With free agency coming up first in the offseason process, the Dallas Cowboys will explore every avenue to find players who can help their team win. If they find a free agent fit that makes sense -- both for the team and at a price they like -- the front office will make a move.
In the past few offseasons, we've seen Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, and Will McClay go into free agency looking to fill holes on the depth chart before the draft so they can attack the draft with an open mind. I don't see anything changing this offseason.
While it's much simpler to go after unrestricted free agents (UFA), there are several restricted free agents who could make sense for the Dallas Cowboys.
David Irving is obviously at the top of this list, but being as how we know his story, and I think it's very, very likely that he will return, we'll save him for another day.
If Dallas were to sign an RFA, they would have to give up a draft pick to do so, making this highly unlikely, but given that they have three picks in the fourth round, the possibility exists that there could be a guy with a mid-round tender who interests them. I've got some names you may have heard before, and a couple that have likely never crossed your mind.
Here are some interesting restricted free agent names.
TE Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
At only 26 years old, Tight End Cameron Brate may have played his last snaps for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In the 2017 NFL Draft, the Bucs selected tight end O.J. Howard out of Alabama in the first round, which limited Brate's role in the offense this season.
Still, he scored six touchdowns and had more than 500 yards receiving. This just one year removed from leading all tight ends in the NFL with 8 touchdowns in just 15 games played (10 starts) in 2016.
Jason Witten is still the Cowboys' starting tight end, but if they wanted to find a guy who could begin taking over at the position now, Brate could be that guy. He is a good receiver and has been durable in his time in Tampa Bay.
WR Tyrell Williams, Los Angeles Chargers
Tyrell Williams, who ran a 4.43 at his Pro Day heading into the 2015 NFL Draft, has speed and downfield ability that could help the Dallas Cowboys.
The Los Angeles Chargers -- that still doesn't sound right -- could opt not to bring him back, as they need to find more snaps for 2017 first-round pick, Mike Williams, and Keenan Allen is their WR1.
Williams, no relation, averaged 15.3 yards per reception in 2016 when he had his first 1,000-yard receiving season as the leading receiver for the Allen-less Chargers. In 2017, he averaged 16.9 yards per reception, while still posting a respectable 728 yards for a deep Los Angeles receiving group.
Earlier in the offseason, I discussed some unrestricted free agent options at wide receiver with some deep ball ability, and Tyrell is another option for the Dallas Cowboys to pursue.
DT Xavier Williams, Arizona Cardinals
The other day, I talked about Dallas' need to sign a legitimate 1-technique defensive tackle (or nose tackle), and here is another option. At 6-foot-4 and 311 pounds, Xavier Williams has the size to be an interior anchor for the Dallas Cowboys.
In 2017, Williams, also no relation, showed some promise in his third season with the Cardinals. He played in 11 games for Arizona and finished with 20 total tackles, two quarterback hits, a forced fumble, and a sack; while recording multiple tackles in seven games.
WR Willie Snead, New Orleans Saints
Another wide receiver who could be available, and actually may fit Dallas' profile of free agent targets, is Willie Snead from the New Orleans Saints.
In the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Snead averaged 70.5 receptions for 939.5 yards and 3.5 touchdowns, while eclipsing 13 yards per catch. He was seemingly phased out of the offense in 2017 after serving a three-game suspension for substance abuse stemming from a DWI last offseason.
Prior to the Ted Ginn signing by the Saints last offseason, Snead was a favorite target of quarterback Drew Brees, as he saw more than 100 targets in 2015 and 2016 each. In 2017, he bottomed out with only eight receptions for 92 yards, and no touchdowns.
Heading into his 26-year-old season, he will have a lot to prove and would likely only cost a late-round pick if Dallas were to sign him to an offer sheet.
LB Mike Hull, Miami Dolphins
This is a guy who will not garner a lot of publicity. Just like the Dallas Cowboys like it.
Primarily a special teams player for the Miami Dolphins over the last couple of years, linebacker Mike Hull saw an increased snap count with the defensive unit from year two to year three. Hull, a Penn State alum like Sean Lee, started three games for the Dolphins, including a 10-tackle game to open the season before settling into the depth chart as a backup.
He won't be a starter for the Dallas Cowboys, but he could provide valuable depth with a bit of starting experience, and Hull can play special teams.
Where In The World Is DE Taco Charlton?
Over pretty much the last decade, the Dallas Cowboys have been rock solid with their first round picks. With selections of Ezekiel Elliott, Travis Frederick, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Leighton Vander Esch (just to name a handful), Dallas has rebuilt the core of their roster through the NFL Draft.
It's nearly impossible to bat .1000 in any round of the draft, however, and this appears to be the current case with the Cowboys' 2017 first round pick.
Defensive end Taco Charlton has not had the sophomore season that he, or anyone, had hoped for. A healthy scratch last Sunday, Charlton has only been active for 1 of the Cowboys' last 5 games, and has not recorded a sack or tackle since week 9.
Prior to disappearing with injuries and "attitude issues," Charlton had only recorded 1 sack on the season and was beginning to fall behind his Hot Boy-brethren. Defensive end Randy Gregory has reached his form over the last few weeks, Tyrone Crawford is having arguably a career year, and DeMarcus Lawrence is one of the best ends in all of football.
This doesn't leave much room for Charlton, who's now having issues even getting on the gameday roster. Rod Marinelli dodged questions about Taco Charlton earlier this week, vaguely saying they are "moving forward" and that he'd like to talk about other players on his defensive line who are performing.
Rod Marinelli on Taco Charlton's benching and being inactive last week: "We just keep moving along keep going forward. It's kinda been out there I'd leave it at that. I'd rather talk about our two tackles.
Charlton has not been quiet about his displeasure as of late, either. He's taken to Twitter to voice his frustrations, saying that not only is his shoulder fine but that the Dallas media is making up stories about his absence. He's also posted some cryptic tweets such as this one, with a picture of Allen Iverson and a caption reading "Every players needs that one coach to believe in them."
Maybe Taco is right. Maybe he just needs increased opportunity and a support system/coach that believes in him whole-heartedly. After all, Charlton has faced nothing but doubters and detractors since the second he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.
But in the NFL, the ultimate "what have you done for me lately" sport, it's hard to imagine he'll get that unwavering support anywhere in the league. He's going to have to "earn" his playing time, as head coach Jason Garrett spoke to earlier in the week. But with the plethora of talent the Cowboys are already putting out there on the defensive line, it's becoming difficult to see exactly where Taco Charlton can fit in on this defense.
It's possible, and fine, if it is simply not a fit between Charlton and the Cowboys at this point. But I'd also be wary of giving up on your first round pick in just his second NFL season. Another offseason with the team, working on his craft and getting fully healthy, should do Charlton wonders, and hopefully allow us to get a better read on his future with the Cowboys going forward.
Until then, we are all left to scratch out heads and wonder what in the world is going on with the Cowboys and Taco Charlton, and if the former first round pick will have a future in Dallas at all.
Cowboys, Bears Proving Defense Can Win the NFC
2018 has seen the emergence of high-powered offenses in both NFL conferences. The Kansas City Chiefs sit atop the AFC and the NFC is spearheaded by the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. Through 14 weeks, these three teams are the top three offenses in the NFL, each averaging over 30 points per game. This year, for the first time in NFL history, two teams scored more than 50 in the same game.
Thanks to this consistent impressive offensive performances, you would think "offense" is the name of the game for the 2018 NFL season. Well, not so fast, my friend. Despite sitting atop the NFC, the Saints and the Rams have recently suffered losses that indicate hope is anything but lost for defensive teams in the league.
The Chicago Bears were able to bring down the Rams last Sunday Night 15-6. The same offense that averages 33 points per game was limited to six points. Sean McVay's remarkable offense went home with no touchdowns to talk about on the plane back home. Instead, they probably discussed Jared Goff's four interceptions.
Weeks earlier, the Dallas Cowboys shocked the world when they brought down the Saints. Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas simply couldn't move the ball against Leighton Vander Esch, DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones. 13 points were all the Cowboys needed to score to beat an offense that was averaging 37 per game heading into week 13 but was only able to put up 10 in Dallas.
The Cowboys are the #4 seed with the Bears slightly ahead of them as the #3 seed in the NFC. Together, these teams have defeated the top two in the conference. Now granted, playoffs will definitely be different.
For starters, if they are to advance to the divisional round, they'll be on the road. Chicago was surely benefited by playing in such a cold weather versus a Los Angeles team. As far as the Cowboys are concerned, few times has AT&T Stadium been as loud as when they beat the Saints.
Hopefully, we'll get to see both of these elite defenses advance to the Divisional Round to square off against this couple of high-powered offenses again. We will not only be witnessing amazing football games, but a great discussion regarding the everlasting debate between offense and defense.
For years, "defense wins championships" has been a widely accepted statement in football. The Cowboys and Bears have made that same statement resound recently with their impressive wins.
Can they do it again in January football? Can they do it on the road?
Cowboys en Español: Los Colts No Son Cualquier Rival
Al igual que el resto de la afición de los Dallas Cowboys, parte de mí se siente confiada respecto a este equipo visitando a Indianapolis Colts y resultando victoriosos. ¿El problema? Los Colts no son un rival sencillo de vencer. Si crees que la racha de los Cowboys los intimidará, piensa de nuevo. Los Houston Texans llevaban nueve victorias al hilo antes de enfrentarse a este equipo.
Siendo objetivos, este puede ser el partido que evite que los Cowboys cierren su temporada con ocho victorias al hilo para terminar el año con un récord de 11-5. Ni los Tampa Bay Buccaneers ni los New York Giants deberían presentar amenaza alguna contra Dallas. Lo mismo no se puede decir de Indianapolis.
Por primera vez en mucho tiempo, Andrew Luck está realmente de vuelta. Gracias a una reconstrucción de su línea ofensiva, su nivel de juego a regresado al nivel que conocíamos de él desde que llegó a la NFL. Afortunadamente para los Colts, Luck se ha mantenido sano toda la temporada y no se ve rastro alguno de sus lesiones anteriores en el emparrillado.
T.Y. Hilton está teniendo un muy buen año y sin duda alguna presentará un reto para Byron Jones y el resto de la secundaria de los Cowboys. Eric Ebron en la posición de tight end también será un dolor de cabeza para la defensiva.
Lo más interesante se dará en las trincheras. Los Cowboys han hecho un muy buen trabajo presionando quarterbacks opuestos en la temporada, pero si el centro de los Colts, Ryan Kelly está sano el domingo, se enfrentarán al mejor duo de centro-guardia en la liga actualmente. Con Quenton Nelson al lado, Luck estará muy bien protegido.
Sin embargo, Kelly no ha jugado debido a una lesión y aún está por verse si tomará el campo el domingo por la mañana. Los Cowboys hicieron un muy buen trabajo a la entonces ofensiva #1 de la liga, los New Orleans Saints, pero eso no significa que la ofensiva #8 que tienen los Colts no los retará.
Promediando 27 puntos por juego, la defensiva necesitará ayuda de Dak Prescott y compañía para ganar el partido. Dallas continúa moviendo el balón efectivamente, pero es tiempo de anotar touchdowns y no goles de campo.
Ezekiel Elliott será, una vez más, clave para la victoria. Enfrentándose a una defensiva Top 10 contra el juego terrestre, mover las cadenas con Zeke no será tan fácil. El novato Darius Leonard como linebacker ha sido algo espectacular otra temporada al igual que Leighton Vander Esch. Liderando a toda la NFL en tackleadas, estará listo para recibir a los Cowboys al Lucas Oil Stadium.
Lo más importante de este partido...
Por más impresionante que sea la racha de cinco victorias consecutivas, los Cowboys tienen que demostrar que pueden ganarle a un equipo fuerte estando de visita. Porque hay que admitirlo, Jason Garrett y su equipo no han tenido éxito fuera de casa. Claro, le ganaron a un equipo debilitado de Philadelphia Eagles y a unos Atlanta Falcons que va 4-9.
Este equipo "nuevo" de los Cowboys no ha ido contra un rival de calidad siendo el visitante. Es tiempo de demostrar que lo pueden hacer, ya que si quieren contender en postemporada, es justo lo que necesitarán... jugar bien de visita.
Sinceramente creo que los Cowboys ganan este partido. Principalmente gracias a su defensiva, pero también veo a la ofensiva dominar el tiempo de posesión en un juego de pocos puntos. Es tiempo de mantener esa racha.
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