This trip to the Cowboy’s smorgasbord gives us a few things to chew on while we are in the down time between the draft and mini-camps and training camp.
Are the Cowboys Too Media Friendly?
Jerry and Stephen Jones deserve a lot of credit for being open to learning from others, including Bill Parcells and Jason Garrett, which has led to marked improvement in the way the team has been operating over the last 15 years. However, there is one area that is in need of improvement.
The Cowboys are very media friendly and, in my opinion, too open with their internal deliberations – particularly their draft plans. Recent history has shown that the team doesn’t lie about it’s plans prior to the draft. For example, in 2011, Ed Werder reported that during the second round that Dallas was looking to draft a running back in the third round. The team then drafted DeMarco Murray in the third round. In 2015, most analysts expected Dallas to draft a running back to replace Murray. The Jones’ declared that a running back wasn’t a must, and the team didn’t draft a running back.
Early in 2017, Jerry Jones made it clear that he wanted what he called a War Daddy pass rusher. The team was also clear in that they were targeting defensive backs, which wasn’t a surprise considering the team’s lack of depth in the defensive backfield. The team telegraphed its intent to draft a defensive end in the first round and defensive backs in rounds two and three. This information may have influenced the Falcons to trade ahead of Dallas to draft Takk McKinley. Cowboys sources admitted that McKinley was rated higher on their board than Taco Charlton. If the team hadn’t been so open with its draft plans, they may have had the opportunity to draft McKinley.
In the fourth round, the analysts at Dallascowboys.com speculated that Dallas was planning to draft Donnell Pumphrey based on special teams coach Rich Bisaccia being in the draft room – and possibly their inside knowledge of the team having an interest in Pumphrey. The Eagles then traded for the selection just before the Cowboys’ pick and drafted Pumphrey. Stephen Jones later said that the team was debating between Pumphrey and Ryan Switzer.
Those who watch the team’s draft room feed are familiar with the team’s practice of bringing in the coordinator or position coach into the draft room to discuss the potential draftee prior to the Cowboys being on the clock. Other teams can watch this feed, and it is worth considering whether this practice could tip off other teams and allow time for teams to trade ahead of the Cowboys.
There may be hope that the team is taking steps to be less open. Bryan Broaddus reported that the team will no longer be streaming mini camps because coaches from other teams were watching. This could allow other teams to gain information on players, which could hinder the Cowboy’s ability to sneak a player who showed well at practice onto the practice squad.
It is reasonable to question whether providing all of this information actually has negative effects. On the other hand, what is the benefit of providing the information? When comparing the Cowboy’s openness to other teams in the league, the Cowboys seem to be the most open. In comparison, the Patriots are the most secretive team in the league and also the most successful.
2017 Camp Competition Will Be Tough, But It Will Be Fierce in 2018
The competition to make the 53 man roster will be tough, but the competition is dampened due to the depth of the roster being weakened prior to the draft after several starters left through free agency. The next off-season should result in fierce competition. Of the players set to be free agents next season, the only players projected to be starters or significant contributors this season are:
- Keith Smith (FB)
- Darren McFadden (RB)
- Zack Martin (OG)
- Byron Bell (OL)
- Jonathan Cooper (OG)
- DeMarcus Lawrence (DE)
- David Irving (DL)
- Anthony Hitchens (LB)
- Stephen Paea (DL)
Players that could retire, not have an option exercised, or be let go due to production versus salary include:
- Nolan Carroll
- Orlando Scandrick
- Cedric Thornton
- Tyrone Crawford
- Benson Mayowa
- Jason Witten
That leaves a total of up to 15 potential contributors that may need to be replaced. However, most of the players in the second list will likely return, and the number of players to be replaced will likely be closer to 10. The only blue chip player in that group is Zack Martin, and he will likely be signed to a long-term contract before the 2017 season begins. Of the remaining players, are there that would be considered a must have? Irving would be nice to retain and Lawrence still has potential if he can stay healthy.
The Cowboys are expected to have 10 draft picks in the 2018 draft after accounting for free agency and the trade of next year’s 5th round pick.
- Round 1
- Round 2
- Round 3
- Round 4
- Compensatory Round 4
- Compensatory Round 5
- Compensatory Round 5
- Round 6
- Compensatory Round 6
- Round 7
With 9 free agents and 10 draft picks, from a purely mathematical standpoint, there shouldn’t a need to sign many of the team’s free agents or to sign free agents from other teams. After the 2018 draft, the team’s roster should be younger and deeper than at any time since the team began its Super Bowl run. The team’s front office, coaches, and scouts appear to be on the right track.
Why Didn’t the Cowboys Try to Block Green Bay’s Winning Field Goal?
Warning – If you still haven’t gotten over the playoff loss to the Packers, skip to the next section. There are a lot of things that were bothersome about the game, and most of them were well covered at CowboysNation and elsewhere. However, one thing that wasn’t brought up, at least to my knowledge, was why Dallas didn’t try to block the game-winning field goal. In Byron Jones, they have the world record long jumper and a great vertical leaper. Why not let him try to jump over the center for the block. We have seen that work for several other teams with players not nearly as explosive as Jones.
Which Free Agent Do You Wish the Cowboys Would Have Signed?
The Cowboys mantra includes avoiding signing high priced free agents or older players. Is there someone that you wonder whether the team should have made an exception for this off-season? Maybe Stephon Gilmore, who would have helped to fill the team’s biggest need? For me, the player is Andrew Whitworth. Whitworth was the second best offensive tackle last season according to Pro Football Focus and has been consistently elite since his second year in the league. Tyron Smith and Whitworth could be the two best offensive tackles in the league, although one of them would have had to move to the right side. Pairing them with Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and La’el Collins could have made the offensive line much better than last year. Whitworth is 35 years old, but tackles are often able to play at a high level into their mid thirties and he could realistically play at a high level for two more seasons.
Whitworth’s contract with the Rams (per OvertheCap.com) is worth just over $11 million per year over three seasons, which could have been affordable by pushing most of the cap hit into future seasons when Tony Romo’s salary will be off the cap. Perhaps Whitworth would have signed for a bit less to go to a contender and to be in a state without a state income tax. Additionally, the effect on the team’s compensatory draft picks would have been minor. Although an $11 million/year salary would normally equate to a 3rd round pick, it is believed that the compensatory picks for players with more than 10 accrued seasons count as no more than a 5th round pick in the formula (per Overthecap.com). Therefore, rather than getting a compensatory pick in rounds 4, 5, 5, and 6, the team would have received picks in rounds 4, 5, 6, and 6. Dropping one pick from round 5 to 6 isn’t much of a drop.
In the long term, the team will be better off spending money on retaining its own young players, but that offensive line could have been phenomenal and could have given extra incentive for Zack Martin and La’el Collins to want to remain part of it.