Special teams ace C.J. Goodwin isn’t flashy. He isn’t going to lead the Dallas Cowboys in tackles, interceptions, or snaps. He won’t find himself on the cover of next year’s Madden or lead the team in jersey sales. None of that matters though, because what C.J. Goodwin is for the Cowboys is vitally important.
Now that the team has finally locked up their franchise quarterback, they can officially turn their attention to their other free agents. One player flying under the radar who the Cowboys absolutely must bring back is C.J. Goodwin.
Goodwin, is one of four key players in the Cowboys secondary, along with Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Xavier Woods, who will surely be testing the open market later this month. Of those four, Goodwin is the only one who Dallas absolutely needs to re-sign.
Given his lack of time in the spotlight, I suppose it wouldn’t be outrageous to say that some casual fans might even be asking themselves who the heck C.J. Goodwin is right about now. The fact that he played just 18 defensive snaps all season in 2020 means that if he walks in free agency the Cowboys won’t be down a recognizable starter the way they would be if Awuzie or Woods bolted.
C.J. Goodwin is a massive value for the Dallas Cowboys
So why the need to sign Goodwin over any of the aforementioned players in the secondary? Well to start, Goodwin will be a heck of a lot cheaper to bring back than Awuzie, Lewis, or Woods. At their absolute best, all three have shown that they can be solid NFL starters. However, solid NFL starters typically end up getting vastly overpaid on the open market.
Goodwin on the other hand sees nearly all of his playing time on special teams, a facet of the game that is still undervalued by many teams around the league. He simply won’t command the salary that the others will. If the Cowboys were to bring back Goodwin it’s extraordinarily doubtful it would be at a salary that is prohibitive of them chasing other free agents.
On top of it, Goodwin is much better at playing his specific role (special teams) than Awuzie, Lewis, or Woods are at theirs. If the Dallas Cowboys are trying to put the best combination of players on the field together, that will include C.J. Goodwin on special teams.
In each of the last two seasons, Goodwin has played all 16 games for the Dallas Cowboys. In 2019 he played a then career-high 289 snaps on special teams good for 65% of the team’s total. In 2020 he shattered it by playing 324 for 71%.
He is 31 years old and has been in the NFL since 2014, spending the last three seasons in Dallas. However, in that time he’s carved out an invaluable role on the team as an indispensable member of the special teams unit. He provides strong coverage on kicks, has a high motor, and rarely blows an assignment.
Last offseason the Cowboys made waves when they brought in John Fassel to coach their special teams unit. At the time the move was lauded as a step in the right direction for a team who had largely ignored that side of the ball in recent seasons. They were certainly improved in 2020, but between mistimed fakes and blown assignments, they still didn’t play up to par with Fassel’s reputation.
A lot of that disappointment came from coaching and play calling, but some of it was also on the personnel available. If the Cowboys truly want to continue to improve their special teams then they need players like Goodwin to help lead the unit. Great special teams players don’t grow on trees and finding them isn’t as simple as just throwing your fourth string linebacker or safety out there to cover or block kicks.
Playing well on special teams is an art form in and of itself. There is a nuance and skillset that players need to have so they can excel and not just be another body out there to take up space. Goodwin has that.
Goodwin can be a leader on special teams
The need for leadership with that unit is even more important considering that long snapper L. P. Ladouceur is also a free agent and will turn 40 years old this month. Last December, Ladouceur set the NFL’s all-time record for games played by a Candian-born player. If he decides to play next season and re-signs with the Cowboys, he will become the franchise’s all-time leader in games played.
As a fun bit of trivia, Ladouceur’s tenure in Dallas dates back to the Bill Parcells era. In fact, Drew Bledsoe was the Cowboys’ starting quarterback when L.P. played his first game with the franchise. Right now he’s still the clear-cut leader on special teams and regardless of if he comes back to Dallas or not, he is much closer to the end of his career than the beginning of it.
Great special teams aces are hard to find, and when teams stumble upon them the way the Cowboys did with Goodwin, they need to keep them. For what C.J. Goodwin brings to the table, especially in comparison to what his market value will be, a reunion with the Dallas Cowboys should be one of the easiest decisions the franchise makes all offseason.