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Anthony Hitchens’ Raise May Not Matter Once Jaylon Smith Returns

Jess Haynie

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Anthony Hitchens

Starting middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens will nearly triple his 2017 salary, thanks to a performance-based raise in his contract. However, the Dallas Cowboys may still give his starting job to Jaylon Smith.

Anthony Hitchens

AP Photo/Scott Boehm

As reported by ESPN's Todd Archer, Hitchens had enough playing time over the last three seasons to increase his base salary from $690K to $1.84 million in 2017, the final year of his rookie contract.

This is a provision for players drafted in the third round or later, rewarding those who emerge early as significant contributors for their teams.

Jaylon Smith is an obstacle for Hitchens

The irony for Hitchens is that Jaylon Smith, last year's second-round pick, will threaten his job just after getting this raise. The former Notre Dame standout, who was considered an elite draft prospect prior to a major knee injury, is reportedly making progress and on track to play next year.

The bulk of Anthony Hitchens' playing time has come thanks to problems with other players. Sean Lee missed all of 2014 with an injury and Rolando McClain missed all of 2016 with personal problems, both creating openings for Hitchens to have a larger role than expected. Anthony has performed solidly but has rarely been a standout player.

If Jaylon Smith takes the middle linebacker job as anticipated, Hitchens will likely compete with Damien Wilson for the SAM, or strong side, role on the outside. If Wilson continues developing the way he did this season, though, Hitchens may wind up forced into a versatile bench role.

Downside of Anthony Hitchens' raise

While more money is rarely a bad thing, there is a way that this raise could actually hurt Anthony Hitchens. His base salary jumps to $1.84 million along with roughly $100k in signing bonus. But this raise is not guaranteed, so now Dallas can shave about $1.8 million off their salary cap for the minimal cost of just the bonus money.

Given Hitchens' experience and versatility, plus the fact that Jaylon Smith has yet to prove himself, it's highly unlikely Dallas would make him a cap casualty. Still, it's interesting to consider how this generally good news for Hitchens comes with some increased liability.

While a loss of his role to Jaylon Smith would certainly hurt, especially with free agency coming in 2018, at least Hitchens should be making a lot more money for his trouble.



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!

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2 Comments
  • Russ_Te

    Jaylon Smith’s wikipedia says he started as an OLB then moved “inside” at Notre Dame. Doesn’t say if that was a 3-4 defense.

    It also says 4.4 speed. You’d think that LB would play outside and then Sean Lee at MLB, but they apparently see that a lot differently.

    Landry’s old flex was designed to keep blockers off the MLB – perfect for Lee – but he stays free for tackles anyway. Although he plays outside, Lee reminds me hugely of Jack Lambert. A bit undersized, fast, nose for the unfolding play, can’t get him blocked.

    They probably think Smith can reach either sideline from MLB with his speed. I think you would try to work that in to the blitz packages also.

    Hitchens can provide good utility depth and that raise still is not a lot of $ for that. I heard there was one Cowboy making $18 million on the bench… ;^)

    • Jess Haynie

      I think they will probably keep Lee as the WLB because of the wear and tear reduction. Smith might move out there when Lee’s times is over. Won’t really matter in the nickel scheme, either.

      And I agree that Hitchens isn’t bad depth at $1.9 million. However, if they’re happy with guys like Wilber and Nzeocha, plus another rookie they could add, Hitch may be expendable and put a decent amount of cap room back in play.

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Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room

Sean Martin

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Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room 1

The Dallas Cowboys are coming off their most impressive win of the season, keeping playoff hopes alive on the road with a 27-20 victory at the Philadelphia Eagles. Entering the hostile home of the defending Super Bowl champions with three previous road losses already on their record, the Cowboys performance on Sunday night was truly about getting back to their roots. In their second week with Marc Colombo as the Offensive Line Coach, the Cowboys rushed for 171 yards and protected Dak Prescott very well. It was revealed after the game that Frederick was on a coaches headset with Colombo and his new assistant Hudson Houck.

Jane Slater on Twitter

Travis Frederick just told @BenRogers on @1053thefan that Marc Columbo has him on a coaches headset now helping him and Hudson Houck. That's a smart move from Columbo. Smartest guy on the line

The anchor of the Cowboys offensive line since being drafted in 2013, Frederick is regarded as the smartest linemen on the team. It's his mental edge that's made up for a slight lack of size at the position, regarded as one of the worst first round picks in his draft because of this oversight.

Not only is Frederick a welcome addition to the Cowboys brain trust at offensive line, but he did receive some great news on his battle with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) that's kept him out this season. Frederick was placed on injured reserve on October 6th, announcing publicly his GBS diagnosis on August 22nd.

Frederick has a long way to go before he's playing football again, not eligible to do so until week 14 at home against the Eagles. Regaining feeling in his hands is about the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee getting as healthy as possible away from football. If a return to the Cowboys is possible through his recovery, the team would of course welcome Frederick.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Travis Frederick regains sensation in his hands: "There is some light at the end of the tunnel" https://t.co/wvQhB6KUQp

What Frederick has gained in upper body strength, he must remain patient for in the lower body. While pointing out that over 95% of patients make a full recovery from GBS, Frederick is still waiting to feel sensations in his feet.

The Cowboys have been optimistic that Frederick's condition was caught early enough for a full recovery to be probable.

Dallas' schedule doesn't get any easier following their uplifting win. Returning to the site of last year's demoralizing loss at the Falcons, Frederick likely wishes he could make a miraculous return just a bit more this week.

To make matters worse, Left Tackle Tyron Smith did not practice on Wednesday due to back spasms. It's unknown if rookie Connor Williams will reclaim his starting left guard spot on Sunday, or if Xavier Su'a-Filo has earned another opportunity.

Despite the patchwork nature of a Cowboys offensive line once regarded as the best in the league, and still vital to the entire team's success, Dallas has an abundance of hope that Sunday in Atlanta can be much better than 2017. This starts with Frederick's strength to fight GBS and attempt to rejoin his teammates, wisely given some added game day influence on them by Colombo.

If elevating their level of play up front was all it took for the Cowboys to play up to their potential and pull off an upset on prime time last week, the NFC East is certainly still within reach for a team that must now sustain the level of play on offense to match what this defense has given all season.

Tell us what you think about "Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Cowboys LB Named NFC Defensive Player of the Week Against Eagles

Jess Haynie

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Leighton Vander Esch
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

You already knew that Leighton Vander Esch, the Dallas Cowboys rookie linebacker, had a great night last Sunday in Philadelphia. Apparently the rest of the football world agreed, and now he's been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week.

The award is the first of what could be many for Leighton, who has emerged as a defensive leader for the Cowboys. He's been playing more in the absence of veteran Sean Lee, who has been battling hamstring issues all season.

Dallas Cowboys on Twitter

THE. WOLF. HUNTER. Congratulations to #DallasCowboys rookie LB @VanderEsch38 on being named NFC Defensive Player of the Week! → https://t.co/XeSTt2tIpX

This is the second Player of the Week award for a Dallas Cowboys this season. Kicker Brett Maher won the Special Teams version in Week 4 after going 4-for-4 and hitting a game winner over the Detroit Lions.

The Defensive Player award hasn't gone to a Cowboys since Week of 2017, when DeMarcus Lawrence put up three sacks against the Arizona Cardinals.

Leighton's recognition is also well-earned. He led Dallas with 13 tackles and an interception in a pivotal road victory against a division rival. In what was arguably a "must-win" game for the Cowboys, their first-round pick stepped up and stood out.

A few more games like this, and Vander Esch could be in the running for the Defensive Rookie of the Year. But even above personal accolades, Leighton's play could help the Cowboys make a push in the NFC East.

If nothing else, he's making that first-round pick look smarter every week.



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Legendary Cowboys Quarterback Backs Dak Prescott

John Williams

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Takeaway Tuesday: Prescott's Legs Give Offense a Much Needed Spark

Things have not gone well for Dak Prescott this season. His play has been up and down and he hasn't given the team or Cowboys Nation much reason to believe that he's the future at the quarterback position for the Dallas Cowboys. Speaking to 105.3 FM The Fan in Dallas today, Legendary Dallas Cowboys Quarterback, Ring of Honor and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Roger Staubach offered support for the Cowboys current quarterback, Dak Prescott.

Staubach had this to say when asked about Dak Prescott.

Mark Lane on Twitter

Roger Staubach on @1053thefan said #Dak is a part of the problem with the #Cowboys offense, but he is not the problem.

Roger Staubach didn't start in the NFL until the third year of his career and thinks that's a good time for the quarterback to make the jump. At this point, we are 40 games into Dak Prescott's NFL career and we can see some of the things that he's good at as well as some of the things that he struggles with.

As Staubach points out, Dak Prescott has the intangibles that you look for in a quarterback, even if his play hasn't been what you'd want at the position. Roger admits that Dak shoulders some of the blame for the offensive woes of the last 16 games, but realizes that there are  many reasons for the Cowboys offensive failures this season.

Roger Staubach believes that the Dallas Cowboys can win with Dak Prescott as their starting quarterback despite some of the flaws that have crept up over the last 16 games. He's not wrong.

Staubach's pretty accurate in his assessment that there's been more good than bad. If you look at the first 24 games of Dak Prescott's career, he was really good. Through the last 16 games, he's struggled at times. So technically there's been more good than bad. The problem is that over the last 16 games, there's been more bad than good. The NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league and lately Dak hasn't done much. We can debate all day on how much of the struggles Prescott's faced are on him, but everyone should be willing to admit that some of the struggles are on him.

It's plausible that the confidence in Prescott that Jerry Jones has comes from Roger's belief that the Cowboys can win games with Dak Prescott at quarterback; and they have. In Prescott's career, the Dallas Cowboys are 25-15. Though wins are a team stat and not a quarterback stat, it just goes as evidence that Dak Prescott can be a winning quarterback in the National Football League.

Dak has some flaws, but the offense and its play caller haven't helped Prescott much this season. We should be critical of Prescott because he has a big pay day coming, if you believe Jerry Jones. While Dak has some flaws, he also has some traits that can make him a good quarterback in the NFL with the right coaching situation behind him. 2018 may be running out of time for the Dallas Cowboys and their playoff prospects, but the Cowboys have time before they have to make a decision on Prescott.



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