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Is 2017 LB Anthony Hitchens’ Last Year With Cowboys?

Jess Haynie



- Anthony Hitchens, #59
AP Photo/Scott Boehm

The Cowboys don’t have many significant players with expiring contracts in 2017, but one key defender is going to be looking for a new deal. Linebacker Anthony Hitchens, whose rookie contract is coming to an end, will be an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Hitchens has started in 36 of the Cowboys’ 48 regular season games over the last three seasons. His 11 starts as a rookie were unexpected due to injuries with Sean Lee and Rolando McClain, but Anthony was solid and at times even shined with this early workload. He has remained a steady and valuable presence for the defense, playing all three LB positions at times.

Anthony Hitchens

LB Anthony Hitchens

Odd Man Out?

Despite his track record and starting in all 16 games last season, Hitchens may wind up on the bench in 2017. The highly-anticipated debut of Jaylon Smith should take up the middle LB spot. Last year’s strong-side LB, Damien Wilson, started to break out in 2016 and should be even better in his third season. And of course, Sean Lee is a fixture on the weak side.

This scenario is hardly ideal for Anthony Hitchens with free agency looming. While he could get a new deal from Dallas to be a versatile primary reserve, he obviously will want a chance to be a starter and earn starter money. Losing plays this season as a backup robs him of opportunities to impress potential new teams.

Obviously, Hitchens becoming a bench player is only an assumption. He could very well beat out Damien Wilson for the SAM role, or have to play one of the other two spots if something bad happens. As it has more than once during his Cowboys career, Anthony’s playing time may come unexpectedly.

As our own Kevin Brady wrote about yesterday, Anthony Hitchens may not be going away quietly. His current job and future employment are on the line with millions of dollars at stake. He should be as motivated as ever in 2017, which can only be of benefit to the Cowboys.

Anthony Hitchens

LB Anthony Hitchens (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

Trade Potential?

With those 36 starts and other playing time under his belt, Hitchens isn’t unknown to the rest of the NFL. If he does end up on the bench in Dallas, could the Cowboys find a linebacker-needy team that would trade for him?

Given the uncertainty around Jaylon Smith’s health, giving up Hitchens is a risky prospect. He is easily the team’s best second option at middle linebacker. Even if Smith gets through training camp and preseason unscathed, do you really want to drop your best insurance policy at any point in 2017?

If Dallas would even consider trading Hitchens, it wouldn’t be until after preseason. This is often when you see teams trying to move their surplus players for future drafts picks or to fill positions of need. Because Hitchens could be the primary backup at all three LB spots, he wouldn’t get traded until there’s more certainty and fewer opportunities for disaster.

Unfortunately for Hitchens, his versatility might make him too valuable to give up. While the Cowboys would like to get something for him before he walks away in free agency, his 2017 role could still be vital.


Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I’ll be sure to respond!

  • Travis Diggs

    How yall going write a article about how hitchens has been so solid and wrote a article about how hitchens has been one of the most soild veterans this off season. We still haven’t seen NFL action out of Jaylon Smith, so we should appreciate hitchens being a solid veteran He’ll be resigned

    • Jess Haynie

      If Smith and Wilson both work out as planned, there won’t be a starting job in Dallas for Hitchens. You’re assuming he will accept backup money to stay here over trying to land a starting job elsewhere. You think that’s wise?

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Losing Linebackers Coach Matt Eberflus to Colts

Jess Haynie



Matt Eberflus, Sean Lee

Multiple sources are reporting Matt Eberflus — who has been the linebackers coach and passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys — will leave to join the Indianapolis Colts as the new defensive coordinator. Eberflus has been with Dallas since 2011, having joined Rob Ryan’s staff when Ryan become the coordinator for the Cowboys’ defense.

He has been the linebackers coach during his entire Dallas tenure and was also named passing game coordinator in 2016.

Tom Pelissero on Twitter

With Josh McDaniels ticketed for the #Colts, former #Cowboys assistant Matt Eberflus is expected to come along as defensive coordinator, I’m told. Lot of parts falling in place now.

If not the Colts, some thought Matt Eberflus might end up replacing Matt Patricia as the defensive coordinator in New England. Either way, it does not appear Dallas could have kept him around while Rod Marinelli remains in his current position.

Eberflus’ work in Dallas speaks for itself, and primarily through LB Sean Lee.

He has been Lee’s position coach for all but his rookie season, and in that time Lee has been one of the top defensive players in all of football.

Beyond Lee, Eberflus has also been able to get quality play out of mid-round picks like Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson. We also saw Jaylon Smith make significant progress this season.

Given Matt Eberflus has never worked with Josh McDaniels before, the fact he was on the Colts’ radar says a lot.

Make no mistake; the Cowboys lost a good one here.

Don’t panic, however. Coach Marinelli has cast a very wide net during his time in the NFL and there are a lot of potential guys, some with plenty of experience, that Dallas might look to.

It’s entirely possible that Eberflus’ replacement will be someone who Marinelli spends 2018 grooming to take over as the defensive coordinator.

Still, of all the coaching changes so far for Dallas, this one hurts most.


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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Kevin Brady



Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Thus far the 2018 offseason has brought a plethora of change to the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Now it is being reported the Cowboys have hired a brand new offensive line coach, former Cincinnati Bengals’ Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander.

Alex Marvez on Twitter

Source tells @sportingnews that Paul Alexander hired as new @dallascowboys offensive line coach

Alexander coached with the Bengals for over 20 years, and replaces the same man in Dallas who replaces him in Cincinnati, Frank Pollack. Alexander has also been the Bengals assistant head coach since 2003.

The Cowboys recently lost an assistant head coach when Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia left for Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders.

Per usual, the hire has been met with mixed reactions from Cowboys Nation.

Joey Ickes on Twitter

Since 2003, CIN has had only one season where they finished top-10 in Yards per attempt on the ground… They’ve been bottom-5 in the league 5 times in that span… That’s the OL Coach DAL just hired.

The hiring of an offensive line coach who’s rushing attack finished bottom five in the league in rushing yards per attempt five times since 2003 doesn’t look too great on paper. He will also teach with different techniques and styles than previous Cowboys OL coaches, which could potentially set back the offensive line early in the season.

Plus, respected Bengals’ writer Joe Goodberry did not exactly love the hire for the Cowboys.

Goodberry on Twitter

Pretty bad

Regardless, this is still a very talented offensive line and one which should lead an effective ground attack based on their talent alone. 2017 proved further that coaching matters a lot in the NFL however, and the wrong hire could set back even the most talented of units.

We will just have to wait and see how this 2018 season ends up playing out.


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Dallas Cowboys

Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates for Cowboys Vacant OL Coaching Job

Sean Martin



Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates For Cowboys Vacant OL Coach Job 1

By keeping all three top coaches (Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, and Rod Marinelli) in place for 2018, there isn’t a Dallas Cowboys coaching hire that feels like they “must” get it right to contend next season. This is how it should be.

Producing nine wins, despite missing key players throughout the season, the Cowboys are changing things up at the position coach level to hopefully introduce new ideas and give the talent on this team a better chance at sustained success.

One coaching vacancy that needs to be filled by the right guy above any else is on the offensive line, where things haven’t been the same since the great Bill Callahan departed.

Frank Pollack took his place, and now finds himself with the Cincinnati Bengals after not being retained by Dallas this offseason.

Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates For Cowboys Vacant OL Coach Job

Tom Cable (Stephen Brashear / Getty Images)

The first name that was thrown around in consideration for the Cowboys job was Tom Cable, which sent a panic throughout Cowboys Nation before Cable decided to sign with John Gruden and the Raiders.

Cable had been coaching the Seahawks’ OL, a position that franchise has not valued in some time, and struggled to develop any talent in protection of their franchise QB Russell Wilson.

Now, two new names have emerged as candidates to coach the likes of two-time 1st Team All-Pro LT Tyron Smith, 1st Team All-Pro C Travis Frederick, and two-time 1st Team All-Pro RG Zack Martin.

Mike Solari and Paul Alexander

Paul Alexander has already met with the Dallas Cowboys, looking for work after 23 seasons with the Bengals. During this time, Alexander served as Marvin Lewis’ assistant head coach, in addition to his duties as their OL coach.

Judging on reactions out of Cincinnati to Alexander’s departure, the Bengals offensive line regressed under him in 2017, warranting change from a franchise that is as reluctant as any to move on from coaches.

Goodberry on Twitter

Paul Alexander better be gone

Most recently, Mike Solari has served as the offensive line coach for the New York Giants — far from a renowned unit around the NFL lately. He does have previous experience with the Cowboys, having served as an assistant OL and special teams coach here from 1987-88.

From 2006-07, Solari did reach the rank of offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs, which shows the level of respect that the 30-year NFL coaching veteran has earned.

He will be the Dallas Cowboys’ next interview for their open OL coach position.

Cowboys at Raiders: La'el Collins Faces Toughest Test Yet In Khalil Mack 1

Dallas Cowboys RT La’el Collins, RG Zack Martin

Depth at tackle, a long-term answer at left guard, and an extension for Zack Martin are among the questions facing the Cowboys offensive line moving forward. Whoever is in charge of keeping this unit up to standard in 2018 though, may hold the keys to getting the entirety of the Cowboys’ program back on track.

Whether it’s Alexander, Solari, or another outside candidate yet to emerge, Inside The Star will keep you updated on the Cowboys’ ongoing coaching search.

Tell us what you think about “Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates for Cowboys Vacant OL Coaching Job” in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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