On March 4th I put out an article with the Cowboys' top-five needs as I saw them at the time. We have had several transactions since then which have shifted priorities now as we had into the second week of NFL free agency. Here's a quick reminder of those needs as I saw them nine days ago:
- Defensive End
- Defensive Tackle
Let's do a quick look at moves that gave impacted these positions and see how the rankings may have shifted.
UNSIGNED: Greg Hardy, Jeremy Mincey
Dallas has sat back while names like Olivier Vernon, Mario Williams, and Jason Pierre-Paul flew off the shelf quickly. There was rumored interest between the Cowboys and Chris Long but no visit was ever scheduled.
With no additions and two of their key players from last year remaining unsigned, plus Randy Gregory facing a four-game suspension to start the year, defensive end remains the team's biggest need. Long and Hardy are the two biggest names available but the Cowboys have yet to show any tangible interest in either. Much like we saw with the Cedric Thornton signing, Dallas could have their eyes on someone unexpected. I anticipate them signing someone with starting-level talent this week.
ADDED: Morris Claiborne, Josh Thomas, Jeff Heath
UNSIGNED: Danny McCray
So far the Cowboys have focused on talent retention over adding fresh faces. Not only have they brought back Claiborne and Thomas at cornerback and Heath at safety but, to the surprise of many, Brandon Carr remains under his existing contract.
Dallas had a visit with free agent Nolan Carroll, previously with the Eagles, on March 10th but then ended up re-signing Claiborne a day later. The visit with Carroll may have been a negotiating tactic to push Claiborne to accept their offer. Perhaps Carroll is who they'd like to sign if they end up releasing Carr. Either way, it doesn't seem Dallas is interested in any of the top names in the cornerback market.
If Dallas keep Carr or adds another corner upon releasing him then it would all but confirm that Byron Jones will be a safety next year. Dallas would still have flexibility at safety as they can cut Barry Church for solid cap relief or release Heath as his restricted free agent tender is non-guaranteed. There would also be a minimal penalty for cutting J.J. Wilcox, leaving their options fully open.
Eric Weddle is still out there and many fans are clamoring for Dallas to give the veteran Pro Bowler. The Cowboys have been linked to Weddle but you never know how much stock to put in that, since Dallas gets thrown into almost every discussion to attract an audience. Still, Weddle remains an intriguing option and the only major name out there who I think Dallas could possibly be looking to add.
LOST: Matt Cassel (Titans)
Veteran Matt Moore visited with the Cowboys last Thursday but remains a free agent. Despite still having Kellen Moore signed it appears Dallas wants to bring in another veteran to compete with him, as well as whoever they may add in next month's draft.
Much discussed before free agency began as a potential target for the Cowboys, Robert Griffin III is still unsigned. Ryan Fitzpatrick, who many thought would get a starting job somewhere, may be looking for any kind of work if someone doesn't call him soon. It appears likely that Dallas will add one of these veterans in the next few weeks.
ADDED: Cedric Thornton (Eagles)
UNSIGNED: Nick Hayden, Jack Crawford, Casey Walker
The Cowboys appear to have moved on from Hayden after three years with the addition of Thornton. After playing a 3-4 defensive end in Philadelphia Thornton will play inside in Dallas, having the size to play the one-technique but also some pass-rushing skills that could keep him on the field in nickel and other schemes.
Jack Crawford is a versatile lineman who can play both end and tackle, a role we've seen filled by both Mincey and Hardy over the last two years. I think Dallas could easily end up re-signing him after he's been able to test the market a bit, likely getting him for a minimal deal. The need may not be as much as before the Thornton signing but versatile reserves are never a bad thing at any position.
With the Thornton addition and the continued employment of Terrell McClain and David Irving, not to mention Tyrone Crawford, it would appear that the Cowboys are fairly set at defensive tackle. At most they will add depth options, such as the aforementioned Jack Crawford, or mid or late-round rookie talent.
ADDED: Rolando McClain, Kyle Wilber
After re-signing McClain and Wilber the Cowboys now have their entire 2015 linebacker corps returning. McClain will re-join Sean Lee as assured starters while Wilber will be in the mix with Andrew Gachkar, Anthony Hitchens, Mark Nzeocha, and Damien Wilson for the third starting spot and backup roles. The financial details of Wilber's deal are not yet known.
Dallas could still add talent in the draft but it would appear they are mostly done with the linebacker position in free agency. Not only are they bringing back all of their young prospects but Nzeocha is essentially a fresh face after missing most of last year with injuries. Compared to other positions, I think they will be content with the relative stability they have here.
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So with those moves, how have the rankings changed? Here is my updated top five:
- Defensive End
- Running Back
- Another Defensive End
We've already discussed the first two in detail. I put defensive end on here twice because the Cowboys are ridiculously thin at the position right now. Their Week One starters would be Demarcus Lawrence and Ryan Russell, who was active in just one game all last year. They clearly have to add some bodies and still need a starter opposite Lawrence who they can count on for a full year.
At running back, the situation behind Darren McFadden right now isn't great. Lance Dunbar is visiting other teams and Robert Turbin remains unsigned, leaving some guy named Rod Smith as the only backup. My free agent of choice is Alfred Morris, formerly of Washington, who has the kind of one-cut running style that suits our line very well. There are several other options out there but nobody jumps off the page as an upgrade to what Dallas would have by just re-signing Turbin. Whoever they add, we can all agree that significantly better depth is needed before entering a second year with McFadden. His history for performance and health problems after a big year is consistently ugly.
The departure of Mackenzy Bernadeau to Jacksonville leaves backup center as another important consideration. Ronald Leary is coming back but has not impressed when Dallas has tried him there before. There is talk that Zack Martin could play it in an emergency but that means impacting two positions. Another player with Bernadeau's versatility would be great but, with Leary re-signed, Dallas can afford to add just a pure center as well.
Could the Cowboys be more active this week now that the first wave and the big contracts have passed? We'll find out soon.
Cowboys WR Terrance Williams Facing Multi-Game Suspension
An arrest last May for public intoxication may finally result in a suspension for Dallas Cowboys Receiver Terrance Williams.
David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, who reported the pending suspension, outlined the details of Williams' case. Charges were ultimately dropped once Terrance completed an alcohol education course and paid damages to the city.
Sources: Cowboys WR Terrance Williams faces suspension stemming from May arrest for public intoxication https://t.co/3RmwQOllim via @sportsdaydfw
However, as Cowboys fans know too well, the NFL reserves the right to suspend players under the Personal Conduct Policy regardless of legal outcomes. The 2017 season was marred by the league's persecution of Ezekiel Elliott for domestic violence despite no arrests or charges coming from any legal or police entity.
In Williams' case, there's no dispute of his guilt. It is unlikely he will appeal any decision the NFL makes.
The potential that Terrance will be missing for 2-4 games helps explain the Cowboys' move earlier this week to bring back WR Brice Butler. With both currently active, Dallas has an unusually high seven receivers on their 53-man roster.
It's already Friday, so the suspension is doubtful to come for this week's game in Seattle. But Terrance could easily be one of the seven inactive players on game day, having received the fewest snaps of any Cowboys WR last week against the Giants.
We'll see soon enough, likely as soon as next week, just what the league has in store for Terrance Williams.
Report: Dallas Cowboys to Sign Free Agent Wide Receiver Brice Butler
The Dallas Cowboys look to be making a move at the wide receiver position as they attempt to bring some life to the position. No they aren't trading for Cleveland Browns Wide Receiver Josh Gordon, but bringing back former Wide Receiver Brice Butler.
According to a report from Saad Yousuf from The Athletic, the Dallas Cowboys are set to resign the former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver but first have to release someone from the 53-man roster.
Cowboys officials are in the process of signing wide receiver Brice Butler, multiple sources tell @TheAthleticDFW. The team has to make a roster move to bring Butler onto the 53 and is trying to decide whom to release to make room for Butler before a final decision is made.
Brice Butler was signed in the offseason by the Arizona Cardinals but was released after training camp. It was a surprising move for the Cardinals. They don't have a ton of wide receiver depth aside from future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald.
Butler's caught 73 passes on 133 targets for 1,177 yards and eight touchdowns in his five career. In 36 games with the Dallas Cowboys Brice Butler caught 43 passes on 81 targets for 794 yards and six touchdowns. In his time in Dallas, he averaged 18.5 yards per reception.
He never really got a lot of playing time with the Dallas Cowboys who had Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley and Jason Witten on the team for the duration of his time in Dallas. The Cowboys coaching staff placed a higher premium on Terrance Williams' run blocking than Butler's big play ability.
To the coaching staff's credit, Butler was never a consistent enough player to be relied upon week in and week out. In 2017, his last season in Dallas, Brice Butler was never targeted more than three times a game and he never caught more than two passes a game. Butler, however, only played 24.51% of the Dallas Cowboys' offensive snaps in 2017.
If the Dallas Cowboys do make this move it's at a curious time. Sources tell 247 Sports' Mike Fisher that the Dallas Cowboys have zero interest at the moment in Cleveland Browns Wide Receiver Josh Gordon. You'd think their lack of interest would be because they still like the wide receiver room as it is.
If they do complete the signing of Brice Butler, you'd have to expect that Deonte Thompson would be the wide receiver on the chopping block. They cut him at the end of the preseason and then brought him back during week one.
This signing is unlikely to have an impact on the Dallas Cowboys week two matchup with the New York Giants, but will probably be completed early Monday to get Butler to Frisco to begin preparing for their week three matchup.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
I don't think this is a move that makes a lot of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. They've been down that road before and haven't received the results they wanted. Brice Butler does offer some big play ability, but it was thought that is why they brought in Deonte Thompson and Tavon Austin. Is it possible the Dallas Cowboys are already down on those two players after one game? They wouldn't be bringing Butler back if they didn't have plans for him.
Good or bad, do you think bringing Brice Butler back is the right move for the Dallas Cowboys?
Cowboys, 49ers Are WR Josh Gordon’s Preferred Teams in Trade/Free Agency
It's Sunday morning and the Cleveland Browns are expected to make a questionable decision by tomorrow, which is far from news for a Dallas Cowboys team waiting around for a crucial Sunday Night Football home game tonight. With Cleveland expected to part ways with troubled wide receiver Josh Gordon though, the Cowboys have understandably been linked to Gordon, even more so now with the talented pass catcher stating his own interest in America's Team.
As teams discuss potentially trading for outgoing #Browns WR Josh Gordon, I'm told he's got his eye on two in particular: The #Cowboys and the #49ers.
Before looking into this any further, it's necessary to point out an all-important missing detail. Without any reports of the Cowboys own interest in Gordon, the soon-to-be free agent is simply the latest player to say he'd like to play for the Cowboys - hardly anything new for the Jones.
The Cowboys need for a player like Gordon has never been more evident though. Heavily criticized throughout the offseason for how they handled their wide receivers, the Cowboys passing game was a non-factor in the team's 16-8 week one loss.
Signing or trading for Gordon could do little to fix this, but the risk may also prove worthwhile for Dallas. The Baylor Bears product did put up 1,646 yards in 2013 with minimal talent around him, and has a career 17.3 yards per reception.
His ability to take the top off a defense is something the Cowboys are sorely missing. What they won't miss from not acquiring Gordon is the off-field trouble, taking on a player that missed all of 2015 and 2016 due to suspension.
Last season, Gordon was reinstated for the Browns final five games.
The NFL is, at least cautiously, easing their policy on players suspended for marijuana usage. Look no further than the Cowboys own Randy Gregory to prove this, as Gregory has already become a success story for the league by being with the Cowboys this season.
Whether or not Gregory plays on Sunday night (officially listed as DOUBTFUL) after suffering a concussion in his long-awaited return last week is yet to be determined. So too is Josh Gordon's future as the latest player on his way out of Cleveland.
From @gmfb Weekend: The #Browns plan to release Josh Gordon after he showed up late, injured his hamstring during a photo shoot, and in general completely lost their trust. https://t.co/cX2HGZPBXi
I'm of the belief that Gordon won't last long on the open market, meaning this won't be the latest Cowboys story/non-story to drag through the presses. Any fan looking to pass time between now and kickoff against the Giants could probably find me saying the same about free agent WR Dez Bryant however.
Thanks to Bryant still being a free agent along with former Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey, the team has looked smarter than expected in the long-term on moves like these.
If there's a smart way to bring on Josh Gordon, Dallas should be considering that too.
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