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Cowboys Free Agency: Plugging Holes Before The Draft



Cowboys Blog - Cowboys Free Agency: Plugging the Holes Before the Draft 4

If there is one tendency the Cowboys have shown as of late, it is that they like to enter the draft with no major holes.

This allows the team to draft without need in mind and helps them to select the best available player. While they haven't been huge spenders and they haven't landed many marquee names, they've made sure that they have quality talent at every position so that they can have a more sound draft.

This season sings a little different tune. While the Cowboys have a lot of needs, they also have a ton of cap space and are coming off of a tremendously disappointing season.

I'll be completely honest, I fully believe the Cowboys would sit and wait until the second week of free agency. At least.

Yesterday, I read a story about Jerry Jones losing sleep over this past season and it made me start thinking.

This past season was an utter embarrassment in so many ways. This was a team coming off of a 12-4 season that improved dramatically and was poised for a deep playoff run. Instead, they fell flat on their face. Yes, injuries contributed to it, but it doesn't tell the entire story.

The Cowboys took a chance on Greg Hardy and that came with tremendous backlash. You can only imagine that they made this move thinking he would be the final piece of the puzzle in getting the Cowboys to the promised land.

Instead, the Hardy drama led the Cowboys down a disastrous season from a PR perspective. You couldn't avoid the bad press. The Cowboys were everywhere. Even Dez Bryant lost his cool at a point. If you combine that with the results on the field, you get a Jerry Jones who probably isn't just upset or losing sleep, but is embarrassed.

Enter a Cowboys team that now has the ability to easily soar to over $30 million in cap space. The Cowboys may be serious spenders in trying to put together a team that no longer has huge holes to fill and plug those holes with some big talent. Add the great draft position to that and some health and you get a powerhouse Cowboys team.

How could some of this money be spent?

Well, let's start with the People's Champion, Lamar Miller.

Cowboys Blog - Cowboys Free Agency: Plugging the Holes Before the Draft 3

Lamar Miller...come on down to Dallas!

If you follow me on Twitter you'll see my Tweets to him everyday reminding him how perfect the match is between him and Dallas. There's also a hashtag and website for it; #MillerToDallas and is full of tweets mentioning the hashtag.

The Cowboys were willing to offer DeMarco Murray a contract around $6 million per year. You can offer something similar to Lamar Miller. Maybe even less. Miller is 24 and is extremely under-utilized. He has all the makings of a breakout player and would fit perfectly behind Dallas' offensive line. With Miller in Dallas, that eliminates the need for a running back, unless for some reason you think Darren McFadden is the guy.

A favorite of mine is Olivier Vernon.

Cowboys Blog - Cowboys Free Agency: Plugging the Holes Before the Draft 2

Olivier Vernon made his presence felt when the Dolphins played the Cowboys this season

Tyron Smith is really good right? Of course he is. Go back and think about all the games he has played. Now try and think about all the talent he has faced at both left and right tackle over his career. Who performed the best of them all?

Olivier Vernon is the one player who comes to mind that really had Smith's number. It came as a shock to see Smith struggle so much with Vernon, because we just aren't used to seeing anything like that.

Vernon going against Smith throughout camp and in practices would be awesome to watch and would help each of them tremendously. Vernon is a player that I see as barely scratching the surface. There is so much talent in him and he is going to unleash all of it very soon. With Rod Marinelli working with him and Tyron Smith forcing him to bring his best every time, Vernon will improve by leaps and bounds.

Now, Vernon will not be cheap. He is 25 and there is tons of tape to prove how good he really is. While his sack totals aren't tremendously high, his age, potential, and disruption will ensure he gets paid well in free agency.

I look at the contract Vinny Curry signed with Philadelphia and the one Everson Griffen signed with Minnesota as baselines for the Vernon contract. Curry received a 5-year contract worth $47.25 million. Griffen's contract is for 5 years and worth $42.5 million.

Vernon averages more sacks per year than both of these players and is also younger. I would say the low end for Vernon would be 5 years for $45 million with the high end being 5 years and around $50 million.

George Iloka & Eric Weddle are other intriguing options.

Cowboys Blog - Cowboys Free Agency: Plugging the Holes Before the Draft 1

George Iloka is a huge part of Cincinnati's defensive success

Before this season, Eric Weddle was easily one of the best cover safeties in the NFL. A disappointing 2015 have some soured on him.

Weddle just turned 31, so you are going to get some regression at some point, but I have my doubts that they are coming soon. I think you can attribute his 2015 performance to just a bad San Diego Chargers team. His poor 2015 - by his standards - and his age should make him pretty affordable and if Dallas could land him on a short-term deal it could be a huge signing.

George Iloka is a different safety than Eric Weddle. If you are tired of seeing Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox take poor angles and give up huge plays, then George Iloka is your guy. Pair Iloka with Byron Jones at safety and you get a really nice free and strong safety duo. Iloka will rarely take the wrong angle and when he hits... he hits hard. He is also 25 and has a lot of football in front of him.

Trumaine Johnson is my favorite option at cornerback.

This is the biggest hole on the roster and I fully expect the position to be addressed in some fashion.

Cowboys Blog - Cowboys Free Agency: Plugging the Holes Before the Draft

Trumaine Johnson can become a huge part of the Cowboys secondary and his age means he'll be around for a while

Johnson just turned 26 and is coming off a career year. Some might look at his 2015 performance and worry that it happened because it was a contract year. The big thing with 2015 to me is that he played more than 75% of the team's defensive snaps. Prior to 2015, he played mostly below 20% of the team's snaps.

With a bigger role Johnson embraced it and performed admirably tallying eight interceptions, something the Cowboys secondary needs desperately.

At 6'2, Johnson offers the kind of size teams are looking for today to combat some of the league's taller receivers. Johnson is also a freak athlete, so his addition to the secondary would go a long way for the team.

Some other names that I would keep in mind are:

  • DE DeMarcus Ware (if released)
  • DE Mario Williams (if released)
  • CB Janoris Jenkins
  • CB Sean Smith
  • CB Casey Hayward
  • CB Brandon Boykin
  • DE Nick Perry
  • DE Courtney Upshaw
  • DE Bruce Irvin
  • DE Robert Ayers
  • DE Adrian Clayborn
  • TE Dwayne Allen
  • TE Benjamin Watson


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!

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Watch: Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith Goes Bowling for First Time Since College Injury

Sean Martin



Should Cowboys Start Negotiating a Contract Extension With Rod Smith?

Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Jaylon Smith did not just defy all odds and return to normalcy in 2017, starting as the Cowboys' middle linebacker for a full 16 games. He became one of the team's and NFL's brightest success stories, earning the right to celebrate everyday activities returning to his life - as football did this season.

Jaylon Smith on Twitter

It's been two years since I've been able to bowl! Man it feels good to have my hobby back. #ClearEyeView #Swipe #StillGotIt! 210 average🤷🏾‍♂️🙏🏾

This is exactly what Jaylon Smith did on Twitter Friday afternoon, posting a Snapchat video of himself bowling. The caption on Twitter adds that Smith was enjoying his time at the lanes for the first time in two years.

It was January 1st, 2016 when Jaylon Smith's injury in the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame changed his outlook forever. In that moment, Smith went from a projected top ten pick in the 2016 NFL Draft to a LB that would need a team to take a chance on him - and be patient.

The Dallas Cowboys proved to be that team, using the 34th overall pick on the Notre Dame star and supporting his efforts to return to the field from day one. The entire Cowboys' organization was rewarded by Smith remarkably playing every game this season, inspired by his constant determination to do just that.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 3

Dallas Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith

So, a normal offseason for Jaylon Smith is anything but right now. Still battling the drop foot condition (one that is reportedly healing well and "fading") which limits his movement ability in the lower body, Smith is a normal Dallas Cowboys football player from this point forward.

He can say he's already defined all odds, can expect to take an even bigger stride forward in 2018, and Jaylon Smith can go bowling again. You can't help but be happy for #54.

Tell us what you think about "Watch: Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith Goes Bowling for First Time Since College Injury" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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Dallas Cowboys

Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Get Bigger Role in 2018?

Jess Haynie



Noah Brown

While only a seventh-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, receiver Noah Brown was on the Cowboys' roster for all of his rookie season. He returns in 2018 hoping for a bigger role in Dallas' offense, and with some good possibility to get one.

Brown was not a big part of the 2017 offense. He was at the bottom of the WR depth chart, inactive for three games and not seen much even when in uniform.

Noah was only targeted nine times last year. He caught four passes for 33 yards.

Assumably, this had less to do with Brown and more with the other mouths to feed in the Cowboys passing game. Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Brice Butler, even fellow rookie Ryan Switzer; you get the idea.

Noah Brown

Dallas Cowboys WR Noah Brown

2018 should remove at least one of those obstacles to Noah Brown's opportunities. Brice Butler is a free agent and there is no indication he is coming back.

Everyone else is still under contract, but that could change if the Cowboys start making any cuts to improve the salary cap. Bryant, Beasley, and even Witten, with varying degrees of probability, are all considerations as cap casualties in the next few months.

In the 2017 preseason, the 6'2", 220-pound Noah Brown reminded us of a young Dez Bryant. He has the same thick body and even showed some of the same punishing running style after the catch.

Of course, Noah hasn't shown nearly enough in college or as a rookie to say he could replace Dez. Nobody's suggesting that. But he has flashed the potential to be given more looks in the passing game.

Another way Brown could get on the field more next year is for run blocking. He has the size and power, and the Cowboys will certainly be leaning on the run with Ezekiel Elliott back and Dak Prescott needing to find his groove again.

Even if he moves up a notch from Brice Butler's exit, Noah Brown's primary way of staying active in 2018 will be through special teams. That was the key for him last year; Brown was active for 13 games because of his special teams work.

Hopefully, Noah can work his way into more targets next season. The Cowboys' receivers need to get younger and a seventh-round pick emerging would be tremendous value.


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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys Continue Search for Coaching on Defense

Sean Martin



Dallas Cowboys Search for Defensive Coaches Continues

With the hiring of Doug Nussmeier as their tight ends coach, the Dallas Cowboys' new look coaching staff is technically filled out for the 2018 season. Head Coach Jason Garrett, with coordinators Scott Linehan and Rod Marinelli underneath him once again, will lead this team into battle with new coaches at LB, OL, QB, WR, TE, ST, and in the secondary.

Despite most of their changes coming on the offensive side of the ball - where the Cowboys certainly under performed in 2017 - the Cowboys did lose one of their most highest regarded defensive coaches in Matt Eberflus this offseason.

Given their personnel on Rod Marinelli's side of the ball, the Cowboys may have actually upgraded in replacing Eberflus with Kris Richard. The Cowboys' young secondary is sure to remain a hot topic all the way until training camp, now being led by the architect of the Seahawks' vaunted "Legion of Boom".

Clarence Hill Jr on Twitter

Cowboys are not done with coaching hires. Still trying to add defensive quality coach, per source

With Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli potentially entering his final season in the NFL though, the Cowboys' search for talented coaches on the defensive side of the ball is reportedly not yet over.

Already promoting a former quality control coach in Ben Bloom to fill Eberflus' role as linebackers coach, the Cowboys' commitment to finally building a top defense is exciting for Cowboys Nation. Another solid draft haul on this side of the ball could turn any spot on the defensive coaching staff here into a highly coveted one.

Not only having the talent in place to return to the playoffs in 2018, the Cowboys are looking to take full advantage of their current staff to secure a bright future for this young team in years to come.

Exactly who the Cowboys are targeting to hire remains unknown, but they did interview former DB Ray Horton prior to hiring Kris Richard. Horton carries six years of experience as a defensive coordinator, most recently holding the position in 2016 with the Cleveland Browns.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Cowboys coaching staff changes:

It is also important to note that Marinelli, known as a defensive line specialist, still holds this positional coaching job - a unit the Cowboys should also look to add an experienced coach to. The next Cowboys DC may still be added to the staff this offseason, if not done so already with Richard the heir apparent at the moment for Marinelli.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Continue Search for Coaching on Defense" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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