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The Curse of Larry Allen; Cowboys Have Ugly 2nd Round Draft History

Jess Haynie

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Larry Allen

The Cowboys have had over two decades of problems with their second-round picks in the NFL Draft. For the last 22 years they have struggled to find solid contributors, let alone standout players, from among the upper layers of available talent. It is a disturbing trend that, hopefully, will soon see a reversal.

In the second round of the 1994 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys selected guard Larry Allen from little Sonoma State University. Allen would go on to become arguably the greatest guard in NFL history, inducted to the Ring of Honor and the Hall of Fame.

Perhaps the Larry Allen pick was the Cowboys doom. It’s almost like the universe has been punishing them ever since for getting such a legendary player with a second-round pick.

As this following historical record shows, our second round additions since L.A. have been nothing short of ugly.

1995 RB Sherman Williams
TE Kendell Watkins
G Shane Hannah
1996 KB Randall Godfrey
DE Kavika Pittman
1997 NO PICK – Traded out of the 2nd Round for extra picks later
1998 OT Flozell Adams
1999 G Solomon Page
2000 CB Dwayne Goodrich
2001 QB Quincy Carter
S Tony Dixon
2002 G/C Andre Gurode
WR Antonio Bryant
2003 G/C Al Johnson
2004 RB Julius Jones
OT Jacob Rogers
2005 LB Kevin Burnett
2006 TE Anthony Fasano
2007 NO PICK – Traded out of the 2nd Round for extra picks later
2008 TE Martellus Bennett
2009 NO PICK – Traded out of the 2nd Round for extra picks later
2010 LB Sean Lee
2011 LB Bruce Carter
2012 NO PICK – Traded to move up for Morris Claiborne
2013 TE Gavin Escobar
2014 DE DeMarcus Lawrence
2015 DE Randy Gregory
2016 LB Jaylon Smith

Ready for some disturbing numbers?

Out of the 24 total second-round players drafted by Dallas since 1995, only three of them (Flozell Adams, Andre Gurode, Sean Lee) have ever gone to the Pro Bowl as Cowboys. That is a stunningly low number given the perceived talent that these guys all had on draft day.

It gets worse. Of the 21 players drafted from 1995 to 2013, a seven of them never even finished their rookie contracts. Another ten guys played out their four-year rookie deals and were not re-signed.

Only the three Pro Bowlers we just mentioned had sustained careers in Dallas with new contracts. The one oddball was Sherman Williams, who was re-signed due to injuries in 1999 and appeared in one game before being released again.

Think about that. We view the second round as the spot where potential stars and solid, long-time starters are drafted. By that standard the Cowboys have failed on almost 90% of their picks over the last two decades.

Randy Gregory

DE Randy Gregory, drafted in the second round of 2015.

Recent History

We have three second-round guys still on the team whose stories aren’t fully written yet: DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, and Jaylon Smith. Unfortunately, the early chapters are not looking good.

Other than a stretch in 2015 when he had seven sacks in eight games, Lawrence has been a disappointment. He has struggled with injuries and missed 18 games in three years. Now entering the final year of his rookie contract, D-Law will need a major improvement to avoid becoming yet another second-round Cowboy who didn’t get a second contract.

The tale of Randy Gregory is certainly the most woeful. Injuries limited him as a rookie and a drug suspension knocked him out of most of 2016. He is expected to miss all of the 2017 regular season for a repeated drug policy violation. The Cowboys have not cut ties yet, though, so it remains to be seen if he can get things turned around.

Jaylon Smith was a top-five talent in the 2016 draft who fell because of a major knee injury during his last college game. He is expected to debut this year and has the potential to become one of the few bright spots in the team’s history with second-round picks. If Jaylon’s knee remains a problem, though, it could quickly become yet another failed attempt.

Fabian Moreau

CB Fabian Moreau is a potential 2nd-round target.

2017 NFL Draft

It is widely expected that in this year’s draft, which occurs just a few days from now, Dallas will pursue a defensive end in the first round and a cornerback in the second. Players like Washington’s Kevin King, Florida’s Teez Tabor, and UCLA’s Fabian Moreau are among the possible options for the Cowboys at the 60th overall pick.

In what is widely considered a deep draft class, and especially at cornerback, one of these players will have a great opportunity to be a success story. They will be joining a Cowboys team coming off a 13-3 season and putting the pieces in place for sustained success. Many of our past rookies weren’t so fortunate, joining the team when it was in a state of flux or even dysfunction.

As we’ve seen with franchises like the Browns and Jaguars, that constant culture of failure rubs off on players. They are expected to be part of the solution but, young and impressionable, quickly become part of the problem. There’s nobody there to teach them how to become winners.

The Cowboys have leaders on both sides of the ball. They have one of the most respected defensive coordinators in the game. Dallas has been to the playoffs twice in the last three years. If the rookies they add in 2017 don’t show up then it’s probably on them far more than the organization.

Or, if nothing else… blame Larry Allen.

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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!

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2 Comments
  • deal with it

    15 years later we are still paying for Jerrah’s carp………
    no money for FA,draft sucking this year, and no cap to trade……..I truly expect 10-6 ALL on Dak’s shoulders & that’s not fair.
    we’re getting jack diddly in this draft………….calling it now.
    love Taco but a taco ain’t a meal- calling it again.
    @ LEAST he can pass a UA………..

  • dcoopthemann

    Just came across this article. And although I know it’s only meant to be somewhat comical about a Larry Allen curse, the sad fact is it’s true in regards to second round picks. As a Cowboys fan since 1974 and who has followed them in detail (front office moves, the draft, etc.) since 1978, I thought I was the only one or one of the only ones who noticed this horrible second round draft record. And they should be ashamed of themselves for it. And people, especially Cowboy fans walk around like that are “SHOCKED” they haven’t been to a Super Bowl, let alone won one since this “TREND” has started. But I ask anyone, name any team at any point in their history that has had a draft “Drought” in one round for that long, for that many years straight in their history? The real sad part about it for me is, for the most part, 90% to 95% of the players on this “ALL STAR” list, I “KNEW” wasn’t going to be nothing and I remember every draft, Jerry Jones and yes, Stephen Jones was high fiving each other every draft like a couple of frat boys who scored with all the cheerleaders. Man, was it sickening to watch. That’s why I always say, the last time I thought the Cowboys were a Super Bowl team was 1996, which lines up almost perfectly with when the “ALL STAR” line-up started (my 1996 Super Bowl win was based on Aikman, Emmitt, Irvin, Deion, Hailey, etc., not any of the draft picks during this time) When these players got older or injured, I “KNEW” it was “OVER”. And only since 2014 have i seen any “HINT” it might start to change.

Dallas Cowboys

DeMarcus Lawrence, Franchise Tags and Realities for Dallas Cowboys

Mauricio Rodriguez

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DeMarcus Lawrence, Franchise Tags and Realities for Dallas Cowboys
Matthew Emmons / USA TODAY Sports

For Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, it was now or never. With an expiring rookie contract, it was time for him to make a name for himself. Between injuries and a suspension, Lawrence wasn’t close to being a great player before 2017. He accounted for eight sacks in 2015 and only one in 2016.

However, last season he was finally able to get double-digit numbers by sacking opposing quarterbacks 14.5 times. Lawrence also had 36 tackles and four forced fumbles. Not only was he a very good pass rusher, but he also became a great run defender.

Simply put, DeMarcus “Tank” Lawrence went from an average player to one of the NFL’s best defensive ends in 2017.

It seems like finally, after years of waiting, the Dallas Cowboys have found their “War Daddy.” But, as is always the case for the Cowboys, there’s a problem. DeMarcus Lawrence needs to be paid in order for him to stay. With number 90 ready to hit free agency, the Cowboys’ front office has a choice to make.

They can give him the big multi-year contract he wants, they can tag him, or the Cowboys can watch him walk out the front door and thrive somewhere else in the league.

DeMarcus Lawrence

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence (Scott Cunningham / Getty Images)

There’s a problem with giving him a big-time contract though. Lawrence had a great 2017 season, but before that, he hadn’t proved anything. Tank has provided one quality season for the Dallas Cowboys. Are they willing to pay him a lot of money and take the risk of seeing him play like in 2015 or 2016?

It wouldn’t be the first time that an NFL player has had a great “contract year” season just to become an average football player. The Cowboys should look at the possibility of keeping Lawrence for at least one more year by giving him a franchise tag.

But First of All, What is a Franchise Tag?

The offseason is a time in which we sort of understand certain concepts but don’t truly understand them completely. Simply put, every year each NFL team has the right to hand out a franchise tag to one of its players. Tagging a player means giving him a one-year deal with a high payment, basically forcing the player to stay with the team for one more season.

In some cases, the player might even end up on another team, despite being tagged, but that would depend on the type of franchise tag he receives.

There are three types of franchise tags:

  • Exclusive Franchise Tag: With this tag, the player gets paid the average of the top five salaries for the player’s position (in this case, defensive end) for the current year. With this tag, no other team can negotiate with the player (hence the term exclusive). However, only guys like Kirk Cousins or Von Miller get exclusive tags, so it probably won’t be the case for Lawrence.
  • Non-exclusive Franchise Tag: Out of every tag, this is the most used. With this tag, the player receives the average of the top five salaries at his position over the last five years. Other teams can actually negotiate with the player though. If offered a deal by another team, the current team has the right to match the offer. If they decline to do so, they get two first-round picks in compensation.
  • Transition Franchise Tag: This isn’t as compromising as the other tags are, since the team doesn’t even receive compensation if the player takes a deal with another team. The player is paid the average of the ten best salaries at his position. The current team has the opportunity to match any offers made to the player.

In DeMarcus Lawrence’s case, the “non-exclusive” tag would make the most sense, but even if the Cowboys decide to tag Lawrence, there’s still a big problem… cap space.

Per Over The Cap, Dallas is expected to have a cap number of around $18M. The projected tag for a DE in 2018 is over $17M. The Cowboys have to make some moves if they want to keep Tank on the roster.

Whether it’s releasing some players or restructuring a ton of contracts, something will need to get done in Dallas. Lawrence is not the only player the Cowboys should be concerned about re-signing, so they’ll definitely need the cap space.

We may see some surprising cap casualties if the Cowboys really want Lawrence. I wouldn’t even be surprised if this team says goodbye to Dez Bryant, for example.

I don’t see how this team could let DeMarcus Lawrence walk in free agency. I don’t think they should. Let’s hope Tank is wearing a star in 2018.

Tell me what you think about “DeMarcus Lawrence, Franchise Tags and Realities for Dallas Cowboys” in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Have Need for Speed at Running Back

Jess Haynie

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Has RB Rod Smith Emerged As Ezekiel Elliott's Primary Backup? 2
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys have a lot needs in the 2018 offseason. Running back may seem low on the list, but Dallas should not take it for granted. They have an opportunity to add some needed speed and explosion to their offense.

Ezekiel Elliott and Rod Smith will form an exciting one-two punch at the top of the RB depth chart. Alfred Morris‘ contract has expired and it’s unlikely he’ll return with Smith’s late-season push for a larger role.

Rod Smith is an ideal backup for Elliott. He has the right mix of power and athleticism to run some of the same plays, plus he’s not a bad receiver. He could even work as the third-down back when Zeke needs a breather.

Ezekiel Elliott, Broncos

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Between those two, Dallas has all the power and standard running they need. That’s why I believe they should use the number-three spot this year on a true speedster.

I’m sure the first name that pops in mind is Lance Dunbar, who held that role to varying degrees from 2012-2016. Dunbar could be used in a variety of speed-based plays, go out as a receiver, and even return kicks at times.

The Cowboys have a candidate for this role already in Trey Williams, who was on the practice squad and will be with the team at least to start the offseason.

Small and versatile, Williams looks like he fits that Dunbar mold. However, Williams isn’t a true burner. He clocked just 4.49 at the NFL Scouting Combine. He’s quick and agile, but isn’t necessarily going to beat guys to the edge.

With the way Dallas’ offensive linemen can move and work out in space, a back with blazing speed could do some real damage. All he needs is a lane and he could make house calls.

Right now, wide receiver Ryan Switzer is the only player Dallas has who can assume some of those Dunbar-like roles. He could be effective on screens and reverses. But a guy with those same skills at RB can be even more dangerous. He can leave defenses guessing even more because they’re not sure which position he’s playing until after the huddle breaks.

That third roster spot is wide open, so the Cowboys should spend the offseason looking for a weapon that provides a different skill set and more for opponents to worry about.

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Face Tough Decision with DL Tyrone Crawford

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Blog - Dallas Cowboys Sign Tyrone Crawford To Long-Term Contract 1
AP Photo/Brandon Wade

As the Dallas Cowboys look to get back into the playoffs next season, they have some work to do on their current roster. Talent needs to be added and retained, and that takes money. Veteran Tyrone Crawford’s contract puts the Cowboys in a tough spot.

Crawford isn’t the Cowboys’ best defender, but he did have the highest cap hit in 2017, even more than linebacker Sean Lee. Crawford will count $9.1 million against Dallas’ salary cap next season, which is currently second behind Lee’s projected $11-million hit. That fact alone would make you think Tyrone Crawford is likely to be released this offseason.

It would seem even more likely when you consider how guys like DeMarcus Lawrence and David Irving have eclipsed him as impact players on the defensive line.

However, Crawford’s contract isn’t so easily discarded.

Tyrone Crawford

Dallas Cowboys DL Tyrone Crawford

Because of past restructuring, Dallas won’t get much cap relief by cutting Tyrone outright. He still has $7.3 million in dead money on the deal, which means cap savings of only $1.8 million.

That’s a small return for losing a solid, dependable player and great locker room guy.

Crawford can play inside or outside in the 4-3, and he’s been a veteran leader on an otherwise young roster.

If Dallas were to make Tyrone Crawford a June-1st release, they would get $6 million in cap space for 2018 and push another $4.2-million in dead money to 2019. That sounds nice on the surface, but keep in mind Dallas can’t use that $6 million during free agency in March. It only becomes available after June 1st. Still, the Cowboys could find ways to use that money.

It could fund their rookie pool, or go toward a new contract for Lawrence or Irving. It could also be used to sign other June-1st cap casualties. If nothing else, it could be rolled over to next season. But again, you lose a solid player in the exchange.

Tyrone Crawford may not be worth a $9.1-million cap hit, but you have to factor in replacement cost.

Dallas could certainly get by. Assuming Lawrence and Irving return, they also have Maliek Collins, Taco Charlton, and Charles Tapper under contract. Benson Mayowa has one year left on his deal, but is likely to be a cap casualty himself. The Cowboys also have several young prospects in Richard Ash, Lewis Neal, and anyone they might add in this year’s draft.

This would be a no-brainer if Crawford’s contract hadn’t been reworked in the past. Dallas would likely get a nice chunk of immediate change if they cut him, but they created their own problem here with the restructuring. Now they have an asset who isn’t worth his price, but doesn’t offer enough relief to be worth cutting.

It’s a tough call; one of many the Cowboys will face in the 2018 offseason.

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