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Cowboys’ Job Security: QB, WR, TE

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Blog - Cowboys' Job Security: QB, WR, TE

With eight games in and at least eight to go, it seemed a fine time to evaluate the roster. There are many different perspectives you can go with, but if you know me at all then you know I love to put my General Manager hat on. Today we're going to look at players within the context of job security, the likelihood that they will still be Cowboys next season. Today we'll look at the quarterbacks, receivers, and tight ends. Tomorrow we'll hit the running backs and offense line. And then over the weekend we'll cover the defense.

QUARTERBACKS

Tony Romo - Signed through 2019

If the needle has moved at all on the Cowboys' appreciation of Romo during the first part of this season, it's only increased in his absence. The highest-rated passer in 2014, Romo will hopefully return to the field next week in Miami and pick up with the same level of play. Even if the season is over for the Cowboys, seeing strong play from Romo will be inspiring for next year's campaign.

Romo's future with the team was never in doubt. Even if they wanted to part ways, the $31 million in dead money makes it practically impossible. Romo will certainly be the quarterback through 2016 and likely a year or two beyond, provided he can hold up physically.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 100%

Matt Cassel - 2016 Unrestricted Free Agent

Dallas has recently treated their backup quarterback position with more hubris than in years past, content with the risky Brandon Weeden over more trustworthy options like Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna, and Kyle Orton that have backed up Romo before. Cassel would be more akin to those players and I could easily see Dallas offering him a solid one or two-year deal to stick around.

The big question for Cassel and the Cowboys will be if Dallas finally looks to the draft for Romo's eventual replacement. I don't see Dallas spending a high enough pick, like first or second round, to where they'd be comfortable with that guy as their primary backup. Even if they bring in a rookie for grooming, I expect Cassel or some other veteran would still be the number-two guy next year.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 70%

Brandon Weeden - 2016 Unrestricted Free Agent

Even if Dallas can't get Cassel to stick around they will likely look elsewhere for a veteran backup. Weeden hasn't shown any growth from the player he was last year, let alone how he played in Cleveland. I might look at it differently if he was still under contract, but I can't see much reason to negotiate a new deal with him.

I'm only giving Weeden's return the slimmest of chances in the possibility that they simply can't find anybody better in free agency if Cassel's not retained.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 10%

WIDE RECEIVERS

Dez Bryant - Signed through 2019

I don't need to explain this one, I hope. Dez just got a new deal and has plenty of X's left to throw up in Dallas.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 100%

Terrance Williams - Signed through 2016

Williams has been disappointing this year but not enough to be shown the door. He will only count $872k against the cap in the final year of his rookie contract. Even if he falls out of the starting lineup next year, that's still a great salary for an experienced backup. They have no reason to cut him loose.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 100%

Cole Beasley - Signed through 2018

Like Dez, Beasley just got a new deal and isn't going anywhere anytime soon. He reminded everyone what an asset he is last week and should only keep that production going once Romo returns.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 100%

Devin Street - Signed through 2017

There was talk during the offseason from some Cowboys insiders that Street was every bit as good as Terrance Williams. I haven't seen that on the field, and it's not like Williams has been lighting it up.

Street will get every opportunity to keep his job next year in camp and preseason. However, it's not hard to see Brice Butler, Lucky Whitehead, or some new face from the draft or even the current practice squad work their way up and force Street out. I'll give him a slight edge as the incumbent, but I think he'll be in a dogfight for his job.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 60%

Lucky Whitehead - Signed through 2017

We've not only seen Lucky get used more on offense lately but he rewarded the team's trust with a big kickoff return against the Eagles. He has special skills and won't be easy to let go. Anyone near the bottom of the roster can't be too much of a lock, but if he keeps showing than Whitehead could all but secure his spot before the season's over.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 75%

Brice Butler - Signed through 2016

The Cowboys have Butler's original rookie contract having traded for him with Oakland. He is a cheap option with experience and has even shown up in a few games for Dallas. He will likely compete with Street for a roster spot next offseason, and I think he has a great shot at making it.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 50%

TIGHT ENDS

Jason Witten - Signed through 2017

Witten's last game as a Cowboy, barring injury, will be because he's retiring. There's no sign of that from Jason in at least the next few seasons.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 100%

Gavin Escobar - Signed through 2016

Drafting Escobar made a lot of sense if you were preparing for the future without Witten, or if you planned on getting him plenty of work in the receiving games. Neither of these appear to have been in the Cowboys' plans, making that pick pretty questionable in retrospect.

Escobar should return to play out his rookie deal. I'm leaving out a slight chance, though, that Dallas looks to move him to a team needing a starting tight end that could be enticed by Escobar's athleticism. They could then look to add a more balanced player with better blocking skills, or just stick with James Hanna, moving forward.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 90%

James Hanna - 2016 Unrestricted Free Agent

Hanna's in a tough spot as he enters free agency. He's done well when called upon here but hasn't been given enough opportunities to show his stuff. Dallas likely values him more than any other NFL team will, which could help him to at least find work.

The issue will be Hanna's asking price and ambition. He's likely going to have to take a minimal deal for Dallas to keep him, given that he'd be no better than the number-three player on the depth chart. If he willing to accept a low salary and a lesser role here for fear of what could happen on the open market? Only he knows.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 50%

Geoff Swaim - Signed through 2018

The seventh-round rookie will at least be back for another offseason and has shown solid potential. I imagine he will be at least the fourth tight end, if not the third, next season.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 75%



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room

Sean Martin

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Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room 1

The Dallas Cowboys are coming off their most impressive win of the season, keeping playoff hopes alive on the road with a 27-20 victory at the Philadelphia Eagles. Entering the hostile home of the defending Super Bowl champions with three previous road losses already on their record, the Cowboys performance on Sunday night was truly about getting back to their roots. In their second week with Marc Colombo as the Offensive Line Coach, the Cowboys rushed for 171 yards and protected Dak Prescott very well. It was revealed after the game that Frederick was on a coaches headset with Colombo and his new assistant Hudson Houck.

Jane Slater on Twitter

Travis Frederick just told @BenRogers on @1053thefan that Marc Columbo has him on a coaches headset now helping him and Hudson Houck. That's a smart move from Columbo. Smartest guy on the line

The anchor of the Cowboys offensive line since being drafted in 2013, Frederick is regarded as the smartest linemen on the team. It's his mental edge that's made up for a slight lack of size at the position, regarded as one of the worst first round picks in his draft because of this oversight.

Not only is Frederick a welcome addition to the Cowboys brain trust at offensive line, but he did receive some great news on his battle with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) that's kept him out this season. Frederick was placed on injured reserve on October 6th, announcing publicly his GBS diagnosis on August 22nd.

Frederick has a long way to go before he's playing football again, not eligible to do so until week 14 at home against the Eagles. Regaining feeling in his hands is about the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee getting as healthy as possible away from football. If a return to the Cowboys is possible through his recovery, the team would of course welcome Frederick.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Travis Frederick regains sensation in his hands: "There is some light at the end of the tunnel" https://t.co/wvQhB6KUQp

What Frederick has gained in upper body strength, he must remain patient for in the lower body. While pointing out that over 95% of patients make a full recovery from GBS, Frederick is still waiting to feel sensations in his feet.

The Cowboys have been optimistic that Frederick's condition was caught early enough for a full recovery to be probable.

Dallas' schedule doesn't get any easier following their uplifting win. Returning to the site of last year's demoralizing loss at the Falcons, Frederick likely wishes he could make a miraculous return just a bit more this week.

To make matters worse, Left Tackle Tyron Smith did not practice on Wednesday due to back spasms. It's unknown if rookie Connor Williams will reclaim his starting left guard spot on Sunday, or if Xavier Su'a-Filo has earned another opportunity.

Despite the patchwork nature of a Cowboys offensive line once regarded as the best in the league, and still vital to the entire team's success, Dallas has an abundance of hope that Sunday in Atlanta can be much better than 2017. This starts with Frederick's strength to fight GBS and attempt to rejoin his teammates, wisely given some added game day influence on them by Colombo.

If elevating their level of play up front was all it took for the Cowboys to play up to their potential and pull off an upset on prime time last week, the NFC East is certainly still within reach for a team that must now sustain the level of play on offense to match what this defense has given all season.

Tell us what you think about "Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room" 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 Playoff Scenarios; Week 11 Impact Games

Jess Haynie

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Dak Prescott, Redskins

We've reached Week 11 and the playoff picture is continuing to be unveiled. Most of the NFC has seven games to go, and there's still a lot of ways each week can impact the overall landscape.

The Rams and Saints are the clear runaway teams in the conference this year. After them, though, a lot of up for grabs both in division races and the Wild Card spots.

We're not including Detroit and Tampa Bay, both 3-6, given the strong unlikelihood that they will turn things around. Detroit is the worst team in a stacked NFC North and will likely keep losing, and a head-to-head loss to the Cowboys will be tough to overcome. The Bucs can't decide on a quarterback right now and are going nowhere.

If the season ended today, these would be your NFC playoff standings:

  1. Los Angeles Rams (9-1)
  2. New Orleans Saints (8-1)
  3. Chicago Bears (6-3)
  4. Washington Redskins (6-3)
  5. Carolina Panthers (6-3)
  6. Minnesota Vikings (5-3-1)
    ----------------------------------
  7. Green Bay Packers (4-4-1)
  8. Atlanta Falcons (4-5)
  9. Seattle Seahawks (4-5)
  10. Dallas Cowboys (4-5)
  11. Philadelphia Eagles (4-5)

TIEBREAKERS

  • The Bears are ahead of the Redskins thanks to a better record against NFC opponents.
  • The Falcons are ahead of the Seahawks and Cowboys thanks to a superior record against NFC opponents.
  • The Seahawks are ahead of the Cowboys thanks to a head-to-head victory.
  • The Cowboys are ahead of the Eagles thanks to a head-to-head victory.
  • The Eagles' tiebreaker loss to Dallas, because it occurs within the division, drops them below the other 4-5 NFC teams automatically. Their head-to-head win over the Falcons this year is invalidated.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how winning the NFC East would likely be Dallas only road to the playoffs. That is still the case; the Cowboys are three games behind the Panthers (they lose in a tie because of their head-to-head loss) and two games behind the Vikings for the Wild Card spots.

It will be much easier for Dallas to catch Washington, who are more lucky than good with their 6-3 record, than either Carolina or Minnesota.  The Cowboys can still hang a loss on the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day, plus Washington has both games with the Eagles left to play.

Those opportunities are further down the road, though. For now, let's see how the Week 11 schedule can help improve the Cowboys playoff positioning:

Green Bay Packers @ Seattle Seahawks

With a head-to-head loss to Seattle this year, Dallas needs the Seahawks to keep losing. Both teams are currently 4-5, and the Cowboys don't need that tiebreaker hanging over them at the end of the year.

But a Seattle loss means a Green Bay win, and that doesn't do much to help the Cowboys either. The Packers's tie gives them a slight edge on the 4-5 teams, and that advantage could keep them ahead of Dallas the rest of the way.

You could argue that the Packers are a team more likely to make a late-season push than the Seahawks, so a Green Bay loss here could ultimately benefit the Cowboys more than Seattle. It really  comes down to which team, between the Packers and Seahawks, you have more faith in the rest of the way.

Dallas Cowboys @ Atlanta Falcons

This is obviously a huge game for both teams. Both are 4-5 and trying to stay in the conversation, and a loss here could be a death knell for either. It would also create a head-to-head tiebreaker for the winner over the loser; essentially a two-game swing.

The Cowboys won their first road game all season last week in Philadelphia. They have some good vibes and momentum headed into Atlanta, who are coming off an ugly loss to the Browns.

Will Dallas ride their positive wave for another week, or will the Falcons be hungrier and enjoy returning home? The answer could be season-changing for both teams.

Houston Texans @ Washington Redskins

The Texans have won six straight and the Cowboys hope they can keep it going. A Washington loss, coupled with a Dallas win in Atlanta, would narrow the gap between them to just one game. It would also make next week's Thanksgiving matchup in Dallas a chance for the Cowboys to pull even for the NFC East lead.

As I said before, the Redskins aren't as good as their 6-3 record indicates. They have only a +1 point differential in 2018, having scored just one point more than their opponents all year. Comparatively, the Cowboys are a +10 despite the losing record.

A few weeks ago, the Redskins got pounded 43-19 by the New Orleans Saints. The Texans are arguably the next-best team they've played this year. Hopefully, we'll see a similar result.

Carolina Panthers @ Detroit Lions

The Panthers' slipping would be nice for the Cowboys, though they'd have to fall hard the rest of the way for Dallas to catch up in the standings. With the Cowboys having a head-to-head win over the Lions, a Detroit win here wouldn't hurt us nearly as much as a Carolina loss helps.

Philadelphia Eagles @ New Orleans Saints

New Orleans appears set on being one of the top two seeds in the NFC this year, which puts them well out of Dallas' range. As such, an Eagles loss is clearly better for the Cowboys in terms of our own playoff positioning.

Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears

The Packers and Vikings are both slightly easier to catch than the Bears. The best scenario for Dallas is for Chicago to keep winning and take the NFC North, hanging losses on their division rivals on the way and making things easier for the Cowboys in the Wild Card hunt.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Los Angeles Rams

This one is almost irrelevant from Dallas' perspective. The Rams will probably clinch their division soon and should have a first-round bye. But the Chiefs are in the other conference, so there's absolutely nothing to be gained by them losing.



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Game Notes

#ATLvsDAL: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction

Kevin Brady

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Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

This week's gambling preview focuses on the Cowboys week 11 opponent, the Atlanta Falcons. Dallas beat the now 4-5 Eagles last Sunday to improve their own record to 4-5. Atlanta lost on the road to Cleveland last week to drop their record to 4-5 on the season.

It's an 8-8 league, isn't it?

Dallas returns to the scene of the 2017 crime this Sunday, traveling to Atlanta where Chaz Green and Dak Prescott were destroyed almost exactly one year ago. Let's take a look at the line and the quality of these teams to see which way it could go.

The Line

Cowboys +3, O/U 48 points. 

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas saved their season on the road last Sunday night, defeating the Philadelphia Eagles and getting right back in the thick of things in the NFC East race. Still, we can't simply ignore what the other 8 games of data have told us about the Cowboys and their offensive quality.

The addition of Amari Cooper has clearly helped the offense, opening up the passing game a bit and allowing for Dak Prescott to have a reliable "number one" receiver. The team's results overall have been mixed the first two games of the Cooper-era, but he has been consistently good in both match-ups.

Defensively the Cowboys continued to impress last week, though "cornerback opposite of Byron Jones" is quickly becoming a potential need. Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith stole the show last Sunday, and both the present and the future of the Cowboys' linebacking corps is strong. It could be argued the Cowboys have yet to see a passing attack like the one Atlanta brings, however, making Sunday a big test for them defensively.

Atlanta Falcons

Similar to the Cowboys, Atlanta has been very much up-and-down this season. In a way, though, they are just the opposite-day Cowboys, with their offense putting up insane numbers most weeks and their banged up defense often letting them down.

Though it looked like they were turning it around in recent weeks, Atlanta had probably their most disappointing loss in quite some time, losing at Cleveland to the young Browns. Still, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones lead a prolific passing attack which can strike fear in any defense.

Byron Jones and company will have their hands full with the Falcons' cast of skill players on Sunday, and as usual, stopping their passing attack will all begin up front with the pass rush. Hopefully Randy Gregory can build on his week 10 performance to produce even more results this week.

Trends

  • Surprisingly, the score total has now hit the over 4 of the Cowboys' last 6 games.
  • The Cowboys are 2-5 against the spread their last 7 games against the Falcons.
  • The Cowboys are also 2-4 against the spread their last games at Atlanta.
  • Dallas is just 1-4 straight up on the road this season.
  • The score total has gone over 4 of Atlanta's last 5 home games.
  • The Falcons are just 2-5 against the spread their last 7 games.

Prediction

Who the hell knows, man.

This team is incredibly difficult to project week to week, probably about as volatile as they've been since all those 8-8 seasons. This line started at Cowboys +4.5 and has since moved down to just +3, meaning they are valued as a pick 'em on a neutral field.

Given how inconsistent, yet talented, both teams are this line feels exactly right. I'll take the Cowboys and the points because why not? I expect this to be a tight game throughout, and could come down to the kicking game in the fourth quarter.



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