The Dallas Cowboys clearly believe you can never have too many first-round talents on your offensive line. They added one more today.
Guard Jonathan Cooper, the seventh-overall pick in the 2013 draft, was signed by the Cowboys after a workout yesterday. Dallas will be his fourth team since entering the NFL and battling several injury issues.
Originally drafted by the Arizona Cardinals, Cooper broke his lower leg in preseason of his rookie year and was placed on Injured Reserve. He struggled to find his footing after that, starting just two games in 2014 and nine in 2015. Ongoing injury problems cost him practice time and eventually his starting job.
Cooper was traded to the Patriots last March as part of the deal for defensive star Chandler Jones. Foot issues hampered Cooper's ability to compete during training camp and he eventually lost out to younger prospects for the starting jobs. New England released him in October and he was claimed by the Cleveland Browns.
After starting in two games for Cleveland, Cooper was released to make room for the return of Alvin Bailey from a suspension. He cleared waivers and was a free agent before drawing interest from the Cowboys.
The Cowboys' interest in Jonathan Cooper is twofold. They have some immediate concerns with Ronald Leary battling some back pain and La'el Collins working his way back from the IR list. Cooper has starting experience and could rival Joe Looney as the primary backup at guard. He should certainly be an upgrade over Ryan Seymour, who was signed from the practice squad last week.
Dallas' interest likely extends beyond just the next few games. Just a few years ago, Cooper was the highest-drafted guard of the last three decades. Just check out what his former Arizona QB, Carson Palmer, said about him after Cooper was traded to the Patriots.
“I hated seeing him go. (He’s) extremely talented.”
That alone is nice to hear from a veteran like Palmer, but Carson didn't stop there. This description of Cooper's playing style should really get Cowboys fans intrigued.
“To see him move, especially on the screens and inside, he’s so athletic for how big he is,” Palmer said. “He’s not really tall, but he uses it to his advantage, because he gets low, and he plays with great leverage. He’s really long, so he doesn’t get reached. I really, really liked having the chance to play with him for a little bit.”
Not only does Cooper have talent but his style fits very well with what Dallas asks of its offensive guards. If he can finally stay healthy, Cooper has a chance to find a long-term role on the Cowboys depth chart.
The idea of first-round reclamation projects, particularly offensive linemen, is no foreign concept in Dallas. Several years ago, Marc Colombo seemed like an injury-plagued bust for the Chicago Bears. Like Cooper, Colombo found himself as a free agent in the middle of the season.
Dallas brought in Colombo late in 2005, helped him rehab, and he wound up starting 72 games at right tackle from 2006-2010. Now the Assistant Offensive Line Coach for the Cowboys, Colombo will likely have some good advice for Jonathan Cooper as he similarly tries to restore his career.
To make room for Cooper, Dallas will likely release the aforementioned Ryan Seymour.
Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstated, Will Join Team for Training Camp
The Dallas Cowboys patience with Defensive End Randy Gregory has paid off. Suspended for the better part of 2016 and all of 2017, Gregory has officially been reinstated to join the team for their 2018 training camp. The projected starter at RDE, Gregory will report to Oxnard with the rest of the team on July 25th.
From here, it will be all hard work for Gregory to reconnect with Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli and get his promising career back on track. The last time Gregory suited up for the Cowboys, he managed to sack Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz in a week 17 win. The Cowboys will be expecting much more of this from a player they've supported through multiple violations of the league's heavily criticized substance abuse policy.
Cowboys pass-rusher Randy Gregory's petition for reinstatement was not opposed, according to lawyer Daniel Moskowitz. He's back. "I've never been more proud of any individual in my life. I'm very excited for Randy and his daughter and the rest of the his family.
Among this support staff for Gregory were a number of teammates that wrote formal letters to the NFL as part of his bid for reinstatement. These last few days of preparation before the Cowboys are together again as a team will surely be uplifted by Gregory's presence.
They say no news is typically good news at this point in the offseason, something the Cowboys have come to realize far too often. Today's news shouldn't be confused with a pleasant surprise however, rather something the Cowboys were committed to in getting another premier pass rusher on the field.
Here is the NFL's official press release on their reinstatement of Randy Gregory:
Cowboys & DeMarcus Lawrence Fail to Reach New Contract
DeMarcus Lawrence will definitely be a Cowboy in 2018, but now the future beyond that remains in question. The Dallas Cowboys and their star defensive end did not agree to a long-term contract by today's deadline for franchise-tagged players.
According to NFL rules, teams had until 4:00 pm EST today to reach contract extensions with free agents who'd been assigned the franchise tag earlier this offseason. Players who did not get new deals will have to play the 2018 season on their one-year franchise tenders.
DeMarcus Lawrence and the Cowboys were unable to work out a long-term contract by today's deadline. Lawrence will play the 2018 season under a one-year franchise tag that will pay him $17.1 million
This does not mean Lawrence will be a free agent in 2019. The two parties can still discuss the contract in the months to come, but the deal cannot be made until after the end of the regular season.
Dallas also has the option of giving DeMarcus a second franchise tag next year. However, that would come at a considerably higher price for a second-straight season.
This year, Lawrence will still make plenty with one of the highest cap hits of any DE in the league. He earned the franchise tag last with 14.5 sacks in a breakout season.
Today's news may not really be a big deal in the long run. As long as Tank wants to stay in Dallas after this, the two sides now have over five months to keep talking and will hopefully agree on a new deal for 2019 and beyond.
There is risk on both sides, of course.
Lawrence's leverage could be less if his productions drops or he gets injured. On the other hand, his position could be even stronger with a second-straight year of strong play.
Now everyone, from the team to player to fans, is in wait-and-see mode until the end of the season.
Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make the Roster?
The Dallas Cowboys aren't short on numbers at wide receiver on their current 90-man roster. Looking to replace Dez Bryant and reshape their offense, the Cowboys will have to find the right group of pass catchers for Dak Prescott at their upcoming training camp.
The odd men out from this group will likely be the ones that can't sustain a consistent level of play, doing so across multiple units if needed. All ten receivers will have their flashes, but with only four being true locks to make the team, new Cowboys Wide Receivers Coach Sanjay Lal will be in on some tough decisions right away.
One such decision may be moving on from last year's seventh round pick Noah Brown out of Ohio State. Vouched for by former Buckeyes teammate Ezekiel Elliott thanks to his blocking ability on the outside, it may now be this strength in the run game and deficiency as a pass catcher that spells the end of Brown's run in Dallas.
Normally, a seventh round pick being on the roster bubble wouldn't be this noteworthy, but Brown clearly showed the potential to outplay this draft status as a rookie. Appearing in 13 games, Brown is a true X receiver, although not the dominant one the Cowboys are searching for.
Moving away from fielding a true number one receiver, the Cowboys did sign Allen Hurns to play this spot while prepared to spread the ball around to Williams, Beasley, and Gallup after that.
This leaves Thompson, Wilson, Cannon, Lenoir, McCay, Murdock, and Brown to prove their worth in other ways to make the roster. I've written plenty about the potential rookie Cedrick Wilson has, so I'll be expecting a strong showing from him to earn a role in the Cowboys offense.
Wilson's skill set could push a depth signing like Deonte Thompson off the team, although his ability to back up Cole Beasley/Tavon Austin on special teams is important. The same can be said about Lance Lenoir, who like Brown has the advantage over first year players given his trials through training camp and the preseason a year ago.
Long shots to make the team, Cannon, McCay, and Murdock fall just below this group -- and somewhere in the middle is Noah Brown.
Increasing his role on special teams as the season went on last year, Brown had fans throughout a coaching staff that is now drastically changed for 2018. From their shift to more speed on offense, to drafting of both Gallup and Wilson, calling Brown a fringe player on the Cowboys roster really sets up the fiery competition to come at wide receiver.
Should the Cowboys find a spot for Brown, one can only hope it means this new coaching staff has a clear plan for him to contribute on both offense and special teams outside of being a run blocker. A potential niche for Brown is his red zone ability, not afraid to put his body on the line for jump balls and fight through contact in his routes.
It won't be long until we sort out if this is enough to make the Cowboys as a wide receiver ahead of Quarterback Dak Prescott's third season.
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