There's plenty of question marks surrounding the Dallas Cowboys heading into the 2018 season. Many of which won't be answered until the regular season begins. With training camp just a few weeks away, it finally seems like football is very close and for now, there's nothing but discussing some of the story-lines around teams in the NFL.
The offseason tends to be a time in which many optimistic narratives arise. Some of them should be believed and some should be dismissed.
Today, we take a look at some of those story lines out there and discuss which ones we should be buying and which ones we should be selling. I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments section below! Let me know which narratives you'd buy and which you'd sell.
Let's open up the Cowboys' stock market!
Earl Thomas is Heading to Dallas: Sell
I'm sure most of Cowboys Nation would love to see Earl Thomas wearing a star on his helmet. I would too. Heck, judging by Earl's Cowboys' fanhood, I bet he would too. But I don't think it gets done. Even if the Cowboys do want to get him to Dallas, I doubt Seattle lets him walk this year. They have lost so many players by now, most recently Kam Chancellor, and trading Earl Thomas won't send a positive message to the fans.
That, and the fact that it would be very odd to see the Cowboys' front office give up a second-round pick and extending 29-year old Earl Thomas by handing him what would be one of the top safety contracts in the league, I'm selling on this narrative.
But hey, we know Earl loves the Cowboys. As long as he keeps holding out on the Seahawks, everything is possible. And as a plan B, there's always the 2019 free agency, right?
Dak Prescott's Third Year Will Prove He's a Franchise QB: Buy
Dak has a lot riding on this season. If he plays like the team wants, he gets a juicy long-term extension. If not, his future in Dallas becomes pretty uncertain. After two very different seasons, many have criticized Prescott's play.
But I'm buying it here. Dak Prescott will have a better year in 2018 and prove he's progressed. I truly believe he'll be able to learn from his first two seasons and take advantage of the offense the team has built for him.
In a year in which we already expected the terrifying "sophomore slump", Dak had to carry a team without Ezekiel Elliott, Tyron Smith and Sean Lee. It shouldn't serve as an excuse, but it does help putting things in perspective. It's not Brady, Rodgers or Roethlisberger we're talking about here.
Dak Prescott's third year in the NFL will be his year.
DeMarcus Lawrence Will Keep it Up: Buy
Lawrence's remarkable 14.5-sacks season earned him a $17M franchise tag, but he'll be fighting for much more this season. What's been the story here, though, is whether or not his success in 2017 was nothing but a "contract-year performance."
Time and time again we've seen players play like never before in their final year under contract and then do nothing special after getting paid. I don't think this is case with Lawrence. Which is why I'm buying on the narrative that he'll manage to replicate (hopefully improve) his 2017 success going forward.
2017 has really been the only season in which he has been 100% healthy, and it showed on the field. If he avoids injuries, look forward to watching him bring down QBs repeatedly this season.
Ezekiel Elliott Will Be More Involved in Passing Game: Sell
Even though he missed six games last year, Ezekiel Elliott has proven everything he needed to. He is one of the best running backs in the NFL, sitting in the same tier as Le'Veon Bell, Todd Gurley and David Johnson.
We know what he's able to do running the football, but we're also curious as to what he'd be able to accomplish if he got more involved (à la Le'Veon Bell) in the passing game. We've seen very few passes thrown to him, and once again we wonder whether or not we'll see more of it this time around.
I'm selling on this narrative. The offense is already giving him 25 touches per game. As amazing as Zeke is on the field, the team should be cautious with how they use him, or his career in Dallas could be over in just a handful of years.
I think the Cowboys will keep using him as a workhorse on the running game while limiting him as a receiver.
Jaylon Smith's Time to Shine is 2018: Buy
With his knee brace off, Cowboys Nation is expecting to see 2016 second-round pick Jaylon Smith play at his best in 2018. Although he got on the field last season, he didn't play at his best after being rushed due to Anthony Hitchen's injury early in the season.
Smith's comeback journey has been a long one, and one that can hopefully end this year. I'm buying here.
He did a nice job in his "sophomore" season, despite him being rusty and all. This time, that won't be the case. He even said he wouldn't start training camp with the knee brace. Hopefully, he doesn't need to wear it moving forward. Jaylon really deserves a breakout season in 2018.
Will DeMarcus Lawrence Be Franchise Tagged Again in 2019?
The deadline for extending players under the franchise tag has come and gone last Monday, in a day in which none of the remaining tagged players reached an agreement with their respective teams. That includes Dallas Cowboy Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, who's set to earn $17M in 2018.
The front office and the 26-year old defensive end failed to agree to a new contract before the season's start, but we saw that coming. After all, there was never a point in which we had the classic "X player and his team are close to a new deal" headline.
All of this makes the future of the Cowboys' promising "War Daddy" very uncertain. What lies a head of the player that put on an impressive show in 2018?
Since 2017 was Lawrence's breakout year, racking up 14.5 sacks trough the season, we have leaned towards the narrative of last season being his only good one. His performance last season was impressive and clearly his best one yet, but we tend to overlook 2015.
In his sophomore season, the only other year in which he has played 16 games, he finished the campaign with eight sacks and 35 tackles (55 combined). Really, the idea of 2017 being his only good year is not as accurate as we might think.
That being said, I think it's more likely that we see another great year from him this upcoming season than seeing a disappointing one. This, of course, will end up being the main thing that determines his future in Dallas.
The Dallas Cowboys front office really took a risk by tagging Lawrence this offseason. #90 was reportedly asking for an average of $17M per year in his long-term contract, which is Olivier Vernon kind of money.
So what if he puts a similar season or an even better one? Lawrence and his agent could end up asking for even more money. Perhaps in the 18 or 20 million dollars per year range. If that ends up being the case, the team will find itself in a tough position when trying to reach an agreement with its promising pass rusher.
Which leads us to the possibility of seeing the Cowboys franchise tagging Lawrence for the second consecutive season. Dallas will already be negotiating a contract extension with QB Dak Prescott, and things will get complicated. Even more if they decide to pursue a big-time free agent in March, such as Earl Thomas.
It would make sense, from a financial perspective, to hand the tag twice in consecutive years to D-Law. However, it shouldn't be the priority. If he plays like he did in 2017, the front office will be more than wise to extend him for good.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Cowboys will have approximately $50.6M. Seemingly, the team's cap woes will be over soon.
Fortunately, Lawrence didn't become a headache by threatening to holdout for offseason programs and even training camp. However, don't expect that to happen if he finds himself under the tag next year.
Careers in the NFL are short, so DeMarcus will surely want to get paid. If he keeps it up, he'll deserve it. As much as he deserves it, though, football is a cold business. If the Jones need to tag him, they will.
Do you think the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence in 2019?
Without Looming Suspension, RB Ezekiel Elliott Should Shine In 2018
NFL Films typically does a good job of exposing some truths around NFL teams. Whether through "Hard Knocks" or Amazon's new "All or Nothing" series, these documentaries do an excellent job of giving fans an inside look of their favorite teams.
If anything was revealed through the Cowboys' All or Nothing series on their 2017 season, it's that Ezekiel Elliott's suspension weighed heavy on his mind all year.
The Pro Bowl running back did not look, act, or play like himself while awaiting decision on his incoming suspension. And, once it was finally announced he would serve the six games, the entire team collapsed in Atlanta.
Despite the clear and detrimental effects Elliott's suspension had on the Cowboys' season, Zeke still put up more-than-respectable numbers; rushing for almost 1,000 yards and averaging a league leading 98.3 yards per game.
Now, Ezekiel Elliott enters a season with no doubts about his own availability. Scott Linehan gets to coach an offense that knows they will have their best player for the entire season barring major injury. And, Jason Garrett can lead his team without addressing questions about Elliott's future day in and day out.
Of course, these effects aren't quantifiable. We can't sit here and say that without the pressure of court appearances and suspensions that Elliott will be worth "X" amount of more yards and "Y" more touchdowns.
But I do believe we can say, without question, that playing with a clear mind and without a looming suspension will breed the type of production we saw from Zeke his rookie year.
We can say that Elliott has had a weight lifted off his shoulders, and could be looking for revenge on a league he feels did him wrong.
And, for the Cowboys sake, I hope this is true. Because they are going to need Ezekiel Elliott to be even better than he ever has been if they hope to make a run at the Super Bowl in 2018.
Cowboys en Español: El Regreso de Randy Gregory
A sólo días de que los Dallas Cowboys aterricen en Oxnard, California para dar inicio a su training camp como todos los años, el equipo recibió excelentes noticias respecto a la selección de segunda ronda del 2015: Randy Gregory. Después de pasar todo el 2017 suspendido, el ala defensiva ha sido oficialmente reintegrado por la NFL.
Gregory, quien tuvo muchos problemas debido al uso de marihuana, ha pasado los últimos meses rehabilitándose para poder volver a vestir la estrella y volver al emparrillado. Los Cowboys, quienes siempre apoyaron a su joven jugador, sin duda estarán felices de verlo de vuelta en el equipo por motivos más allá que el football americano.
Sin duda alguna, antes de estar emocionados y felices por verlo en el campo intimidando a quarterbacks rivales, deberíamos estar alegres por el logro personal de Randy como un ser humano. Realmente hizo un esfuerzo consciente en un lugar en el que muchos se hubieran rendido y dejado sus sueños de ser parte de la NFL. Pero no lo hizo, y ahora, todos sus esfuerzos han valido la pena.
El siguiente paso en su lista por-hacer, es volver al campo y poco a poco, ganarse su puesto en el equipo y después, la titularidad. La última vez que vimos a Gregory en el campo, fue contra Philadelphia, en el final de temporada del 2016.
En este juego, Gregory mostró muchos destellos de lo que sería capaz de hacer semana tras semana en la liga y porque valió la pena nunca dejarlo ir, lo cual no hubiera tenido sentido hacer, dado que los Cowboys no les costaba nada (literalmente) mantenerlo en el equipo.
Sean Martin escribió un artículo recientemente en el que analiza este partido a fondo.
El potencial de Gregory es inmenso, suficiente incluso, para aventurarse a decir que se convertirá en el defensive end (ala defensiva) derecho antes de lo esperado. El reto más grande para el jugador de 25 años será regresar a una condición física óptima para la NFL.
Afortunadamente, a diferencia del 2016, Gregory no estará regresando a media temporada. Su llegada toma lugar justo a tiempo para el training camp, dándole tiempo para regresar a la forma en la que tiene que estar.
Una vez ahí, ¿qué tanto le tomará ganarse un rol más importante que el de Tyrone Crawford y Taco Charlton? A pesar de que prácticamente no lo hemos visto jugar en Dallas, sabemos el potencial que tiene para convertirse en un defensivo de suma importancia para los Cowboys.
Un año después de ver la mejor temporada en la carrera de DeMarcus Lawrence, los Cowboys tendrán el potencial de una estrella similar en el lado derecho de su línea defensiva. Gregory tiene una montaña que escalar para cumplir las expectativas de los aficionados, pero no será una sorpresa si lo logra.
Vaya, no olvidemos que si no fuera por sus problemas fuera del campo, hubiera sido seleccionado en el Top 10 del Draft del 2015. Tiene el potencial de conseguir diez sacks por temporada.
Con un poco de suerte, no nos equivocaremos en tenerle fe al jugador que ha tenido un gran viaje para llegar a este punto. El punto de ponerse el casco e ir a trabajar con su equipo.
Incluso si sólo llega a ser un jugador de rotación, sin duda será importante para el éxito del equipo. Entre DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving, Randy Gregory y el resto del talento que los Cowboys tienen en la línea defensiva, el equipo podría tener un frente de muy buena calidad.
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