Just in case anyone was missing info on who the free agents are this year, here's a list as taken from DC.com.
The Cowboys face some tough decisions with regards to each of these players, and considering the team has some solid needs at certain positions, look for the Cowboys to make some moves that most of us won't agree with.
|UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS||RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS|
* OG Joe Berger
* WR Miles Austin
* Number one in that category would probably be Cory Proctor. His abysmal play in 2008 cost us many things, but above all it taught us that Kosier was sorely missed, and then that Holland was almost as missed as Kosier was. Behind Kozier the Cowboys didn't lose this year, though that's not saying much since he only played in three regular season games.
Cory Proctor is the first backup at center behind Pro Bowler Andre Gurode, and for his ability to play at both positions, Proctor will likely be retained assuming his price doesn't climb too high. Something tells me teams won't be breaking the bank for this guy. Holland played much better than Proctor, but again, a backup center with experience is still needed even after Holland is resigned.
* Another one of the concerns is backup quarterback, and while Brad Johnson is not a free agent, it's almost safe to say that he will be sometime in the coming months after such miserable play. So that leaves Brooks Bollinger, a younger quarterback with backup written all over him. He too lacked any real production during Romo's three game sit, but he was better than Johnson. Bollinger managed to drive the team to a touchdown against the Giants in week 9, which was the only time he looked comfortable behind center.
There are a lot of quarterbacks available in free agency this year, and few available within reach in the draft, but the free agents are mostly guys looking for a chance to start, which is virtually impossible here given Romo's contract and performance. So I think the Cowboys are going to take a look at each available quarterback before the draft, and if another backup to go with Bollinger isn't found, they'll draft one in the later rounds. In either case, I believe the team will resign Bollinger since he did show some marked improvement once he got more practice snaps with the first team.
* Chris Canty has been an issue all off-season. Talks have been on-going throughout the past year between the Cowboys, Canty, and his agent, to work out a contract extension for him, but most of us are aware of his agent's words that he wants Tommy Kelly kind of money. It's no question that he contributed to the defense in 2008, just as it's no question that he isn't deserving of the kind of money he's looking for.
To make matters worse, he spoke publicly recently and said that he has always been and will always be a Parcels kind of guy, which seems to point toward Canty actively pursuing a spot with the Dolphins. No matter what though, given that the contract talks have basically stalled here, he will test the market to see what he can get.
* Keith Davis, who last year departed the Cowboys for the Dolphins in a similar situation to Canty's, returned to Dallas after losing out on the starting job in Miami. Upon his return he was immediately named a team captain and resumed his roles as the special teams leader and backup strong safety. Injuries thrust him into the starting line up by week 5, and he started all but three games after that. This includes the end of the year when he suffered a third degree sprain of his MCL without missing a full game from the injury.
His strength is as a role player, special teams ace and backup safety, and his abilities in both aspects warrant signing him to a long term deal. I expect him to test the market once more though before settling for his role in Dallas.
* Miles Austin is another concern for the club, but only because they have to wait and see who offers what for him. the Cowboys are expected to place a second round tender on Austin, giving them the right of first refusal should another team make him an offer, and if the Cowboys choose not to match the offer, they would receive a 2009 second round pick as compensation. His inability to stay healthy last year is an issue, but he will most likely be resigned. His upside is still substantial and he should make an impact and a bid for more playing time in 2009 as long as he can stay healthy.
* The only other real concern lies at the middle linebacker position since both Zach Thomas and Kevin Burnett are unrestricted free agents come February 27th. Thomas stated after the season ending loss to Philly that he didn't feel comfortable at his position, the Will linebacker, since he had played his entire career as a Mike linebacker, the spot currently held by should-be Pro Bowler Bradie James. Look for the aging Thomas to explore his options in free agency, though don't rule him out to return next year.
LB Justin Phillips Making a Case to Become a Roster Lock With Cowboys
In Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, the Dallas Cowboys arguably have the best linebacker duo in the entire NFL. They also have some pretty solid backups in Sean Lee and Joe Thomas, but the depth behind those four is completely up in the air. That is excellent news for an undrafted LB like Justin Phillips.
The former Oklahoma State Cowboy LB signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent after the completion of the 2019 NFL Draft. To go from being an Oklahoma State Cowboy to a Dallas Cowboy must've been a dream come true, especially for a kid from Pearland, Texas who rooted for America's Team growing up. The dream probably won't be complete though unless a roster spot comes with it.
Surprisingly, Justin Phillips has put himself into contention to earn one of those coveted roster spots. The way he has played in the first two preseason games has caught the attention of quite a few people, which should make it extremely difficult for the Cowboys coaching staff when it comes to making roster cut decisions. Dallas Cowboys Staff Writer and former Scout Bryan Broaddus agrees…
"Justin Phillips is going to make it hard on this staff to put him on the street. Not only is his finish impressive, but the awareness he plays with in pass coverage is impressive. There is no way I thought he had a chance for that interception, especially with this initial step into the line, but his ability to turn and run to a spot saved him."
Here is the play/interception Broaddus is referring to:
The Dallas Cowboys have typically only carried six linebackers on their 53-man roster these past few years. With four spots already spoken for, Justin Phillips is doing his damnedest to lock down one of those final two up for grabs. That, of course, is easier said than done.
Phillips is likely competing with Justin March-Lillard, who led the team in tackles against the Los Angeles Rams last week and fellow undrafted rookie LB Luke Gifford. Gifford, of course, missed the game against the Rams with an ankle injury he sustained in Week 1 of the preseason against the 49ers. It was actually that injury that resulted in more playing time for Justin Phillips.
If you're doing the math here, that's three linebackers competing for two roster spots. March-Lillard probably has the upper hand right now over the two rookies, but I wouldn't say he's secured a job just yet. That leaves the door open for No. 44 (Phillips) and No. 57 (Gifford).
As much as I like Luke Gifford, and I do, I think the stars could be aligning for Justin Phillips to make it through roster cuts. He's playing really well right now, while all Gifford can do is watch from the sideline until he can get back on the field. Regardless though, it's a position battle worth keeping an eye on.
Do you think LB Justin Phillips has done enough to secure a roster spot?
How Kris Richard May Help CB Michael Jackson Make Cowboys Roster
Cornerback Michael Jackson, one of the Dallas Cowboys' 5th-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, has not been standing out so far in training camp or preseason. But despite the slow start, the influence of Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard could help keep Jackson on the 53-man roster this year.
While no team likes parting with their drafted rookies, it certainly happens. That's especially true for Day 3 players, even 5th rounders, and particularly when a team is as deep with talent right now as the 2019 Cowboys.
The cornerback position is one of Dallas' most loaded. They go four-deep with starting talent in Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis, which leaves just one or two roster spots for the remaining prospects.
Michael Jackson is in competition with veteran C.J. Goodwin and the intriguing Donovan Olumba. Both were with the team last year; Goodwin was a special teams contributor and Olumba was a valuable developmental asset on the practice squad.
So far this preseason, we've seen Goodwin shining on special teams and Olumba making plays at cornerback. Jackson hasn't stood out, unless you count jokes about thin he looks on the field.
In contrast, fellow 5th-round rookie Joe Jackson has been showing up at defensive end. Even if there were no suspension concerns with Robert Quinn and Randy Gregory, Joe Jackson has made himself very difficult to cut.
But despite not having that same momentum or energy around him yet, Michael Jackson may still find his way onto the 53-man roster. And that may have something to do with his position coach.
Since arriving in Dallas during the 2018 offseason, Kris Richard has quickly gained prominence beyond just his official role as the Defensive Backs Coach. He was working as the defensive play-caller last year and is expected to take over fully in 2020, assuming Rod Marinelli retires and Richard doesn't leave for a head coaching opportunity.
When Dallas selected Michael Jackson in the last draft, Jackson became the first cornerback or safety drafted by the Cowboys since Richard arrived. Given that it happened this year, with Richard's influence clearly high on the defense, one would assume that Kris had a big say in the decision to draft Jackson.
No, Richard certainly can't veto any decision made by the Joneses, Will McClay, Jason Garrett, or even Marinelli when it comes to roster management. But if he has any bias towards Jackson as his first draft pick in Dallas, Kris may fight for the rookie more than someone else.
We're all human; agendas come into play. Kris Richard may be more passionate about seeing Michael Jackson succeeding for a variety of reasons. He may pound the table for the team to keep Jackson louder than anyone else in the room.
That doesn't necessarily mean keeping Jackson over some other cornerback, either. The argument could be to go long at CB at the expense of another position; maybe only keeing two quarterbacks or eight offensive linemen to free up a roster spot.
This is purely speculative, of course. For all we know, Richard could be the first one who loses faith and votes to let Jackson go.
But given the situation and all factors involved, it's more likely that Kris Richard will be invested in seeing Michael Jackson succeed and sticking with the Cowboys in 2019. Hopefully, it's in the best interest of the team overall.
DL Kerry Hyder Impressive In Cowboys Week 2 Preseason Win
Kerry Hyder joined the Cowboys this offseason on a one year deal, and while the four-year NFL veteran has put up some solid tape in his time around the league, it was hard to project just what he could bring to the Cowboys defense.
Listed at 6'2" 270 pounds, Hyder is a bit of a tweener on the defensive line. Though the answer to "will he play tackle or end" seems to be "both" to this point in the preseason.
As he fights for his life on this deep defensive line, Kerry Hyder had himself a day in the Cowboys 14-10 victory over the Rams last weekend.
Hyder made an excellent play defending a screen pass in the first quarter, reading the play perfectly and reacting quickly to running back Darrell Henderson coming out of the backfield. Hyder also created some pressure on the quarterback, and finished with 3 combined tackles in very limited playing time.
Hyder's versatility is working well for him as he looks to make the final roster. Like a Tyrone Crawford type player, Hyder will be able to move inside and out depending on the situation. This allows the Cowboys to be flexible in how they structure their depth chart on defense, and in how they decide to rush the passer on third down.
A pass rushing package involving Robert Quinn and DeMarcus Lawrence on the edge with the combination of Hyder and Maliek Collins on the inside could turn out to be a very dangerous one for opposing offenses to deal with.
Rod Marinelli spoke to this versatility a couple of months ago, showing just how much he values what Kerry Hyder can bring to this team.
"Maybe you adjust him sometime, once in a while – in a one-on-one pass rush situation, stick him over a guard and start to get a feel for it.” - Rod Marinelli
Earlier this offseason, I wrote that Kerry Hyder could end up being Rod Marinelli's next great under-the-radar find on the defensive line. And if he continues to play with the hustle and awareness that he had on Saturday, he's going to make Rod look very smart in his evaluation.
Kerry Hyder is making it very difficult for the front office to let him go. And, at the end of the preseason, I do expect Kerry Hyder to find himself on the Cowboys' active roster. Especially considering how Mike White is playing at quarterback, and how his release could open up an extra spot at a different position group.
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