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Cowboys with Expiring Contracts: Offense

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Blog - Dallas Cowboys: Stephen Jones Hinting at Not Drafting a RB?

Earlier today we listed the defensive players whose contracts will expiring in 2016.

Now, here are the offensive players with expiring contracts and what being in a contract year could mean for them this season:

Charles Brown, OT

Dallas never had to find out how good or bad Brown was last year as Tyron Smith and Doug Free stayed healthy. They still must have thought enough of what he did in practice to bring him back on another one-year deal to compete for the swing tackle job again.

Brown’s main competition will be second-year tackle Chaz Green. After somewhat of an injury redshirt rookie season, Green will get his first real offseason with the team and will get every opportunity to earn the job. If he doesn’t, Dallas will likely stick with Brown again as the veteran band-aid.

Cowboys Headlines - 5 Offensive Players To Watch In Training Camp 4

Paul Spinelli via AP

Rod Smith, RB/FB

Trying to make the conversion from runner to blocker, Rod Smith has an intriguing opportunity to find a niche in Dallas. Last year’s starting fullback, Tyler Clutts, was not re-signed. Rod will be competing with Keith Smith, trying to make his own conversion from linebacker.

If Rod Smith can show enough as a blocker to be utilized, his experience as ball-carrier will give the fullback position a new dynamic. I’ve missed the days when we had a guy like Richie Anderson, who was a threat to make plays with the ball in his hands. I’m rooting for Rod over Keither based on that potential new wrinkle for the offense.

Kellen Moore, QB

If they’d never actually had to play, guys like Brandon Weeden or Matt Cassel might still be the backups here in Dallas. Unlike most other position, a reserve quarterback’s best chance to stick around may be going unnoticed.

Barring poor play in any appearances he makes this year, Moore’s attractiveness to the Cowboys will increase by virtue of increased time in the system. Having been recently burned by more prototypical veteran QBs who looked great on paper, Dallas’ comfort level with Moore will give him a major edge over other outside options.

Moore’s biggest threat will be the development from Dak Prescott, taken in the fourth round of this last draft. The Cowboys will not hesitate to hand the job to Prescott once they feel he’s ready. 2017 may be a little soon for that, though. Kellen Moore certainly hopes so.

lance-dunbarLance Dunbar, RB

A breakout 2015 season was cut short last year when Dunbar suffered torn knee ligaments in a Week 4 game. He had already amassed 21 catches in less than a quarter of the season. Clearly, Dallas thought enough of Dunbar’s brief work sample to re-sign him last Spring to a one-year deal.

As a 27-year-old speed back who already has trouble staying healthy, Dunbar’s 2017 free agency will not be pretty. He would likely need a monster year to keep the Cowboys interested, but he’s already facing a late start to the season from the PUP list. Dunbar also will likely loses touches, even in the receiving game, to Ezekiel Elliott.

Obviously, Dallas wasn’t sure they’d be drafting Elliott when they re-signed Dunbar. His ongoing recovery and potential for PUP list does give the Cowboys a nice insurance policy, of sorts, as they can keep him on the side for over half the season. Still, barring an injury to Elliott, it’s hard to see where Dunbar will get enough opportunities to earn another contract here.

Gavin Escobar, TE

I think the writing is already on the wall for Escobar. When Dallas signed James Hanna to a three-year deal paying him about $2.75 million each season, that said volumes about Escobar’s status with the team. Dallas clearly sees Hanna as their number-two tight end going forward.

Escobar will likely start the year on the PUP list as he continues to recover from a major Achilles injury. With opportunities already very limited for reserve tight ends in our offense, it’s doubtful he’ll get many looks and should finish this season quietly. I imagine Escobar and his agent will hope that he can earn a chance elsewhere, likely with some team who remembers him from the 2013 draft process.

Cowboys Headlines - Rumor: Ronald Leary Wants to be TradedRon Leary, G

Leary’s status with the team has been talked about extensively this offseason. They used their Restricted Free Agent rights on Leary and are paying him $2.5 million to be a backup this year.

Obviously, Leary would like to have been able to find a long-term deal and probably more money elsewhere. Dallas’ use of the RFA tender added a second-round pick to the price a team would’ve had to pay to sign Leary, which was clearly more than anyone was willing to give.

Despite this, it would be premature to say that Leary will finish the year in Dallas. He is still a potential trade chip and the Cowboys may use him to cover a weakness at another position. Injuries and other incidents between now and September, or even up through this year’s trade deadline, leave Leary’s future in question.

Darren McFadden, RB

Talking about McFadden’s 2017 prospects is probably flawed, given how uncertain his 2016 status is. Of everyone on this list, McFadden could be the least likely to make this year’s team.

Along with drafting Ezekiel Elliott as the fourth-overall pick, Dallas signed veteran Alfred Morris. They also spent a sixth-round pick on running back Darius Jackson. Throw in Lance Dunbar’s potential return and Rod Smith’s ability to play RB and you can see why McFadden would become expendable.

As said before, Dallas probably didn’t expect to draft a new starting RB when they signed Morris and re-signed Dunbar. Even though McFadden was the #4 rusher in the NFL last year, you can’t let that cloud the issue. After what we’ve seen the last two years with McFadden and DeMarco Murray, it stands to reason Dallas’ offensive line is most deserving of the credit.

Dallas can get back $2 million in cap room by releasing McFadden. If they are of the mind that the blocking is the key in the rushing production, that money could have more real value than the player. Unless there’s an injury or Alfred Morris has a bad camp and preseason, right now I don’t think McFadden will be on the 2016 roster.

Cowboys Blog - The Dallas Cowboys Need You Terrance Williams 1Brice Butler, WR
Terrance Williams, WR

How much will Butler and Williams be competing for the number-two receiver position? Only the coaches know for sure. Given that both are unrestricted free agents after this year, it stands to reason that they will get an equal opportunity so that Dallas can best assess their long-term potential.

Williams may have the edge as the incumbent starter and the only guy to build a rapport with Tony Romo. However, Butler’s speed could make him more of a unique toy for the offense that gives Romo more options. Butler stretching the field would also open things up underneath for Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Gavin Escobar.

This will easily be the biggest position battle on offense and perhaps on the team as a whole. The winner will be a starter and the loser will drop to #4 on the depth chart with Beasley locked in as your slot receiver. The stakes are high, not only for 2016 but for both players’ impending free agency and the goal of earning a big contract here or elsewhere.

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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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4 Comments
  • http://The%20star RICHARD ARCHULETA

    Why don't dallas use a extra lineman to run goal line like the bears did like the fridge rico archuleta utah slc I've been a dallas cowboys football fan for 48 years I'm bored and bred a dallas cowboys football fan 8017918803 I would like to see my favorites some day and go to Texas stadium with my dad but can't afford to but that would be dream come true I'm picking dallas to take the superbowl this year's and many years to come be champions think positive do the right things to become champions extra effort by our fans and our team we can do it go dallas cowboys

  • CJ

    What's that quote from the movie "Animal House?" Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son. Don't ever suggest there is a better option than Kellen Moore!!!

    • http://PigskinHub.com/ Jess Haynie

      That comment just landed you in double secret probation!

  • George Johnson

    Jess Haynie: Glad to see realistic comments about K Moore and D Prescott. You said if may be difficult for D Prescott to be ready in 2017 to take over for K Moore at 2nd team QB. Many fans and sports writers have thought D Prescott could take over in 2016 which IMO under estimates K Moore and over estimates how fast D Prescott can learn and develop to be ready to play. The only thing I would add is that there is a good probability K Moore may have to play season games for T Romo based on his record of missed games the last four years. I believe K Moore could cement his 2nd team QB position with his play in 2016. He should do well in preseason games and should win some season games and have good QB stats if he has to play. He is at a point where he should be ready, experienced, knowledgeable of the Dallas offense/playbook, have adequate reps to gel with the receivers/get the timing down, poised, confident, etc. to be ready to play. Will he make some more mistakes/have deficiencies? Yes probably, especially with his limited experience against first team defenses and his physical limitations, but it should be an improvement from 2015.

Dallas Cowboys

Can Cowboys Trust Guard Jonathan Cooper in 2018?

Jess Haynie

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Jonathan Cooper

One of the big decisions facing the Dallas Cowboys in the 2018 offseason is at left guard. Veteran Jonathan Cooper started 13 games last year and is now a free agent. Should Dallas bring Cooper back, or should they look elsewhere for next season’s starter?

With a lot of money already being spent on the rest of the starting offensive line, the Cowboys need a bargain at left guard. They didn’t re-sign Ronald Leary in 2017 for that very reason, hoping Cooper or Chaz Green would be able to handle the job for a fraction of what Leary got from the Denver Broncos.

Cooper took over for Green in Week 4 and held the job the rest of the season. The Cowboys rushing attack remained one of the league’s best, even performing well later in the year when Ezekiel Elliott was suspended. It looked like Jonathan could become part of future plans.

However, in Week 17, Cooper went out of the game with a knee injury. It thankfully wasn’t serious and he is expected to be ready for 2018. However, it was a reminder of the injury-plagued past that has caused the former first-round pick so much trouble.

Jonathan Cooper

Dallas Cowboys Guard Jonathan Cooper

Taken seventh overall in 2013 by the Arizona Cardinals, Jonathan Cooper was one of the true blue-chip guard prospects in recent draft history. He seemed like a can’t-miss pick, and interior linemen don’t often go that high in the draft. The Cowboys have even said they coveted Cooper in that class.

But constant battles with injuries caused Cooper to be traded, released, and discarded by the Cardinals, New England Patriots, and Cleveland Browns over his first four seasons. While 2017 was looking like a turning point for him, Jonathan’s injury in the season finale was a sobering reminder of why he’s become a bargain-bin player.

Still, at just 28-years-old, Cooper has good years left and will now have another offseason for continuity and chemistry development with the Cowboys.

Dallas should have to pay more than a few million to keep Cooper on the roster.

If Dallas is leery (no pun intended) of Cooper, they will have options. La’el Collins could move back to the guard position, allowing the Cowboys to go find either the best guard or tackle who would fit with their existing group.

Given so many other considerations this offseason, Dallas will likely try to simplify things by giving Jonathan Cooper another chance. His history is a red flag, but sometimes you have to take those gambles and save salary cap space to handle other needs.

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Orlando Scandrick Talks Cowboys’ Disappointing Season on FOX Sports

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys Headlines - Forget the Triplets: Cowboys Need The Underrated to Shine in 2016
Ashley Landis / The Dallas Morning News

For better or worse, the Cowboys don’t even need to play football to be all over national TV. I guess it’s just part of being the one and only America’s Team. For the second consecutive week, Fox Sports had a Dallas Cowboys’ player on set for Fox’s “Undisputed.”

Just a week ago, Brice Butler made waves with some controversial comments that failed to make him look like a “great teammate.”

This time, Fox’s guest was Cowboys’ Cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Unlike Butler, I really think we should give Scandrick credit for being a very good teammate, and acting like one on his TV appearance.

Throughout the segment, it feels as if Orlando is being tricked into saying something against his teammates. Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe start bashing on Dez Bryant‘s performance and the fact that he should be replaced.

Of course, this is the kind of stuff fans in Cowboys Nation are thinking about. Heck, I really wouldn’t even mind if Dez isn’t wearing a star next season. However, I really disliked Butler’s comments when asked if he would’ve done a better job if given the same opportunities as Dez.

Scandrick’s responses were awesome though. When asked if he would defend Dez, he didn’t even hesitate.

“I don’t think he’s lost any confidence. He’s one of the most confident players I’ve ever been around. I think it can all be fixed. I think he just needs to get back to work and get back to the basics.” – Orlando Scandrick on Dez Bryant.

Scandrick also answered questions about what went wrong with the Cowboys this season by pointing out the fact they lost one of their best players because of a suspension, and some injuries. But he also said what’s been in our minds for a long time. When asked what was the biggest reason they struggled, he said some painful, yet truthful words: “We played some bad football against some very good teams.”

Later, he was asked about how Sean Lee’s absence affected the defense, he insisted they didn’t step up. At the end of the day, the NFL is a league in which you can’t be that dependent on a single player.

Sean Lee is an awesome player, but I think we’d all like to see this defense be a little less dependent on him.

Scandrick even had to defend Dak Prescott.

Dak was highly criticized after a sophomore season in which he struggled, alongside the entire team. But in the words of Orlando, we should “give him time.” Dak had a lot on his plate, but he made a lot of progress for the Cowboys.

You can listen to the entire interview here.

Orlando Scandrick’s time in Dallas may be coming to an end, especially with young guys like Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis taking over. He’s signed through 2019, so who knows; maybe we see him wearing the star for a bit longer.

“It’s always a possibility.” – Orlando Scandrick on potentially not returning to Dallas next season.

Even still, it’s nice to see him support his football team and his friends on a show which featured a non-starting Cowboys’ wide receiver taking shots against his team. Orlando Scandrick deserves an applause.

Tell me what you think about “Orlando Scandrick Talks Cowboys’ Disappointing Season on FOX Sports” in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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Dallas Cowboys

Should Cowboys Pursue Veteran Backup at Quarterback?

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys en Español: Cooper Rush
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys only have two quarterbacks under contract right now, starter Dak Prescott and backup Cooper Rush. With only three years of combined experience between them, one could argue that a veteran presence would be useful. Should Dallas make a veteran QB a free-agent priority in the 2018 offseason?

Of course, there’s plenty of other QB experience on the Cowboys staff. Head Coach Jason Garrett played professionally from 1989-2004, and started his coaching career with quarterbacks.

Scott Linehan has been coaching offense with an emphasis on the passing game for 30 years.

Kellen Moore, who is taking over for the departed Wade Wilson as quarterbacks coach, has played very recently and will bring a fresh perspective.

However, losing Wilson’s experience from the room, and the lack of any veteran player at QB, shouldn’t be dismissed.

Dak Prescott has said veteran Mark Sanchez — who was with Dallas in 2016 — was a major help during his whirlwind rookie season. Tony Romo enjoyed veteran advice from guys like Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna, and Kyle Orton throughout his playing career.

This isn’t to say Dallas would want to bring in a veteran to knock Cooper Rush down the depth chart. After a surprising preseason, Rush took the backup job from Kellen Moore and certainly has intriguing upside.

If the Cowboys were to add a veteran, that player would have to come in with the understanding he’s competing with Cooper and may not be guaranteed a job.

The good news is that it’ll be a buyer’s market for veteran quarterbacks this offseason.

Guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, and Matt Moore could all be available. Even a player with more pedigree, such as Sam Bradford, may have trouble finding starting work with many jobs taken among the NFL’s 32 teams.

Dallas could even consider bringing back Mark Sanchez, given his previous relationship with Dak Prescott. He only had a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears.

Given Prescott’s seeming durability, Dallas will likely only keep two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster in 2018 and for years to come. Because of that, they may be content to focus on Dak and Cooper Rush, and just get through the offseason with training camp bodies.

However, the case can certainly be made for adding another veteran player with the desire to teach to help these young quarterbacks develop. Prescott was not the same guy in 2017 that we saw as a rookie, and perhaps the absence of guys like Sanchez and Tony on the sideline had something to do with that.

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