IRVING, Texas -- Normally a wide receiver with 33 career catches would not be considered a big loss in free agency, but Dwayne Harris was not just a receiver.
He was a returner and top tackler on special teams.
“We might not be able to find one guy to do all those different things,” coach Jason Garrett said at the owners meetings.
The New York Giants signed Harris to a five-year deal that guaranteed him $7.1 million. The Cowboys made their choice at backup receiver before free agency began, signing slot receiver Cole Beasley to a four-year deal that guaranteed him $7 million.
The Cowboys do not have a ready-made returner on the roster with the abilities of Harris, whose numbers were down in 2014. As they will likely do at running back to replace DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys could go with a committee approach at returner.
Beasley has returned punts in the past. Safety J.J. Wilcox has some experience as a kick returner, as does running back Lance Dunbar.
At receiver, the Cowboys could get more out of second-year man Devin Street, who also practiced some as a returner in 2014.
The departure of Harris will not change the balance of power in the NFC East but it does affect how the Cowboys construct their roster, especially on game day. Harris could fill a number of roles. He even lined up as a running back on a handful of plays and he could have been the emergency quarterback with the Cowboys dressing only two quarterbacks during the season.
Garrett heaped so much praise on Harris -- “Great returner, cover guy. Leads our team in tackles. Has a role on offense. Willing to do anything. All the dirty work, very valuable role for us” -- because he knows those players are hard to find.