It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday. Time after time we've seen our favorite Cowboys players, players who had been with the team forever, fall from the stars. It doesn't matter who it is, every player has/will have to go through it.
The long-term players are always the hardest to get over: Dez Bryant, Tony Romo, Emmitt Smith, etc. It's a harsh reality that while the NFL brings a lot of joy to so many, and is where millions of kids growing up strive toward, at its very core the NFL is a business.
Dez being released was coming and whether we want to realize it or not, we knew it was happening. His production and his health have gone down the last three seasons, he had problems meshing with Dak, he dropped way more passes than we've become accustomed to seeing from him, and he was being paid like a top-10 receiver when he wasn't played like one.
Think the drama is over? Dez was only the beginning. There are a few names, some more obvious than others, that could no longer be a Cowboy sooner than you think.
The real question is...
Who Will Be the Next Cowboy Let Go?
Jason Witten - Probably the most obvious on the list, Witten will be 36 in May and isn't getting any younger. Not only has he visibly slowed down over his 15-year career, but he's no longer the dependable receiver he once was.
In 2017 he had the lowest receptions, receiving yards and yards-per-game since his rookie year.
In a year where Dak Prescott needs all the help he can get, he needs late-2000's Jason Witten and the Witten he has won't cut it. Whether it's Rico Gathers or a rookie from this year's draft, Witten's successor will be here sooner than later.
I doubt the Cowboys will outright release one of their all-time greatest players, but I also thought the same thing about DeMarcus Ware. It's possible the Cowboys will do what the San Antonio Spurs did with Tim Duncan and ride it out until Witten chooses to go out on his own terms. But with players like DeMarcus Lawrence, Zack Martin, David Irving and Byron Jones all needing contracts in the next year or two, Witten might be the next one out.
Sean Lee - It's not for lack of skill, but lack of health that Sean Lee is on this list. When he is on the field, he is undoubtedly the Cowboys' best defensive player. However, surprisingly the 31 year old has never played a full 16-game schedule.
What does it say about a defense when their best player can't stay on the field?
What else does it say when that same player is the third highest paid player on the team and can't stay healthy? My guess is the Cowboys will draft two linebackers this year and one of them will be Lee's replacement in 2019.
Ironic that Sean Lee and Dez Bryant were both taken in the 2010 draft. One was drafted in the first and the other in the second round, and now it looks like they'll follow each other out of Dallas in the same order. Hopefully the team finds a proper replacement, because it is coming. Like it or not.
Tyrone Crawford - Tyrone Crawford is not on this list for lack of skill. He's only 28, works in the system well, has been a team captain and got his second highest sack total in 2017. His flexibility as the right defensive end and occasional three technique defensive tackle has made him a valuable piece. What hurts him is his cap number vs. his production.
Crawford is the 5th highest paid player on the squad with a $9.1-million cap hit. However, he's arguably only the 5th best defensive linemen on the team right now. He's still got plenty in his tank but how much longer the team can afford to keep him is all about the Benjamins, baby.
Terrance Williams - Ironically, I thought if any receiver was gone this year, it was going to be the one who scored no touchdowns all last season after signing a new contract extension.
Monetarily it makes sense that Dez took the hit over Williams, but from a production standpoint, Williams' days may be numbered. He's put up decent numbers over his career and is getting paid fairly, but now that Dak Prescott is running the show, the team may think it's better to get him weapons that can better produce.
The Cowboys signed Deonte Thompson and Allen Hurns in free agency and are more than likely going to draft another receiver. If this comes to fruition, the team would have seven receivers on its roster. The Cowboys usually only go with five or six receivers in a season, and I'd bet Williams might be on the cutting block first.
Cole Beasley - Part of the reason for Cole Beasley's decline after a career season had to do with the offense going from Dak being generous with the ball to all the receivers, to it being centered around forcing the ball to Dez. Even with Dez gone, Beasley's future is still in doubt.
The Cowboys may have drafted Ryan Switzer to be the team's new returner, but it looks like he could one day be the new slot receiver. He's slightly younger, much faster, and as we saw in the final game of the season, has great chemistry with Dak. Not to say Beasley doesn't have speed, isn't young or doesn't have chemistry with his quarterback but all signs point to it.
Beasley won't be gone this year or maybe next, but he would be one of the "next" ones to go. Papa Johns is one of the Cowboys' biggest sponsors but the team may soon be without the sauce.
Dan Bailey - I'm not sure if losing a kicker ever broke anyone's heart but losing one of the most accurate in NFL history might bring you as close you can get. But he is coming off a year where he missed four games due to injury and missed more kicks than he ever had in his career. That's a pink slip recipe.
In 2017, Bailey missed four games due to an injured groin. As a kicker, anything below the belt is necessary. If part of it is hobbled, your one job is jeopardized. Not only did he miss a quarter of the season but while he was playing, he had career lows in field goal percentage (75%) and extra point percentage (92.9%). In all his total kicks, he was 41 out of 48, playing in fewer games.
Kickers aren't always too hard to replace but elite ones are. Bailey is going to need a rebound season in 2018 or he could have the Cowboys searching for a new leg.
Tyron Smith - This one may be the most surprising on the list but there is some probability here. Don't get it twisted about Tyron Smith. He's the team's highest paid player (deservedly so), he's arguably the league's best left tackle, and he's one of the key franchise players on this team. But he's still human.
Smith has missed 6 games the last two seasons, and while he's had injury bugs in the past, 2017 was an interesting year. He had issues with his knee, hip, groin and back.
While he was on the field, he was his usual great, future hall of fame worthy self, but the team struggled without him. They went 0-3 and had to rely on Chaz Green and Byron Bell to keep Dak upright, which they couldn't.
The team needs Tyron Smith, he's essential, but if he can't stay healthy in the future, he could be one of the bigger surprise cuts to come from Dallas.
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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