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Best And Worst Of The Dallas Cowboys Off-Season

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - Best And Worst Of The Dallas Cowboys Off-Season

As things stand right now, it looks as if the Dallas Cowboys have had a pretty disappointing off-season, and that’s putting things as nice as I really can.

Fortunately, with the good comes the bad and I decided that I would share with you what I see as the best and worst things that happened to America’s Team throughout the off-season.

Now, I know you might not agree with everything I say. The good thing is that this is just one person’s opinion and you, the readers, can certainly chime in and agree or disagree with anything I have to say.

I decided to break it down to the best and worst things that happened to the offense and then do the same thing to the defensive side of the ball. All of these circumstances will have some kind of impact on the 2016 season, but we have no way of predicting that as of yet.

Without further ado, here are the best and worst things that happened to the Dallas Cowboys on offense and defense during the off-season.

Offense

Best:

Cowboys Headlines - 5 Offensive Players To Watch In Training Camp 1This might be the most obvious out of everything that happened to the Dallas Cowboys during the off-season, but the return of quarterback Tony Romo and the addition of Ezekiel Elliott should once again make the offensive unit one of the best in the entire NFL.

The good news is that Romo was able to fully participate in all of the off-season practices and was moving around better than he has been able to for the past couple seasons. He wasn’t limited in any way by his collarbone and the extra time off allowed his back to have even more time to heal and recuperate. This is all excellent news!

Ezekiel Elliott‘s addition transforms an already potent offense into a lethal force. Elliott is the perfect fit to run in the Cowboys zone blocking scheme, which will allow the offensive line to get back to what they do best, unlike last season when they had to use more man concepts in the running game. His addition will also help every single player on the offensive side of the ball take their game to the next level.

*Honorable mention-Dez Bryant returning to 100%

Worst:

Cowboys Headlines - 5 Offensive Players To Watch In Training Camp 3Okay, there really isn’t anything bad to mention on the offensive side of the ball, more of a disappointment.

Stephen Jones mentioned that Chaz Green could push Doug Free for the starting right tackle position earlier in the off-season, but that never materialized in OTA’s or mini-camp practices. He seemed to continue to get better with more practices, so maybe he just needed to knock off some rust to get things going.

Training camp will be huge for Green if he wants to try and push Doug Free for the starting position at right tackle, but his best bet might be to win the swing tackle spot first and then go from there.

Defense

Best:

Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys: 6 Players That Will Impact 2016 4In all honesty, there wasn’t a lot of good that happened to Dallas Cowboys defense throughout the off-season. However, I think the Cowboys’ decision to sign former division rival defensive tackle, Cedric Thornton, will pay huge dividends in the middle the defense.

Thornton should be a big upgrade over Nick Hayden at the 1-tech in Rod Marinelli’s 4-3 defensive scheme. He is not only a really good run defender, but he should be able to put more pressure on the opposing QB and help collapse the pocket.

Playing next to Thornton, Tyrone Crawford should benefit the most and wreak havoc from the 3-tech. I think this is where the majority of the Cowboys pass rush will come from, at least the first month of the season.

I’m really expecting big things from Cedric Thornton in 2016 and that might be why the Dallas Cowboys made him their biggest signing in free agency.

*Honorable mention-Orlando Scandrick returning to 100%

Worst:

Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys' Rolando McClain Suspended 10 Games; DeMarcus Lawrence Suspension UpheldIs this even worth mentioning?

One of the worst things imaginable that could’ve happened to the Dallas Cowboys during the off-season happened, and it went down in a big way.

The worst is absolutely when the announcement was made that Rolando McClain will miss 10 games of the season because of his suspension, but the four-game suspensions that was handed down to both DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory might hurt just as much.

Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will have to work his magic with the defense and help his players once again outperform what is expected of them.

Training camp will be huge for the Dallas Cowboys in order to figure out who will fill in for the suspended players and the decisions they make could impact the way the 2016 season goes.

What are your best and worst things that happened to the Dallas Cowboys during the off-season?

Please use the comment section below to share your thoughts and opinions about the Dallas Cowboys off-season.

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Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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2 Comments
  • http://www.thechazingroup.com Ethan Chazin

    I like the idea of this article but it is a fairly "shallow" assessment. For ex. you fail to mention the incredible depth right now at RB, addition of Alfred Morris and Round 6 draft pick Jackson. Brice Butler having a full training c amp to push out useless Devin street. No mention at the DEPTH of D-line, expected growth of David Irving, Jack Crawford, Ryan Russell. No Benson Mayowa? The addition of draft picks Charles Tapper and Maliek Collins? Byron Jones at his true Safety position and no need for Wilcox? The return of a healthy Tyrone Crawford. Scandrick returning might be HUGE. Switching positions for Claiborne and Brandon Carr? Lots to be positive/excited about right now, at least on paper. Health always a critical factor but we'll see when the pads come on.

    • Brian Martin

      Thanks for commenting Ethan. I like to hear any kind of feedback from readers whether it's negative or positive. First off, these were the best and worst things that I thought happened to the Cowboys during the off-season. I agree that the Cowboys have incredible depth at running back, but is it better than Tony Romo returning and Ezekiel Elliott become the lead back? I really like Brice Butler as well, but I think Devin Street pushed himself off the roster. Yes, the Cowboys have depth along the defensive line, but it still not really anything to stand up and cheer about. I think the addition of Cedric Thornton will help Tyrone Crawford immensely, but other and that there are a lot of question marks. Benson Mayowa is probably nothing more than a pass rush specialist. His size probably wont allow him to stand up to the pounding he would take as a full-time starter. I agree that the return of Scandrick is huge for the defense and that's why he received an honorable mention in the article. He probably would have fallen under the best category, but he didn't because we have yet to see him practice. Same with Dez Bryant. Yes, there are a lot more positives that I could've mentioned, but I was trying to focus on the absolute worst and best of the Cowboys off-season.

Dallas Cowboys

DeMarcus Lawrence, Franchise Tags and Realities for Dallas Cowboys

Mauricio Rodriguez

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DeMarcus Lawrence, Franchise Tags and Realities for Dallas Cowboys
Matthew Emmons / USA TODAY Sports

For Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, it was now or never. With an expiring rookie contract, it was time for him to make a name for himself. Between injuries and a suspension, Lawrence wasn’t close to being a great player before 2017. He accounted for eight sacks in 2015 and only one in 2016.

However, last season he was finally able to get double-digit numbers by sacking opposing quarterbacks 14.5 times. Lawrence also had 36 tackles and four forced fumbles. Not only was he a very good pass rusher, but he also became a great run defender.

Simply put, DeMarcus “Tank” Lawrence went from an average player to one of the NFL’s best defensive ends in 2017.

It seems like finally, after years of waiting, the Dallas Cowboys have found their “War Daddy.” But, as is always the case for the Cowboys, there’s a problem. DeMarcus Lawrence needs to be paid in order for him to stay. With number 90 ready to hit free agency, the Cowboys’ front office has a choice to make.

They can give him the big multi-year contract he wants, they can tag him, or the Cowboys can watch him walk out the front door and thrive somewhere else in the league.

DeMarcus Lawrence

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence (Scott Cunningham / Getty Images)

There’s a problem with giving him a big-time contract though. Lawrence had a great 2017 season, but before that, he hadn’t proved anything. Tank has provided one quality season for the Dallas Cowboys. Are they willing to pay him a lot of money and take the risk of seeing him play like in 2015 or 2016?

It wouldn’t be the first time that an NFL player has had a great “contract year” season just to become an average football player. The Cowboys should look at the possibility of keeping Lawrence for at least one more year by giving him a franchise tag.

But First of All, What is a Franchise Tag?

The offseason is a time in which we sort of understand certain concepts but don’t truly understand them completely. Simply put, every year each NFL team has the right to hand out a franchise tag to one of its players. Tagging a player means giving him a one-year deal with a high payment, basically forcing the player to stay with the team for one more season.

In some cases, the player might even end up on another team, despite being tagged, but that would depend on the type of franchise tag he receives.

There are three types of franchise tags:

  • Exclusive Franchise Tag: With this tag, the player gets paid the average of the top five salaries for the player’s position (in this case, defensive end) for the current year. With this tag, no other team can negotiate with the player (hence the term exclusive). However, only guys like Kirk Cousins or Von Miller get exclusive tags, so it probably won’t be the case for Lawrence.
  • Non-exclusive Franchise Tag: Out of every tag, this is the most used. With this tag, the player receives the average of the top five salaries at his position over the last five years. Other teams can actually negotiate with the player though. If offered a deal by another team, the current team has the right to match the offer. If they decline to do so, they get two first-round picks in compensation.
  • Transition Franchise Tag: This isn’t as compromising as the other tags are, since the team doesn’t even receive compensation if the player takes a deal with another team. The player is paid the average of the ten best salaries at his position. The current team has the opportunity to match any offers made to the player.

In DeMarcus Lawrence’s case, the “non-exclusive” tag would make the most sense, but even if the Cowboys decide to tag Lawrence, there’s still a big problem… cap space.

Per Over The Cap, Dallas is expected to have a cap number of around $18M. The projected tag for a DE in 2018 is over $17M. The Cowboys have to make some moves if they want to keep Tank on the roster.

Whether it’s releasing some players or restructuring a ton of contracts, something will need to get done in Dallas. Lawrence is not the only player the Cowboys should be concerned about re-signing, so they’ll definitely need the cap space.

We may see some surprising cap casualties if the Cowboys really want Lawrence. I wouldn’t even be surprised if this team says goodbye to Dez Bryant, for example.

I don’t see how this team could let DeMarcus Lawrence walk in free agency. I don’t think they should. Let’s hope Tank is wearing a star in 2018.

Tell me what you think about “DeMarcus Lawrence, Franchise Tags and Realities for Dallas Cowboys” in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Have Need for Speed at Running Back

Jess Haynie

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Has RB Rod Smith Emerged As Ezekiel Elliott's Primary Backup? 2
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys have a lot needs in the 2018 offseason. Running back may seem low on the list, but Dallas should not take it for granted. They have an opportunity to add some needed speed and explosion to their offense.

Ezekiel Elliott and Rod Smith will form an exciting one-two punch at the top of the RB depth chart. Alfred Morris‘ contract has expired and it’s unlikely he’ll return with Smith’s late-season push for a larger role.

Rod Smith is an ideal backup for Elliott. He has the right mix of power and athleticism to run some of the same plays, plus he’s not a bad receiver. He could even work as the third-down back when Zeke needs a breather.

Ezekiel Elliott, Broncos

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Between those two, Dallas has all the power and standard running they need. That’s why I believe they should use the number-three spot this year on a true speedster.

I’m sure the first name that pops in mind is Lance Dunbar, who held that role to varying degrees from 2012-2016. Dunbar could be used in a variety of speed-based plays, go out as a receiver, and even return kicks at times.

The Cowboys have a candidate for this role already in Trey Williams, who was on the practice squad and will be with the team at least to start the offseason.

Small and versatile, Williams looks like he fits that Dunbar mold. However, Williams isn’t a true burner. He clocked just 4.49 at the NFL Scouting Combine. He’s quick and agile, but isn’t necessarily going to beat guys to the edge.

With the way Dallas’ offensive linemen can move and work out in space, a back with blazing speed could do some real damage. All he needs is a lane and he could make house calls.

Right now, wide receiver Ryan Switzer is the only player Dallas has who can assume some of those Dunbar-like roles. He could be effective on screens and reverses. But a guy with those same skills at RB can be even more dangerous. He can leave defenses guessing even more because they’re not sure which position he’s playing until after the huddle breaks.

That third roster spot is wide open, so the Cowboys should spend the offseason looking for a weapon that provides a different skill set and more for opponents to worry about.

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Cowboys Face Tough Decision with DL Tyrone Crawford

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Blog - Dallas Cowboys Sign Tyrone Crawford To Long-Term Contract 1
AP Photo/Brandon Wade

As the Dallas Cowboys look to get back into the playoffs next season, they have some work to do on their current roster. Talent needs to be added and retained, and that takes money. Veteran Tyrone Crawford’s contract puts the Cowboys in a tough spot.

Crawford isn’t the Cowboys’ best defender, but he did have the highest cap hit in 2017, even more than linebacker Sean Lee. Crawford will count $9.1 million against Dallas’ salary cap next season, which is currently second behind Lee’s projected $11-million hit. That fact alone would make you think Tyrone Crawford is likely to be released this offseason.

It would seem even more likely when you consider how guys like DeMarcus Lawrence and David Irving have eclipsed him as impact players on the defensive line.

However, Crawford’s contract isn’t so easily discarded.

Tyrone Crawford

Dallas Cowboys DL Tyrone Crawford

Because of past restructuring, Dallas won’t get much cap relief by cutting Tyrone outright. He still has $7.3 million in dead money on the deal, which means cap savings of only $1.8 million.

That’s a small return for losing a solid, dependable player and great locker room guy.

Crawford can play inside or outside in the 4-3, and he’s been a veteran leader on an otherwise young roster.

If Dallas were to make Tyrone Crawford a June-1st release, they would get $6 million in cap space for 2018 and push another $4.2-million in dead money to 2019. That sounds nice on the surface, but keep in mind Dallas can’t use that $6 million during free agency in March. It only becomes available after June 1st. Still, the Cowboys could find ways to use that money.

It could fund their rookie pool, or go toward a new contract for Lawrence or Irving. It could also be used to sign other June-1st cap casualties. If nothing else, it could be rolled over to next season. But again, you lose a solid player in the exchange.

Tyrone Crawford may not be worth a $9.1-million cap hit, but you have to factor in replacement cost.

Dallas could certainly get by. Assuming Lawrence and Irving return, they also have Maliek Collins, Taco Charlton, and Charles Tapper under contract. Benson Mayowa has one year left on his deal, but is likely to be a cap casualty himself. The Cowboys also have several young prospects in Richard Ash, Lewis Neal, and anyone they might add in this year’s draft.

This would be a no-brainer if Crawford’s contract hadn’t been reworked in the past. Dallas would likely get a nice chunk of immediate change if they cut him, but they created their own problem here with the restructuring. Now they have an asset who isn’t worth his price, but doesn’t offer enough relief to be worth cutting.

It’s a tough call; one of many the Cowboys will face in the 2018 offseason.

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