The Cowboys have traditionally gone into the regular season with four safeties, which has made it more puzzling why going into training camp, they only have three: Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier and Jeff Heath. Byron Jones, one of last year's starting safeties, was switched back to his original corner spot. While that was a great move for the cornerback group, it created a huge hole at safety.
It seemed likely Dallas would sign one in free agency, but March came and went and the Cowboys didn't sign one. Despite there being quality names available, the Cowboys chose not to try their hands.
The next logical step was to address the need in the draft. There were plenty of quality safeties, or even corners who could switch to the position. After 256 picks, Dallas had nine of their own. None of them were a safety.
It's been reported that the team intends to add another safety at some point. There are a few routes the team can go, but it's not just a matter of who the player is, but how the Cowboys get him.
Sign a Free Agent Safety
The team currently sits on about $8 million in cap space, which may not seem like much but might be enough to get a quality player for an agreeable price. The most frequently heard names are Eric Reid, Kenny Vaccaro and Tre Boston. All three all have plenty to offer, and would make the team's depth better, and bring a sigh of relief going into the summer.
Eric Reid is the most talented of the bunch, who would actually come in and potentially be up for the starting spot. However, he is currently in the middle of a collusion case against the NFL, claiming he hasn't been signed to a team as a result of his kneeling for the national anthem. Given this and Jerry Jones's stance on the pregame kneeling, this isn't a likely pairing.
Tre Boston had a great season in 2017, with five interceptions and eight passes deflected. It's puzzling that he not only made it to free agency, but that he's still available. He may be searching for a long-term deal after his one-year prove-it deal with the Chargers worked out so well. Tre Boston may have to wait and see if another team gets desperate.
Kenny Vaccaro makes plenty of sense. Not only did the Cowboys have interest in drafting Vaccaro back in the 2013 NFL Draft, but it was reported that the Cowboys tried to trade for him last season. His skills have diminished over the last few seasons, but he would be great in rotation. He probably isn't a starter any more, but he's only 27 and has plenty left to offer.
The Cowboys just got done with one position change with Byron Jones, but what if they want to switch another? While this seems like the unlikeliest scenario, it has been brought up that Chidobe Awuzie, last year's second round pick, could play safety.
Chidobe Awuzie played fantastic once he was given the starting spot last season, and it looked as if he's going to be the number one corner, but his tackling skills and ability to play all over may make him an option to switch to safety.
Truthfully, I think the Cowboys like a cornerback group featuring Awuzie, Byron Jones and Jourdan Lewis, lead by secondary coach, Kris Richard. I also know the Cowboys won't be afraid to switch a player out of position if they feel it's what's best for the team and gives them the best chance to win. Don't sleep on this option just yet.
Undrafted Free Agent
The Cowboys didn't draft a single safety. However, they signed three undrafted free agents who all play the position: Kameron Kelly, Tyree Robinson and Kyle Queiro. One of the three have a great opportunity to make the team despite not being picked. This looks like the likeliest way the team will go.
Kameron Kelly was surprisingly not drafted out of San Diego State. He was expected to be a day three selection, or possibly go as high as the fourth round. He's 6'2" 205 pounds and has the flexibility to play both safety and corner. He plays well in coverage and is a solid tackler despite his lack of speed. Kelly looks like the possible favorite to take the fourth spot.
Tyree Robinson is like Kameron Kelly in size. He's 6'3" 200 pounds out of Oregon. He's not the greatest tackler, but plays well in zone coverage. He has the size you want in a safety, but he needs a bit more developing before he's ready, and is likely to be a practice squad player.
Kyle Queiro comes from Northwestern and plays like a linebacker. He's 6'3" 220 pounds, and has played both the up and down safety spots. His skills are much like Kavon Frazier, and he's like a new type of safety/linebacker hybrid such as Mark Barron or Deone Bucannon. He plays well in zone coverage, but is not as refined in man like Kameron Kelly. If he doesn't make the transition to safety, he looks like he could be a good linebacker project.
Finally, what you've probably been waiting for me to get to -- the Earl Thomas to Dallas scenario is probably never going to be dropped until both sides definitively say it's not happening. However, it almost makes too much sense to NOT do it.
In 2019, Earl Thomas will be a free agent, and at that point he can go to Dallas of his own free will. Seattle would lose him for nothing. Earl Thomas has made clear his love for the Seahawks but would also love to play for his favorite team growing up. If the Seahawks want to avoid losing Thomas for nothing, they need to trade him this year.
If the Cowboys are able to trade for Thomas, they would have to give up either a reasonably high draft pick, like a third, or a late round pick plus a player Seattle is interested in. This is most Cowboys fans' favorite possibility, and would be a great add for Dallas.
Thomas will be 30 next May, and there's no telling what his value is. He was an All-Pro a season ago, so his skills haven't diminished and his price hasn't been affected. If an Earl Thomas trade can happen, it should happen. The Seahawks need to get younger and save some money, and the Cowboys have a squad that's ready to compete now. This might not be the likeliest way to go, but it would be the best.
How Cowboys Could Benefit From Randy Gregory’s Suspension
Randy Gregory is back! His suspension is officially over and he will be able to join the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard, California when training camp gets underway less than a week from now.
Speculation has already started as to what this could mean for the Dallas Cowboys defense this season, and shockingly expectations are rather high for a player who hasn't stepped foot on the field in over a year. But, that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to focus on Gregory's mess of a contract, because it is rather interesting.
Randy Gregory was signed to a four-year contract after being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second-round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Gregory's rookie deal was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2018 season, but his multiple suspensions have now changed that expiration date.
You see, Gregory has only played in a total of 14 games in his career, 12 as a rookie and two in Year 2. His third year in the NFL was completely wiped out due to his year-long suspension. If you were to add that all up, it equates to just one accured season in the NFL. Remember that, because it could have a huge impact on his contract down the road.
What all of this means is that the Cowboys can pretty much stretch out Gregory's contract now that they are three years in on the deal and have only gotten one accured season out of the agreement. That basically means they can push his contract back a year, meaning his 2017 salary ($731,813) gets pushed back to 2018, his 2018 salary ($955,217) gets pushed to 2019. That would essentially make him a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) in 2020.
Or does it?
Depending on how the Dallas Cowboys handled paying Randy Gregory during his suspension could actually make him an Exclusive Rights Free Agent (EFA). This is a similar situation in which David Irving found himself in after the 2017 season. The Cowboys placed a second-round tender on him in order to secure his services for another season, albeit at a $2.91 million price tag.
As you can see, the Dallas Cowboys pretty much hold all the cards when it comes to Randy Gregory's contract situation. It's all a little confusing, but that's what makes it such a unique and interesting situation.
Of course, the Cowboys could decide to extend Gregory early if he completely dominates upon his return this season. It's highly doubtful though considering his past suspensions, but still technically a possibility. If it does happen, you can go ahead and ignore everything I've written previously.
Earl Thomas: Age is Just a Number Part II
Yesterday, I wrote a piece attempting to assuage the fears that many in Cowboys Nation have about handing a contract extension out to Earl Thomas, who is 29 years old as we enter the 2018 NFL season.
In the comment section, a reader posed a very good question that is the basis for the rest of this article:
It's a great question that certainly required some research, but Cowboys fans all across the world should be encouraged by my findings.
Just to refresh, here are the players we looked at as favorable comparisons to Earl Thomas at this point in his career. I searched Pro Football Reference for safeties who had at least three All-Pro First Team selections and at least six Pro Bowl appearances.
The average age of the players listed at the time when they reached their third All-Pro was 31 years old. I'm removing Deion Sanders and Roger Wehrli from the equation as most of their work was done at cornerback.
Let's look at a chart that outlines what these guys careers looked like at age 29 and beyond to get a better picture. Remember, Earl Thomas already has three All-Pro selections and six Pro Bowls. Many of these guys didn't reach those kind of accolades until their 30s.
The first thing I noticed as I looked into this question is that only two players had three or more All-Pro First Team selections prior to age 29, like Earl Thomas has. Those players were Rod Woodson and Ronnie Lott. Every other player on this list didn't hit their third All-Pro selection until age 29 or later.
Only one player reached his sixth Pro Bowl prior to his age 29 season, that player is Ronnie Lott, who many NFL Analysts consider to be the greatest safety of all-time. Most of the players didn't achieve their third All-Pro selection until their age 29 season or later. Earl Thomas reached his third All-Pro selection at age 25.
Here's a hot take for you: Earl Thomas, when it's all said and done could be considered the greatest safety of all-time. I'll just leave that there to marinate and if a trade does happen, we'll come back to that.
Back to the chart.
Another thing I want to point out is that none of these players were 100% healthy. Such is the life in the NFL, especially as you get older, but they were available for at least 14 games a majority of their seasons aged 29 or later. Health is an unpredictable animal in the NFL, but the safety position allows for much more longevity than many other positions. And as the chart depicts, it's a position that ages well.
So, as you can see in the chart, players who were highly productive prior to their age 29 season were also highly productive for several seasons after. These players went onto average almost seven more years in the league from their age 29 seasons.
Most players continued to average a healthy amount of interceptions. The player that saw the biggest decline from the early part of his career to the post-29 part of his career was Brian Dawkins. The former Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos safety went from three interceptions per season prior to 29 to 1.9 interceptions per season 29 and after.
When it comes to the safety position, the elite seem to be able to get the most of their bodies and their abilities and can prolong their prime. The position relies as much on intelligence and awareness as it does quickness and athleticism. Earl Thomas has the mental capacity to play the game for many more years and there's been zero evidence to suggest that he is experiencing any physical decline.
At the rate of his career that he's on, Earl Thomas is destined for the Hall of Fame. He's one of the faces of the Legion of Boom defense that propelled the Seattle Seahawks into the elite category of teams in the early part of this decade.
If and when an Earl Thomas trade does occur, don't sweat an extension for Thomas.
Thomas' credentials put him in an elite group of players who played the game for a very long time and there's no reason to believe he won't continue to do so.
The Dallas Cowboys aren't that far off from having a Super Bowl contending defense built in the image of the Seattle Seahawks. Going to get the All-Pro, future Hall of Fame safety is the final piece to the to the Dallas Cowboys completing construction on "Doomsday III."
Everything else is there for the Dallas Cowboys, now all they have to do is: Go. Get. Earl!
Noah Brown Takes to Twitter to Call Out ESPN
ESPN has long been considered "The Worldwide Leader in Sports," and for a long time that title was justified. If you wanted your national sports news, where did you turn to but the cable sports channel to watch that day's episode of SportsCenter. But over the last few years, it's become more and more clear that it's "The Worldwide Leader" in name only.
The ratings are dropping and the network has had to make a lot of business decisions as it relates to much of their on-air talent over the last several years. With their latest under 25 starting 22 -- ahem, troll job -- they seem to have finally come to terms that they are basically First Take.
Noah Brown put it best in his reaction to the ESPN "Insider" voting that led to Saquon Barkley being named to the starting 22 ahead of Ezekiel Elliott. Brown, Elliott's teammate when both were at Ohio State University, came to his defense upon seeing the list.
43 of our NFL Insiders voted. Here's their best starting roster under the age of 25.
I'm sure there could be debates about different positions on the squad. Personally, quarterback is one where an argument could be made for Carson Wentz or Dak Prescott over DeShaun Watson, but that's for another time.
But to have a rookie, who has never played a down in the NFL ahead of the NFL's league leader in rushing for 2016, Ezekiel Elliott, is laughable.
The fact that they had 43, again I use the quotations, "Insiders" vote on this and Ezekiel Elliott wasn't listed as one of the two running backs just shows you how far they've come as a network.
Let's remember that Ezekiel Elliott has averaged a touchdown a game -- receiving and rushing -- in his 25-game career. No running back has more rushing yards than Elliott does over the last two years, including 2017 league rushing leader, Kareem Hunt. No running back has more rushing touchdowns than Elliott's 22 rushing TDs.
Ezekiel Elliott's yards per carry is a healthy 4.63. Todd Gurley sits at 3.93. No player with more than 1,800 rushing yards over the last two years has a better yards per attempt than Ezekiel Elliott.
I get that you'd vote Todd Gurley in there, but to not have Ezekiel Elliott, arguably the game's best running back on your Under 25 starting 22 just makes you look like Skip Bayless or Stephen A. Smith. Not a sports journalism entity worthy of people throwing money at for "Insider" access.
I won't say that I never or will never watch ESPN, because where else am I gonna go for Monday Night Football, Todd Archer, or the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championships? When I'm at my father-in-law's, I'll watch SportsCenter first thing in the morning, because it will be on and you don't change another man's television.
"The Worldwide Leader," however, loses credibility when they promote a list like this that has such a glaring omission.
Perhaps, maybe the goal wasn't to put out an accurate list. Maybe the goal was to get us talking about their list, just like when NFL Network releases their Top 100 players list. Like they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity.
This troll job from ESPN has certainly gotten them some publicity, or should I say, notoriety.
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