Many did not expect the Cowboys to re-sign receivers Terrance Williams or Brice Butler during this 2017 free agency. At the most, maybe you thought they'd bring back one of them. However, the Cowboys have taken the least expected route of all; both Butler and Williams are re-signed for next year's roster.
On Wednesday, the day before free agency opened, Brice Butler's return was announced. He got a one-year deal for $1.1 million and $300k guaranteed. This move appeared to be a low-cost insurance policy against Dallas not adding any other significant receivers this offseason.
Instead, it appears that the Butler signing may have been the leverage needed to force Terrance Williams to take a discount. The Williams news came about 48 hours after Butler. It also came in the wake of several other free agent receivers getting more lucrative contracts:
- DeSean Jackson (Bucs) - $35 million, 3 years ($11.67M per year)
- Kenny Britt (Browns) - $32 million, 4 years ($8M per year)
- Terrelle Pryor (Washington) - $8 million, 1 year
- Kenny Stills (Dolphins)) - $32 million, 4 years ($8M per year)
- Robert Woods (Rams) - $39 million, 5 years ($7.8M per year)
- Brandon Marshall (Giants) - $12 million, 2 years ($6M per year)
- Torrey Smith (Eagles) - $15 milion, 3 years ($5M per year)
Coming in below all those other deals, Terrance Williams signed a four-year, $17 million contract to remain a Cowboy. It will pay him an average of $4.25M per season. The following breakdown of the guarantees was provided earlier today:
Terrance Williams Cowboys deal: $17M, $5M signing bonus, $9.5M gtd; salaries $1M (gtd), $3.5M (gtd), $3.5M, $4M; 2020 option year
Before free agency began, many were projecting that Williams would be competitive with those other listed receivers in the free agent market. We will never know what interest he did get from other teams.
Remember, even though free agency officially opened on Thursday, NFL teams could start talking to free agents on Tuesday. Were those days too quiet for Terrance Williams? Did he start to fear what his prospects were becoming as other receivers were being signed?
If Terrance was getting anxious, the Brice Butler re-signing couldn't have helped. Dallas now had at least covered themselves adequately in case Williams didn't come back. There's also been plenty of talk that the Cowboys might look at receivers in this year's draft.
We will never know how much Terrance really wanted to come back to Dallas. At the same time, we can't be sure how much the Cowboys really wanted him. Perhaps their own salary cap issues made a discounted return for Williams more of a necessary evil than an ideal situation.
In the end, Terrance Williams and Brice Butler are both back and at a total cost of less than $5 million for 2017. Here are two key reasons you shouldn't be disappointed by it.
Cowboys Still Have Flexibility
Even after these signings, Dallas can still consider other options at receiver. While they are probably done in free agency they shouldn't feel limited at all during the NFL Draft.
If the Cowboys draft a receiver who is ready to contribute now, they can release Butler for just a $300k dead money penalty. If the player they draft can serve as a kick returner, they could instead release Lucky Whitehead for virtually zero penalty.
Dallas has accomplished two critical strategic goals with these signings, covering themselves at the WR position while maintaining financial flexibility. If nothing else, they're bringing back the core of an offense that got you to 13-3 and a few plays from the NFC Championship Game. But if the opportunity to add more talent comes around, they will be free to take advantage of it.
Dez Bryant Salary Management
Making franchise WR money, Dez Bryant counts $17 million against the 2017 salary cap and $16.5 million each of the following two seasons. By keeping Terrance Williams at a low-cost and already having Cole Beasley making about the same money, Dallas has kept the rest of the receiver position cap-friendly to offset those big Bryant numbers.
What's more, the low-cost of bringing back Williams and Brice Butler helps Dallas avoid "breaking the glass" on restructuring Dez Bryant's deal. Because of some of Dez's red flags with age and injuries, it's not in the Cowboys' best interests to make any changes on his contract.
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I know that this is the time of year that we get excited about fresh faces joining the roster. This is especially true when the previous faces weren't all that consistent or spectacular. Re-signing Terrance Williams and Brice Butler is far from the kind of "sexy" moves that fans look forward to during NFL free agency.
However, as we've explained here, they are the most practical and savvy moves that the Cowboys had at their disposal. They have preserved offensive continuity for their young quarterback and done the best things available for the team salary cap. These types of moves may not make big headlines in March, but they can help you win come September.
Cowboys Wishlist: Connor Williams Turns It Around
The Dallas Cowboys are on the road again as they travel to Indianapolis to face a hot 7-6 Colts team that's trying to sneak into the AFC Playoffs. It will be a tough challenge for a team that's struggled when playing out of AT&T Stadium but the Cowboys have changed a lot since they were a 3-5 unit. This time, they're one of the hottest teams in the NFL and are one win away from clinching the NFC East.
We surely are in for a great game. Without further ado, I hope you enjoy this week's edition of "Cowboys Wishlist."
Wish #1: Leighton Vander Esch Outplays Darius Leonard
As impressive as Leighton Vander Esch has been for the Dallas Cowboys, he's not alone in the Defensive Rookie of the Year race. On today's game, he'll meet his match in Colts LB Darius Leonard. A second rounder himself, Leonard leads the league in tackles with 135. He also is responsible for 11 tackles for loss, seven sacks, four forced fumbles and one interception.
Vander Esch, otherwise known as "Wolf Hunter" doesn't have such incredible stats, but playing time is a big reason why. His play has been pretty impressive, though. Ranked as the top rookie linebacker by PFF, hell be out there to prove who's the better player. I really wish he outplays Leonard en rout to the DROY award.
Wish #2: No Turnovers From Dak
455 yards, three touchdowns and another game-winning drive were more than impressive from Dak Prescott. I really have faith in him as the Cowboys' QB. But we can't ignore the three turnovers he was responsible for in such a close game versus the Philadelphia Eagles.
This game will be different. The Colts are a legit threat in the NFL right now and the Cowboys won't be the home team. Without Martin on the field, Prescott is likely to be pressured. If that's the case, he needs to watch out and avoid fumbles in the pocket.
It's really important the team takes care of the ball if they want the win versus Andrew Luck and company. I specifically wish Dak Prescott has a good game and does something he's done fairly well throughout his career: take care of the ball.
Wish #3: Connor Williams Turns It Around
Expectations were sky-high for second round pick Connor Williams. A starter in week 1, injury and poor play sidelined him in favor of Xavier Su'a-Filo. With Zack Martin out for the game, Williams has another opportunity to shine. This time he'll be lining up as the team's right guard between C Joe Looney and RT La'el Collins.
It's very important to remember Williams is only a rookie. Just because we're used to offensive line rookies to have immediate success for Dallas doesn't mean every one the team brings in will be as great starting off. A rough start is not the end of the world for Williams. Also worth noting, the majority of his playing time came under now-fired OL coach Paul Alexander. I'm convinced he'll turn things around and will become an important player for the Cowboys soon.
For now, I wish he takes advantage of the opportunity to play and does a great job to be considered again for the LG spot once Martin returns.
Wish #4: Amari Cooper Keeps It Up
The impact Amari Cooper has had on this team is quite frankly unbelievable. He should really be seen as this season's savior for the Cowboys. While the defense is winning games, without Cooper the offense would still be terrible and results wouldn't be the same. He has more than justified the first round pick the Jones traded away to get him.
In a big, road game like this one, I hope he keeps it up and has another huge performance. Whether it is multiple scores or a 100-yard game, I simply want to see him shine again.
Cowboys, Colts Week 15 Injury Report
The Dallas Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win this week, while the Indianapolis Colts are fighting to stay alive in the AFC wild card race. Only one team can accomplish their goal, and both have some big names on the Week 15 injury report.
We'll begin with the visiting Cowboys, who could be getting at least one star player back while another is already confirmed to miss the game.
- TE Geoff Swaim (wrist) - OUT
- G Zack Martin (knee) - OUT
- DL David Irving (ankle) - OUT
- WR Tavon Austin (groin) - Questionable
- WR Lance Lenoir (illness) - Questionable
- OT Tyron Smith (neck) - Questionable
- DE Randy Gregory (personal) - Questionable
- LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - Questionable
Yes, sadly, Zack Martin will be out tomorrow. The good news is that Connor Williams got the entire week to practice with the starters at right guard. You can read much more about this situation and it's impact on the game here, courtesy of our own Sean Martin.
Also ruled out, as they have been for a while now, are TE Geoff Swaim and DL David Irving. Swaim is still recovering from wrist surgery but has not been placed on injured reserve, so the team must feel he could be back for the playoffs. Irving could return as soon as next week.
Speaking of returns, Sean Lee may be back on the field this Sunday. It's unknown yet how he'll rotate with Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, but Dallas has the luxury of working him in slowly thanks to the play of their young duo.
Tavon Austin could also return this week, creating another new offensive wrinkle. Austin has been injured since the Jacksonville game and has yet to play since the Cowboys acquired Amari Cooper. Not only could Tavon do some interesting things in the offense, but he should bring some additional sizzle to special teams.
While appearing on the injury report, Randy Gregory missed practice this week for "family reasons" according to Jason Garrett. He could still play tomorrow.
- G Mark Glowinski (ankle) - OUT
- LB Skai Moore (neck) - OUT
- S Mike Mitchell (calf) - OUT
- WR T.Y. Hilton (ankle) - Questionable
- TE Ryan Hewitt (ribs) - Questionable
- S Clayton Geathers (knee) - Questionable
The big name here is Hilton, the star receiver who missed all practice this week with an ankle injury. Indianapolis has not ruled him out, wanting to give Andrew Luck's favorite target every opportunity to play. But it's not looking good, and a bad ankle could limit Hilton's effectiveness even if he goes.
Also hurt among the passing options is starting TE Ryan Hewitt, but he did practice full on Friday and should go. Not playing, however, is starting right guard Mark Glowinski. That means third-year player Evan Boehm should start, who just joined the team in October.
Indy's hurting at safety this week. Not only did starter Clayton Geathers miss the whole week of practice, but veteran backup Mike Mitchell is already ruled out. The Colts would have to rely on undrafted rookie George Odum if neither plays.
Fun fact before we go; former Cowboy Jihad Ward was picked up by the Colts after Dallas included him in their roster cuts to start the season. However, he landed on injured reserve back in October so won't get a chance at revenge.
Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts
The Dallas Cowboys offensive line depth will be tested as they play for a chance to clinch the NFC East on Sunday at the Indianapolis Colts. Suffering a knee injury last week against the Eagles, Right Guard Zack Martin will not be able to play. In missing his first career start, rookie Connor Williams rightfully returns to the starting lineup as Martin's replacement.
The 50th overall pick from this year's AT&T Stadium hosted Draft has started eight games this season at left guard. Williams' last start happens to be in the last game Dallas lost, a week nine defeat to the Tennessee Titans. This opened the door for Xavier Su'a-Filo to become something of a sensation for Cowboys Nation as the starting left guard throughout the team's current five game win streak.
Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin has been ruled out of Sunday's game with a sprained knee. Rookie Connor Williams will start in his place.
Zack Martin being unavailable is hardly how Marc Colombo wants to prepare for the Cowboys first road game since week 11. Having both Su'a-Filo and Williams in the lineup will be valuable for the Cowboys moving forward though, as Williams could earn his job at left guard back from the right side.
While he won't nearly be expected to play at the level of Martin, Williams looked poised coming off the bench against the Eagles and helping the Cowboys offense score their final three touchdowns. Williams was on the field for all three of Amari Cooper's scores, as Dallas rushed for 34 yards on 11 carries with him in the game.
Williams flashed some of the traits that made him a top left tackle prospect out of college, flowing to the second level with ease and creating movement with quick feet at the point of attack. The Cowboys have forced him to remain game ready despite losing his starting position by finding a few emergency snaps for him in recent weeks, as well as special teams looks. The team has every reason to believe Williams is an ascending young player still.
The same cannot be said of Su'a-Filo, who simply has to focus on continuing to hold up at left guard again this week. With each passing win, Su'a-Filo's LG spot has become more of a liability in a Cowboys offense in need of a jump-start late in this 2018 season.
Consistent offensive line play is one of the few things that's clearly hurting the Cowboys as contenders in the NFC behind a stellar defense and game breaking wide receiver.
The Cowboys won't be at full strength against the eighth best rushing defense and 15th ranked passing defense in yards per game. With three separate chances to clinch the NFC East starting at the Colts and extending until the end of the regular season, the Cowboys stand to learn all they need to know about the offensive line that will start in the playoffs.
Martin, who's elevated his game to a new level this season despite this lingering knee injury, should be on track to return when the Cowboys come home to play the Buccaneers in week 16.
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