Sun, 18 Apr 2021

What's Next For Special Teams: Changes At Punter

Dallas Cowboys
27 Feb 2021, 19:24 GMT+10

Nick Eatman

FRISCO, Texas - With so many questions to answers, this series will take a look at each position on the roster, and what choices might face the front office heading into 2021.

We'll continue with the special teams unit, an area that had its share of issues during the 2020 season.

Today, let's begin our questions at the punter position, which hasn't seen anyone a new player to begin the season since 2012.

Will the Cowboys have a new punter in 2021?

We get it. When it comes to making big changes at any position, especially with a player wearing a single-digit number, all that anyone really cares about right now is whether or not the Cowboys will lock up Dak Prescott.

And if not, what happens next.

While that situation remains unsolved here at the end of February, the Cowboys still have other decisions to make, with other veterans.

For instance, the Cowboys had to replace an injured Chris Jones at the end of last season with a new punter.

For the last eight games, the Cowboys had first-year pro Hunter Niswander, who finished the season with 26 punts, two more than Jones.

He also performed well enough in some areas to beg the question if the Cowboys will make a permanent change at the position moving forward.

And this brings us back to the aforementioned Prescott, who most certainly will demand a high price on the Cowboys' salary cap, whether he gets a new extension or is on the franchise tag again.

With that, means the Cowboys must be smart with their spending choices at just about every other position.

That's where Chris Jones comes back into the picture. Not only does he have a $2 million base salary and a $2.5 million cap charge, but his statistics have dipped throughout the years.

In fact, Niswander averaged 47.5 yards per punt in 2020, which ranked him tied for seventh in that category.

To compare, Jones has a career 44.5 yard average and his best season finish was 45.9 yards back in 2016.

And when you factor in Niswander's $780,000 projected salary for 2021, the writing could be on the wall for the Cowboys to make a move with Jones at some point before the start of free agency.

Aside from just punting, Jones also has been the Cowboys' holder for field goals and extra points throughout his time in Dallas. That was a role Niswander took on as well and there seemed to be no issues for Greg Zuerlein in the second half of the season.

But even if the Cowboys decide to part ways with Jones, that doesn't exactly mean the job would go to Niswander automatically.

Look for some competition in training camp, especially if the Cowboys can find a punter that can also kick field goals and handle kickoff duties.

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