Late yesterday, news broke that Dallas Cowboys Center Travis Frederick has been diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder and his return to the football field is currently up in the air. With the regular season starting in just two weeks, what might the team do to deal with this big hole in the roster?
The first and most likely option is to start Joe Looney, who is now in his third year with the Cowboys as a reserve center and guard. We haven't seen another player at center since Frederick entered the league in 2013, as he's started every game since.
But that would leave the cupboard pretty bare for backups, and Looney's versatility almost makes him more attractive as a reserve. So, how else might Dallas find a new starting center?
Final cuts are coming on September 1st, but how many quality centers will hit the open market? Can the Cowboys afford to rely on this option?
Another option to consider is a trade, utilizing some of the talented depth players that Dallas has at other positions. One team's surplus is often another team's need; that's where good trade partners are found.
So who might the Cowboys consider using to trade for a quality center, either to replace Frederick in the starting lineup or to fill Looney's role as the backup?
The first guy that comes to my mind is Cornerback Jourdan Lewis. Just a year ago, Lewis was considered a first-round talent by some draft experts. He dropped to the third round because of a now-resolved legal issue.
As a rookie, Lewis really came on by the end of the season. He seemed headed for a long career as a starter in Dallas, but then the Cowboys brought in new Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard. Dallas moved Byron Jones from safety to CB, with Richard liking more size in his corners.
Now Lewis has even dropped behind Anthony Brown on the depth chart, and the second-year talent is struggling. Whether it's shaken confidence or just general discouragement, he doesn't seem like the same guy right now.
But many teams may still see Jourdan Lewis as the potential star from the 2017 draft class. They also saw his play last season. The Cowboys might be able to get good value in a trade, and it could be the best thing for all parties.
Dallas still has a bevy of intriguing prospects behind Lewis at cornerback. Duke Thomas, Marquez White, Charvarious Ward, Kameron Kelly; probably only one of these guys is going to make the team as of now.
As long as the Cowboys trust one of them to play major reps in case of an injury, they could afford to let Jourdan Lewis go. It not only could fix a short-term problem at center, but it may be the best long-term move for maximizing Lewis' value.
Another player to consider moving is Terrance Williams. With Michael Gallup already making an impact and other options on the receiver depth chart, Williams is expendable. He's in good health and has loads of experience, having been a starter for the majority of his career.
Much like with Jourdan Lewis, the ability to move Terrance has to do with other options behind him. Lance Lenoir has emerged as a viable roster candidate. Deonte Thompson was brought in as a free agent to provide veteran depth and would be a solid fourth receiver. You also have Noah Brown, who has been out with injury but should be back soon.
Don't forget about Tavon Austin, who the Cowboys will be using a lot at receiver this year. At a certain point, there are only so many snaps and throws to go around. With Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, and Michael Gallup looking good as a top three, Terrance Williams is looking at a greatly reduced role from past years.
You're not going to get a Pro Bowler in return for Terrance, but you may be able to get a guy who can at least provide quality depth behind Joe Looney. The move would also let you keep a young talent like Brown or Lenoir who you'd otherwise have to cut.
Another way to go here is with Linebacker Damien Wilson. He's been a solid starter for two years now and is in the final year of his rookie contract.
As currently constituted, the Cowboys would be keeping first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch on the bench if Wilson remained a starter. We've also seen some nice stuff from free agent addition Joe Thomas in preseason.
Dallas would likely be cutting either Justin March-Lillard or rookie Chris Covington based on the current numbers. If Wilson was traded, they could keep both.
Ultimately, the key duo of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith wouldn't be impacted. Dallas uses their nickel scheme more than any other formation, and Wilson isn't part of that.
So while Damien Wilson is a quality player, he's also likely to be gone next offseason. If another team is hurting for linebackers now, and of course has the depth at center or guard that we're looking for, a good deal could be made.
~ ~ ~
Obviously, this is just one side of the trade equation. You have to find another team who needs a CB, WR, or LB and has the surplus on the offensive line. That takes a smart scouting department, which thankfully the Cowboys have.
Nobody's saying that any move we make now is going to replace everything Travis Frederick, one of the elite centers in football, provides to a team. And really, we don't even know how much this medical issue is going to threaten his playing time.
What we do know is that the Cowboys are headed to face the Carolina Panthers on September 9th and, as of right now, they don't know if Frederick will be available. There is a dangerous amount of uncertainty right now to just sit back and hope for the best.
If Dallas can utilize one of these roster assets to get some help at center, it's something they should wholeheartedly explore.
Tony Romo Won’t Be the Next Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator
The pipe dream has been going on since former Dallas Cowboys Quarterback-turned CBS Analyst Tony Romo hung up his cleats for the black blazer. Fans from all corners of Cowboys Nation have clamored for a return to the field or at worst the sideline as the Cowboys offensive coordinator.
Let me stop you right there. It's not happening.
First of all. He's never been a coach at any level of football, so to assume that he could leave the broadcast booth and step into coaching an NFL offense and doing so at a high level is a huge leap of faith in number 9. Sure, Jon Gruden left the Monday Night Football booth for his lucrative deal with the Oakland Raiders, but he had won a Super Bowl and had been an offensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL for years before joining the broadcasting ranks.
Tony Romo has an excellent understanding of football. He displays it on a regular basis during the CBS broadcasts. But doing from the broadcast view, seeing what the defense is trying to do, and calling the plays to counter what the defense is trying to do are very different things.
Secondly, the coaching job would be a major time commitment that at the moment he doesn't have. Even if he's working a 40 hour work week in preparation for his three-hour time slot, the demands on NFL coaches are easily twice that with many coaches putting in 100 hour work weeks in preparation for Sundays. Tony Romo has a family that even he's talked about as part of the reason that he went into broadcasting instead of looking to hop on with another NFL team.
Finally, the job would mean a significant pay cut from what Romo is already making. It's estimated that the former Cowboys quarterback is making anywhere from $5-10 million dollars a year with CBS. Jason Garrett is making $6 million per year as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, so even if the Jones family was willing to pay first-time NFL coach Tony Romo a ton of money to come out of the broadcast booth, there's zero chance they pay him what he's making as a broadcaster. To do so, would be to undercut the head coach. Jason Garrett is Jerry Jones' guy. The owner and general manager wants Garrett to be the guy that leads the Cowboys to Super Bowl success, so there's zero chance he'd pay a coordinator close to Garrett's money, which would lead to constant speculation about the head coach and his future with the organization.
I love Tony Romo. His jersey is one of only two Cowboys jerseys that I own -- along with Darren Woodson -- and I think he could make a good coach one day, but I'd be hard pressed to see him come out of the coaching booth to take a coordinator job and have immediate success. The guys that are offensive coordinators in the NFL have been grinding for years to earn their jobs. Most started as position coaches -- see Sean McVay as Redskins TE coach. The Dallas Cowboys will spend the next few days, and perhaps weeks, identifying their replacement for Scott Linehan, but let's put to bed the dream of Romo as offensive coordinator.
It's just not going to happen.
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.
Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:
Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh
Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.
Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.
The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.
For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!
Breaking: Scott Linehan and Dallas Cowboys Part Ways
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network is reporting that the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan have mutually agreed to part ways following a tumultuous season that saw the Dallas Cowboys offense finish outside the top 12 three out of his four seasons in Dallas.
Sources: The #Cowboys are firing OC Scott Linehan. Taking their offense in a new direction. An announcement is coming.
Scott Linehan was brought in prior to the 2015 season and saw his offenses finish 31st, fifth, 14th, and 22nd in his four years as the Cowboys play caller. The 2015 season can be excused as the Cowboys rolled out Kellen Moore, Matt Cassell, and Brandon Weeden for 13 starts after Tony Romo was injured twice during the season, but the team 2-11 in those 13 starts and the Cowboys failed to make the playoffs despite a strong performance on the defensive side of the football.
The Cowboys saw an offense that finished fifth in the NFL in points in 2016 decline each of the last two offseasons and Linehan has been continually criticized by analysts, fans, and players as well.
Many believe that the reason that Dez Bryant and Brice Butler weren't brought back in the offseason was because of the public criticism of the offense and the play caller instilling the offense and that criticism has carried over to this season when Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper acknowledged that the Philadelphia Eagles were sitting on the slant routes that they had run all game. Dak mentioned that he changed Amari's route to a go route, which led to a 75 yard touchdown that helped open up the offense.
Cole Beasley has been frustrated with his role for much of the season and deservedly so. He was often non-existent in the offensive game plan until the final five minutes of football games.
In the running game, the offense had become too predictable and reliant upon jumbo formations that led to Ezekiel Elliott having to run against eight in the box anywhere from 25-30% of the time. For perspective, Todd Gurley only ran against eight-man fronts around eight percent of the time. Scott Linehan never looked to attempt to take players out of the box, instead insisting on motioning more players into the box for the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott to run against. It's amazing when you think about it, that Ezekiel Elliott was able to win the rushing title when facing loaded fronts as often as he did.
This was a move that needed to happen and the Dallas Cowboys didn't need to waste anymore time to make it happen. The offense had become stale and frustrating for the players as well as the fans. While Jason Garrett started the offseason saying he "didn't expect any changes," this was a move that absolutely had to happen for the offense to take a step forward. Below, you can read Jason Garrett's announcement on the move.
Cowboys have fired Scott Linehan
Even after the move for Amari Cooper, the offense looked better, but it still struggled at times to move the football.
The Cowboys have a young team with especially young players on the offensive side of the football. They have a quarterback who can throw from the pocket, but has excellent movement skills and capabilities of throwing the ball on the run. He's an excellent runner on designed runs. Despite us knowing all that, Scott Linehan looked reluctant to use him on designed quarterback runs that weren't read options or speed options. What you saw on designed runs in the Seattle game is what this team should be doing five times a game.
Now the question becomes, who should the Cowboys next offensive coordinator be? Our own, Staff Writer Brian Martin, laid out 5 Options to be the Next Offensive Coordinator earlier this week. I suggest you give it a read.
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