Though they were relatively quiet in free agency this year the Cowboys did make a significant move at defensive tackle. Dallas chose not to re-sign Nick Hayden, who'd started all but one game over the last three years, and instead brought in fifth-year veteran Cedric Thornton from Philadelphia.
Coming into the league undrafted, Thornton spent most 2011 on the practice squad. He became a regular reserve in 2012 as a backup defensive tackle. In 2013, the Eagles switched to the 3-4 scheme and Thornton emerged as a starting defensive end.
As Dallas fans know from our time with the 3-4 defense, Thornton's performance doesn't show up much in stats. He only had one sack in each of the last three years but that hasn't been his focus. As a 3-4 end, Thornton's job has been to occupy blockers to allow guys like Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, and Connor Barwin to attack the quarterback. He has been the Marcus Spears of their scheme.
Dallas thought enough of Thornton's work to give him a four-year, $17 million contract last March. That pays him a Top-15 salary for defensive tackles despite the lack of production on the stat sheet.
The Cowboys clearly believe that Thornton can thrive in their scheme. They could have made the safe and less expensive choice by bringing back Hayden but see this as an upgrade. Remember that Dallas play the Eagles twice every season, so they've spent plenty of time watching Thornton on tape.
One reason the Cowboys like Thornton is perceived versatility. Jason Garrett said the following shortly after Thornton was signed:
“We definitely see him as an interior player, but again in their scheme he’s played all along their defensive line... You see him play as a zero nose. You see him play as a shade nose. You see him play as a three [technique]. You see him play as an end in their 3-4 alignment. He’s been a guy who has a number of different things.”
Nick Hayden was never versatile. He was a true one-technique tackle with little to offer as a pass rusher. Dallas believes that Thornton can be used in more ways and perhaps even replace Tyrone Crawford if needed. Rod Marinelli loves versatility in players, as do all coaches, as it allows them to make optimal packages that maximize everyone's strengths.
If team are focused on on Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence as pass rushers then Thornton could see more one-on-one opportunities, especially if he's playing in the nickel package. I would expect for him to improve on his one-sack average.
The term "breakout" is relative depending on where a player already is and the role they play. For a guy like Thornton it means living up to being paid as one of the 15 best defensive tackle in the game. It means being a consistent starter who makes a visible impact on games far more than Nick Hayden did.
Based on the contract and the break from their recent status as offseason misers, Dallas clearly believes in Thornton's potential.
Dallas Cowboys to Re-Sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur for 2018
Continuity is the key to good special teams play in the NFL. Already losing long-time Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia to the Raiders - who promptly snatched ST aces Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber in free agency - the Dallas Cowboys have announced their intentions to re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur for the 2018 season.
Returning on a one-year deal, the fan favorite Ladouceur will be back to do what he does best in cleanly executing almost every special teams snap for Chris Jones or Dan Bailey to handle.
Long snapper L.P. Ladouceur will re-sign with the Cowboys on Monday, according to sources, on a one-year deal. He will be in his 14th season with the franchise. Only Jason Witten, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Bill Bates and Mark Tuinei will have more years of... https://t.co/yTQbMYyrIv
While Jones has improved as the Cowboys' punter with each passing season, Kicker Dan Bailey actually enters 2018 as another question mark on this unit. With the general belief around the team being that Bailey will be just fine moving forward, the Cowboys will no longer have to worry about who handles long snaps next year either.
L.P. Ladouceur is back in the silver and blue, and in this moment, everything can be alright with the world.
Report: Raiders Sign Former Cowboys LB Kyle Wilber
A Free Agency period filled with departures continued for the Dallas Cowboys today, as the Oakland Raiders have reportedly signed the now-former Cowboys LB Kyle Wilber.
The Raiders have signed LB Kyle Wilber: https://t.co/TaC6cqjval
Wilber has been with the Cowboys since 2012, and has played in all 16 games four of the past five seasons. Most of his time has come on special teams, but he did provide solid linebacker depth for the Cowboys since joining the team.
Dallas has now lost both Wilber and Anthony Hitchens, depleting their linebacker depth even further over the last couple weeks.
The Raiders have now signed two key special teams contributors for the Cowboys in Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber this offseason. Hopefully Dallas can replace these types of "replacement level" players throughout the rest of the offseason, especially during the NFL Draft.
Report: Cowboys Officially Release CB Orlando Scandrick
After requesting his release from the team just a few days ago, Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick has gotten his wish. According to ESPN's Josina Anderson, Scandrick has officially been cut by the Dallas Cowboys.
I'm told the #Cowboys have informed CB Orlando Scandrick he will be released, per source.
This move will reportedly save the Cowboys roughly $1.4M against the salary cap, as we hope they finally look to make some moves during the Free Agency period.
Scandrick's release comes after an offseason in which the Cowboys totally overhauled the back end of their defense, specifically their cornerbacks. With the emergence of young, promising players such as Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis, and the health issues of the aging Scandrick, the move makes a lot of sense.
In fact, after the Cowboys drafted Awuzie in the second round of last year's draft it was rumored the Cowboys were looking to move Scandrick for extra draft picks. Instead, one year later, they have cut him to save some cap room.
Orlando Scandrick should have a market to find a new team elsewhere, but his time in Dallas has now come to a close.
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