The Dallas Cowboys have opened the 2017 season 2-2, a disappointment no matter how you slice it. For a team that only truly lost two regular season games all of last season (Week 17 doesn't count), to have lost two already has left some fans staggered. As you might guess, the overreaction has been strong.
If you're one of these frustrated fans, a quick look around the NFC should help you to calm down. The Cowboys are only one game back of the top teams in the conference, and really nobody in the NFC has stood out as a dominant performer.
Here's a quick look at the NFC standings:
- Atlanta Falcons (3-1)
- Carolina Panthers (3-1)
- Detroit Lions (3-1)
- Green Bay Packers (3-1)
- Los Angeles Rams (3-1)
- Philadelphia Eagles (3-1)
- Arizona Cardinals (2-2)
- Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
- Minnesota Vikings (2-2)
- New Orleans Saints (2-2)
- Seattle Seahawks (2-2)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2)
- Washington (2-2)
- Chicago Bears (1-3)
- San Francisco 49ers (0-4)
- New York Giants (0-4) <--- HA!
There's only one 4-0 team in the NFL right now, and they play in the AFC. That means Dallas is only one game back of the conference leaders and still very much in any and every conversation you want to have about playoff and championship contenders.
Not only are none of the NFC teams undefeated, but none have really stood out yet as significantly superior than the rest. Unlike the Kansas City Chiefs, who've not only won all of their games but looked fairly dominant in the process, the NFC's upper crust don't look much better than the 2-2 teams chasing them.
Also, let's not forget what the Cowboys have been dealing with to start this season. The uncertainty of Ezekiel Elliott's suspension has hung over every game. Plus, the Cowboys have been adjusting to new players at two offensive line spots.
On defense, David Irving has been suspended for weeks. Starting linebacker Anthony Hitchens has been injured, and then Sean Lee missed last week's game against the Rams. Cornerbacks Nolan Carroll and Chidobe Awuzie have been out since early in Week 2.
The Cowboys have clearly not been firing on all cylinders yet in 2017, but they also haven't been at full strength. As is becoming the norm in the modern NFL, the first few weeks of the season feel more like the final steps of preparation. Teams are still gelling, especially if guys missed time in preseason or late August injuries have forced new starters into the mix.
This week is clearly a big game as the Cowboys look to get back on track. They get one of those 3-1 NFC teams, the Packers, and a major opportunity to restore order. They can get back above .500, pick up a conference win, and hang a loss on one of their biggest threats in the NFC all in one week. It would also allow Dallas to go into their Week 6 bye with some positive feelings.
As the standings show, it's hardly a "must-win" game. However, it's one that will have a significant impact on how the Cowboys are perceived for the next two weeks. It's a home game against a fellow NFC contender; you have to win these if you want to be taken seriously.
Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal
At long last, the Dallas Cowboys have their first free agent addition of this offseason. Having lost starters Jonathan Cooper and Anthony Hitchens at left guard and linebacker respectively, the team has added depth at LB with Joe Thomas signing a two-year deal.
The 2018 season will actually mark Joe Thomas' second stint with the Dallas Cowboys, as he was signed to their practice squad in 2015. The team that signed Thomas out of South Carolina State following the 2014 draft, the Green Bay Packers, added Thomas back to their active roster for the 2015 season.
Source: Cowboys have agreed to a 2-year deal with free agent LB Joe Thomas. He visited the Cowboys today. Thomas has played in 42 games over the last three seasons with the Packers. He had a career-high 70 tackles in 2016.
Thomas has spent the last three seasons starting eight games for the Packers, recording 70 tackles and an interception in 2016.
A contingency plan of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith carrying the Cowboys for 16 games at LB requires adequate depth, which is exactly what the Cowboys are typically in the market for come free agency. Waiting longer than usual to make their first splash, the Cowboys absolutely need an addition like Thomas to perform better than last year's FA class.
Used in sub packages by the Packers while also playing special teams - where the Cowboys have lost core players in Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber - Thomas will have a great chance to impress two new Dallas coaches in Ben Bloom and Keith O'Quinn.
Terrance Williams Contract Creates 2018 Job Security
There's been a lot of talk about what the Dallas Cowboys will do at the receiver position this offseason. While there's a great divide on what the team should do with Dez Bryant, there's a fairly unanimous opinion that Dallas should find an upgrade over Terrance Williams. No matter where he ends up on the depth chart, though, Williams' contract should keep him on the roster in 2018.
Last offseason, Terrance signed a four-year, $17 million deal to stay in Dallas. Because we are now just in the second year of that deal, it is cost prohibitive against the salary cap to release or trade him.
Williams is scheduled to count $4.75 million against the 2018 cap. If Dallas were to cut him, it would accelerate his remaining guaranteed money and create $7.25 million in dead money this year. He would cost more against the cap off the roster than on it.
Even the June-1st provision doesn't help. Williams' dead money in 2018 drops to $4.75 million, which is a net zero against his existing cap hit. It would also push $2.5 million of dead money to 2019. There's no benefit there, and you lose an experienced player who knows your system.
If the Cowboys do like their WR depth enough to want to move on from Terrance, one option is to try to trade him. A trade would lower the cap penalty to $3.75 million and save $1 million. If he's traded after June 1st, it would save $3.5 million against this year's cap.
Of course, it takes two to tango in this scenario. Williams hasn't scored a touchdown since 2016 and has never proven he can take on a significant role in an offense. He was serviceable when Dez Bryant and Jason Witten commanded more attention, but he's a low-end WR2 at best and many teams likely wouldn't want him in their top 2-3 receivers.
Perhaps something could happen during training camps or preseason, when injuries may make other teams desperate. Then again, something could happen in Dallas that makes them less willing to part with Terrance.
As it stands, it seems unlikely that Terrance Williams won't be a Cowboy in 2018. And really, that's not bad thing.
Even if he gets pushed down the depth chart, Terrance would be a good insurance policy against injuries or any other issues that could happen between now and September. $4.75 million is more than you'd like to pay your fourth WR but it's a one-year problem.
If the Cowboys do add more WR talent this offseason, there is a trickle-down effect that strengthens the entire club. Williams, with his experience, is an upgrade over Brice Butler as the fourth receiver.
Therefore, unless circumstances both here and elsewhere allow Dallas to find a trade partner, Terrance Williams should be back next year.
Cowboys Trade for FB Jamize Olawale from Raiders
Less than a week after the Cowboys lost fullback Keith Smith to the Raiders in free agency, the two teams have worked out a trade to send FB Jamize Olawale from Oakland to Dallas.
Fullback trade! The #Raiders are sending FB Jamize Olawale to the #Cowboys, sources say. Dallas has its fullback, one who was with Oakland since 2012.
To facilitate the trade, the Cowboys will send their fifth-round pick (173rd overall) to the Raiders for their sixth-round pick (192nd), moving back just 19 spots.
In return, Dallas not only brings in a veteran replacement at FB but a player they already know.
Jamize Olawale was an undrafted rookie free agent of the Cowboys in 2012. Despite a strong showing in that preseason, Dallas did not have room for him on the roster. He was on the team's practice squad until December, when Oakland poached him.
Since then, Olawale has been a regular roleplayer in the Raiders' offense. He's missed just six games since 2013.
Jamize brings more offensive firepower to the FB position than Keith Smith had. He's scored at least one touchdown in each of the last three seasons. He can be effective both running and receiving.
Through the trade, Dallas picks up the final year of Olawale's current contract. It calls for a $1.5 million base salary in 2018.
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