At first glance, the idea of the Dallas Cowboys trading for Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown sounds pretty far-fetched. But if you really start to look at, Dallas is in a better position to add the Steelers disgruntled star receiver than most teams. It makes you wonder if the Cowboys may not try to make a move for Brown this offseason.
You might balk at this idea immediately when you remember that Dallas has to re-sign DE DeMarcus Lawrence and that WR Amari Cooper's cap hit is going to jump by about $13 million in 2019. And if the Cowboys are serious about getting an extension done with QB Dak Prescott, then that further complicates matters.
But 2019 is a new reality for the Dallas Cowboys when it comes to the salary cap. You're not used to this team having financial flexibility, but their recent youth movement and refusal to give big contracts to aging stars has changed the fiscal landscape.
Depending on where you look, the Cowboys are projected to have anywhere from $48 to $54 million in cap space next year. And that includes the salary jumps for Cooper, Byron Jones, and any other players currently under contract.
But before we get into whether or not adding Antonio Brown works financially, let's consider if the Cowboys really need him.
Dallas made a big move at WR last season, sending their 2019 first-round pick to the Raiders for Amari Cooper. With Dallas making the playoffs and Cooper playing in the Pro Bowl this Sunday, there's little you can say against the trade now.
Cooper and second-year stud Michael Gallup will anchor the receiving corps next season. But now Dallas has to figure out what to do with Cole Beasley, who turns 30 this year and has recently been voicing his displeasure with how much he's used in the Cowboys offense.
While Cole did finish the year with the third-most targets on the team, he was hardly utilized in the playoffs. Beasley was only thrown at five times out of 64 total passes in those two games; roughly 8% of the targets in the postseason.
Cole wants and, frankly, deserves more. And his frustration does make you wonder if there would be enough targets to satisfy Antonio Brown if he came to Dallas.
A big factor here is the change in offensive coordinator. Will the new OC, who every day appears closer to being Kellen Moore, open up the passing game?
Dallas was 21st in pass attempts in 2018 with 527 throws. The top team was, coincidentally, the Pittsburgh Steelers. They threw 689 passes last year.
Now, we're not saying that the Cowboys are going to suddenly turn into a pass-heavy offense. They still have Ezekiel Elliott and a lot invested in the run game, plus nobody expects Dak Prescott to suddenly turn into Drew Brees.
But if Dallas were to add Brown, they could add a player who is not only better than Cole Beasley but would rival Amari Cooper as the team's top receiver. Even though he turns 31 this year, Antonio can still dominate a game with the best of the them.
Michael Gallup isn't entitled to a starting role next year. Dallas could start Brown and Cooper and then bring in Gallup in 3WR sets, with the flexibility to move either Antonio or Amari into the slot. They could do a lot to keep defenses guessing with their top two receivers.
Remember, Tavon Austin is also a free agent. If he and Beasley both leave Dallas, the next best options are Allen Hurns, Noah Brown, and.... *gulp*.... Terrance Williams.
So yeah, the Cowboys could sure use Antonio Brown. If you liked what Amari Cooper's presence did to help open up the offense last year, imagine what having two guys of that caliber would do.
But can Dallas afford to do it?
First off, before we even get back into the salary cap, what about trading for Brown? What will the Steelers accept for him?
Well, Dallas was able to get Cooper for a first-round pick. And Amari, who turns just 25 this summer, is about six years younger than Brown.
However, Coooper was also struggling in Oakland. In fact, many felt that a first was far too generous given his recent play. Dallas took a big gamble that a change of scenery would do him good, and it paid off.
Brown may be unhappy in Pittsburgh but it hasn't stopped him from being one of the game's best receivers. In just 15 games last year, Antonio had nearly 1,300 receiving yards and a whopping 15 touchdowns. He's still elite.
But at 31, the chance that his skills will start to decline is a major issue. And given the breakdown between Brown and the Steelers hierarchy, Pittsburgh doesn't have much leverage.
However, thanks to their solid finish to the season, Dallas' draft picks aren't as attractive as they were last October. Their original 2019 picks will now be toward the end of each round.
Given that, Pittsburgh may not want even the Cowboys' second-round pick. They also probably wouldn't take the 2020 first-round pick; the Steelers will want some immediate return to help them get back to the playoffs next season.
So no, Dallas and Pittsburgh may not make great trade partners there. And that might settle this issue before anything relevant to the Cowboys' salary cap.
But let's just play with the possibility that the teams could work out a trade. How would Dallas fit Brown's contract into their salary cap?
For this hypothetical, we'll ballpark the Cowboys' 2019 cap space at $50 million.
If Dallas were to trade for Antonio Brown, they would only be responsible for the base salary and unpaid bonuses in his deal. For 2019, that would be a $12.6 million salary and a $2.5 million roster bonus for a total $15.1 million salary cap hit.
Re-signing DeMarcus Lawrence will likely have a first-year cost of close to $20 million. That's also about what it would cost to give him the franchise tag again, so the Cowboys may be able to negotiate that down a bit through a long-term contract. But still, it's going to be a lot.
So let's just knock our cap space down to $30 million after Tank gets paid. The Cowboys won't need a lot to pay their 2019 rookie pool given they don't have a first-round pick. It shouldn't take more than about $4 million.
Now, let's talk Dak Prescott's extension. Dallas may be committed to him as their QB of the future, but it doesn't necessarily mean they have to give him a new deal now. They may want to see how Prescott responds to a new offense and performs in the final year of his rookie deal before making a franchise-altering decision.
Even if Dallas does extend Prescott, they can take steps bring that first year cap hit down tremendously. An immediate restructure could put a lot of money back into the salary cap, which would make sense at this point in the contract.
Still, we see how quickly that cap space dried up. Does that means Dallas would be too cash-strapped to make a play for Antonio Brown?
The Cowboys could also make space for Brown with some cap-saving moves elsewhere on the roster. The easiest one would be releasing Sean Lee, which clears $7 million in cap space in 2019. With Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch now the key players at linebacker, this one doesn't hurt that much.
Another $5.9 million could come from releasing veteran Tyrone Crawford. He's a valuable member of the defensive line, but Dallas has a lot of interesting young players at both DE and tackle. The money could be more valuable than the player at this point.
What about getting some money back at receiver, since that's what you'd be adding? Allen Hurns could be released for $5 million off the cap, and Terrance Williams for another $2.25 million.
Those four moves just put another $20 million into the 2019 salary cap. That would pay for Antonio Brown and give you space to do other work on the roster, or perhaps even give you the option to keep Crawford.
Of course, all of this is speculation and a loose look at the financial ramifications. And as we said, Pittsburgh may have not interest in the draft picks that Dallas can offer.
But not every team has the cap space to take on Antonio Brown, or the willingness to take a risk on a player whose had trouble making friends at his last job. The Cowboys have both, and adding a guy like Brown could be what they need to push the offense and the team to Super Bowl contention.
I'm not saying it's happening or even all that probable.
But clearly, it's possible.
DAL 27, PHI 7: Cowboys Winning Every Phase, Build Big Halftime Lead
The Dallas Cowboys certainly heard about Doug Pederson's win guarantee, but did anyone tell Pederson's team? The Philadelphia Eagles have fumbled and flopped their way into a 24-7 halftime deficit in this pivotal Week 7 rivalry game.
Two early fumbles by Dallas Goedert and Carson Wentz helped set up the Cowboys for short fields and touchdowns. Dallas has scored points on all but one of their drives in the first half.
Ezekiel Elliott is on pace for his best game of 2019 so far. He has 65 rushing yards and another 25 through the air, with one touchdown coming on the ground.
Dak Prescott has been sharp with 161 passing yards on 15-of-20 passing. He connected with Blake Jarwin on the team's second touchdown of the night.
Dallas' other touchdown came on a pretty toss play to Tavon Austin, who used his athletic skills to juke one Eagle and then outrace the rest to the endzone.
Brett Maher finished the half with an amazing 63-yard field goal. He also made one from 26 yards earlier.
Standouts on defense so far include DeMarcus Lawrence, who is playing up to his verbal response to the Eagles' head coach earlier this week. We've also some big plays from Maliek Collins, Jourdan Lewis, and Robert Quinn.
Leighton Vander Esch had to leave the game with a neck injury and is questionable to return. Hopefully, the Cowboys won't need him.
Great start by the good guys! Let's keep it going!
Eagles @ Cowboys 2019: Gameday Inactives for Both Teams
Kickoff between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles in Week 7 of the 2019 season is almost upon us. The teams have now officially declared their inactive players for tonight, and the Cowboys' list comes with many sighs of relief.
After a week of worrying that several starters and other key players could miss this pivotal game, Dallas should have most of them on hand.
Cowboys inactives: Devin Smith, Anthony Brown, Luke Gifford, Adam Redmond, Brandon Knight, Justin Hamilton, Dorance Armstrong.
Losing Anthony Brown, who is essentially a starter as the nickel corner, isn't great. But it will mean more playing time for Jourdan Lewis, and to some that could be a blessing in disguise.
As for Philadelphia, their inactive list features several key names
Ronald Darby is active for the #Eagles. Rookie Shareef Miller active for the first time. The inactives for tonight's game against the Cowboys: DeSean Jackson, Avonte Maddox, Darren Sproles, Nigel Bradham, Nate Herbig, Jason Peters, Tim Jernigan.
You can read more analysis of the Eagles' missing players here. But just to summarize, that's two offensive starters(Jackson, Peters) and three from the defense (Jernigan, Bradham, Maddox) who won't be playing in Dallas tonight.
Will these injuries decide the game? Will Dallas take advantage or will Philly overcome?
We're about to find out!
Cowboys Wishlist: Let Tony Pollard and Blake Jarwin Play
Welcome to primetime. Tonight, the Philadelphia Eagles will play the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium for an exciting NFC East matchup. The Cowboys are slightly favored for this one, but it will not be an easy game. Both teams sit at 3-3 and will fight for the division lead. It'll be an exciting night for Cowboys Nation.
Without further ado, let's get to this week's Cowboys Wishlist!
Wish #1: Everyone Plays
After a week of uncertainty regarding the health of several key players, the Cowboys are expected to play with both their staring offensive tackles, Tyron Smith and La'el Collins, WR Amari Cooper and CB Byron Jones. That's certainly surprising, but it's great news to hear ahead of such an important game for the Cowboys.
On the other hand, the Philadelphia Eagles will miss plenty of starters including OT Jason Peters. Of course, nothing will be official for Dallas until the inactives are announced. I wish the inactives list matches early reports of these key players being expected to play.
Wish #2: Return to Exploiting Play-Action
There's no way around it. The Cowboys were being very successful using play-action during the first three weeks of the season, being among the NFL teams to use it the most. For some reason, though, they seem to have walked away from it. Somehow, they figured out what was working and stopped doing it. Many have argued about how play-action works and whether or not the run must be established for it to work. Analytics suggest it doesn't work that way.
Anyway, the trend is pretty clear. Throughout the first three weeks, the Cowboys averaged play-action plays on 39.56% of their drop-backs. The last three weeks that average has been 17.3%.
It's hard to find an answer as to why this has happened to Kellen Moore's offense, but I wish they go back to what was working so effectively at the beginning of the season.
Wish #3: Let Dak Prescott Win The Game
Speaking of play-action, I truly believe Dak Prescott is the least of the Cowboys' problems right now. He's played pretty well and has shown how much of a warrior he is, specially last week when he took a beating from the New York Jets' defensive front.
I love what RB Ezekiel Elliott brings to the table, but the offense should rely on the passing game. Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup are a very solid duo of wide receivers and Dak Prescott has proven he can handle the job. I'd like to see the Cowboys putting the offense on Dak's back.
The Eagles secondary has been far from decent this season, with plenty of teams airing out against them. The key to this game is the passing game.
Wish #4: First Cowboys Drive Ends in TD
The Cowboys' slow starts have really been one of the biggest issues for this football team this season. Even when they were on a win streak and faced weak opponents, Jason Garrett's team started slow on both offense and defense. That could be the difference in such an important game for the Cowboys. It's time for them to start fast, and score fast.
The Cowboys' offense has been pretty good. In fact, they rank second in offensive DVOA on Football Outsiders. If they figure out how to score early - when game scripts matter the most - this unit could be special.
Wish #5: Let Tony Pollard and Blake Jarwin Play
The Cowboys have chosen to give Jason Witten the vast majority of the offensive snaps at TE this season. As a consequence, Blake Jarwin has seen the field less than he should. Through six weeks, he's only played in 38.1% of the offensive snaps. Jarwin is young and talented and has been good when given the chance. I hope his snap count increases today.
Similarly, I wish the Cowboys' give Tony Pollard a more important role. Instead of using him as much as they did in the first three weeks, his snap count percentage has dropped all the way down to 17.68%.
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