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Cowboys’ Job Security: RB & O-Line

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Blog - Cowboys' Job Security: RB & O-Line

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.

Yesterday we discussed quarterbacks, receivers, and tight ends. We now move to the rest of the offense with the running backs, fullback, and offensive line.

RUNNING BACKS

Darren McFadden - Signed through 2016

The question at this point isn't if McFadden will return, but at what price? If he maintains his current production through the end of the year, McFadden could finish anywhere between 1,000 and 1,400 yards for the season. His 2016 salary is set for just $1.8 million, with a few incentives but nothing major.

McFadden could try to renegotiate and he'd have a fair bit of leverage. The good news is that Dallas will likely meet his price so long as its reasonable, nothing over $5 million per year. Barring an injury or sudden drop-off during the second half of this season, I have no doubt that McFadden will be back.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 90%

Lance Dunbar - 2016 Unrestricted Free Agent

Dunbar was lucky to get in a few highly productive games before going down with injury. It at least keeps the conversation going as to his value, otherwise he wouldn't have a prayer after years of being a non-factor and injury prone.

Dallas may offer him a minimal deal to come back from the knee surgery and keep his career going. However, they also signed a Dunbar-like player recently in Trey Williams. They may be preparing for life without him, or just looking for a guy to fill his shoes until next season. Only they know for sure.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 33%

Christine Michael - Signed through 2016

Michael makes a great insurance policy against McFadden's injury prone history. His running style fits our scheme. I see no reason he won't return and perhaps be in a position to replace McFadden after 2016.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 100%

Rod Smith - Signed through 2017

The rookie has yet to get a carry in Dallas but they thought enough of him to claim him off waivers from the Seahawks. Hard to say what will happen with him once we hit the offseason. That decision will likely be based more on practice performance than anything happens in a game.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 50%

Trey Williams - 2016 Exclusive Rights Free Agent

As already said, Williams has a similar size and style to Dunbar. Dallas picked him off Washington's practice squad a few weeks ago. They have interest and, like with Rod Smith, probably won't see enough in games to make a decision on. It will come down to practice and the desire to see what Williams can do after a full offseason with the team.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 50%

FULLBACK

Tyler Clutts - 2016 Unrestricted Free Agent

Dallas tried to go another direction last year, bringing in Jed Collins and Ray Agnew in free agency two months before finally re-signing Clutts. They will likely try again, but you have to leave the possibility open that he'll return, but I doubt Clutts survives a second offseason.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 10%

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

Tyron Smith - Signed through 2023

Look at that year again. Yeah...

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 100%

Doug Free - Signed through 2017

Free may be the most interesting guy on today's list. He has two contract years left and will count $5.5 and $6.5 million in each of those seasons. Dallas could cut him for $2.5 million in cap space this offseason, or for $4 million in savings if they spread the hit over two years (making him a June 1st cut). If they wait until 2017 to cut him, it's $5 million in savings.

Free is what he is, a strong run blocker with limitations in pass protection and a propensity for false starts. He's certainly adequate and not really overpaid for the services he provides. The question will be if Dallas sees any upgrades in the draft or free agency, or perhaps even in house. More on that below with Chaz Green.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 75%

Chaz Green - Signed through 2018

Green is a key factor here. He was a third-round pick last May and will be returning to action in the next few weeks after being on PUP. If Green can get in some time during a blowout (one way or the other) or from injury, Dallas may see enough that they could look to make him the front runner in a competition with other rookies or free agents.

More likely, and why I've got Free at 75% to return, is that Green will come back in competition with him. I think we'll wind up with both guys on the team, one of them as the swing tackle and the other starting. Dallas would probably eat Free's salary at that point and look to cut him in 2017 for the far greater cap relief.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 100%

Charles Brown - 2016 Unrestricted Free Agent

Dallas finally landed on Brown after much concern with their swing tackle position as the preseason ended. It's hard to know how much interest they have moving forward. Brown turns 29 next April so I imagine they'll look to younger options, viewing him as a one-year band-aid.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 10%

GUARDS & CENTERS

Travis Frederick - Signed through 2016

The Cowboys get one more season before they have to give Frederick a nice payday. There's no question that they will look to lock him up for a long time. It may even come before the end of next season.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 100%

Zack Martin - Signed through 2017

We'll be saying the exact same thing about Martin next year that we are about Frederick today. He's a fixture.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 100%

La'el Collins - Signed through 2017

The future is now at left guard. Collins has taken over the job and, given the recent spark in the run game, is unlikely to be giving it back.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 100%

Ron Leary - 2016 Restricted Free Agent

While there's always a chance Dallas could try to retain Leary as a backup, I just don't see it. They will likely let him move on to try and find some work as a starter, and I think he will given the notoriety of having been part of this line the last few years. I doubt Dallas will even give him a RFA tender and just let him seek a future elsewhere.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 10%

Mackenzy Bernadeau - 2016 Unrestricted Free Agent

He's enjoyed several years as a highly-paid backup, and has been a good insurance policy for the Cowboys at both guard and center. Turning 30 in January, Bernadeau could still find work as a starter in the league. Dallas will likely let him test the open market, but I could see him coming back to the same backup role if he doesn't get any offers.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 25%
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Thanks for reading! I'll be hitting the defense and special teams position this weekend. Stay tuned!


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!

Dallas Cowboys

4 Depth Players to Keep in Mind on Dallas Cowboys Roster

Sean Martin

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4 Depth Players to Keep in Mind on Dallas Cowboys Roster 2

Maneuvering through the NFL offseason is a funny task for committed football fans, especially those of Cowboys Nation. Prior to the start of each new season bringing hope for all 32 clubs to reach the Super Bowl, every NFL roster enters a tumultuous state. Talent will be added through free agency and the Draft, while promising players will also be shuffled around through practice squads and training camp releases.

All of that to say, despite criticism for appearing stagnant so far this offseason on the heels of a 9-7 campaign, nobody knows what the Dallas Cowboys will actually look like in 2018. This is why I've decided to feature four under the radar players on the current Cowboys' roster below, all of which provide depth at positions of need.

4 Depth Players to Keep in Mind on Dallas Cowboys Roster

Dallas Cowboys TE Blake Jarwin

TE Blake Jarwin

An undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma State, Blake Jarwin found his way onto the Cowboys' practice squad for 2017.

Jarwin showed enough promise early in his Cowboys career to earn fans on the coaching staff and throughout the organization, as he was promoted to the active roster in week eight. The Philadelphia Eagles were reportedly in position to snatch Jarwin from the Cowboys - who protected their versatile tight end.

The TE position remains unsettled for the Cowboys in 2018 and beyond, with Jason Witten's production clearly declining. The Cowboys will also be on their third TE coach in three seasons this year, transitioning to Doug Nussmeier.

Nussmeier brings no previous experience as a TE coach specifically, meaning the team's overall philosophy on the position will still be determined heavily by Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan. Favoring tight ends that can block in the running game over those with higher upside as receiving threats, Jarwin is a name to keep in mind as a tenacious blocker that plays with sound technique.

4 Depth Players to Keep in Mind on Dallas Cowboys Roster 1

Dallas Cowboys WR Lance Lenoir, QB Cooper Rush

WR Lance Lenoir

This past summer, I had the chance to interview Dallas Cowboys WR Lance Lenoir following his signing with the team out of Western Illinois. In that interview, Lenoir shows off the confidence he took into training camp as a receiver that would have a hard time making the team.

By the end of this long season, the Cowboys went from being perceived as deep and talented at WR to in need of new play makers on the outside.

Perhaps pressing a bit through the preseason, Lenoir did provide practice depth as a reliable pass catcher and punt returner, struggling on special teams in live action and ultimately spending the season on the practice squad.

The 2018 NFL Draft features a deep class of talented receivers, and the Cowboys would be wise to draft one with real potential that can push up the depth chart in a hurry. As far as current options on the roster to fill this position, WR Lance Lenoir can't be overlooked as an athletic target with NFL size and strength - entering his second season in Dallas.

DT Datone Jones

A mid-season acquisition from the Green Bay Packers, Datone Jones flashed as a defensive tackle in the limited opportunities he received. A five-year league veteran, Jones showed the ability to play with power and leverage at the 1T position - a spot the Cowboys are thin at right now.

Jones' versatility also suited him well, playing with impressive burst and disruptive ability as a pass-rushing 3T.

The addition of one more starting caliber DT could truly put this Dallas defensive front over the edge. With how much Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli believes in his DL rotation though, players like Datone Jones can prove immensely valuable.

DT Lewis Neal

Similarly to Jones, Lewis Neal is a fan-favorite defensive tackle for the Cowboys. Neal has absolutely earned the attention he's gotten, a UDFA out of LSU that plays the 1T position better than expected given his size.

The Cowboys have gotten by in recent years with smaller, more mobile players at this interior DT spot, with Neal being their latest post-draft steal to make an impact.

Lewis Neal appeared in seven games for the Cowboys this season, finding ways to help those around him by anchoring the line of scrimmage and disengaging with active hands and a quick base. This is a player that should be a valuable part of the team's depth on the defensive line.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The year-to-year nature of the NFL can be a wonderful thing (unfortunately, ask any Eagles fan right now). Part of this reality is understanding that none of the players listed above may actually stick with the Dallas Cowboys for 2018.

Next week's NFL Scouting Combine will kick "draft season" into full gear however, as the Cowboys will be working to better understand their teams needs and how they can be addressed.

Jarwin, Lenoir, Jones, and Neal all contributed or showed the promise to do so at positions the Cowboys must improve at this season - warranting a closer look through this dull portion of the offseason.

Tell us what you think about "4 Depth Players to Keep in Mind on Dallas Cowboys Roster" 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 2018 Free Agents: RB Alfred Morris

Jess Haynie

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Alfred Morris

After two seasons of providing veteran depth for the Dallas Cowboys, running back Alfred Morris is about to be a free agent again. Does the 29-year-old still have value for the club, or will Dallas go with younger options in 2018?

Morris was signed in March of 2016. At the time, it was assumed he would be the backup to incumbent starter Darren McFadden and perhaps even split carries.

But a month later, Dallas drafted Ezekiel Elliott and drastically changed the landscape at the running back position.

If Alfred suddenly seemed expendable, that quickly changed in June when McFadden broke his elbow. Morris wound being the number-two back after all, but he was rarely used as Elliott immediately became the workhorse RB and held that role for all of his spectacular rookie season.

Last year, we all know what happened with Ezekiel Elliott. Morris became the primary RB during Zeke's suspension and had solid numbers, averaging 4.35 yards on his 99 carries during that six-week stretch.

By Week 16, though, not only had Zeke returned but Rod Smith had started to break out from the depth chart. In the Cowboys' pivotal game that week against the Seattle Seahawks, Alfred didn't even get a touch behind Elliott and Smith.

Alfred Morris

Dallas Cowboys RB Alfred Morris

Considering Smith's emergence last year, and him only being 26, it's easy to see why Dallas may not be looking to bring Alfred Morris back. They seem to have their one-two punch already set at the top of the RB depth chart.

What's more, Morris isn't likely to settle for a likely third-place role. He may not be interested in coming back to Dallas given the situation.

Thankfully for Alfred, he enters the free agent market with some good tape from 2017 showing that he can still produce. It's not a loaded crop of free agents this year and, despite his age, Morris could still find a good job somewhere. He's earned an opportunity to compete, if nothing else.

That opportunity likely won't come in Dallas, though. As I wrote about last month, the Cowboys have enough power already and need to add a speed option in their RB rotation.

That said, Alfred Morris spent the last two years giving Dallas good value for the money. He was a solid free agent pickup and his time as a Cowboy should be remembered fondly. At this point, though, I doubt that relationship will continue.


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Though Promising, We Need To Relax About Safety Kavon Frazier

Kevin Brady

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Evaluating The Future Of Kavon Frazier, Byron Jones, And The Safety Position

With the addition of former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard to the Cowboys' defensive coaching staff, fans are hoping that Dallas will create their own "Legion of Boom." Of course this is a lofty goal, but one worth pursuing nonetheless.

If the Cowboys are to recreate the Legion of Boom they will need their version of two vital pieces: Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.

The Seahawks defense works, in many ways, because of these two players. Thomas' ability to play centerfield and literally defend sideline to sideline gives the Seahawks the freedom to use Chancellor where he's best, as a box safety. Chancellor is a big, physical safety who defends the run effectively in the box and can blanket tight ends in man coverage with his size and athleticism.

These safeties are arguably the most critical pieces to the Legion of Boom, though having a shutdown corner in Richard Sherman certainly doesn't hurt.

Realizing Chancellor's importance, Cowboys fans are hoping that current safety Kavon Frazier can fulfill this role in Dallas. Since being drafted by the Cowboys in 2016 Frazier has made his home on Special Teams. As an impressive tackler in both punt and kick coverage, Frazier earned himself time at safety down the stretch of the 2017 season.

Kavon Frazier

S Kavon Frazier

All in all, Frazier played rather well. Against the Washington Redskins he stepped in and made a few splash plays at the line of scrimmage, causing Cowboys Nation to lose their minds. After that impressive Thursday night game, however, Kavon Frazier didn't really reach that same level of performance.

Frazier is still a liability when asked to cover, especially when asked to play as a two deep safety. He also struggles when taking angles at times, though playing downhill as a tackler is his best attribute. Frazier actually reminds me a bit of Barry Church, though over time Church became more refined in coverage than Frazier currently is.

Some have argued that Kavon Frazier's presence should stop the Cowboys from considering a first round safety. I would disagree, and actually believe that if Florida State's Derwin James is available, the Cowboys should consider making that pick.

If you could combine the athleticism and coverage abilities of Byron Jones with the physicality and "box safety" qualities of Kavon Frazier, you'd have a fantastic safety. Unfortunately, this isn't the Marvel Universe and we are left without any super heroes in the back-end.

Hopefully Kris Richard will figure out how to correctly place all of these pieces in the Dallas Cowboys secondary going forward.


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