In Part Three of our 2016 Camp Preview series, our writers answered what may seem like a fairly obvious question. You may be surprised, however, at some of their responses.
What is the Strongest Position on the Team?
Ian Koplowitz ( @BleedingTheStar ) - I'd be hard pressed to say anything other than running back. It's the only position on this roster where you could argue we have three starters. Obviously, I'm biased, but I believe we have the best stable of runners in the league. Behind this offensive line, I think the combination of Ezekiel Elliott, Alfred Morris, and our third back can top 2,000 rushing yards this year.
Jess Haynie ( @CowboysAddicts ) - It's not sexy, but the interior offensive line is a juggernaut. Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and La'el Collins are all top talents. Backups Ron Leary and Joe Looney are both experienced veterans. Both starters and depth; it's easily the best position on the team.
Kevin Brady ( @KevinBrady88 ) - I’ve played the offensive line, particularly the center position, my entire life. Because of this I have a special appreciation for how important the center is to an offense as a whole. The Cowboys' offensive line is the best in the NFL, and while they have All-Pros at both left tackle and right guard as well, Travis Frederick is the anchor of this strong unit at center. No offensive line can reach its full potential without a strong leader in the middle, and luckily the Cowboys have that in Frederick.
RJ Ochoa ( @RJOchoa ) - If I had to take on the White Walkers from Game of Thrones, the Imperial Army from Star Wars, and the people who showed up for the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Championship parade all at once... I would want the Dallas Cowboys Offensive Line leading the way for me. They're the best at what they do on this planet (and on all planets). They're the Space Cowboys.
Sean Martin ( @ShoreSportsNJ ) - Whenever one of your position units is widely considered the best in the league, it is going to be hard for another group to match their talent level. The Dallas Cowboys do not have a position that comes close to their offensive line when it comes to talent, depth, and future potential. As if Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and Doug Free weren't enough, La'el Collins is going to step in as a starter at left guard and potentially make this offensive line even better. Backing him up will be a proven starter in Ronald Leary.
Brian Martin ( @bmart0204 ) - Ezekiel Elliott, Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden, Darius Jackson, and Lance Dunbar... Need I say more? The running back position is without a doubt the strongest position for the Cowboys. There’ll be a lot of eyes on this position and I for one am really looking forward to seeing how all of these RBs perform in training camp and preseason. The Cowboys are going to have some really tough decisions to make when determining who stays and who goes when they try to get down to their final 53 man roster.
Bryson Treece ( @BrysonTreece ) - The strongest group on the team is the offensive line. Not only are there four first-round rated picks in Smith, Collins, Frederick, and Martin, but you've got Tony Romo making them look good with his scrambling ability and a stud backfield ready to punish defenses.
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Here are the categories still to come this week...
All of this, and much more, as Inside The Star helps get you ready for another season of Dallas Cowboys football!
Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal
At long last, the Dallas Cowboys have their first free agent addition of this offseason. Having lost starters Jonathan Cooper and Anthony Hitchens at left guard and linebacker respectively, the team has added depth at LB with Joe Thomas signing a two-year deal.
The 2018 season will actually mark Joe Thomas' second stint with the Dallas Cowboys, as he was signed to their practice squad in 2015. The team that signed Thomas out of South Carolina State following the 2014 draft, the Green Bay Packers, added Thomas back to their active roster for the 2015 season.
Source: Cowboys have agreed to a 2-year deal with free agent LB Joe Thomas. He visited the Cowboys today. Thomas has played in 42 games over the last three seasons with the Packers. He had a career-high 70 tackles in 2016.
Thomas has spent the last three seasons starting eight games for the Packers, recording 70 tackles and an interception in 2016.
A contingency plan of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith carrying the Cowboys for 16 games at LB requires adequate depth, which is exactly what the Cowboys are typically in the market for come free agency. Waiting longer than usual to make their first splash, the Cowboys absolutely need an addition like Thomas to perform better than last year's FA class.
Used in sub packages by the Packers while also playing special teams - where the Cowboys have lost core players in Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber - Thomas will have a great chance to impress two new Dallas coaches in Ben Bloom and Keith O'Quinn.
Terrance Williams Contract Creates 2018 Job Security
There's been a lot of talk about what the Dallas Cowboys will do at the receiver position this offseason. While there's a great divide on what the team should do with Dez Bryant, there's a fairly unanimous opinion that Dallas should find an upgrade over Terrance Williams. No matter where he ends up on the depth chart, though, Williams' contract should keep him on the roster in 2018.
Last offseason, Terrance signed a four-year, $17 million deal to stay in Dallas. Because we are now just in the second year of that deal, it is cost prohibitive against the salary cap to release or trade him.
Williams is scheduled to count $4.75 million against the 2018 cap. If Dallas were to cut him, it would accelerate his remaining guaranteed money and create $7.25 million in dead money this year. He would cost more against the cap off the roster than on it.
Even the June-1st provision doesn't help. Williams' dead money in 2018 drops to $4.75 million, which is a net zero against his existing cap hit. It would also push $2.5 million of dead money to 2019. There's no benefit there, and you lose an experienced player who knows your system.
If the Cowboys do like their WR depth enough to want to move on from Terrance, one option is to try to trade him. A trade would lower the cap penalty to $3.75 million and save $1 million. If he's traded after June 1st, it would save $3.5 million against this year's cap.
Of course, it takes two to tango in this scenario. Williams hasn't scored a touchdown since 2016 and has never proven he can take on a significant role in an offense. He was serviceable when Dez Bryant and Jason Witten commanded more attention, but he's a low-end WR2 at best and many teams likely wouldn't want him in their top 2-3 receivers.
Perhaps something could happen during training camps or preseason, when injuries may make other teams desperate. Then again, something could happen in Dallas that makes them less willing to part with Terrance.
As it stands, it seems unlikely that Terrance Williams won't be a Cowboy in 2018. And really, that's not bad thing.
Even if he gets pushed down the depth chart, Terrance would be a good insurance policy against injuries or any other issues that could happen between now and September. $4.75 million is more than you'd like to pay your fourth WR but it's a one-year problem.
If the Cowboys do add more WR talent this offseason, there is a trickle-down effect that strengthens the entire club. Williams, with his experience, is an upgrade over Brice Butler as the fourth receiver.
Therefore, unless circumstances both here and elsewhere allow Dallas to find a trade partner, Terrance Williams should be back next year.
Cowboys Trade for FB Jamize Olawale from Raiders
Less than a week after the Cowboys lost fullback Keith Smith to the Raiders in free agency, the two teams have worked out a trade to send FB Jamize Olawale from Oakland to Dallas.
Fullback trade! The #Raiders are sending FB Jamize Olawale to the #Cowboys, sources say. Dallas has its fullback, one who was with Oakland since 2012.
To facilitate the trade, the Cowboys will send their fifth-round pick (173rd overall) to the Raiders for their sixth-round pick (192nd), moving back just 19 spots.
In return, Dallas not only brings in a veteran replacement at FB but a player they already know.
Jamize Olawale was an undrafted rookie free agent of the Cowboys in 2012. Despite a strong showing in that preseason, Dallas did not have room for him on the roster. He was on the team's practice squad until December, when Oakland poached him.
Since then, Olawale has been a regular roleplayer in the Raiders' offense. He's missed just six games since 2013.
Jamize brings more offensive firepower to the FB position than Keith Smith had. He's scored at least one touchdown in each of the last three seasons. He can be effective both running and receiving.
Through the trade, Dallas picks up the final year of Olawale's current contract. It calls for a $1.5 million base salary in 2018.
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