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

Cowboys Nation Right To Be Worried After First Week Of Free Agency

The first week of free agency is winding down and the Dallas Cowboys did what they usually do. Sit pat and let the players come to them. They ended the week signing back their own guys in Terrance Williams and Brice Butler along with former Cleveland Brown Stephen Paea, former Philadelphia Eagle Nolan Carroll, and former Seattle Seahawk Damontre Moore. Nothing real surprising other than the front office deciding to bring back both Butler and Williams shooting the need at wide receiver way down the priority list.

Familiar Faces

Terrance Williams was brought back on a 4 year – $17 Million dollar deal with the Cowboys a day after signing back wide receiver Brice Butler. Williams has been a reliable number two receiver for the Cowboys offense through his first four year in Dallas putting up better numbers and more consistent play than a lot of fans give him credit for. Williams contract is a steal for the Cowboys when you look at the numbers he has put up so far in his career. Playing in every single game since coming out of Baylor in the 3rd round Williams has 177 receptions, 2,791 yards, and 20 touchdowns.

Brice Butler was brought back on a deal that lets him prove himself and costs the Cowboys little to nothing. Butler has had`his ups and downs as a Dallas Cowboys since being traded for in 2015 from the Raiders. Butler has been a decent backup and has made some huge plays along with some real head scratchers for the Cowboys in his short stint here. Butler signed a 1 year – $1.1 Million dollar contract with only $300,000 of that guaranteed. This signing allows the Cowboys to not HAVE to spend a draft pick at the wide receiver position in 2017.

New Additions 

Stephen Paea, a back-up/rotational player for the Cleveland Browns signed a 1 year- $2 Million dollar contract. Paea was drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft by the Chicago Bears. Paea notched 11.5 sacks for the Rod Marinelli coached defense in his four years with Chicago before getting signed by the Washington Redskins as a free agent in 2015. Paea played just one season in Washington appearing in 11 games and registering 1.5 sacks. Paea was released by Washington and signed to Cleveland’s roster just a few days after his release playing in 13 games for the Browns and finishing the season with 0.5 sack and 6 tackles. Paea will likely play the same role in Dallas that he did for Cleveland. Paea and Thornton will likely split most of the 1 technique reps with more of pass rushing threat being substituted in for Thornton or Paea on passing downs.

Nolan Carroll has received the biggest contract out of the guys coming in from a former team. Carroll signed himself a 3 year – $10 Million dollar contract with the Eagles division rivals. Carroll, a 30 year old veteran started his career in Miami with the Dolphins then landed with the Eagles in 2014 where he’s spent the last three seasons in Philadelphia. Carroll is a big, fast, physical corner and provides quality depth for the Dallas secondary lacking both talent and depth right now.

Last but not least we have Damontre Moore. Moore was selected in the 3rd round by the New York Giants in 2013 and has yet to find a consistent home. Bouncing from the Giants to the Dolphins to the Raiders to the Seahawks, I’d like to think Moore is ready to leave the past in the rear-view mirror and begin a bright new future as a Dallas Cowboy. Moore fits in at right defensive end in the Cowboys defensive scheme. Moore’s NFL production has never quite matched his college production but fitting in with the Cowboys simple “go get the quarterback” scheme may allow the former 3rd round pick a shot at redemption.

While none of these signing would be considered “bad” none of them are huge additions either (excluding the Terrance Williams signing). Butler provides quality depth at the wide receiver position. Paea will play an equal role to what Cedric Thornton played last year. Nolan Carroll will be a depth option at cornerback likely being the third or fourth option. And Damontre Moore is by no means a lock to make the roster.

See You On The Other Side

Now that we discussed how additions will fit in, we need to discuss how big the departures were.
Doug FreeWe’ll start on the offensive side of the ball. The biggest loss the Cowboys had this free agency period was a guy who wasn’t a free agent. Doug Free. After 10 seasons wearing the star the 33 year old veteran finally decided to call it quits. Free informed the team on Sunday that he has decided to retire leaving a gaping hole at right tackle. People may suggest that Chaz Green slide in and fill his spot at right tackle and while he has the talent to do so you simply cannot rely on Green to stay healthy enough to hand him the starting job. Some may suggest moving Collins out to tackle and having someone else fill in at guard. I for one do not think Collins is a tackle in the NFL and would not want to move him there even if you had an adequate replacement at right guard. Along with losing Free the Cowboys also lost another starting offensive lineman in Ron Leary. Leary signed with the Bronco’s and while that stung a little bit La’el Collins has shown his ability to start and be highly productive in the NFL.

Now on the defensive side of the ball. Losing BOTH Barry Church to the Jaguars and J.J. Wilcox to the Buccaneers hurt a lot in my opinion. Church was the only play maker on the field for the Cowboys last season, when Church was out so were the turnovers so losing that captain at the back end of a defense will be hard to replace. Then you lose his replacment in Wilcox to Tampa Bay and that just adds salt to the wound. Wilcox is by no means an All-Pro but anybody who has eyes and likes football could see Wilcox starting to make significant improvements in his angles, his coverage, and his big hitting ability. With both the starting safety and his replacement gone that leaves Jeff Heath and Jack CrawfordKavon Frazier as the two options to be the Cowboys starting strong safety come training-camp.

Another huge blow on the defense was losing starting defensive tackle Terrell McClain to the Redskins. McClain was easily the most consistent player along the defensive line last year having the most tackles out of all the defensive linemen. McClain’s ability to work sideline to sideline to track down runners is something Stephen Paea will not be able to do. The Cowboys also lost versatile defensive lineman Jack Crawford to the Falcons. Crawford didn’t necessarily do anything great but filled his role well as a rotational guy who can play both inside and outside. Damontre Moore is likely going to fill his footsteps as a guy who will play mainly on the edge but rush from the inside on passing downs.

With Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr looking to find their fits somewhere else the Cowboys are currently looking for quality help at safety, tight end, running back, and linebacker while also needing high level starters at right tackle, cornerback, and defensive end that makes for a lot of holes to fill with only seven draft picks as of now and a majority of the talented free agents already with new homes. Heading into the second week of free agency and inching closer to the draft the Cowboys current priority list in my opinion should look something like this:

Position Priority List

  1. Right Tackle
  2. Cornerback
  3. Safety
  4. Defensive End
  5. Linebacker
  6. Running Back
  7. Tight End

That “upgrading the pass rush” plan everyone (including me) has been preaching about for years now may have take the back seat to other positions depending on how the rest of the off-season goes. And don’t let me fool you, we all knew this was how the Cowboys would handle free agency, but when you have your starting right tackle and multiple guys you figured would be back leave your plan sometimes needs to change, unfortunately that’s not how the Jones’s work anymore. We will have to rest our faith in the front office to make a little magic happen in order to get back to a “Super-Bowl Contender” team….

 

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

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