Cowboys Tarnished Star

Tarnished Star?

The start of training camp is seventeen days away and the sports world is drooling at the prospect of the NFL season being around the corner. We’ve made it through the draft, OTA’s and minicamps and in seventeen days the sounds of pads colliding will start the shaping of the 2017-18 Dallas Cowboys team. Much to the chagrin of the management, I tend to go into my shell during the offseason. I’m not a big college football fan, although my favorite team is The Fighting Irish, my ADHD makes it hard to follow. In my mind it’s easier to skip the NFL Combine aka “The Underwear Olympics” and go straight to the draft which I would rate a B- due to the lack of foresight of possible future roster issues. I felt that the team was shortsighted in not addressing the linebacker room in the draft and this past Fourth of July holiday an issue arose with a player that was stamped by coaches and management to be a key contributor.

If  you’re a Cowboys fanatic like I am, I get alerts to my phone for anything Cowboys related, and I was awoken on Friday morning by an article on Yahoo Sports titled: “Wilson’s Aggravated Assault Charge Latest in Mounting Personnel Issues for Cowboys”. The article discusses the many Cowboys transgressions during the offseason from Nolan Carroll to David Irving as well as  rookie Jourdan Lewis who came to the team with a pending July trial date for domestic violence charges. To throw a dagger into my heart, Elliott’s domestic violence investigation is discussed. I’m not here to give any excuses for the behaviors of players but let’s not lump everyone’s situation into one big pot or question the teams commitment to having a drama free football team.

David Irving is suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the leagues policy on performing enhancing drugs. I understand that players should know what they put in their bodies. It’s been reported that the PED that was in his system is from a company that signed him to promote their products and I hope they reimburse him the money he’ll lose during his absence (highly unlikely). This transgression does not mean that Jason Garrett is not a  disciplinarian or that management is more concerned with talent rather than character. I’m under the belief that this is an honest mistake that the team could not control. If fans and media expect the team to monitor players lives to the point of what they put in their bodies, what has the NFL come to? I’m sure that the NFLPA has a do/don’t list of what the players can take so this falls on Irving’s shoulders and I’m sure he would say the same thing.

Nolan Carroll should have known better to drink and drive and in the world of Uber and Lyft there is no excuse. Carroll has taken personal responsibility for his actions and the league will most likely be suspending him in the near future. The team has enough cornerbacks on the roster to circumvent his loss and he might not have a big part in this season if one of the rookie cornerbacks perform during his absence. When he arrived in Dallas he was signed as a starter but his salary isn’t enormous to the point that he has to play.

The Ezekiel Elliott saga is rumored to be coming to an end in the near future. The NFL continues to do its due diligence in his case and I can see this coming to an end no later than the third preseason game of the season. In my opinion the only reason that Alfred Morris is still on the team is because of Elliott’s legal issues. In recent interviews and comments, it seems that the light bulb has finally come on and everyone can hope that the only thing Elliott will be catching is screen passes instead of cases.

All of these cases are issues that the team has addressed and I would bet a large coke slurpee that Garrett continuously preaches personal responsibility and not squandering an opportunity for one poor decision. With the recent arrest of linebacker Damien Wilson for two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon the team is taking the “gathering more information” stance and there are people that feel that Garrett should make an example of Wilson and cut him. Over the years the Cowboys have shown patience with players who step outside of the law and to be honest with you there is no need to read the list of names. The team doesn’t benefit by making decisions about the players status on the team before the court system and I’m certain the team will wait to see how it works out. I’m sure we will see Wilson at training camp and during the preseason while this plays out in the media and court. I’m not worried if Wilson can be replaced on the field because we have Anthony Hitchens, this teams Swiss army knife.

One of the reasons that I am a Jerry Jones apologist is during his ownership, he’s never turned his back on his players. Some people may feel that is because Jerry values the talent over Garrett’s RKOG (Right Kind of Guy) mantra and that might be true but at least he’s been consistent. For every Randy Gregory and Rolando McClain there is a Michael Irvin and Dez Bryant. There is also a Dimitrius Underwood and Alonzo Spellman, two players that the Cowboys gave an opportunity to get their lives together after being diagnosed with mental disorders.

As Jones gets ready to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, these stories should be told as well as how he affected the NFL with his shrewd business moves in advertising and challenging the NFL norm.

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