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.
Did a Year Away Help Rejuvenate TE Jason Witten’s Game?
Jason Witten is 37 years old, retired from the NFL after the completion of 2017 season to try his luck as an announcer in the booth, but has now decided to come out of retirement to rejoin the Dallas Cowboys? It seems a little unrealistic to think he can come back after a year away from the game and pick up where he left off, but it sounds as if he's like a Phoenix rising from the ashes.
Jason Witten has been the talk of Dallas Cowboys OTA practices so far. These practices are unpadded and basically just an opportunity to do install some of the offensive and defensive plays, but that doesn't make them any less important. One of the things that has been somewhat surprising though is how talked up the future Hall of Famer has become.
Here is what Head Coach Jason Garrett had to say recently about Jason Witten's return:
“Yeah, absolutely. He’s been excited about every part of it ever since I met him and that hasn’t changed,” coach Jason Garrett said. “The work that he’s done in the weight room in the off-season program has been outstanding. His testing numbers and all of that are what they’ve been or even better. And he just has an unbelievable way about him. Tremendous passion for the game. And he demonstrates that every day. Witt looks good. He’s excited to be back and we’re certainly fortunate to have him back.”
The main thing that stands out from Garrett's quote to me is how Jason Witten looks just as good, if not better after not playing at all in 2018. To think that his testing numbers are possibly even better is unfathomable. We typically don't see NFL players in their mid-30s retire from the game and then return just as good, or maybe even better than they were before.
Maybe that's just what Jason Witten is, a little inhuman. Maybe he's found the secret to turning the clock back just a little bit. Or, maybe he found the fountain the youth and didn't tell anybody. Regardless, there's no doubt Witten will be a welcomed addition to the Cowboys offense, especially if he's gained a step.
I don't know about all of you, but I'm hoping the year away from the game did him some good. I honestly thought he made the right decision to retire prior to the 2018 season. It just looked like father time was catching up to him in 2017. But, hopefully all he needed was a little time away from the grind he's been putting his body through for over a decade.
Whatever he's done hasn't gone unnoticed though. Even Quarterback Dak Prescott has noticed and said he's on to Witten's scheme.
“I guess the trick is to take a year off because he’s definitely gotten better, stronger and faster,” Prescott said. “He hasn’t lost a step.”
I'm not afraid to admit I wasn't too excited to see Witten come out of retirement and rejoin the Cowboys at first. I was skeptical he could be the player he once was after a year away from the game. But, all of this talk about him looking as good as he once was, perhaps better, has me really looking forward to seeing him on the field once again.
Do you think a year away has rejuvenated Jason Witten's game?
Cowboys en Español: El Verdadero Cambio en La Ofensiva
Los Dallas Cowboys tuvieron un interesante 2018. La ofensiva dejo mucho que desear toda la primera mitad de la temporada cuando carecían de un receptor número uno. No fue hasta media temporada cuando consiguieron a Amari Cooper de los Oakland Raiders, que la ofensiva comenzó a verse realmente amenazante. Siendo sinceros, el cuerpo de receptores de los Cowboys lucía muy débil al inicio y Michael Gallup aún no conseguía mucho tiempo de juego en el emparrillado. Incluso una vez en el equipo, a pesar de las grandes hazañas de Cooper en Dallas, la ofensiva no terminó de dar el siguiente paso.
Sí, con Amari en el equipo vimos un equipo de Cowboys que movía constantemente las cadenas e incluso se convirtió en una de las mejores unidades en tercera oportunidad en la liga, pero no fue suficiente. Los problemas en zona roja persistieron y continuamos viendo una selección de jugadas muy cuestionable semana tras semana.
Es por eso que al finalizar la temporada, la administración de los Cowboys finalmente tomó una decisión muy anticipada. El entonces coordinador ofensivo, Scott Linehan, fue despedido.
En cuanto a talento, los Dallas Cowboys no verán un cambio mayor en su ofensiva. Cole Beasley, uno de los mejores WR slot en la NFL, firmó con los Buffalo Bills durante la agencia libre. A pesar de la llegada de Randall Cobb, la ofensiva probablemente extrañará bastante a Beasley. Además está el regreso de Jason Witten al campo, quien se repartirá el balón mucho con los jóvenes del equipo, principalmente con Blake Jarwin. Por último, Travis Frederick podría estar de regreso como el centro titular. Fuera de eso, no se anticipan cambios de jugadores en la ofensiva.
Y a pesar de esto, la afición de los Cowboys espera ver un cambio grande entre la ofensiva del 2018 y la de 2019. Si las cosas salen bien, así será. Pero más que por el talento del equipo, que ya está ahí y es un muy buen talento, deberá ser por el hombre al mando.
Kellen Moore ha tomado las riendas como el nuevo coordinador ofensivo y finalmente podremos ver su potencial. Muchos han criticado a Moore, en gran parte por nunca haber sido un quarterback exitoso en la NFL. Sin embargo, hay muchas razones por las cuales deberíamos estar emocionados.
Desde que Moore salió de la universidad de Boise State, se le veía como un prospecto muy inteligente. Incluso analistas como Jon Gruden (en ese entonces conductor del programa de ESPN Gruden's QB Camp) mencionaban que Moore probablemente no sería un gran mariscal, pero que tenía la mente de un coach.
En Boise, Moore trabajaba con la ofensiva del actual coach de los Washington Huskies, Chris Petersen. Esta ofensiva es una muy complicada que le exige al mariscal saber casi tanto como un jugador profesional. Muchos han descrito a Moore como un genio ofensivo que será un gran coach en el futuro.
Para los Cowboys, Kellen Moore será una pieza clave en 2019. Si vemos una ofensiva realmente diferente, será gracias a su creatividad y filosofía que implementa a un grupo bastante talentoso en Dallas. Los jugadores están ahí, ¿sabrá el coordinador ofensivo de 30 años aprovecharlos?
NFL to Study Marijuana Use, Will It Impact Randy Gregory’s Status?
The NFLPA and the NFL have reached an agreement to research alternative pain-management tools for the players. They'll form joint medical committees to study different strategies, among which will be the use of marijuana. It's important to make it clear that said committees will not be exclusively about marijuana, but a lot of different issues related to pain-management in the league. However, it'll likely be one of the most important aspects of their work.
Marijuana continues to be a highly debated topic and it's no different when discussing the NFL. Dallas Cowboys fans should be very familiar with the situation. Earlier this year, David Irving "quit" on football during an Instagram live stream while smoking weed. In the video, Irving talks about how he thinks it's better to be addicted to marijuana rather than certain medications used by NFL teams to treat their players.
Although David Irving is not an authority on substances, that is where all of this debate centers around. Throughout the league, players are given strong medication to deal with injuries and the physical pain of playing pro football. I'm not an expert either, but it's more than fair to say there's a strong argument here. Specially in a country where marijuana has already been legalized in 10 states and the trend points toward legalization continuing.
The current CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) between the NFL and NFLPA will expire after the 2020 season and how the league's drug policy looks like in the new agreement will be a huge factor for reaching a satisfactory CBA for both sides.
Of course, the fact that the NFLPA and the league are working together on such an important task doesn't mean we will see any immediate changes or that the NFL's ban on marijuana will be lifted anytime soon. Many big question marks will have to be answered before we hear about teams implementing this substance as a pain management tool.
For the Dallas Cowboys, this will be a relevant narrative down the line. Pass rusher Randy Gregory was reinstated after serving an indefinite suspension due to substance abuse prior to the 2018 season. After a dominant year, Gregory was suspended again by the NFL and it all points toward him sitting out this upcoming season and perhaps even more.
Even still, the Cowboys are still standing behind their 2015 second round pick. If the league ends up lifting its ban on marijuana, they'll have to decide what they will do with players already serving a suspension for this reason. Guys like Randy Gregory, for instance. If it's decided they'll be reinstated to the NFL, the Cowboys will sure be glad to have supported Gregory all throughout the process.
Last year, the pass rusher proved how effective he could be even with a short period of time training. Hopefully, the Cowboys are able to get him back on the field eventually, where's been consistently dominant. In the meantime, we'll see how recently acquired Robert Quinn does in Dallas.
The NFL won't be lifting its ban anytime soon, but it's good to know they're at least open minded to changing the league's policy and consider alternatives that could benefit the players' health. We'll see how these new medical committees work and keep you updated here at Inside The Star.
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