The best player on the Cowboys defensive line right now is tackle Terrell McClain. Their best cornerback is Morris Claiborne.
A year ago, or even just a few months ago, many would have guessed that neither would be on the 2016 roster. Their sudden turn from disappointments to defensive standouts is a credit to the patience and loyalty that the Cowboys show their players.
Dallas took a chance on McClain in 2014 after he'd flamed out with three different teams in four seasons. Injuries kept McClain from being a factor that year and cost him all but two games in 2015.
Dallas could've released McClain this year for $1 million in cap space and minimal dead money. After they signed Cedric Thornton in free agency, it didn't seem that McClain would be anything more than a bench option. Given his health problems, Dallas would've been justified in looking for more reliable depth.
Finally healthy for the first time as a Cowboy, Terrell McClain is showing the talent that made him the 65th overall pick in 2011 (the first pick of the third round). He was taken higher in his draft than any of the Cowboys' other defensive tackles, and that is showing in his current play.
Last Sunday was a great example of what McClain is bringing to the Cowboys defense. He led the team with 1.5 sacks and three QB hits. While thought of more as a power player, McClain has shown he can move and be disruptive as well. He was the most impactful defensive linemen from either team, far out-showing Geno Atkins from the Bengals.
Turning 29 and becoming a free agent next summer, McClain may not be able to secure a large contract regardless of what he does now. Still, the veteran is clearly giving it his best effort. Even if his next deal is with another team, Dallas is reaping benefits now.
Not only has Claiborne emerged as the Cowboys' best corner, but he is getting league-wide recognition as a standout performer in 2016. It is, by leaps and bounds, the peak of his career thus far.
Dallas chose not to use the team option they had on Claiborne this season. It would've paid him about $11 million in 2016; a hefty price for a player with such a problematic career.
Still, the Cowboys clearly hadn't lost faith in Claiborne. Despite having an aging Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick coming off a major knee injury, Dallas didn't spend big in free agency or use a high draft pick at cornerback. They agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal with Claiborne to give him one last chance as a Cowboy.
Remember, Dallas faced a tough decision with their fourth overall pick of the NFL Draft. They could've selected Jalen Ramsey, who many felt was the best defensive back prospect in several years, instead of running back Ezekiel Elliott. Even with Claiborne signed to his "prove it" contract, taking Ramsey would've made plenty of sense for the present and future.
Nobody is lamenting the Cowboys' choice to take Elliott now, and a huge part of that is the way Claiborne has delivered. If his strong play continues, we could be looking at a long-term extension sometime in the next few months.
~ ~ ~
These examples of the team being rewarded for its loyalty to players are very relevant as discussion swirls around Tony Romo. Every situation is different, but will having trust validated by other veterans hold any sway on the Cowboys' handling of the quarterback position?
Regardless of who is under center, Romo or Dak Prescott will benefit from the play of Terrell McClain, Morris Claiborne, and the improving defense that they are leading. Not every franchise would have stuck with these guys after the difficulties they've faced, especially the lack of production the team has gotten from them.
Jerry Jones has taken plenty of criticism through the years of being too loyal to his players. There's no denying that it's gotten him into trouble before, but there are times that it ends up benefiting the team.
Make no mistake; Jones' treatment of his players is a marketing and negotiating strength when free agents come to town. They see when his former players ask him, and not their lauded head coach, to introduce them in Hall of Fame ceremonies. They see when these former Cowboys stay close to the organization long after their careers have ended. It's why a guy like Claiborne wasn't desperate for new surroundings and wanted to make it work in Dallas.
Claiborne, along with Terrell McClain, are finally making it work as Cowboys. They are at the forefront of a defense which, although not a league-leading group, is exceeding expectations and maximizing its talent.
And they're only here because the Cowboys gave them one more chance.
Free Agent WR Allen Hurns Plans to Sign With Cowboys
It looks as if the Dallas Cowboys will be adding yet another wide receiver through free agency. According to sources, Allen Hurns plans on signing with the Cowboys.
WR Allen Hurns just told me, "I'm going to sign with Dallas." #Cowboys
This is a move that seemed unlikely after the Cowboys signed Deonte Thompson a few days ago, but I know a lot of Cowboys Nation will be excited about this transaction.
While this move is exciting, it does create more confusion for the Cowboys and their wide receivers. It's difficult to imagine all of these WRs sticking to the roster, which means there will be some tough decisions that need to be made.
What will the Cowboys do with Dez Bryant?
Will Cole Beasley be cut or traded?
Are the Cowboys comfortable absorbing Terrance Williams' cap hit if traded or released?
Will this keep the Cowboys from drafting a WR early?
All of these questions and more will have to be answered eventually. But, one thing is for sure, things are definitely about to get interesting.
Of course, there is a bonus here for the Dallas Cowboys. Since Allen Hurns was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars, he doesn't count against the Cowboys compensatory picks next season.
Please stay tuned and we will continue to keep you updated on contract details and any other news involving Allen Hurns as it becomes available.
What do you think about the Allen Hurns signing?
What Signing Thompson Means for Hurns and Cowboys WR Position
UPDATE: News of Hurns saying he will sign with the Cowboys broke as this article went live.
Free Agency began a bit late for the Dallas Cowboys, but they've already done enough to get fans discussing about the latest additions to the roster. Adding help on offense, defense and special teams in form of tier-2 free agents may not be what Cowboys Nation wants to see, but I'm certain they wouldn't have enjoyed giving Sammy Watkins a three-year $48M contract, either.
However, the Cowboys are clearly in the wide receiver market after an offensively disappointing season. They have quite a few of this year's class of wide receivers prospects scheduled to visit Dallas, and they've hosted some WR free agents as well.
This week, they even signed one.
Deonte Thompson, who started seven games for the Bills last year, is coming to Dallas on a one-year $2.5M contract. The 29-year old could be the burner receiver this offense is missing and could end up being an improved version of Brice Butler for the Cowboys in 2018.
He hasn't had a great career but last season was his best year so far. Starting three games for the Bears and seven for the Bills, Thompson was able to rack up a career-high 555 yards and two touchdowns.
His best attribute as a player is definitely the speed he brings to the table and his ability to separate down the field, which he'll be looking to do on Dak Prescott's offense this season.
But there was another wide receiver visiting Dallas this week and now we wonder whether or not the Deonte Thompson signing will keep the Cowboys from targeting former Jaguars' WR Allen Hurns.
According to Todd Archer, that won't be the case.
Told the signing of Deonte Thompson does not close the door on the Cowboys' interest in Allen Hurns, who visited the team Wednesday and had dinner. Things could get interesting in the Cowboys' wide receivers' room. https://t.co/Ivt5uk9kBN
It shouldn't be. First of all, Hurns is a much better player than Thompson and would provide this offense with a receiver who can play in the "X" or in the "Z" role. We've been talking about getting Prescott a reliable target to try to give him a "best friend." Allen Hurns could be just that.
Sure, he's had a couple of down seasons, but the talent is there to take.
Simply put, the Deonte Thompson signing shouldn't stop the Cowboys from looking at WR in the first round of the NFL Draft. Allen Hurns would.
It sure would make things interesting in the wide receiver room for Dallas. Despite what many believe, Dez Bryant will probably remain a Cowboy even if Hurns is signed. Let's say the Cowboys go out there and get the 26-year old from Jacksonville and have to decide which six receivers to keep for the season.
They'd possibly have to decide among these:
- Dez Bryant
- Terrrance Williams
- Cole Beasley
- Ryan Switzer
- Allen Hurns
- Deonte Thompson
- Noah Brown
- A drafted rookie?
This is where a lot of dilemmas start taking form. Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer are basically the same player and if you're not going to use them both at the same time, do you keep them anyway? What about Terrance Williams? He could be the worst receiver to make the cut just because of his contract.
Noah Brown showed promise in 2017, are they ready to move on from him? And finally, a rookie could very well end up beating Deonte Thompson, who was guaranteed a million in his contract.
Wide receiver is indeed one of the top needs for the Dallas Cowboys. They could head to the 2018 NFL Draft needing one in the top rounds or they could be fine signing Hurns and taking a late-rounder receiver to compete in training camp for a spot on the roster.
As long as they're having a tough time deciding because they are all good, it should be fine.
Cowboys Sign Free Agent WR Deonte Thompson
The Dallas Cowboys added some speed to their receiver corps today by signing free agent Deonte Thompson. He played for both the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills last season.
Thompson, who turned 29 last month, went undrafted in 2012. He had a quiet to start to his career as a reserve and practice squad guy in Baltimore and Chicago, but finally got a chance to shine with seven starts last year for the Bills. He 27 catches for 430 yards and one touchdown in just 11 games.
The #Cowboys signed WR Deonte Thompson, per agent @davidcanter. He gets 1-year, $2.5M with a $1M signing bonus.
Deonte brings some much-needed speed to the Cowboys offense. He ran a 4.31 40-yard dash as a rookie, and while he's 29 now he still poses more of a vertical threat than the current Dallas receivers.
Given the low salary in this deal, Thompson may not be seen as much than a replacement for Brice Butler near the bottom of Dallas' depth chart. We also have to wait and see what happens with the draft and other moves this offseason to know where he fits into the bigger picture.
For now, though, Cowboys fans can take a little comfort in knowing the front office hasn't completely fallen asleep at the wheel.
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