The NFL is the land of parity.
We've seen teams with the Number One Overall Pick in the Draft make the playoffs that year. We've seen Head Coaches win the Super Bowl in their first year with that franchise. It seems like every year a team goes from last place in their Division to winning it the next year. In the National Football League, literally anything is possible.
It's that word - parity - that makes the NFL what it is. People get bored with the NBA and MLB because it's the same teams dominating every season. If you're not one of them, you're out of luck. Womp womp. Not in the NFL, though.
One of the coolest things that comes out every season is the NFL Circle of Parity. It's a circle that illustrates how Team A beat Team B and Team B beat Team C, so on and so forth. A circle can be drawn to connect it all together.
In the spirit of this circle of life (also the name of the greatest Disney song ever), I wanted to see how the 2016 Dallas Cowboys are connected to every team in the NFL. Players change teams, coaches change teams, players have family on other teams... somehow, someway everyone is connected.
Here's how our Cowboys are connected to every team in the NFL.
Dallas Cowboys: Duh.
New York Giants: Head Coach Jason Garrett played for the New York Giants in 2000.
Philadelphia Eagles: Defensive Tackle Cedric Thornton was drafted by the Eagles in 2012 and played for them through 2015 before signing with the Cowboys this offseason.
Chicago Bears: Assistant Offensive Line Coach Marc Colombo played for the Bears from 2002-2005.
Detroit Lions: Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli served as the Head Coach of the Lions from 2006-2008, and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan served as the Offensive Coordinator for the Lions from 2009-2013.
Green Bay Packers: Assistant Secondary Coach Joe Baker coached the Green Bay secondary/safeties in 2005.
Minnesota Vikings: Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan served as the Vikings Offensive Coordinator from 2002-2004.
Atlanta Falcons: Quarterbacks Coach Wade Wilson played for the Falcons in 1992.
Carolina Panthers: Defensive Tackle Terrell McClain was drafted by Carolina in 2011.
New Orleans Saints: Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Brett Bech was a wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints from 1996-1999.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia coached in Tampa Bay (with a variety of responsibilities) from 2002-2010.
Arizona Cardinals: Senior Offensive Assistant Steve Loney was the Arizona Offensive Line Coach in 2006.
Los Angeles Rams: Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan served as the Head Coach of the Rams, at the time in St. Louis, from 2006-2008.
San Francisco 49ers: Offensive Lineman Joe Looney was drafted by the 49ers in 2012.
Seattle Seahawks: Defensive End Benson Mayowa signed with the Seahawks after going undrafted in 2013.
Buffalo Bills: Offensive Assistant Stephen Brown served as the Assistant to the Head Coach/Special Teams Assistant for Buffalo from 2013-2014.
Miami Dolphins: Head Coach Jason Garrett began his NFL coaching career as the Quarterbacks Coach for the Dolphins, a position he held through 2006 before being named the Offensive Coordinator of the Cowboys in 2007.
New England Patriots: Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Mike Woicik served in the same role with the Patriots from 2000-2010.
New York Jets: Cornerback Josh Thomas played one game for the Jets in 2014.
Baltimore Ravens: Troubled Linebacker Rolando McClain spent the 2013 season, technically, as a member of the Ravens roster.
Cincinnati Bengals: Tight Ends Coach Mike Pope coached the tight ends and served as Offensive Coordinator for the Bengals from 1992-1993.
Cleveland Browns: Passing Game Coordinator/Linebackers Coach Matt Eberflus coached the Cleveland linebackers from 2009-2010.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Wide Receiver Devin Street hails from the University of Pittsburgh. The Pitt Panthers share a training facility with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Houston Texans: Offensive Line Coach Frank Pollack served as the Assistant Offensive Line Coach for the Texans from 2007-2011.
Indianapolis Colts: Linebacker Henoc Muamba spent the 2013 season with the Indianapolis Colts.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Linebacker Justin Durant was drafted in by Jacksonville in the 2nd Round of the 2007 NFL Draft.
Tennessee Titans: Offensive Lineman Joe Looney played for the Titans in 2015.
Denver Broncos: Defensive Tackles Coach Leon Lett played for the Denver Broncos in 2001.
Kansas City Chiefs: Cornerback Brandon Carr was drafted by the Chiefs in 2008 and played for them through 2011 before signing with the Dallas Cowboys as a Free Agent in 2012.
Oakland Raiders: Wide Receiver Brice Butler was drafted by the Raiders in 2013 and was traded to the Cowboys during the 2015 season.
San Diego Chargers: Linebacker Andrew Gachkar was drafted by the Chargers in 2011 and played for them through 2014 until he signed with the Dallas Cowboys last offseason.
How Cowboys Could Benefit From Randy Gregory’s Suspension
Randy Gregory is back! His suspension is officially over and he will be able to join the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard, California when training camp gets underway less than a week from now.
Speculation has already started as to what this could mean for the Dallas Cowboys defense this season, and shockingly expectations are rather high for a player who hasn't stepped foot on the field in over a year. But, that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to focus on Gregory's mess of a contract, because it is rather interesting.
Randy Gregory was signed to a four-year contract after being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second-round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Gregory's rookie deal was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2018 season, but his multiple suspensions have now changed that expiration date.
You see, Gregory has only played in a total of 14 games in his career, 12 as a rookie and two in Year 2. His third year in the NFL was completely wiped out due to his year-long suspension. If you were to add that all up, it equates to just one accured season in the NFL. Remember that, because it could have a huge impact on his contract down the road.
What all of this means is that the Cowboys can pretty much stretch out Gregory's contract now that they are three years in on the deal and have only gotten one accured season out of the agreement. That basically means they can push his contract back a year, meaning his 2017 salary ($731,813) gets pushed back to 2018, his 2018 salary ($955,217) gets pushed to 2019. That would essentially make him a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) in 2020.
Or does it?
Depending on how the Dallas Cowboys handled paying Randy Gregory during his suspension could actually make him an Exclusive Rights Free Agent (EFA). This is a similar situation in which David Irving found himself in after the 2017 season. The Cowboys placed a second-round tender on him in order to secure his services for another season, albeit at a $2.91 million price tag.
As you can see, the Dallas Cowboys pretty much hold all the cards when it comes to Randy Gregory's contract situation. It's all a little confusing, but that's what makes it such a unique and interesting situation.
Of course, the Cowboys could decide to extend Gregory early if he completely dominates upon his return this season. It's highly doubtful though considering his past suspensions, but still technically a possibility. If it does happen, you can go ahead and ignore everything I've written previously.
Earl Thomas: Age is Just a Number Part II
Yesterday, I wrote a piece attempting to assuage the fears that many in Cowboys Nation have about handing a contract extension out to Earl Thomas, who is 29 years old as we enter the 2018 NFL season.
In the comment section, a reader posed a very good question that is the basis for the rest of this article:
It's a great question that certainly required some research, but Cowboys fans all across the world should be encouraged by my findings.
Just to refresh, here are the players we looked at as favorable comparisons to Earl Thomas at this point in his career. I searched Pro Football Reference for safeties who had at least three All-Pro First Team selections and at least six Pro Bowl appearances.
The average age of the players listed at the time when they reached their third All-Pro was 31 years old. I'm removing Deion Sanders and Roger Wehrli from the equation as most of their work was done at cornerback.
Let's look at a chart that outlines what these guys careers looked like at age 29 and beyond to get a better picture. Remember, Earl Thomas already has three All-Pro selections and six Pro Bowls. Many of these guys didn't reach those kind of accolades until their 30s.
The first thing I noticed as I looked into this question is that only two players had three or more All-Pro First Team selections prior to age 29, like Earl Thomas has. Those players were Rod Woodson and Ronnie Lott. Every other player on this list didn't hit their third All-Pro selection until age 29 or later.
Only one player reached his sixth Pro Bowl prior to his age 29 season, that player is Ronnie Lott, who many NFL Analysts consider to be the greatest safety of all-time. Most of the players didn't achieve their third All-Pro selection until their age 29 season or later. Earl Thomas reached his third All-Pro selection at age 25.
Here's a hot take for you: Earl Thomas, when it's all said and done could be considered the greatest safety of all-time. I'll just leave that there to marinate and if a trade does happen, we'll come back to that.
Back to the chart.
Another thing I want to point out is that none of these players were 100% healthy. Such is the life in the NFL, especially as you get older, but they were available for at least 14 games a majority of their seasons aged 29 or later. Health is an unpredictable animal in the NFL, but the safety position allows for much more longevity than many other positions. And as the chart depicts, it's a position that ages well.
So, as you can see in the chart, players who were highly productive prior to their age 29 season were also highly productive for several seasons after. These players went onto average almost seven more years in the league from their age 29 seasons.
Most players continued to average a healthy amount of interceptions. The player that saw the biggest decline from the early part of his career to the post-29 part of his career was Brian Dawkins. The former Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos safety went from three interceptions per season prior to 29 to 1.9 interceptions per season 29 and after.
When it comes to the safety position, the elite seem to be able to get the most of their bodies and their abilities and can prolong their prime. The position relies as much on intelligence and awareness as it does quickness and athleticism. Earl Thomas has the mental capacity to play the game for many more years and there's been zero evidence to suggest that he is experiencing any physical decline.
At the rate of his career that he's on, Earl Thomas is destined for the Hall of Fame. He's one of the faces of the Legion of Boom defense that propelled the Seattle Seahawks into the elite category of teams in the early part of this decade.
If and when an Earl Thomas trade does occur, don't sweat an extension for Thomas.
Thomas' credentials put him in an elite group of players who played the game for a very long time and there's no reason to believe he won't continue to do so.
The Dallas Cowboys aren't that far off from having a Super Bowl contending defense built in the image of the Seattle Seahawks. Going to get the All-Pro, future Hall of Fame safety is the final piece to the to the Dallas Cowboys completing construction on "Doomsday III."
Everything else is there for the Dallas Cowboys, now all they have to do is: Go. Get. Earl!
Noah Brown Takes to Twitter to Call Out ESPN
ESPN has long been considered "The Worldwide Leader in Sports," and for a long time that title was justified. If you wanted your national sports news, where did you turn to but the cable sports channel to watch that day's episode of SportsCenter. But over the last few years, it's become more and more clear that it's "The Worldwide Leader" in name only.
The ratings are dropping and the network has had to make a lot of business decisions as it relates to much of their on-air talent over the last several years. With their latest under 25 starting 22 -- ahem, troll job -- they seem to have finally come to terms that they are basically First Take.
Noah Brown put it best in his reaction to the ESPN "Insider" voting that led to Saquon Barkley being named to the starting 22 ahead of Ezekiel Elliott. Brown, Elliott's teammate when both were at Ohio State University, came to his defense upon seeing the list.
43 of our NFL Insiders voted. Here's their best starting roster under the age of 25.
I'm sure there could be debates about different positions on the squad. Personally, quarterback is one where an argument could be made for Carson Wentz or Dak Prescott over DeShaun Watson, but that's for another time.
But to have a rookie, who has never played a down in the NFL ahead of the NFL's league leader in rushing for 2016, Ezekiel Elliott, is laughable.
The fact that they had 43, again I use the quotations, "Insiders" vote on this and Ezekiel Elliott wasn't listed as one of the two running backs just shows you how far they've come as a network.
Let's remember that Ezekiel Elliott has averaged a touchdown a game -- receiving and rushing -- in his 25-game career. No running back has more rushing yards than Elliott does over the last two years, including 2017 league rushing leader, Kareem Hunt. No running back has more rushing touchdowns than Elliott's 22 rushing TDs.
Ezekiel Elliott's yards per carry is a healthy 4.63. Todd Gurley sits at 3.93. No player with more than 1,800 rushing yards over the last two years has a better yards per attempt than Ezekiel Elliott.
I get that you'd vote Todd Gurley in there, but to not have Ezekiel Elliott, arguably the game's best running back on your Under 25 starting 22 just makes you look like Skip Bayless or Stephen A. Smith. Not a sports journalism entity worthy of people throwing money at for "Insider" access.
I won't say that I never or will never watch ESPN, because where else am I gonna go for Monday Night Football, Todd Archer, or the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championships? When I'm at my father-in-law's, I'll watch SportsCenter first thing in the morning, because it will be on and you don't change another man's television.
"The Worldwide Leader," however, loses credibility when they promote a list like this that has such a glaring omission.
Perhaps, maybe the goal wasn't to put out an accurate list. Maybe the goal was to get us talking about their list, just like when NFL Network releases their Top 100 players list. Like they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity.
This troll job from ESPN has certainly gotten them some publicity, or should I say, notoriety.
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