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Cowboys DL David Irving and Restricted Free Agency

Jess Haynie

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David Irving

One of the biggest names the Dallas Cowboys have entering free agency this offseason is defensive lineman David Irving. Unlike his teammate DeMarcus Lawrence, Irving will be classified as a "restricted free agent". What does this mean, and how does it impact Irving's likelihood to stay with the Cowboys?

A player must have at least four "accrued seasons" to qualify for unrestricted free agency. For example, Lawrence entered the league in 2014 and has played out his four-year rookie deal. Therefore, unless Dallas re-signs him before March or uses the franchise tag, DeMarcus can sign anywhere he wants and the Cowboys can't stop it.

Irving does not have those four accrued seasons.

He was an undrafted rookie in 2015 and did not get the typical four-year rookie deal. Dallas signed him off the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad that year. So now in 2018, Irving's current deal is expiring but he only has three accrued seasons towards free agency. Therefore, he is restricted.

David Irving

Dallas Cowboys DL David Irving

Restricted free agency is a mechanism that helps NFL teams keep players they've spent time developing.

The Cowboys can place an RFA tender on David Irving this year and retain the option to match any offer another team might make. Depending on the level of RFA tender Dallas uses, they can receive draft pick compensation from Irving's new team if the Cowboys decline to match.

The amount that David Irving will make in 2018 depends on the level of protection the Cowboys give him as a restricted free agent. The highest level requires a first-round pick in return and will likely pay a little over $4 million in 2018.

A second-round tender should pay close to $3 million; these amounts will be finalized closer to the start of free agency in March.

The third and final level will only pay about $2-million and comes with "original draft pick" compensation. For an undrafted guy like David Irving, that means all Dallas gets is the opportunity to match his offer. They won't get any draft pick compensation from the lowest RFA tender.

You can forget about that lower level, though. David Irving is one of the more exciting young defensive linemen in the league and is still just 24 years old. If Dallas wants to keep him, they will have to use at least a 2nd-round RFA tender to keep other teams at bay.

Not only is Irving young and versatile, but he's productive. He had seven sacks in just eight games in 2017. David missed the first four weeks from a PED suspension and then the last four due to a concussion. Assuming all such issues are behind him next year, Irving has potential to become a weekly game-changer for the Cowboys defense.

Without the baggage, Irving would be a slam dunk for the 1st-round RFA tender.

A $4-million salary is a steal for a dynamic defensive lineman who can get to the quarterback. Given Irving's age and what he's already shown on the field, there are teams that might even be tempted to surrender a late first-round draft pick to sign him.

But Irving's baggage can't be ignored. It cost him four games in 2017 and is the reason he went undrafted in the first place.

When asked about Irving returning to Dallas, Cowboys insider Bryan Broaddus responded:

Bryan Broaddus on Twitter

Do they really trust the player? https://t.co/LqyvFLQKg8

David Irving was dismissed from the Iowa State football team in 2014 due to his involvement in a campus riot. His PED suspension this year came -- per Irving -- from a sponsor's workout drink that did not disclose the banned substance in its ingredients. These hardly seem enough for the Cowboys to have doubts about Irving, so Broaddus' comments may speak to some other maturity issues we're not aware of.

This is pure speculation, of course, but the Cowboys staff media doesn't say things like that about a player without a reason.

That said, it's hard to imagine Dallas not using one of the two RFA tenders on David Irving. He's too young and exciting to let him go for nothing.

The 1st-round tender is only about an extra $1 million from the 2nd-round tender, so that's a lot of extra protection for a relatively small additional cost.

The Cowboys could elect to use the 2nd-round tender for one of two reasons.

  • One, obviously, is if they don't think another team will sign him and they can save that $1-million in cap space.
  • The other is that the 2nd-round pick might be enough to entice another team. A 24 year old with David Irving's physical skills and proven production may be more attractive than some mid-to-late-round rookies. If the Cowboys actually don't trust Irving, or see him in their future plans, they might be able to snag a second-round pick instead of losing him for nothing.

Answers are only a few months away. We'll see very soon just where David Irving stands with the Cowboys and how much they want to keep him.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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Cowboys RB Mike Weber’s Injury Scare Continues Concerning Trend

Jess Haynie

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Mike Weber

Rookie RB Mike Weber had a brief scare earlier this week with a knee injury in practice, but thankfully the MRI came back with a good report. However, as he fights to have a future with the Dallas Cowboys, this health incident is a concerning reminder of Weber's recent history.

One reason that Weber fell to the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft was due to battling injuries during his last two years at Ohio State. He lost his starting job in 2017 due to ongoing hamstring issues and also had to miss time last year because of a foot strain.

Carrying the load for the Buckeyes is a far different workload than being second or third on the Cowboys' RB depth chart. But this latest scare happened in early May, just two weeks after Mike joined the team and well before the more strenuous activities of an NFL offseason.

A practice injury can cost you just as badly as one that happens in a game. And with Dallas already thin at RB, it could leave them severely shorthanded if it occurs during the regular season.

Many have projected that the Cowboys' RB group in 2019 would have Ezekiel Elliott as the obvious starter and then rookies Weber and Tony Pollard behind him. While Pollard was drafted three rounds ahead of Weber, he's not built to take a large number of carries if Zeke were to go out.

If Mike Weber does make the team, he would be expected to take a sizable role if something bad happen with Elliott.

Mike Weber

Dallas Cowboys RB Mike Weber

The "injury prone" label is disastrous for any athlete, but especially a guy with no real claim to a roster spot. If Weber causes concern in the front office about his durability, they may go a different way at final cuts.

Remember, Mike's not just up against Pollard and Darius Jackson for a roster spot. There are still plenty of veteran free agent running backs out there that Dallas could turn to if they're not confident about their young prospects.

This isn't too say that one scary moment in May, which ultimately didn't amount to much, is reason to cut bait with Mike Weber. But when you stack it up with his injury history in college, it does make you wonder how he'll do over the course of an entire NFL season.

Hopefully, Weber bounces back from this and has a great summer. Former Buckeye RBs have treated Dallas well the last few years, and it'd be fantastic if Mike can provide the same solid solid depth that Rod Smith did.

But this latest news is just a reminder of why Dallas can't rest easy at running back just yet, and why they may still have another move to make to prepare for 2019.



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Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith Graduating From Notre Dame

Kevin Brady

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Sean's Scout: Jaylon Smith Returns Cowboys to NFC East Prominence in Win Over Bucs

The 2019 season is right around the corner for the Dallas Cowboys, with OTA's and training camp getting ready to kickoff in the coming weeks/months.

Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith made the most of his offseason, going back to Notre Dame to finish out his college degree. Smith is set to graduate from Notre Dame this Saturday, and will walk to earn his degree in Film & Television.

Smith talked to DallasCowboys.com's David Helman about why it was so important for him to graduate and finish what he started at Notre Dame. 

“When I left after my junior year, I promised my mom that I would go back and finish...Finishing my third year with the Cowboys, it was time.” - Jaylon Smith

Michael Bertsch on Twitter

2,025 @NotreDame undergraduates will receive degrees during Commencement Weekend. That contingent includes @thejaylonsmith Yes, the current @dallascowboys & former @NDFootball All-American linebacker, who took 21 credits this spring #4for40 #GraduatingChampions #CEV

Smith continues his leadership on and off the field, and we all send our congratulations to the Cowboys starting MIKE linebacker!



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Ezekiel Elliott Snubbed from Top 25 Players Under 25 List

John Williams

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Should Cowboys Start Preparing for Life Without Ezekiel Elliott?

On Tuesday, Pro Football Focus published it's Top 25 Players Under 25, with Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch one of only three linebackers on the list. Oddly, one of the best players on the team was absent from this same list; Running Back Ezekiel Elliott.

The running backs they included were Kareem Hunt, Saquon Barkley, and Alvin Kamara. Pro Football Focus has been very open about their dislike of Elliott's 2018 season, ranking him 30th in the NFL according to their player grades.

Elliott has won the NFL's rushing title in two of his three seasons and likely would have won it in 2017 had he not been served with a league-mandated six-game suspension. Elliott ran for nearly 1,000 yards in the 10 games he played, which put him in 10th place in rushing in 2017. Le'Veon Bell led the NFL in rushing that season with 1,291 yards. Using some basic arithmetic, I've discovered that Elliott finished just 308 yards off the league lead in six fewer games.

https://twitter.com/PFF_Cowboys/status/1128700802422517761

Despite being the most productive back in the NFL in his first three years in the NFL, Elliott gets knocked because he sees such a high volume of carries and targets from the Dallas Cowboys offense.

On Wednesday, Mark Chichester of Pro Football Focus talked about the players who just missed the cut. Here's what he had to say about Ezekiel Elliott.

"There’s no doubt that Ezekiel Elliott is one of the top players at his position, but it’s hard to overlook the fact that his production is, in large part, thanks to the offense that Dallas has built around him. Over the last three years, Elliott ranks first in rushing attempts (868), rushing yards (4048), rushing yards after contact (2567) and first down conversions (219). However, his three-year rushing grade of 80.2 ranks ninth among the 36 backs with at least 300 attempts in that span, while his 0.119 missed tackles forced per attempt ranks tied for 27th among the same group." 

Mark Chichester - Pro Football Focus

Ezekiel Elliott is one of the best running backs in the NFL, if not the best. There can be an argument for Todd Gurley or Le'Veon Bell, and maybe even Saquon Barkley, but if you aren't including Ezekiel Elliott in the discussion, the discussion is a bit flawed.

For three years, under Scott Linehan as the offensive coordinator, every team in the NFL knows that Elliott is going to get the ball and get the ball a lot. Primarily on first downs. Yet, Elliott continues to be productive and grind out his yards, even against heavily stacked fronts.

I understand the argument that Elliott wasn't very efficient with his touches in 2018, but when you are the primary focus for opposing defenses, it makes it difficult to be efficient. Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamar had the benefit of being coached by Andy Reid and Sean Payton who are considered creative offensive minds. Saquon Barkley had the benefit of Odell Beckham Jr keeping safeties honest.

While the Cowboys had Amari Cooper, the passing game still doesn't get near the respect that the Cowboys run game gets from opposing defensive coordinators. With Kellen Moore on board and the talk about presenting multiple formations for opposing teams to figure out, the Cowboys offense could get more creative in 2019.

Heading into his fourth year in the NFL, it's amazing that Ezekiel Elliott apparently still has something to prove to some out there. After winning rushing titles in two of his three seasons and averaging right around 100 yards a game, Elliott still doesn't get the respect he deserves from national observers.



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