, Aldon Smith) as well as key backups (Andy Dalton, Cameron Erving, Joe Thomas, CJ Goodwin, Justin March) — all of whom are of the unrestricted variety.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL