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Cowboys Free Agency: Is LB Anthony Hitchens A Priority?

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Free Agency: Is LB Anthony Hitchens A Priority?

The frustrating reality when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys' approach in roster building is -- at certain positions -- they seem set on bargain-hunting for quick fixes and players with untapped potential to do the job. For years now, linebacker has been one of those positions, with the Cowboys failing far too many times at adding a true starter next to Sean Lee.

With free agency approaching on the league calendar, the Cowboys will now have a decision to make on one of their most promising linebackers. After four years of solid production at all three LB spots, Anthony Hitchens is set to hit the open market.

Schedule & Game Results Table
Defe Defe Defe Defe Defe
Week Rec Opp 1stD TotYd PassY RushY TO
1 W 1-0 New York Giants 13 233 198 35 1
2 L 1-1 @ Denver Broncos 26 380 202 178 2
3 W 2-1 @ Arizona Cardinals 22 332 283 49
4 L 2-2 Los Angeles Rams 24 412 244 168
5 L 2-3 Green Bay Packers 25 342 182 160 1
6 Bye Week
7 W 3-3 @ San Francisco 49ers 23 290 187 103 3
8 W 4-3 @ Washington Redskins 16 285 236 49 3
9 W 5-3 Kansas City Chiefs 17 323 255 68 1
10 L 5-4 @ Atlanta Falcons 22 336 204 132 1
11 L 5-5 Philadelphia Eagles 17 383 168 215
12 L 5-6 Los Angeles Chargers 25 515 434 81
13 W 6-6 Washington Redskins 15 280 224 56 4
14 W 7-6 @ New York Giants 21 330 228 102 2
15 W 8-6 @ Oakland Raiders 19 293 171 122 1
16 L 8-7 Seattle Seahawks 15 136 60 76
17 W 9-7 @ Philadelphia Eagles 12 219 149 70 2
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/25/2018.

 

Hitchens' contract year did not start off as cleanly as the team hoped, injured against the Oakland Raiders in the preseason. Recovering faster than expected, Hitchens made his 2017 debut against the Green Bay Packers. You can see the improvements in the Cowboys' overall numbers on defense once Hitchens returned to the field.

One thing the Cowboys do have going for them entering 2018 is the status of LB Jaylon Smith. The Cowboys deserve to parade around Jaylon Smith as a draft risk that worked out, and that's exactly what it feels like they'll do.

Relying on Smith and Lee to be the team's primary linebackers, on the field together in Nickel sets, is a solid start for the Cowboys. Anthony Hitchens as depth behind both of these starters, a role he excels in, creates much less of a need at LB in Dallas though.

Anthony Hitchens was a fourth round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. The 2018 Draft class features plenty of depth at his position, meaning the Cowboys' could allocate the money Hitchens would warrant elsewhere - replacing him with a cheaper, younger option.

While slightly limited in pass coverage, Hitchens serves an important role as a read-and-react defender for the Cowboys that brings physicality against the run. This is the type of player that Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli loves.

The likes of Kris Richard and Ben Bloom have added say in what the Cowboys' defense will look like moving forward now however. Richard will coordinate the back seven of this defense, as he did brilliantly in Seattle, while Bloom is the Cowboys' new LB Coach.

Anthony Hitchens

Dallas Cowboys LB Anthony Hitchens (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

Just how much they value a quality, starting-caliber LB on this roster will say a lot about the direction the Cowboys want to go in free agency this offseason. While it is understood that they won't be big spenders on outside players, signing their own has become a priority.

Taking this approach in free agency allows freedom come draft day, as the Cowboys can focus on adding talent anywhere on the roster.

Regardless of where Anthony Hitchens is next year, linebacker is a position the Cowboys should be looking to build on, and it may be best if they let Hitchens walk.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Free Agency: Is LB Anthony Hitchens A Priority?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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3 Comments
  • Travis Diggs

    I guess yall forgot Sean Lee gets hurt every season and when he gets hurt whos always there, Anthony Hitchens. So to the point of this article, Hitchens is a priority this off season

  • nick

    Yes I believe they should sign him to a 2-3 yr deal by then we’ll know if jaylon is the player he was in college and both of there contracts will expire around the same time an we can pay the best 1 a big extension, and hopefully draft another starter during those 2-3 yrs. He’s a really good LB and I think he’s a huge priority with the health of Lee always being a problem.

    • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

      Nick, thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. You have a really good idea here with Smith and Hitchens, just wonder if their commitment to Smith has already forced that decision a bit. Or if the FA market for Hitchens will do it for them. I’d love to have him back at the right price.

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Cowboys Interest in Raiders WR Amari Cooper Increases Ahead of Trade Deadline

Sean Martin

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Dallas Cowboys Interest in Raiders WR Amari Cooper Increases

This week, Stephen Jones discussed the difficulties of making a trade, saying "it just seems like in the NFL trades are hard to make, to make it all come together for two teams".

The two teams that could be lining up to change that are of course Jones' Cowboys as well as John Gruden's Oakland Raiders. Yet another Raiders player has been in the headlines as a trade target, 24-year old Wide Receiver Amari Cooper.

Adam Schefter on Twitter

WR-needy Cowboys doing their due diligence on Raiders' WR Amari Cooper: https://t.co/pE2wmrzCXu

Playing at the Washington Redskins on Sunday, the Cowboys will have yet another reshuffled lineup at wide receiver, playing without Tavon Austin. Their biggest offseason addition to this unit was Allen Hurns, and he's been underwhelming with just eight catches.

Thus the Cowboys are reportedly doing their "due diligence" on Cooper, sensing the need for a mid-season acquisition at WR for the right price. The Cowboys ability to potentially find that price in a deal advantageous to them, given how the Raiders handled the departure of Khalil Mack in a trade to this Chicago Bears, is what makes this story relevant.

A lot has been said about Cooper since his name emerged as the latest player potentially out of the Bay Area. Whether you believe he's still an impact receiver with the potential to regain his Pro Bowl form of 2015 and 2016 or one that "doesn't love football," as some have been inclined to say, the former fourth overall pick represents an investment into the WR position that the Cowboys have not made in some time.

In those Pro Bowl seasons, Cooper averaged over 77 catches a season while putting up over 1,000 yards in both. The Raiders have used this to justify their reported asking price of a first-round pick for Cooper, something the Cowboys are not alone in their reluctance to give.

With Cooper, the Raiders are holding onto their last bit of relevancy. A reeling 1-5 football team that needs to maximize their return on trading Cooper, the Colts and Redskins are also following in the Cowboys footsteps by preparing as much as they can on the player.

Cooper has caught 22 passes for 280 yards and a touchdown through six games this season.

For as desperate as the Raiders are to jump-start their organization, the Cowboys should be just as desperate to add a threat like Cooper to their passing attack. Unlike the Raiders, they're in the hunt for a division title, something much harder to put a price on when it comes to the Jones' finalizing any deal for Cooper in the coming days.

The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday, October 30th, at 3 PM Central Time. The Cowboys will be two days into their bye week, not in action again after Sunday until November 5th.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Interest in Raiders WR Amari Cooper Increases Ahead of Trade Deadline" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Cowboys WR Tavon Austin Skipping Surgery, May Return in 2018

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys WR Tavon Austin Skipping Surgery, May Return in 2018

A groin injury sustained last week against Jacksonville won't send Tavon Austin to injured reserve, at least for now. The Dallas Cowboys receiver has elected to forego surgery at this time, giving him a chance to return to action in 2018.

There was concern that Austin could land on IR initially following the Jaguars game, but he sought a second opinion this week. It appears that this new information was enough for Tavon and the Cowboys to decide that surgery can wait.

Rob Phillips on Twitter

Sounds like WR Tavon Austin will not have surgery at this time after getting a second opinion on his groin injury. He could miss a few weeks, however. #cowboyswire

Austin should miss this Sunday's game with the Washington Redskins. He has been the team's punt returner this season and a useful tool on offense, playing mostly receiver but also lining up the backfield at times.

Despite his limited opportunities, Tavon is tied with Cole Beasley for the team lead with two receiving touchdowns in 2018.

How long Austin will remain out is unknown at this time. After the Washington game, Dallas will have their bye week and then host the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football.

Both of these are games that the Cowboys, feeling good after a blowout victory over Jacksonville, should be able to win without Austin. But they would certainly like him back for the Week 10 road game with the Philadelphia Eagles.

In Tavon's absence, Cole Beasley will likely field punts. We may see more of Deonte Thompson in the speed routes that Austin ran on offense, though Dallas could also finally see what recently returned Brice Butler has to offer.

With an expiring contract this year, Tavon will likely want to get back soon and trying to improve his stock for the 2019 offseason. Hopefully, he can still have a positive impact on his value and the Cowboys season in the weeks ahead.



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Terrance Williams: Details, Impact of 3-Game Suspension

Jess Haynie

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3 Current Starters Cowboys' Fans Hate, But Shouldn't 1

Terrance Williams was already missing games on injured reserve, but now the Dallas Cowboys receivers is going to lose some money as well. Williams was finally hit with a three-game suspension by the NFL, starting immediately,  for his public intoxication arrest last May.

Dallas placed Terrance on IR in Week 5 just a day before their game against the Houston Texans. Williams had been struggling with a foot issue since the offseason, which included a surgery that he hadn't fully recovered from.

Many were surprised that Williams wasn't suspended to start the season, given that his arrest occurred several months prior. But when charges were eventually dropped after Terrance took part in some required alcohol education courses, it appeared the league might be letting the issue go.

However, as Cowboys fans know all too well, Roger Goodell's NFL operates its own judicial system.

In Williams' case, the suspension will only result in lost game checks. Players still get paid when on IR, but Terrance will lose that amount of his $3.5 million base salary.

Because he can serve the suspension while injured, Terrance will still be eligible to be recalled from injured reserve in December after sitting the mandatory weeks.

The real issue for Williams now is how this event, and his general fall from grace in the Cowboys offense, will affect him in the next offseason.

Did Terrance Williams' Big Game Quiet His Doubters?

Dallas Cowboys WR Terrance Williams

Terrance is in just the second season of a four-year, $17 million contract he signed in 2017. If he's released after this year, Dallas would save $2.25 million of his scheduled $4.75 million cap hit in 2019.

Williams' cap hit isn't the issue by itself. That would be a bargain for a significant contributor in your offense, even if he was just the third receiver.

But Terrance appears to have fallen well below that spot on the depth chart. Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, and Michael Gallup are the top three receivers these days, and veteran Deonte Thompson has also been getting looks. Dallas also brought back Brice Butler a few weeks ago, though he hasn't really been worked in yet.

Not only that, but the Cowboys will have the option to recall Noah Brown from IR in just a few more weeks. He was one of their more intriguing young prospects prior to getting hurt.

Dallas could let Terrance come back next year to compete, hopefully with full health and less personal baggage. But after six seasons, they may be ready to move on to players with more room to grow.

For now, though, Terrance Williams is out of action and out some money. We'll see what the future holds.



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