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Cowboys Free Agency Day 2: Now What?

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Cowboys Headlines - Free Agency Day 2: Now What?

Well, all the big name defensive line talent seems to be gone. While I'm not happy about that, I think the Cowboys deserve the credit from us to believe they have a plan here.

Obviously defensive line is the major priority right now, but talent at other positions in free agency is greater right now so I will talk about both.

When it comes to defensive line attention must now turn to creative waves. There is no premiere rusher left that will get you in the teens of sacks. Instead, the Cowboys can look to add several talents that fit the bill to give teams a long list of players to have to game plan for.

Defensive Line

Nick Perry is my favorite defensive lineman left. Behind him you have Robert Ayers, but it seems as if he will be signed elsewhere shortly. Behind that you have guys like Chris Long, O'Brien Schofield, Jeremy Mincey, Quinton Coples, George Selvie, Bjoern Werner, Aldon Smith and Junior Galette.

If the Cowboys want to put together even a decent defensive line they have to sign at least one of these players.

Keep in mind these are all defensive ends. The NFL Draft has tons of defensive tackle talent. Cedric Thornton is meeting with the Cowboys today and would be a nice Nick Hayden improvement as a 1-technique. Thornton would be able to use his strength to control the running game and hold blocks to free up Tyrone Crawford. It is at defensive end where the draft is barren, so I put a premium on that position in free agency.

Nick Perry is only 25 years old and a former first round pick by the Green Bay Packers. He has been productive, but may be a little undersized for a 4-3 defensive end. Regardless, he has experience at the position from college and could be a nice get for the Cowboys.

Cowboys Headlines - Free Agency Day 2: Now What? 3

Nick Perry is the best defensive lineman left on the market

Aldon Smith would be a nice grab as well that is a little under the radar. Smith was one of the best pass rushers in the NFL before his off-the-field concerns clouded his talent. Smith received a one year ban in November of 2015, so he won't be eligible until then, but he should be had for close to nothing and would be some late season reinforcement. He'd also come without the PR nightmare that Hardy would come with.

The Cowboys will almost definitely add a rookie into that mix and David Irving will probably also get more defensive end snaps. Expect Ryan Russell to be a bigger name this year as well.

Safeties

Where the Cowboys can actually add some impact is in the secondary.

You start with Eric Weddle who's name is starting to gain a little traction with the Cowboys.

Weddle was one of the game's premier defensive talents in the not too distant future. A poor 2015 season by his standards plus his age have some down on him.

I think Weddle would make a lot of sense in Dallas. He is the consummate professional football player. He eats and sleeps football and gets it mentally better than most do.

You can play Weddle at safety with Byron Jones and if Jalen Ramsey is available at 4 and should be the pick, can do so with Ramsey as well. This would give you the ability to get creative.

Weddle can play solo-safety with Jones and Ramsey walking down to corner. Weddle can play with Jones or Ramsey at safety. You can mix it up all game long.

The most important part is while you get a couple good years from Weddle, you also get him to help Jones and potentially Ramsey to become great safeties as well.

The same idea from a technical standpoint could be said for Tony Jefferson instead of Eric Weddle. Jefferson plays a great strong safety and would make for a good player to compliment Byron Jones or potentially Jalen Ramsey at safety.

Cowboys Headlines - Free Agency Day 2: Now What? 1

Tony Jefferson is young and talented. He'd be a great get for the Cowboys

 

Then there is Walter Thurmond who basically gives you another player in the Byron Jones and Jalen Ramsey mold, though much less athletic. Thurmond can play a real serious safety but also has experience at cornerback. This would allow the Cowboys to get even more creative.

Cornerback

There are plenty of options remaining at cornerback if the Cowboys do want someone there.

Between Morris Claiborne, Casey Heyward, Prince Amukamara, Patrick Robinson and Brandon Boykin, there are definitely options.

Nolan Carroll is visiting the Cowboys today and fits the bill of what they're looking for in a cornerback. He is tall and long and for the most part has had good health. Carroll was putting together a nice 2015 for the Eagles before suffering a season ending ankle injury.

Cowboys Headlines - Free Agency Day 2: Now What? 2

Nolan Carroll would be a welcomed addition to the Cowboys secondary

There are plenty of options left for the Dallas Cowboys to have put together a nice offseason. I know many are upset about what they have done, but it is a good thing that they are not shelling out tons of money for some of these players. The staff has shown the ability to find players who fit what they're looking for late in free agency and the coaching staff has proven the ability to get production out of these players.

The Cowboys cap situation is clear right now, but it can be extremely healthy in the coming years. By not overpaying good players, they will be able to re-sign some of these offensive linemen and could be in the position to land great players in the future.

There are still talented players left and the Cowboys should be able to get some real bargains. This isn't over yet, so don't panic!

Think back to 2014. The year the Cowboys went 12-4 and won a Playoff game. Believe in them. They deserve it.



I've been blogging about sports and music for almost eight years now. I also work in media relations for a New York sports team, so I understand the bridge between the outlets writing about a team and the team monitoring content. I hope to bring something new to Inside The Star, getting deep into draft work, breakdowns and I always come with a strong and passionate opinion. I'm very active on Twitter, so ask questions, comment on stuff, etc. and I will almost definitely respond to you in some sort of debate!

Dallas Cowboys

Earl Thomas: Age is Just a Number Part II

John Williams

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Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de Earl Thomas, la NFL Sigue Equivocándose
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Yesterday, I wrote a piece attempting to assuage the fears that many in Cowboys Nation have about handing a contract extension out to Earl Thomas, who is 29 years old as we enter the 2018 NFL season.

In the comment section, a reader posed a very good question that is the basis for the rest of this article:

Earl Thomas Comparisons at age 29 and Beyond

It's a great question that certainly required some research, but Cowboys fans all across the world should be encouraged by my findings.

Just to refresh, here are the players we looked at as favorable comparisons to Earl Thomas at this point in his career. I searched Pro Football Reference for safeties who had at least three All-Pro First Team selections and at least six Pro Bowl appearances.

Considering an Earl Thomas Extension, Age is just a Number

The average age of the players listed at the time when they reached their third All-Pro was 31 years old. I'm removing Deion Sanders and Roger Wehrli from the equation as most of their work was done at cornerback.

Let's look at a chart that outlines what these guys careers looked like at age 29 and beyond to get a better picture. Remember, Earl Thomas already has three All-Pro selections and six Pro Bowls. Many of these guys didn't reach those kind of accolades until their 30s.

Earl Thomas Comparisons at age 29 and Beyond 1

Click image to view at full size.

The first thing I noticed as I looked into this question is that only two players had three or more All-Pro First Team selections prior to age 29, like Earl Thomas has. Those players were Rod Woodson and Ronnie Lott. Every other player on this list didn't hit their third All-Pro selection until age 29 or later.

Only one player reached his sixth Pro Bowl prior to his age 29 season, that player is Ronnie Lott, who many NFL Analysts consider to be the greatest safety of all-time. Most of the players didn't achieve their third All-Pro selection until their age 29 season or later. Earl Thomas reached his third All-Pro selection at age 25.

Here's a hot take for you: Earl Thomas, when it's all said and done could be considered the greatest safety of all-time.  I'll just leave that there to marinate and if a trade does happen, we'll come back to that.

Back to the chart.

Another thing I want to point out is that none of these players were 100% healthy. Such is the life in the NFL, especially as you get older, but they were available for at least 14 games a majority of their seasons aged 29 or later. Health is an unpredictable animal in the NFL, but the safety position allows for much more longevity than many other positions. And as the chart depicts, it's a position that ages well.

So, as you can see in the chart, players who were highly productive prior to their age 29 season were also highly productive for several seasons after. These players went onto average almost seven more years in the league from their age 29 seasons.

Most players continued to average a healthy amount of interceptions. The player that saw the biggest decline from the early part of his career to the post-29 part of his career was Brian Dawkins. The former Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos safety went from three interceptions per season prior to 29 to 1.9 interceptions per season 29 and after.

When it comes to the safety position, the elite seem to be able to get the most of their bodies and their abilities and can prolong their prime. The position relies as much on intelligence and awareness as it does quickness and athleticism. Earl Thomas has the mental capacity to play the game for many more years and there's been zero evidence to suggest that he is experiencing any physical decline.

At the rate of his career that he's on, Earl Thomas is destined for the Hall of Fame. He's one of the faces of the Legion of Boom defense that propelled the Seattle Seahawks into the elite category of teams in the early part of this decade.

If and when an Earl Thomas trade does occur, don't sweat an extension for Thomas.

Thomas' credentials put him in an elite group of players who played the game for a very long time and there's no reason to believe he won't continue to do so.

The Dallas Cowboys aren't that far off from having a Super Bowl contending defense built in the image of the Seattle Seahawks. Going to get the All-Pro, future Hall of Fame safety is the final piece to the to the Dallas Cowboys completing construction on "Doomsday III." 

Everything else is there for the Dallas Cowboys, now all they have to do is: Go. Get. Earl!



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Dallas Cowboys

Noah Brown Takes to Twitter to Call Out ESPN

John Williams

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A Fully Focused Ezekiel Elliott can Carry the Cowboys into 2018 Playoffs 2
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN has long been considered "The Worldwide Leader in Sports," and for a long time that title was justified. If you wanted your national sports news, where did you turn to but the cable sports channel to watch that day's episode of SportsCenter. But over the last few years, it's become more and more clear that it's "The Worldwide Leader" in name only.

The ratings are dropping and the network has had to make a lot of business decisions as it relates to much of their on-air talent over the last several years. With their latest under 25 starting 22 -- ahem, troll job -- they seem to have finally come to terms that they are basically First Take.

Noah Brown put it best in his reaction to the ESPN "Insider" voting that led to Saquon Barkley being named to the starting 22 ahead of Ezekiel Elliott. Brown, Elliott's teammate when both were at Ohio State University, came to his defense upon seeing the list.

Noah Brown Takes to Twitter to Call Out ESPNAnd here is the ESPN list:

SportsCenter on Twitter

43 of our NFL Insiders voted. Here's their best starting roster under the age of 25.

I'm sure there could be debates about different positions on the squad. Personally, quarterback is one where an argument could be made for Carson Wentz or Dak Prescott over DeShaun Watson, but that's for another time.

But to have a rookie, who has never played a down in the NFL ahead of the NFL's league leader in rushing for 2016, Ezekiel Elliott, is laughable.

Ridiculous.

Shameful even.

The fact that they had 43, again I use the quotations, "Insiders" vote on this and Ezekiel Elliott wasn't listed as one of the two running backs just shows you how far they've come as a network.

Let's remember that Ezekiel Elliott has averaged a touchdown a game -- receiving and rushing -- in his 25-game career. No running back has more rushing yards than Elliott does over the last two years, including 2017 league rushing leader, Kareem Hunt. No running back has more rushing touchdowns than Elliott's 22 rushing TDs.

Ezekiel Elliott's yards per carry is a healthy 4.63. Todd Gurley sits at 3.93. No player with more than 1,800 rushing yards over the last two years has a better yards per attempt than Ezekiel Elliott.

I get that you'd vote Todd Gurley in there, but to not have Ezekiel Elliott, arguably the game's best running back on your Under 25 starting 22 just makes you look like Skip Bayless or Stephen A. Smith. Not a sports journalism entity worthy of people throwing money at for "Insider" access.

I won't say that I never or will never watch ESPN, because where else am I gonna go for Monday Night Football, Todd Archer, or the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championships? When I'm at my father-in-law's, I'll watch SportsCenter first thing in the morning, because it will be on and you don't change another man's television.

"The Worldwide Leader," however, loses credibility when they promote a list like this that has such a glaring omission.

Perhaps, maybe the goal wasn't to put out an accurate list. Maybe the goal was to get us talking about their list, just like when NFL Network releases their Top 100 players list. Like they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity.

This troll job from ESPN has certainly gotten them some publicity, or should I say, notoriety.



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Player News

Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstated, Will Join Team for Training Camp

Sean Martin

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Will the Dallas Cowboys "Get Lucky" at Defensive End?

The Dallas Cowboys patience with Defensive End Randy Gregory has paid off. Suspended for the better part of 2016 and all of 2017, Gregory has officially been reinstated to join the team for their 2018 training camp. The projected starter at RDE, Gregory will report to Oxnard with the rest of the team on July 25th.

From here, it will be all hard work for Gregory to reconnect with Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli and get his promising career back on track. The last time Gregory suited up for the Cowboys, he managed to sack Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz in a week 17 win. The Cowboys will be expecting much more of this from a player they've supported through multiple violations of the league's heavily criticized substance abuse policy.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Cowboys pass-rusher Randy Gregory's petition for reinstatement was not opposed, according to lawyer Daniel Moskowitz. He's back. "I've never been more proud of any individual in my life. I'm very excited for Randy and his daughter and the rest of the his family.

Among this support staff for Gregory were a number of teammates that wrote formal letters to the NFL as part of his bid for reinstatement. These last few days of preparation before the Cowboys are together again as a team will surely be uplifted by Gregory's presence.

They say no news is typically good news at this point in the offseason, something the Cowboys have come to realize far too often. Today's news shouldn't be confused with a pleasant surprise however, rather something the Cowboys were committed to in getting another premier pass rusher on the field.

Here is the NFL's official press release on their reinstatement of Randy Gregory:

Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

https://t.co/za0u3lWgaY

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstated, Will Join Team for Training Camp" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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