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Cowboys Free Agency: Dallas Won’t Use Franchise Tag in 2017

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Headlines - Surgery Is A Go, Won't Affect Barry Church's Timetable For Return

The NFL franchise tag has been adding interesting wrinkles to teams’ offseasons since 1993. The Dallas Cowboys, despite a bevy of 2017 free agents, almost surely won’t be using the franchise tag this year.

While the Cowboys do have close to 20 players with expiring contracts, only a few even merit a conversation about the franchise tag. Upon closer examination, we’ll see that none of them would justify that high salary and cap hit that would come with the tag.

Before we get to those 2017 free agents, though, let’s briefly look at the Cowboys’ recent history with the franchise tag.

Anthony Spencer

DE/OLB Anthony Spencer (Louis DeLuca/The Dallas Morning News)

Cowboys Franchise Tag History

The Cowboys have only franchised players four times over the last ten seasons. Two of those times were just as a placeholder while a long-term deal was negotiated that same offseason; safety Ken Hamlin in 2008 and receiver Dez Bryant in 2015.

Pass-rusher Anthony Spencer is the only Cowboy to actually play under the franchise tag in the last decade. He did it twice in 2012 and 2013. Spencer once admitted that he didn’t give max effort when he wasn’t facing free agency, so the Cowboys left him in a perpetual “contract year” state for three seasons.

The Cowboys have generally not had problems re-signing the players they want. This isn’t Cleveland; Dallas doesn’t have to worry about players being desperate to flee for better cities or organizations. Jerry Jones also has a history of taking care of his players, sometimes even to a fault. That’s why you haven’t seen Dallas use the franchise tag much.

2017 Franchise Tag Options

As already stated, I don’t think there’s any player Dallas would use the franchise tag on this year. Here are the few players who I’d even have the discussion about, along with last year’s franchise tag amount for their position. The amounts in 2017 are not yet decided but should be roughly the same.

Barry Church, S ($10.8 million)

While a solid player and tackling machine, Church has never performed to the level of the NFL’s great safeties. He counted just $4.75 million against the salary cap in 2016, so the franchise tag would more than double his cost.

If the Cowboys were flushed with cap space this year then you might consider it. They could retain Church on a one-year deal while working on finding an eventual replacement, perhaps allowing Kavon Frazier to develop and show what he could offer.

Morris Claiborne

CB Morris Claiborne (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Morris Claiborne, CB ($13.9 million)

If Claiborne had played all of 2016 at the level he was showing in September, Dallas just might have considered this move. Unfortunately for Mo, yet another injury cost him nine games and robbed him of the chance to dramatically increase his market value.

For an injury-prone player like Claiborne, getting the franchise tag would be a godsend. He could get an immediate payday that might exceed anything he could get with a long-term deal. Claiborne might not even want to negotiate, knowing his history makes guaranteed money hard to come by.

There’s no denying that the Cowboys need cornerback help and Claiborne is one of the most talented guys out there. Still, there’s no way Dallas would lock up so much cap space in a guy who might not play half the season.

Ronald Leary, Ron Leary

G Ronald Leary

Ronald Leary, G ($13.7 million)

Last year Dallas kept Leary using a second-round Restricted Free Agent tender of about $2.6 million. It proved to be a bargain; Ronald started 12 games after La’el Collins was lost to a foot injury. The offensive line didn’t miss a step with Leary and some have argued he was even more effective than the young, albeit talented, Collins.

Now an unrestricted free agent, Ronald Leary is justifiably looking to get paid. He has been a starting left guard for two of the last three NFL rushing leaders. However, the franchise tag rules make it highly disadvantageous to use it on a guard or center.

The franchise tag amount applies to all offensive linemen regardless of position.  That means the bloated salaries of left tackles, who get paid like wide receivers and cornerbacks, bump the number up for everyone.

Even the best guards in the NFL only make about $10-12 million per year. With La’el Collins ready to resume starting duties in 2017, there’s no chance that they would pay Ronald Leary $13 million to stick around. Even if there is a drop-off going back to Collins, it’s not enough to justify the expense.

Terrell McClain

DT Terrell McClain

Terrell McClain, DT ($13.7 million)

After two injury-plagued seasons, McClain finally emerged as a standout for the Cowboys defensive line. Early in 2016 he was arguably their best player up front. However, the emergence of younger players later in the year has made McClain expendable.

Maliek Collins and David Irving both blossomed as the season went along and figure to have major roles going forward. Dallas also still has veterans Tyrone Crawford and Cedric Thornton under contract and counting a combined $14.6 million against the salary cap. With those guys already getting overpaid, there’s no way Dallas could afford to pay Terrell McClain the franchise tag.

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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!

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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