Cowboys Tidbits

Cowboys Star

The closer I get to you
The more you make me see
By giving me all you got
Your love has captured me..

Yes Dallas Cowboys fans, I’m listening to “The Closer I Get To You” by Roberta Flack ft. Donny Hathaway, the rookie minicamp is upon us, the season is getting close and it’s safe to say that i’m a bit emotional.

On May 12 the Cowboys rookies and Jaylon Smith will see start the official start of the season.

I know….I know….free agency, the draft, etc…..etc…. in my eyes this could be the rebirth of the organization. Now I’m sure you’re wondering why the optimism all of sudden Big Rog Dog? You lost the heart of your defense with Barry Church leaving and Brandon Carr and his 144 consecutive games. Not to mention JJ Wilcox and Morris Claiborne left for riches and more importantly an opportunity to leave the ghosts of their draft positions and expectations behind them. If you’ve read my work in the past, you know that I have been a Wilcox fan for a while and I think that the Cowboys were impatient. I would go as far as say that he should have been resigned before Jeff Heath but we will be able to track both of their progress this year, especially now that the Cowboys are giving Heath a chance to win the starting strong safety position next to Byron Jones. Heath has shown flashes the last two seasons so I do not doubt that he can handle whatever Marinelli throws at him.

The Cowboys drafted three cornerbacks and one safety to replace our dearly departed free agents. I was mildly disappointed with the way the team drafted due to the moves they made in free agency, signing Nolan Carroll II and the sheer numbers that the team has at CB makes it hard for one of the rookies to make the team and it would be a mistake to get rid of Orlando Scandrick. In my humble opinion the team overreacted to the mass exodus and forgot about the other holes on the 2017 roster. Matter of fact, I hate to bring up old stuff but I will to prove a point. If you’ve been a Cowboys fan long enough, you remember one of the worst drafts in Cowboys history which is the 2000 NFL Draft. The team drafted Dwayne Goodrich, Kareem Larrimore and Mario Edwards and out of the three Edwards had the longest career. Goodrich’s career was cut short by an unfortunate accident, compounded by a poor decision and Larrimore only played two seasons for the team before getting cut. I understand that the organization has become better in the scouting department but I think they got greedy when they drafted Marquez White.

The reality is that the back end of the defense got young overnight, so expect growing pains. For every yen, there’s a yang and although you’re going to have growing pains, the defensive backfield will be a lot more athletic than it was last year. For all of Church’s experience and handwork, he’s not as dynamic as the young defensive backs will be. It was short-sighted to go as heavy defensively as they did considering that they passed on Jake Butt in the fourth round for Ryan Switzer. The Cowboys had a chance to have a legitimate heir to Jason Witten’s throne on the roster but decided to go for a special teams star. Unless Switzer returns at least three to four touchdowns on punt returns and replaces Lance Dunbar as the third down back in Linehan’s office I’ll be criticizing this pick for awhile. It seems that everyone is excited about Xavier Woods, the hard hitting safety from Louisiana Tech who in his college career was a turnover machine. I’m not sure that he is a better tackler than Wilcox but he’s not afraid to mix it up. With his ball skills and ability to diagnose plays, Marinelli shouldn’t have a problem playing Cover 1 when he needs to. I would be surprised if Woods earns a starting spot when the season starts but he will get more playing time during the middle of the season. We have a long way to go before this roster shapes up for the regular season but all the work starts now.

It’s about that time Cowboys fans.

So Mote It Be

Looking At Dallas Past Tells Cowboys Future

Cowboy Chilling

The bane of a classical education. You are taught early the reason we study history is so we can understand our decisions from the past in order to make better ones in the future. For as human beings, we are doomed to repeat ourselves. This tool can also be used as a predictor for behavior. Here we are going to look at the Cowboys recent past in order to get a better feel for what types of pre-draft moves may still be coming out of the confines of the Star in Frisco.

So far this offseason the Dallas Cowboys have been …. deliberate. This new-norm has recent roots and can be directly correlated to improved regular season performance. In the not so distant past the blog-o-sphere would be ablaze right about now with the latest big Free Agency signing and now (because of the signing) the Cowboys are serious contenders for next season’s Super Bowl. Jerry Jones would be at his carnival-barker best whipping the media into an off-season frenzy and have the masses thoroughly convinced the recent signing and consequent over-payment of suspect talent was the missing ingredient from the previous seasons failure. I can get one time, but Jerry was able to do this groundhog day reboot for 20 years. Say what you will about Jerry the GM, Jerry the owner is sick-slick at what he does.

But that behavior is sooooo 2010.

So far this season Jason Garrett has (again) had the Cowboys taking a deliberate approach before the draft making sensible signings of second-wave, free agency players to short term contracts. If at all possible the team will sign “known” quantities, i.e. their own players or players someone on the club has personal experience with. Seems there are less surprises that way. And with the league being (very much) a cap driven one NOT making errors in free agency is critical to a clubs competitive chances. Ergo Garrett approaches March/April with a keen eye towards the draft and getting the team as flush as possible across the boards so as to not be totally driven by need come draft day.

As we see, so far this season the new Cowboys measured approach is in full bloom. Below is a table from the NFL transactions list that details the Cowboys official signings since the beginning of the month for 2017.

Dallas Cowboys 2017 Pre-Draft Free Agent Signings

3/20 Kellen Moore Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/16 Darren McFadden Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
Jonathan Cooper Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/14 Stephen Paea Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
Damontre Moore Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
Nolan Carroll Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/11 Terrance Williams Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/24 Byron Bell Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signings).

Unlike the NFL Draft, free agency is all about need. QB Moore fills a critical need with Josh McCown choosing the Jets. RB McFadden is the preferred RB2 over Alfred Morris and Cooper is the fail-safe for the offensive line that could end up starting at LG. DT Paea got started in the league under Rod Marinelli and should be a solid rotational addition. They have been trying to sign CB Nolan Carroll for years. Terrance Williams may not get the fans love, but he is a solid WR2 who excels in the run game. That’s kind of important to the Cowboys scheme. Bell is (of course) insurance for the probable retirement of Doug Free.

The Cowboys haven’t had many free agents come though The Star this offseason. By waiting till the first-wave of players have signed the team enjoys a more receptive negotiation and the process is optimized. It’s a solid approach that has produced measurable results. However it’s still early in the process and weeks before the draft. What other moves might the team make before now and then? Let’s look back at the previous offseason to try and get a feel for what other moves the Cowboys may make before the NFL Draft, this season.

Dallas Cowboys 2016 Pre-Draft Free Agent Signings

4/28 Ronald Leary Asked to Re-Sign (asked to re-sign).
4/13 Jeff Heath No Offer Sheet Executed (no offer sheet executed).
4/5 Jack Crawford Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/31 Matt Wile Free Agent Signing (free agent signing).
3/30 Joe Looney Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/24 Benson Mayowa Acquired via First Refusal (acquired via first refusal).
3/22 Alfred Morris Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/18 Lance Dunbar Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/15 Rolando McClain Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/14 James Hanna Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/12 Morris Claiborne Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/11 Kyle Wilber Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
Cedric Thornton Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/10 Josh Thomas Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).

Not many. That’s the quick answer to the question in regards to future free agent signings the team may make this offseason. Last year the front office signed OL Joe Looney at this juncture of the offseason to solidify their rotation for that unit. After that the team spent the rest of April getting their own free agents (restricted and otherwise) to put pen to paper. Boring, effective.

In 2016 by the end of March the team was basically done in free agency and in 2017, you can expect more of the same. Cowboys Nation may pine to hear about a big signing before the NFL Draft, however my old history professor would be proud. Instead of blindly guessing we can look back and read the tea leaves. Regardless of perceived needs, the Cowboys are pretty much done in free agency for 2017. The players on the team now are your 2017 Dallas Cowboys. The next influx of talent for the organization will be through the draft and if history serves (it does) this is a good thing.

It’s going to be mighty crowded on the defensive side of the roster pretty soon.

Ed Note: Click here for the latest Dallas Cowboys Depth Chart

What say you Sports Nation?

Another Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over

Cowboys Free Agents & Musical Chairs

Cowboys Free Agents

Whoever invented the game of Musical Chairs for children was diabolical. No one wants to be “that guy.” The one left standing when the music stops and all the other kids point and laugh cruelly. It’s a horrible feeling but an incredibly important lesson for everyone to learn. Or as grandpa used to put it … “50% of something is better than 100% of nothing.” Ultimately those are the the harsh realities of NFL Free Agency and it took the current Cowboys brain-trust 20 years to learn them. But they did.

Everything in life has nuance. NFL Free Agency is no different. You want to sign your guy early, you pay a premium. Premium in this instance is defined as paying a player more than his production is worth. You pay enough “premiums” and in very short order your team’s salary cap structure is blown up and all of a sudden you can’t afford to resign your own players any more, let alone take shots at other team’s cast offs.

Fan’s generally look at Free Agency from a team perspective. However the rules also affect players. A good agent knows he wants to get his player signed early as there are only so many chairs to go around. If he want’s to get his player signed early he may need to give a discount in order to entice a team to make the offer now instead of later when better deals abound. If his player is left standing at the end of the music, the agent is certainly is going to have some explaining to do yet if an agent negotiates enough discounts, pretty soon he’s not an agent any more. The rules work both ways.

You mash this all up together and some realities pop out. Namely that out of all the free agents a team loses each offseason, most will not fare better with their new clubs.  The players made free agency because they were not good/productive enough for their own teams to invest enough to preclude this from happening. In better organizations there are (often) young, cheaper (sometimes) better players waiting for their chance in the sun and the exiting players are fully aware of this. Why stick with the current club when there is a very good chance your chair will be pulled out from under you?

So yes, the Cowboys are in the process of losing quite a few free agents this off season. At this moment last year instead of lamenting losing Terrell McClain after a solid year Cowboys Nation was wondering if the talented 1-Tech was going to be able to play more than a game or two in the regular season. It would be a minor miracle if Washington gets 16 games out of McClain this year. Lance Dunbar most likely won’t suit up for the Rams 16 times in 2017 either. Hoping to see Morris Claiborne 16 times next year in a Jet’s uni? Get prepared to live with disappointment. In truth Dallas only had part time rental agreements with these guys when they were here. Lastly, you don’t replace an elite (backup) QB like Tony Romo. You move on.

Carr, Leary & Church were the only full time players that walked and Church had the rep but in reality missed quite a few games over his Cowboys career. None were “plus” players that determine the fate of a ball club. Though Carr was paid like one. To be frank, Carr and Church played positions pundits pointed to as needing upgrades while they were here.

I fully understand the angst some feel watching the offseason turnover. In reality (most of) these moves had to be made in order for the team to progress. For disparate reasons McClain, Dunbar, Church, Claiborne, Carr, Escobar, Durant and Rolando McClain were all talented players that were unable to deliver the cheese come game time in a reliable fashion. They needed to go.

The real question is can Dallas replace them? Can the players they get deliver on game day versus either sitting in the training room or counting their Free Agency dollars instead of working out?

Losing Ronald Leary and J.J. Wilcox hurt. Both players are on the upside of their careers and obviously were improving. Dallas should receive compensation picks for them next  season. In the mean time they have to find ways to replace what they’ve lost. Pieces are available in both cases (Collins at OG and Frazier at Safety), confidence in their abilities however has yet to be earned.

Successful organizations draft well in the modern NFL. The salary cap demands it. Are the Dallas Cowboys as talented now as they were at the beginning of last season? No. They are not. Other than the New England Patriots, no team is. Ask me again after the draft. Then ask again after preseason has revealed even more. As Jason Garrett is fond of saying, it’s a process.

In 2015 it was fairly obvious Dallas needed someone to tote the rock and “the process” failed to deliver the correct RB in time. The team suffered. This season the club is staring at a deficiency in their defensive backfield. Sophomore Brown will be looked upon to step up and I’m fine with that. He produced last season so I can see the logic. Free agent signee Nolan Carroll seems to be an excellent Carr clone. Jaylon Smith is seemingly ready to step in and play LB. Frazier is chomping at the bit to show what he can do inside the box. It takes a rotation to fill a roster however and that’s what the draft will hopefully deliver (again) this season.

I understand the hue and cry for someone to put pressure on the QB. Between Tapper, Mayowa, Collins and Lawrence however I see that issue being addressed to some degree. However be it a starter or backup Dallas has to hit in the draft (which is deep in secondary talent) to fill out it’s defensive back seven. They do that and it’s game-on in 2017 for the Cowboys. They don’t and look for the Cowboys D to lead the league in passing yards given up.

What say you Sports Nation?

Another Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over

Ideal Dallas Cowboys Offseason Scenario 1.0

Free Agency is underway and the Cowboys are likely going to stay in the wait and see role that they usually spend their time in every free agency period. But there is a scenario that I believe can upgrade the Cowboys roster that involves little money used in free agency. The Cowboys currently have roughly 8.5 million dollars in cap space after the restructure of Sean Lee’s contract. That is not a great spot to be in but they can make a couple of decent moves on that deal.

 

Re-Sign

Brandon Carr – With both Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr free agents one of the two will have to come back. Carr is likely the cheaper option and the more reliable option. I could see the Cowboys offering Carr a one or two year deal worth two to three million dollars. Signing Carr back gives the Cowboys a starting cornerback lineup to start the season with before even heading into the draft.

Kellen Moore – This isn’t a sexy signing but it is one that fills a hole in the Cowboys roster. Moore is very smart football player that does’t possess the physical tools to be much more than a backup in the NFL. Perfect spot for a Quarterback that will cost little to nothing that can be a great mentor for your second year QB.

J.J. Wilcox – I know I know, some people would rather have me at Safety rather than Wilcox but the truth is J.J. was one of best role players the Cowboys had on their defense last season. Wilcox fixed his sloppy tackling problem and the horrendous angles he used to use on ball carriers in open space, but after cleaning up his game in his fourth year the Cowboys could use the experience at the safety position. With the signing of Wilcox it leaves Dallas with Jeff Heath (the teams interception leader), second year player Kavon Frazier, and starting Free Safety Byron Jones.

Darren McFadden – McFadden also is not a sexy signing but with Ezekiel Elliott and Alfred Morris the only backs currently on the roster they must sign a veteran back. While McFadden doesn’t do anything great, he does almost everything well. McFadden can run and catch the ball out of the backfield and is a guy you can trust to protect your QB in the backfield. McFadden is another guy who isn’t going to make you break the bank. Bringing Darren back on a short term team friendly deal makes to much sense for both parties.

 

Missed The Cut

Terrell McClain – Reason? – Money.

Jack Crawford – Reason? Need more than just a body.

Morris Claiborne – Reason? Inability to stay healthy and money.

Barry Church – Reason? Money.

Ron Leary – Reason? Money.

Terrance Williams – Reason? Money.

Brice Butler – Inconsistency at the position

Barry Church

Roster Cuts


Tony Romo
– Reason? – Size of contract, relationship with ownership that wants the best for their former starter, to expensive to be backup. Cutting Romo saves the Cowboys around 5.1 million dollars.

Alfred Morris – Reason? Morris was a great player for Washington in his prime but after a disappointing season as the back up to Zeke, the Cowboy should do  Alfred and themselves a favor by moving on from Morris. Cutting Morris saves the Cowboys a little more than 1 million dollars.

 

Free Agency Signings

Demarcus Ware – A familiar face that Dallas has missed since his departure. Ware with his age and injury history will likely not draw as much interest or money as he did when he initially left Dallas. With Ware not having to many years left in him coming back to the team he started his Hall of Fame career at on a one year 2 million dollar deal.

Signing the four guys back from their 2016 season roster and adding Ware would put them right at their cap limit going into the draft. Dallas will likely have a little spare change left to maybe throw at a veteran Linebacker or Offensive Lineman.

Going into the draft in this scenario makes the defensive line not AS MUCH of a need. You have your starting left end in Demarcus Lawrence and your starting right end in Demarcus Ware. Inside you have both Malik Collins and Cedric Thornton as your starting defensive tackles. In this scenario you will also have David Irving and Tyrone Crawford as your hybrid backups. This is where both players versatility really helps you out on game-days. Both Irving and Crawford can back up both the left end position and the defensive tackle position. That leaves Benson Mayowa and Charles Tapper at your back ups at right end. With your starting front seven looking like Demarcus Ware, Maliek Collins, Thornton, Lawrence as your defensive line and the starting linebackers looking like Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Damien Wilson. The Dallas secondary is semi set with Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick, and Anthony Brown as your starting Cornerbacks with Byron Jones as your starting Free Safety and J.J. Wilcox penciled in as your starting Strong Safety. Let’s Draft!

In the first round the Cowboys need to address the Wide Receiver position with Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Lucky Whitehead, and Andy Jones looking to be the only receivers on the active roster. Luckily for the Cowboys the new 40 yard dash record holder should be hanging on by a thread at their selection. The Cowboys select former Washington Huskie John Ross III with the 28th pick in the draft. Ross is a speed demon that can run impressive routes to match with that record setting speed. Ross will fit in great as a “Z” receiver in Dallas fitting the mold the Cowboys usually like in their number #2 guy.

With Cornerback looking like the biggest need in the second round the Cowboys grab a really good player here with former UCLA Bruin Fabian Moreau. Moreau lasting to the 56th overall pick would be a dream come true for the Cowboys but I think its possible. When you have a CB class like this years instead of all the talent going off the board at once sometimes you’ll have great corners fall to the second or third rounds, the reason being is when teams see they have a cornerback class with this much depth they seem to wait and pick a player that’s just as good as one of the “top dogs” with their second or third pick. With guys like Marshon Lattimore, Jalen Tabor, Tre White, and Sidney Jones getting a lot of the attention guys like Fabian Moreau, Gareon Conley , Chidobe Awuzie, and Kevin King have a chance to fall.

With your starting offense pretty much set and the defense getting their this third round selection is important. Dallas grabs underrated Defensive End Joe Mathis out of Washington with their third round selection. Mathis has all the tools to be able to be a very productive player in the NFL. Mathis can play the run well while setting a very physical edge which he can also win with speed. Mathis uses his hands well to punch and swipe blockers hands in order to get to the QB. Pairing an inexperienced but really talented pass rusher with Demarcus Ware to mentor in his final year in the league could work wonders for the future of the Cowboys rushmen.

With both the offense and defense looking a lot stronger now in my opinion the Cowboys take their yearly “redshirt” player in round four with Linebacker Kendell Beckwith out of LSU. Beckwith is a really intriguing player three down player at LSU and looks to be just that in the NFL. Beckwith is a quick footed tackling machine that seems to always be around the ball. A player with his ability shouldn’t be available in the fourth round but after tearing his ACL just a few months ago the former Tiger standout may miss at least the majority of his rookie season.

THE COWBOYS DO NOT HAVE A FIFTH ROUND PICK.

Entering the sixth round you start to look at guys who have traits that could potentially be developed into a good player. In the sixth round Dallas can add just that in Offensive Tackle Aviante Collins out of TCU. Collins blew up the combine posting the best 40 time out of all the offensive linemen. Collins at 6-4, 295 pounds put up 34 reps on the bench press (225lbs) and ran a eye popping 4.81 40 yard dash. Collins doesn’t have the ideal body for a Tackle but with how explosive he looked at the Combine he is certainly intriguing this late in the Draft.

Dallas has two seventh round picks in this years draft, both of them will be spent on offense. Chad Kelley former Ole Miss Quarterback will be the first of the two picks. Kelly is a really intriguing player. Kelly is a great athlete with an absolute cannon for an arm. Kelly knows how to make plays with his feet and has the ideal size you look for in a pocket passer. Kelly has his fair share of off the field issues and makes plenty of questionable decisions but has the arm talent and athleticism to make the late round pick worth it for a team that struck gold with their “project” quarterback in last years draft.

With the Cowboys final draft pick they will spend it on a Running Back. Teriyon Gipson out of New Mexico is the selection. Gipson fits the Lance Dunbar role perfectly and that is a role that will need to be filled with Dunbar’s departure. Gipson is lighting in a bottle that will run around you, past you, and even through you for a guy that is only 5’9 190 pounds. Gipson has smooth hands out of the backfield and can fit in on special teams to as a returner or a gunner.

 

After it’s all said and done if this scenario that I laid out for you goes as planned the Cowboys 53 man roster could look a little something like this:

  1. Dak Prescott
  2. Kellen Moore
  3. Chad Kelly
  4. Ezekiel Elliott
  5. Darren McFadden
  6. Teriyon Gipson
  7. Keith Smith
  8. Dez Bryant
  9. Cole Beasley
  10. John Ross III
  11. Lucky Whitehead
  12. Andy Jones
  13. Jason Witten
  14. James Hanna
  15. Geoff Swaim
  16. Tyron Smith
  17. La’el Collins
  18. Travis Fredrick
  19. Zack Martin
  20. Doug Free
  21. Chaz Greeb
  22. Joe Looney
  23. Emmett Cleary
  24. Demarcus Ware
  25. Demarcus Lawrence
  26. Malik Collins
  27. Cedric Thornton
  28. Benson Mayowa
  29. Charles Tapper
  30. Tyrone Crawford
  31. David Irving
  32. Joe Mathis
  33. Sean Lee
  34. Jaylon Smith
  35. Damien Wilson
  36. Mark Nzeocha
  37. Anthony Hitchens
  38. Kyle Wilber
  39. Brandon Carr
  40. Orlando Scandrick
  41. Anthony Brown
  42. Fabian Moreau
  43. Byron Jones
  44. Jeff Heath
  45. Kavon Frazier
  46. J.J. Wilcox
  47. Chris Jones
  48. Dan Bailey
  49. L.P Ladouceur
  50. Aviante Collins
  51. Leon McFadden
  52. Kendell Beckwith
  53. Richard Ash

 

No one can see into the future, but this plan allows them to stay within their budget in free agency and really maximize the “best player available” situation when entering the draft. Comments welcomed!

Got a Lot to Say From RVA – Follow me on Twitter- @connorx147