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Cowboys Cuts: After Dez, Who’s Next on the Block?

Shane Carter

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Is Jason Witten Looking At A Lesser Role In 2017?
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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.



Lifelong Cowboys fan, who doesn’t mind telling the harsh truth. I’ve got a Bachelors Degree in Electronic Media and Communications from Texas Tech University. I welcome all opinions but I will shut down any troll.

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19 Comments
  • Turri Smith

    I think Beasley and Crawford. He’ll be 29 and this is the last year of his deal. I’d trade him to the patriots get a fourth. Crawford has a 9.1 mil cap and is only 5th best on the line. Trade him for a 3rd. There’s plenty of defensive talent in this draft. This should be the draft to really set this team up for sustained success.

    • Ervinlang318

      No Way we getting a 3rd for a 5th best 29 year old

    • Will

      You’re high. No trade value for Crawford with that contract

    • John Williams

      Crawford has another year on his deal in 2019, but is likely next to get the axe.

      No one is trading for him let alone a 3rd rounder with a bad contract.

  • carfaxplease

    Please stop with this Tyrone Crawford mess, he stinks, he’s way over paid, If Dez didn’t perform for his contract, Crawford should’ve been gone years ago, he’s below average, a backup at best

    • John Williams

      Crawford however didn’t cause problems on the sideline and he had 4.5 sacks as a rotational defensive end.

      Not worth the contract, no, but a useable, low drama piece that can help you win games.

  • winstar

    Crawford SUX. Join us at boards.insidetherstar.com to discuss.

  • Chuck Wright

    This year, none of the above barring a trade.

    Next year, Beasley Whitten TWill gonzo. . . maybe Crawford.

    • Will

      If Hurst or Geiseki fall to us, I wouldn’t be stunned if Witten is cut. Same if we draft a quality DT

      • John Williams

        They won’t cut Witten this year even if they draft a TE. Witten could see a reduced role, but he’ll be on the team. The Organization values his leadership and consistent work ethic and attitude, even if his play is declining.

        • Will

          You’re probably right. Might ask him to take a pay cut though

  • Will

    Crawford is GONE if we draft a DT. I wanted to cut Witten last year, and T Will is going to be useless if we draft Sutton or Ridley

  • Raheem Tld

    Crawford is terrible, it’s funny the excuses he gets, he’s the 5th best? It’s about doing what’s best, forget all that he’s nice etc crap and get me someone that can play! He’s George Selvie at 9 mil per year. Everyone listed can go now outside of Tyron Smith

    • John Williams

      4.5 sacks isn’t nothing.

  • Raheem Tld

    Witten will not be cut but hopefully Rico earns at least 50% snaps and Witten retires next year. Beasley bc Switzer is here and we don’t need 2 diminutive wr’s. TWill & Crawford outright stink and we can’t continue to play this game with Lee. Fan Bailey scares me too, and is it me or is this guy barely kicking touchbacks on kickoffs?

  • Jeff Beardslee

    Witten retires as a Cowboy, Beasley plays out his contract, Crawford will also. TWill could be cut after training camp but that would be dead money on the cap.

    • brian

      Agree with everything but twill. No way he is cut this year. He is a 4 mill cap hit this year. If cut he is 7 mill dead money. Earliest you can cut him is 2019. Plus i think his numbers could get better with dez gone. Not forcing the ball to dez will change everyones production alot.

  • Cody Hinkley

    Releasing Williams who has a guaranteed contract and Smith who would have so much dead money due to release make absolutely no financial sense

  • Fedx

    Off script.. Please go LB in the 1st… Dallas!!!

Game Notes

Kris Richard’s Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond the Defense in Seattle

Sean Martin

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Kris Richard's Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond Defense in Meeting at Seattle 1

Through just two games, the Dallas Cowboys addition of Kris Richard to their revamped coaching staff appears to be the team's best move of the offseason. Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli revealed that Richard is calling the team's plays on defense, which explains their attacking style of play so far.

It was the Cowboys blitzes that disrupted the Giants offense enough for Dallas to earn their first win a week ago. With the schedule set up favorably for the Cowboys to build off this win, Richard must lead his defense past his old team in Seattle for Sunday's week three match up.

On paper, the Cowboys defense should be able to limit the Seahawks thanks to their strong pass rush and lengthy secondary. Welcoming back Xavier Woods at safety, the Cowboys are getting even better in the back end against the Seahawks, allowing Richard to throw even more looks at Seattle with his front seven.

Starting wide receiver Doug Baldwin and guard Ethan Pocic will both miss this game for the Seahawks.

With an offense still trying to find its footing though, Richard' profound impact on the Cowboys staff has extended past the defensive side of the ball this week. Perhaps the most criticized Cowboys coach this season, Offensive Coordiator Scott Linehan has sat down with Richard to study the Seahawks defense - coordinated by Richard against the Cowboys specifically.

Kate Hairopoulos on Twitter

Scott Linehan and Kris Richard have been spending a good chunk of time together this week dissecting Seattle's approach. Richard obviously knows Seahawks well. Linehan said Richard has great recall, taking him through each play of teams' previous games.

At 1-1, the Cowboys are still looking to put a complete game on the field and prove they deserve to sit atop the NFC East. The defense being their strongest unit through an ugly loss in Carolina and grind-it-out win against the Giants, Linehan's offense creating some explosive plays against the Seahawks could be all the Cowboys need to exit CenturyLink field as winners on Sunday.

Since Linehan officially took over as the Cowboys OC, he is 0-2 against Seahawks defenses coordinated by Richard. When Kris left Seattle, it was believed that he got out at the right time, with the Seahawks defense declining in talent ever since 2015 (his first year as DC).

The NFL's top scoring defense in 2015, the Seahawks were a full point per game worse in 2016, and nearly 2.5 points worse than that in 2017. So far this season, the Seahawks have allowed 27 points to Case Keenum's Broncos and 24 to the Mitch Trubisky lead Chicago Bears.

Kris Richard's Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond Defense in Meeting at Seattle

The Cowboys biggest problem against Richard's defenses had been finishing drives, something they improved on against the Giants last week. Both Cowboys losses coming at home, the Seahawks kept Dallas out of the end zone in both week eight of 2015 and week 17 a year ago.

Last year's loss to the Seahawks should still sting those at The Star who saw a desperate push for the playoffs hit a wall against Seattle's defense - holding the Cowboys to 282 yards in Ezekiel Elliott's return from suspension.

Not having to rely solely on motivation for revenge while sitting back and trusting Elliott to carry them, Richard could be the key to the Cowboys passing game finding some rhythm. After all, his official title beyond "offseason steal" is Passing Game Coordinator - a position occupied previously by Linehan himself back in 2014.

With a win, similarly to 2014 when the Cowboys came out of Seattle victorious, Dallas would go a long way in earning respect around the league.

This goes for both the offense, where the Cowboys will remain a work in progress regardless of result, and on defense where Dallas can expect Maliek Collins (knee) and David Irving (suspension) to return in the coming weeks.

Kris Richard's focus has been on bettering the Cowboys since they added him to the organization with a clear path up the ranks. Just how far Richard ascends, and how quickly, will depend on the Cowboys performance - expecting to be more than ready for the challenge ahead this week thanks to the coach responsible for building the "Legion of Boom".

The Cowboys kickoff in Seattle being FOX's game of the week, this team has never been one to back away from the spotlight, and winning under it with Richard on the sideline would give the Cowboys all the momentum they need returning home for week four.

Tell us what you think about "Kris Richard’s Impact for Cowboys Goes Beyond the Defense in Seattle" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Coming into their week two match up against the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys knew they could control the game with -- for the first time in years against Eli Manning -- their pass rush and strong secondary. Exposing a weak Giants offensive line went well beyond the Cowboys front four in this win though.

The Cowboys put Manning on the turf six times, with Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard relentlessly dialing up pressure. With the depth at linebacker to match up with Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram, along with Byron Jones' efforts on Odell Beckham Jr., it's no secret how the Cowboys defense forced Manning to dump the ball to his running back for 14 receptions.

Barkley's longest catch going for ten yards, this was a nearly flawless game for Rod Marinelli's defense to even the Cowboys record at 1-1. Expecting much of the same from their front seven against a poor Seahawks OL, now is a good time to look back at some of the pressure packages the Cowboys used in week two.

With a core of versatile linebackers they can trust, the Cowboys deployed Jaylon Smith, Sean Lee, Damien Wilson, and Leighton Vander Esch all over the field to present the Giants with different looks. What made the Cowboys defensive play calling so successful was their LBs ability to cover ground quickly and create depth in coverage.

By doing so, the Giants could not take any chances down the field, their longest passing play going for 37 yards.

Blitz1

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

On this play, even with the Giants looking to get the ball out quickly, the pressure from Smith and Wilson disrupt the timing. Sean Lee, the only Cowboys linebacker not sent after Manning on the play, ends up rallying from his starting WILL position to get in on the tackle. The Giants did not have the numbers up front to block Damien Wilson attacking from SAM, although more impressively, Smith was able to rip through a partial block from the right guard and get ahead of Wilson on their rush.

Blitz2

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

This next blitz shows off the Cowboys strong coverage downfield against the Giants. Cornerback Anthony Brown had his fingerprints all over this game in the back end for Dallas, but on this play comes out of the slot after Manning. Sensing the pressure at his feet, Manning steps up and actually puts himself in position to deliver a good ball, but is forced into yet another check down.

While linebacker blitzes are part of the "Richard effect" on the Cowboys defense, a well-timed slot blitz is a staple of Rod Marinelli's scheme. Using Brown a number of times in this role off the strong side, the Giants had no answers for the different pressures Dallas sent their way against Ereck Flowers at right tackle.

Blitz3

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Even when Smith was picked up, as he was in the above play, the Cowboys capitalized on missed blocking assignments to get home with their front four. Taco Charlton the benefactor at RDE here, watch as Barkley rushes to keep Lee from having a straight run at his QB - allowing Charlton to do the same off the edge. Running untouched on the play, Charlton does a nice job taking a sharp angle to Manning and chasing him to the ground.

Blitz4

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

As much as the Cowboys cornerbacks were a huge part of the team's confidence in sending pressure, their safeties also performed well in coverage. I wrote about the above play on Monday morning in my Sean's Scout that immediately follows every Cowboys game:

"That's a fantastic play by Jeff Heath to run across the field and tackle Evan Engram short of the line to gain on third down.

The Giants drive would continue with a fourth down conversion, but the Cowboys defense did eventually force a punt.

The Cowboys safeties were primarily called upon to play in run support in this game, a role Heath has struggled in previously. Showing off his strengths as an athletic and rangy defensive back on this play, Heath didn't get pushed up the field by Engram on his release, hunting him down after the catch in front of a fired up Dallas bench."

Heath picking up Engram is just one example of a Cowboys defender exceeding expectations in coverage. Smith was able to run with Beckham Jr., as was Charlton on separate plays later in the game.

Blitz6

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

The only fitting way to conclude this film study is with a DeMarcus Lawrence sack. The Cowboys best individual defender, Lawrence had his way with Flowers as we all expected. Playing to another one of Tank's strengths here though, Lawrence rushes to the inside off a well-executed T/E stunt with Tyrone Crawford.

Also sending Brown at Manning again, the Giants pass pro leaves Lawrence unabated to the quarterback. Unlikely to escape the grasp of Lawrence on such a free rush, Manning does try to abort the pocket, but had Brown crashing down on him to collapse things.

Lawrence might not earn many easier sacks this season. None of the Cowboys starters on defense are more capable of using their own ability to get to the QB than Lawrence still, who is getting all the help he needs from Richard as his play caller.

Through just two games, the Cowboys commitment to forcing the issue on defense has potential to keep this team atop the NFC East as the offense comes into its own.

Depending on the development of their own passing game, this may have to be a defense that can win Dallas games. The only way to do so is with sacks and turnovers.

The latter is something Marinelli's defenses have always excelled at when at full strength (the Cowboys are expecting Randy Gregory back as early as this week and DT David Irving comes off suspension in week five). The former is something the Cowboys are creating with a deeply talented front seven, orchestrated by one of the best in the business.

The Cowboys will look to build on their nine sacks this season against the Seahawks on Sunday, a team that's allowed the most in the league at 12. Their timing to go after Russell Wilson will be tested more than it was against the Giants, with Richard also better positioned to aid the Cowboys against his former team.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Player News

Cowboys WR Terrance Williams Facing Multi-Game Suspension

Jess Haynie

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Terrance Williams
Ric Tapia via AP

An arrest last May for public intoxication may finally result in a suspension for Dallas Cowboys Receiver Terrance Williams.

David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, who reported the pending suspension, outlined the details of Williams' case. Charges were ultimately dropped once Terrance completed an alcohol education course and paid damages to the city.

David Moore on Twitter

Sources: Cowboys WR Terrance Williams faces suspension stemming from May arrest for public intoxication https://t.co/3RmwQOllim via @sportsdaydfw

However, as Cowboys fans know too well, the NFL reserves the right to suspend players under the Personal Conduct Policy regardless of legal outcomes. The 2017 season was marred by the league's persecution of Ezekiel Elliott for domestic violence despite no arrests or charges coming from any legal or police entity.

In Williams' case, there's no dispute of his guilt. It is unlikely he will appeal any decision the NFL makes.

The potential that Terrance will be missing for 2-4 games helps explain the Cowboys' move earlier this week to bring back WR Brice Butler. With both currently active, Dallas has an unusually high seven receivers on their 53-man roster.

It's already Friday, so the suspension is doubtful to come for this week's game in Seattle. But Terrance could easily be one of the seven inactive players on game day, having received the fewest snaps of any Cowboys WR last week against the Giants.

We'll see soon enough, likely as soon as next week, just what the league has in store for Terrance Williams.



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