At 36-years-old and in his 13th season, Carson Palmer has just had the best regular season of his career for the 13-3 Arizona Cardinals. One state over, another great quarterback lost nearly his entire season to injury. Tony Romo's twice-broken collarbone was the key issue this year, but before that he's had several season of recurring back problems. Dallas Cowboys fans should look west for hope as Palmer's re-emergence as a top performer is a great sign for Romo's future.
Last year Palmer was anything but healthy. A nerve injury in his shoulder kept him out from Weeks 2-5 and then a torn ACL ended his season in Week 10. He was still solid when available, having a 95.6 passer rating in the seven games he played. Still, there was plenty of concern about how this aged veteran could hold up going into 2015.
Palmer hasn't just stayed on the field this year but has been spectacular. His 104.6 passer rating is third in the NFL and higher than the likes of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers. He didn't many any snaps due to injury, only being spelled by Drew Stanton when the Cardinals had built comfortable leads.
Most impressive is that Palmer's success has come with a lot of suspect offensive talent around him. Larry Fitzgerald is deep into his twilight. Chris Johnson was an aged running back desperate for work. Michael Floyd is a solid but unspectacular receiver. They have nobody of consequence at tight end. Palmer's leadership has helped this group become greater than the sum of its parts, ranking first in the NFL in yardage and second in scoring.
So you Dallas fans reading this are probably starting to think, "that's lovely, but what does it do for us?" Well, consider that Palmer is just five months older than Romo. The fact that a guy at age 35-36 can have this kind of uptick in his level of play is remarkable. Even better, Palmer's actual mileage is far higher than Romo's. Palmer has been starting since his rookie season in 2004. Romo didn't start playing until midway through the 2006 season. Palmer's resurgence is happening with a lot more tread on the tires than Romo will have next year.
Even more specifically, Palmer has bounced back from missing lots of time and repeated injuries to the same body part with his knee. Sound like someone we know? Romo broke this same collarbone in 2010 as in 2015, plus has the chronic back issues. But now that he has a full offseason to heal and the best modern medicine has to offer, he has every opportunity to come back just as strong as Palmer has been.
Sometimes we have to remember what decade we're in when assessing football players' health. The old timetables for career longevity and the toll of injuries aren't what they were in the 1990s. Sports medicine is better than its ever been and players in all sports are seeing more success coming back from even catastrophic injuries. We can only hope that Romo is part of that trend.
Now, to be clear, none of this is to say that Dallas shouldn't be thinking about the future at quarterback. Romo's chance at re-injury, or even something new, are higher than normal given his age and wear. Even without health problems, I could see Romo being ready to hang it up and get back to his golfing within the next few seasons. Dallas would be wise to have a legitimate prospect, and not another of their undrafted flyers, learning and preparing behind him as soon as this year.
Whatever the future may hold for the position, we know that Romo will be the guy in 2016. He'll be there with Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, who are superior to what Palmer's working with in Arizona. He'll have an offensive line which, as good as the Cardinals' line has been, is stronger. As long as he enjoys a full recovery from the collarbone injury, which he has more than enough time for in the offseason, Tony Romo has every opportunity to be the league's top-rated passer again next year as he was in 2014.
Thankfully, as Carson Palmer has shown us, it's not an unrealistic goal.
Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstated, Will Join Team for Training Camp
The Dallas Cowboys patience with Defensive End Randy Gregory has paid off. Suspended for the better part of 2016 and all of 2017, Gregory has officially been reinstated to join the team for their 2018 training camp. The projected starter at RDE, Gregory will report to Oxnard with the rest of the team on July 25th.
From here, it will be all hard work for Gregory to reconnect with Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli and get his promising career back on track. The last time Gregory suited up for the Cowboys, he managed to sack Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz in a week 17 win. The Cowboys will be expecting much more of this from a player they've supported through multiple violations of the league's heavily criticized substance abuse policy.
Cowboys pass-rusher Randy Gregory's petition for reinstatement was not opposed, according to lawyer Daniel Moskowitz. He's back. "I've never been more proud of any individual in my life. I'm very excited for Randy and his daughter and the rest of the his family.
Among this support staff for Gregory were a number of teammates that wrote formal letters to the NFL as part of his bid for reinstatement. These last few days of preparation before the Cowboys are together again as a team will surely be uplifted by Gregory's presence.
They say no news is typically good news at this point in the offseason, something the Cowboys have come to realize far too often. Today's news shouldn't be confused with a pleasant surprise however, rather something the Cowboys were committed to in getting another premier pass rusher on the field.
Here is the NFL's official press release on their reinstatement of Randy Gregory:
Cowboys & DeMarcus Lawrence Fail to Reach New Contract
DeMarcus Lawrence will definitely be a Cowboy in 2018, but now the future beyond that remains in question. The Dallas Cowboys and their star defensive end did not agree to a long-term contract by today's deadline for franchise-tagged players.
According to NFL rules, teams had until 4:00 pm EST today to reach contract extensions with free agents who'd been assigned the franchise tag earlier this offseason. Players who did not get new deals will have to play the 2018 season on their one-year franchise tenders.
DeMarcus Lawrence and the Cowboys were unable to work out a long-term contract by today's deadline. Lawrence will play the 2018 season under a one-year franchise tag that will pay him $17.1 million
This does not mean Lawrence will be a free agent in 2019. The two parties can still discuss the contract in the months to come, but the deal cannot be made until after the end of the regular season.
Dallas also has the option of giving DeMarcus a second franchise tag next year. However, that would come at a considerably higher price for a second-straight season.
This year, Lawrence will still make plenty with one of the highest cap hits of any DE in the league. He earned the franchise tag last with 14.5 sacks in a breakout season.
Today's news may not really be a big deal in the long run. As long as Tank wants to stay in Dallas after this, the two sides now have over five months to keep talking and will hopefully agree on a new deal for 2019 and beyond.
There is risk on both sides, of course.
Lawrence's leverage could be less if his productions drops or he gets injured. On the other hand, his position could be even stronger with a second-straight year of strong play.
Now everyone, from the team to player to fans, is in wait-and-see mode until the end of the season.
Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make the Roster?
The Dallas Cowboys aren't short on numbers at wide receiver on their current 90-man roster. Looking to replace Dez Bryant and reshape their offense, the Cowboys will have to find the right group of pass catchers for Dak Prescott at their upcoming training camp.
The odd men out from this group will likely be the ones that can't sustain a consistent level of play, doing so across multiple units if needed. All ten receivers will have their flashes, but with only four being true locks to make the team, new Cowboys Wide Receivers Coach Sanjay Lal will be in on some tough decisions right away.
One such decision may be moving on from last year's seventh round pick Noah Brown out of Ohio State. Vouched for by former Buckeyes teammate Ezekiel Elliott thanks to his blocking ability on the outside, it may now be this strength in the run game and deficiency as a pass catcher that spells the end of Brown's run in Dallas.
Normally, a seventh round pick being on the roster bubble wouldn't be this noteworthy, but Brown clearly showed the potential to outplay this draft status as a rookie. Appearing in 13 games, Brown is a true X receiver, although not the dominant one the Cowboys are searching for.
Moving away from fielding a true number one receiver, the Cowboys did sign Allen Hurns to play this spot while prepared to spread the ball around to Williams, Beasley, and Gallup after that.
This leaves Thompson, Wilson, Cannon, Lenoir, McCay, Murdock, and Brown to prove their worth in other ways to make the roster. I've written plenty about the potential rookie Cedrick Wilson has, so I'll be expecting a strong showing from him to earn a role in the Cowboys offense.
Wilson's skill set could push a depth signing like Deonte Thompson off the team, although his ability to back up Cole Beasley/Tavon Austin on special teams is important. The same can be said about Lance Lenoir, who like Brown has the advantage over first year players given his trials through training camp and the preseason a year ago.
Long shots to make the team, Cannon, McCay, and Murdock fall just below this group -- and somewhere in the middle is Noah Brown.
Increasing his role on special teams as the season went on last year, Brown had fans throughout a coaching staff that is now drastically changed for 2018. From their shift to more speed on offense, to drafting of both Gallup and Wilson, calling Brown a fringe player on the Cowboys roster really sets up the fiery competition to come at wide receiver.
Should the Cowboys find a spot for Brown, one can only hope it means this new coaching staff has a clear plan for him to contribute on both offense and special teams outside of being a run blocker. A potential niche for Brown is his red zone ability, not afraid to put his body on the line for jump balls and fight through contact in his routes.
It won't be long until we sort out if this is enough to make the Cowboys as a wide receiver ahead of Quarterback Dak Prescott's third season.
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