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Cowboys Can Sign Free Agents Without Affecting 2018 Compensatory Picks

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Able To Sign Free Agents Without Affecting 2018 Compensatory Picks

According to Field Yates of ESPN, the Dallas Cowboys can now sign unrestricted free agents without affecting the 2018 compensatory formula.

Field Yates on Twitter

Note: any unrestricted free agent signed after today will not count towards the 2018 compensatory pick formula. Example: LeGarrette Blount.

This is actually really good news for the Cowboys considering they are looking to be awarded four compensatory picks in 2018, which is by the way the max number a team can receive. That is because they lost more FAs than they signed.

Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox, Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr, Jack Crawford, and Ronald Leary all played significant roles for the Cowboys last season and based on their salary/playing time, should net the Cowboys some pretty valuable compensatory picks in 2018. This is one of the reasons they weren’t very active in free agency.

Well, that could change now that they aren’t at risk of losing any of the potential compensatory picks next year. I personally don’t believe they will be very active even now, but there are some available FAs still out there that can come in and upgrade the roster.

The Cowboys could use a change of pace/3rd down back behind Ezekiel Elliott and Darren McFadden. I’ve already shared with you 5 running backs that could fill that role, but what about another young offensive tackle with starting experience?

Enter Austin Pasztor, formerly of the Cleveland Browns.

OT/G Austin PasztorPasztor has started 43 of 58 games at both guard and tackle for the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars since entering the NFL. It’s that kind of versatility the Cowboys like in their offensive lineman and with the right tackle and left guard position currently available, he makes a lot of sense.

Pasztor is just 26 years old, and at 6’7″, 308 could possibly be the player the Cowboys are looking for to fill the void left by Doug Free at right tackle. He may not have been a consideration before because it would have cost them one of their compensatory picks, but he should be now.

I know they are experimenting with La’el Collins at RT right now and Jonathan Cooper at LG, but they have always believed Collins’ best position is inside at guard. I tend to agree, which is why Pasztor makes sense.

Collins has the potential to develop into an All-Pro offensive guard, but I’m not sure the same can be said for him as a tackle. If not for a foot injury last season, he could’ve possibly joined Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and Tyron Smith in the Pro Bowl.

The Dallas Cowboys certainly have several options available to them right now to put together a starting unit for the upcoming season, so the signing of Austin Pasztor seems unlikely. But, it’s definitely something I think they should seriously consider.

The good news is they can go out and sign any unrestricted free agent and not lose any of their 2018 compensatory picks. Whether or not they bring in any more free agents is still a mystery and we will all just have to wait and see how it turns out.

Are there any free agents you think the Dallas Cowboys should sign?

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Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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23 Comments
  • John Williams

    Paztor sounds like the exact kind of player they would be interested in. Still young by OL standards and has the position flex that you mentioned. I’d be interested in him.

    • Brian Martin

      I would actually love for this to happen, but I think the Cowboys are probably going to stick with status quo for now.

  • Russ_Te

    My guess on Collins is that he will excel at RT. He could prove that wrong of course but he has the size at 6′ 5″, 322 lbs and the agility for it. And he started his last 2 years at LSU at LT.

    If so we will very likely get a pass-blocking upgrade from the years of Doug Free, who was a powerhouse run blocker but not quick laterally. As I mentioned previously when you factor in that he has not played a complete season in 2 at LG because of injuries, it’s possible the move outside will help keep him upright as well.

    Free at last! ;^)

    • Brian Martin

      I actually prefer Collins at guard because of his strength and agility. He is able to handle both the quicker and more powerful DTs because of those traits. Chaz Green is my choice at RT if he can remain healthy. I think Smith, Collins, Frederick, Martin, and Green would actually be an upgrade from last season.

      • Assassin

        Dont forget we have Bryan Bell. Was a solid RT for Panthers before injuries forced him to LT. Out in 2016 with dislocated ankle. 72 career starts over the past five seasons

        • Brian Martin

          We do have Byron Bell, but I think his better position in the NFL is at OG. We will have to wait and see if he is a consideration at RT.

          • Assassin

            He made his mark at RT. Not very good at LT but not many are. He did play some OG but on a really bad and injured line. Would like to see him get a shot at RT and LG. Between Witten and Zach on the RT and Tryon and Frederick at LG

          • Brian Martin

            The position battle between RT and LG is really going to be interesting to follow this off-season. I personally like Smith, Collins, Frederick, Martin, and Green as my starting five. But, that would mean that both Collins and Green would need to stay healthy.

          • Assassin

            not sure that we’ve seen enough of Green to know if hes good enough to be on the NFLs bets OL

          • Brian Martin

            He looked pretty good as Tyron Smith’s replacement last year when he was injured.

          • Assassin

            True, but that was only for a minute. 2 starts I think. Not long enough to see if he can stay upright and move okay over the course of a season. The fact that they’ve told La’el to get ready for a move to RT may give us a clue. Mini-camps may tell us more.

          • Brian Martin

            Two starts is a lot more than Collins has had at tackle. And Green played LT in those two contests. I just have a feeling that they are just getting Collins ready in case Green isn’t ready. But, that’s just what my gut is telling me right now.

          • Assassin

            But you go with what you have. Hes certainly part of the equation

      • Assassin

        BTW – wonder if there is any hope for 6’10 OT Dan Skipper. Normally you would want OT to get up under the pads of the DTs/DEs but he’s probably too tall for that. We had a 6’10 1/2 OT that I played ball with in college, John Massengail. Had the same issues. They finally changed the way he blocked to ‘pushing down’ instead. Had better success

        • Brian Martin

          The Cowboys worked out Skipper pre-draft, so they must like him at least a little bit. But, like you said they may have to change up his technique, which probably means he needs a year or two to develop.

  • Russ_Te

    2018 Mock Draft ~

    The Super Bowl Champion Cowboys bundle up several picks to move up the 1st round, and get that dominant RDE they couldn’t get in 2017… ;^)

    Meanwhile I project it’s Lawrence moving back to RDE. He lacks the classic first step of a Harvey Martin or Charles Haley, but he is a good player with a good motor. It’s not awful there for 2017.

    To me that is more likely than Charlton at RDE. They will probably try him there but he looks to me like a DL who’s future is inside.

    Then you have the Jaylon Smith wildcard. The big if is the knee, and then how the Cowboys deploy him. I am trying him out at SS but the team is probably not going to listen to that… ;^)

    So at MLB, does his ability come off the field on long downs? I don’t think so. I think you move him around the LOS on those downs the way the Giants did with Lawrence Taylor. He attacks the QB as he sees fit.

    • Brian Martin

      I could see Lawrence moving back to RDE. I think Charlton is a classic LDE and that will be his position for years to come.

      Smith is going to be your MLB. He’s already said that he is going to start Week 1. He is in every down LB and his value really lies in his ability to use his speed from sideline to sideline in both the run and passing game. I doubt he is used as a pass rusher much until his knee is 100%.

  • Assassin

    Thanks Brian. Interesting prospect. Also CBs Jason McCourty from the Titans and Trumaine Brock from SF are out there. And if you want to go pure OT, King Dunlap from the Chargers or Ryan Clady from the Jets. OLB Elvis Dumervil has 99 sacks. Wonder if he would be worth a flyer? Has a lot of mileage on the wheels

    • Brian Martin

      There are definitely several FAs still available that can come in and help

  • Assassin

    So, right now I would think we get two 4’s, a 5 and a 6 in comp picks next year. Will comp us for the well spent 5th to get 6th rounder LaTech S Xavier Woods. Thought we might go for him in the 3rd or maybe 4th. Not sure that I would have imagined him available in the 6th

    • Brian Martin

      Xavier Woods was definitely a steal in the sixth round. And, your guess is as good as mine on compensatory picks, but that sounds about right.

  • Wilson Torres

    for me smith cooper federiclk, martin collins

    • Brian Martin

      That’s what it’s looking like as of right now. I personally really liked what I saw from Chaz Green when he filled in for Tyron Smith last season. He would be my preference to start at RT and keep Collins at LG. To me, that’s the Cowboys best starting 5. I like Jonathan Cooper also, but he just doesn’t play with the same kind of physicality as Collins. I don’t know if that would have a negative impact on the running game.

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Will Terrance Williams be Back with Cowboys in 2018?

Brian Martin

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Will Terrance Williams be Back with Cowboys in 2018?

Each offseason tough decisions have to be made by teams around the NFL, and the Dallas Cowboys are no exception. Teams have to decide who to promote, who to demote, and who to cut ties with altogether. For the Cowboys, Terrance Williams fits into one of those three categories, but which one?

It was plainly obvious that the Dallas Cowboys wide receivers all had an extremely disappointing 2017 season.

Everybody has their own opinion as to why this happened, but one thing is for sure, the Cowboys coaching staff will definitely look at ways to get more out of their receiving core. The one player who I think could be affected most by whatever decision the coaching staff ends up making is Terrance Williams.

Williams didn’t do much to make a case for keeping his starting job in 2017, let alone sticking on the roster.

To say he had a disappointing season would be an understatement.

Williams finished the 2017 season with just 53 receptions for 568 receiving yards and absolutely zero touchdowns. The Cowboys were likely hoping for more production from someone they just signed to a four-year, $17-million contract extension back in March [2017].

Now, you can make the argument Williams took a team discount in order to stay in Dallas, but that doesn’t carry much weight when your production leaves so much to be desired. This is especially true when there might be somebody on the roster who can do just as well, and possibly be an upgrade.

Noah Brown

Dallas Cowboys WR Noah Brown (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Yes, if you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m talking about Noah Brown.

I know I’m not alone here, but I think Noah Brown could easily replace Terrance Williams’ production. I understand that there’s not much evidence to back up that statement based on Brown’s rookie season, but he has all the tools required to succeed.

This is really all about potential, and Noah Brown simply has more upside than Terrance Williams.

We all know what Terrance Williams is as a receiver, and what he brings to the table for the Cowboys offense. I believe Noah Brown can do all the things Williams does and has the potential to be even better.

I already think Noah Brown is a better blocker, something the Cowboys coaching staff really values about Williams. I also think Brown is a better pass catcher. He is a natural hands catcher and has a large catching radius, something Williams obviously isn’t (body catcher).

Right now, Williams is only better than Noah Brown in a few areas. He is slightly faster, he’s more advanced as a route runner, and has more experience. That’s about it.

This will obviously be a tough decision for the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff to make. But, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if we see Terrance Williams playing somewhere else when the 2018 season kicks off.

Do you think Terrance Williams will be with the Cowboys in 2018?

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Are the Dallas Cowboys Building a Championship Defense?

Sean Martin

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Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 3

Three of the four teams remaining in the NFL playoffs — a win away from the Super Bowl — ranked within the top four defensively in yards per game allowed this season. The other is the defending-champion New England Patriots, who of course were expected to reach yet another AFC Championship game, thanks to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

Somewhere between this field, losing their 2017 hopes at a deep playoff run to injuries, suspensions, and just poor execution at times, are the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys ranked eighth in yards allowed per game at 318.1 this season.

On the surface, all this provides hope that typically springs eternal around the league through the offseason.

It has been far too long since the Cowboys defense matched the skill level of the team’s offense, but Rod Marinelli’s unit (not exactly by design) outplayed that of Scott Linehan’s at times through this 9-7 campaign.

This defensive rebuild in Dallas began with the admission that this group had reached their ceiling in the offseason, as the Cowboys let long-time starters like CB Morris Claiborne, CB Brandon Carr, S Barry Church (now with the Jaguars), and S J.J. Wilcox go in free agency.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense?

Dallas Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis, CB Chidobe Awuzie, S Xavier Woods (AP Photo / Ron Jenkins)

For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, looking to turn over an entire secondary in a division featuring Carson Wentz, Eli Manning, and Kirk Cousins as quickly as the Cowboys did was a risky move. Their confidence in hitting on draft picks paid off though.

The Cowboys’ bright future is predicated on the likes of CB Chidobe Awuzie, CB Jourdan Lewis, and S Xavier Woods.

With two young starters at cornerback, the sky truly is the limit the this Cowboys defense. And they’ll play in support of an offense with more than enough talent to return to form in 2018.

As it stands now under Rod Marinelli, the Cowboys defense is built to keep everything in front of them, and get bodies to the football. This coverage-friendly approach could be taken to new heights with Lewis and Awuzie on the outside, along with Anthony Brown finding a home in the slot. All three cornerbacks have excelled at using their speed, length, and technique to get their hands on passes.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 1

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence

Of course, games are won in the trenches, where the idea of the Cowboys defensive line ever rising to the level of their offensive line was laughable until recently. Whether it’s with the franchise tag or a long-term extension, sack-artist DeMarcus Lawrence looks to be an all-important member of this entire team moving forward.

A healthy Lawrence was a nightmare for opposing right tackles in 2017. He earned a national spotlight each week on his way to the quarterback 14-and-a-half times. Making it look easy at times, Lawrence is a refined rusher with the speed and power to win inside and out.

The RDE position remains a sore spot in need of talent as this Cowboys defense looks to take the next step, but there’s hope for the likes of Randy Gregory, Charles Tapper, and Taco Charlton to get the job done, along with veteran starter Tyrone Crawford.

With Crawford at RDE for much of 2017, running the ball against the Cowboys front was a tall order. His ability to capture the corner against left tackles came as a pleasant surprise to many, and once in position, the defensive captain chased down plenty of plays.

Tyrone Crawford wasn’t the only pleasant surprise on the Dallas Cowboys defensive line this season.

Rookie Taco Charlton looked like an entirely different player to close a first year in Dallas that began with completely uninspiring results. Charlton — having the physical traits to play at the next level — was never a question out of Michigan.

He may never be a player to take over games for a defense, which the Cowboys couldn’t have expected to find at DE selecting 28th overall, but an improved player at DE and DT could be an incredibly valuable asset for the Cowboys in 2018 and beyond.

This leaves the Cowboys linebacker corps, where we find the best example of young potential on the entire defense. Amazingly playing in all 16 games, LB Jaylon Smith is in line to take a massive step forward in year two.

Smith closed his season looking enticingly close to the player he was at Notre Dame, an encouraging sign as the Cowboys look to become less dependent on Sean Lee on this side of the ball.

Lee and Smith paired together would give the Cowboys a middle-of-the-field presence to rival the best in the league. Both players have exceptional range and awareness to run down plays from sideline to sideline.

Anthony Hitchens, an impending free agent, is another valuable piece at LB with his ready ability to play all three positions at a relatively high level.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 2

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee

Stefon Diggs racing to the end zone with no time left to send the Vikings to the NFC Championship game will be the lasting image of this past Divisional Round weekend, an offensive play that will live on forever.

A closer look at these games and the teams that survived them reveals a collective trust in defenses, a trust the Cowboys could be blissfully close to with their own young defense.

The Cowboys are likely losing one of the smarter minds behind their defense in recent years, with Matt Eberflus ticketed for Josh McDaniel’s staff, and are still in need of a secondary coach after not retaining Joe Baker. In a league where better talent typically prevails though, the possibility of the Cowboys building a championship defense for next season and beyond may not be far off.

With defenses in Jacksonville and Philadelphia providing the hope that both teams can pull off the impossible and reach the Super Bowl on Sunday, will defensive potential be enough for Dallas to get through this long offseason and start the even longer path back to their first NFC Championship game in 21 seasons?

Tell us what you think about “Are the Dallas Cowboys Building a Championship Defense?” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Can Rico Gathers Make Cowboys Offense More “Dak-Friendly”?

Brian Martin

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Rico Gathers, Rams

The Dallas Cowboys unfortunately face all kinds of questions heading into the 2018 offseason. Right now, there are no answers to those questions, which means we’ll just have to sit back and take a wait-and-see approach. But, one question that absolutely has to be answered is how to make the Cowboys offense more Dak Prescott friendly.

Offensively, the Dallas Cowboys had an extremely disappointing year in 2017. Suspensions and injuries are the main culprits for the disappointment, but the Dallas Cowboys haven’t really changed things much in the scheme or personnel to help Dak Prescott succeed.

The sad truth is, the Dallas Cowboys are still operating as if Tony Romo is the starting quarterback. It’s pretty much the same personnel and scheme, but it really doesn’t suit Prescott.

It’s time for that to change. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that will happen overnight.

The Cowboys spent years putting together the personnel to help Romo. Just when they thought they had the missing piece — by drafting Ezekiel Elliott, Romo sustained a back injury, pretty much ending his career.

Anyway you look at it, the offensive personnel needs to improve in order to make this team more “Dak-friendly”.

Enter Tight End Rico Gathers.

Rico Gathers

Dallas Cowboys TE Rico Gathers

The Dallas Cowboys have invested two years in Rico Gathers’ development, but with the exception of a few flashes in preseason, they haven’t benefited from the fruits of their labor. The 2018 season should be Gathers’ coming-out party.

We all witnessed what the Cowboys offense looks like when they are forced to rely on the passing game. Dak Prescott struggled to find any kind of consistency throwing the ball — with the options he had at his disposal in 2017 — while Ezekiel Elliott served a six-game suspension.

Defenses decided to take Prescott’s favorite target out of the equation by bracketing Cole Beasley in coverage. Then, they also devoted extra attention Dez Bryant‘s way, making it difficult to get him the ball.

The only other option left really was Jason Witten on simple check downs.

And that is what the future Hall of Famer has been reduced to.

Jason Witten is no longer the threat he once was. Yes, he is still a reliable target, but his age is starting to catch up to him, which has unfortunately robbed him of some of his athleticism. We will no longer see Witten stretch the field down the seam, or run many routes further than 10 yards.

That’s why I think Rico Gathers could be a difference maker in 2018, especially for Dak Prescott.

Prescott needs more than an outlet receiver at the TE position. No offense to Jason Witten, but that’s pretty much what he has become at this point in his career.

Rico Gathers on the other hand is not only different from Witten, but also provides a different skill set than any other TE on the Cowboys roster. He’s a big target with athleticism, who cannot only move the chains, but stretch the field and break tackles in the open field.

Gathers’ sheer size alone creates mismatch problems against smaller defensive backs and linebackers, but his athleticism should allow him to create separation, something which fits into what Prescott needs from his receivers.

There is no reason why the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff can’t find a way to incorporate Rico Gathers’ unique skill set into the offense. They may not truly trust him to be an every down player, but that’s not happening anyway, not with Jason Witten on the roster.

If it was me, I would have a few packages in the playbook specifically designed for Gathers. I not only think this will help him grow as a player, but help the Cowboys offense become more “Dak-friendly”.

Can Rico Gathers make the Cowboys offense more “Dak-friendly”?

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