Through the years of covering the Cowboys' drafts, there have always been players who were either helped or hurt by the next crop of talent. Today, I thought we'd take a look at some of the immediate winners and losers from the 2018 draft class.
I remember cornerback Mike Jenkins throwing a fit in 2012 after Dallas traded up to take Morris Claiborne. He wasn't wrong; Jenkins got buried on the depth chart that year before going into free agency.
On the other hand, new talent at some position can lift everyone around them. The Cowboys offensive line was good, but not considered truly elite, until Zach Martin arrived in 2014. Or how about the impact that Ezekiel Elliott had on the entire offense in 2016?
2018 will be no different as some players were positively and negatively impacted by what happened over the weekend. Here's a look at those winners and losers.
S Xavier Woods & Kavon Frazier
The Cowboys could have traded up in the first round to select Florida State's Derwin James. They could have traded a pick to get veteran Earl Thomas. They might have taken another safety in any of the later rounds.
But no, Dallas did none of those things. Instead, they appear ready to ride with young studs Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier as starters and key pieces in the defensive backfield.
Jeff Heath is still in the mix and may remain a starter. But Frazier and Woods have flashed potential and upside that new defensive backs coach (and DC in waiting) Kris Richard has already expressed excitement with.
Dallas' declined opportunity to go get a prospect like Derwin James says a lot on how they feel about their current talent. Despite being sixth-round picks entering just their second and third seasons, Woods and Frazier have quickly earned a lot of respect from their coaches.
There's still a lot of offseason left and Dallas may still make a move for Earl Thomas. But it's guys like Kavon and Xavier who've given them leverage, allowing the Cowboys to not feel desperate enough to meet Seattle's asking price.
No matter what happens there, Frazier and Woods will be competing with Heath for a starting role next year.
TE Geoff Swaim
The news of Jason Witten's potential retirement, which came between the first and second rounds on Friday, sent a shockwave through Cowboys Nation. Many thought it would lead to Dallas taking a tight end as soon as their very next pick.
But the Cowboys waited until the late in the fourth round, using one of their compensatory picks on Standford's Dalton Schultz. While the rookie will certainly compete for a big role in 2018, he may have a hard time against a fourth-year veteran like Geoff Swaim.
If Witten's truly gone, Swaim becomes the most tenured tight end on the roster. James Hanna's surprising retirement just two weeks ago leaves just Rico Gathers and Blake Jarwin, neither with any real NFL experience, as the remaining options.
Swaim's game fits what this Cowboys offense needs from its starting tight end. He's a proficient blocker with some solid receiving skills. Being stuck behind Witten, like any other Cowboys TE has experienced for the last 15 years, has limited his chances to shine.
Maybe Jason returns for one last season, but right now the door is wide open for Geoff Swaim to get a shot as the team's starter in the final year of his rookie contract.
DT Richard Ash & Brian Price
Before the draft, it appeared likely that Dallas would be targeting a run-stuffing defensive tackle for their base defensive scheme. Some that it could happen as early as the first round. But the Cowboys didn't draft a single DT, meaning returning players like Richard Ash and Brian Price may have a shot at competing for a starting role.
After Terrell McClain left a vacancy last year, the spot was filled by switching Maliek Collins over into the "1-technique" role and also utilizing young prospects. Brian Price was getting early work, and performing well, before a knee injury ended his season early. Richard Ash came on later in the year and was starting get noticed for his solid work by the final games.
While Dallas did pick up third-year DT Jihad Ward in a trade, he projects as more of a DT/DE hybrid like we have in David Irving or Tyrone Crawford. The Cowboys would likely also prefer to get Maliek Collins back in the 3-tech spot, where he was so much more effective as a rookie.
That opens the door for Ash, Price, or maybe some other dark horse to make a big climb up the depth chart.
WR Deonte Thompson
A free agent signing in March, the veteran Thompson may have already lost his roster spot after last weekend's activity. Dallas drafted Michael Gallup in the third round and then picked up the Rams' Tavon Austin via trade.
The Cowboys could go with six guys, but even still you're potentially losing a younger talent like sophomore Noah Brown or rookie sixth-round pick Cedrick Wilson. With plenty of experience in Hurns, Beasley, Williams, and Austin, Dallas might decide they don't need Thompson after all.
Despite being a newly signed player, Deonte's contract doesn't offer much protection. It's a one-year deal counting $1.8 million against the salary cap with $1 million guaranteed.
While he's only recently become a known entity in the NFL, Thompson is a 29-year-old late bloomer. He was brought in as cheap veteran insurance, and Dallas may now have enough now to cancel the policy.
QB Cooper Rush
Dallas drafted Mike White out of Western Kentucky in the fifth round, which brings some real competition to the backup position held by Cooper Rush most of last year. Can Rush, in just his second season, fight White off for the job?
Cooper already surprised us when he ousted Kellen Moore from the number-two spot and the roster itself last season. He had an outstanding preseason and, if he builds on the rookie success, has a great shot at keeping his place on the team.
But last season speaks to the danger for Rush; Dallas likes to keep just two quarterbacks if they can. With Dak Prescott's durability, the Cowboys can save a roster spot by just keeping one backup and then someone else on the practice squad.
Mike White has been considered a steal by many as a fifth-round pick, with some thinking he could've been drafted on Friday. He may be harder to get to the practice squad than Rush, who went undrafted in 2017.
Ideally for Cooper, he'll beat White for the backup job and force Dallas to keep three QBs this season. But his job security definitely took a hit with this new addition to the roster.
OL Cam Fleming, Joe Looney, Marcus Martin
The opening at left guard before the draft was a major topic. Dallas used their second-round pick to address it, taking Connor Williams out of Texas. That put a major kibosh on the idea of one of the team's veteran journeymen getting a chance at joining the starting five next season.
Dallas signed free agents Cam Fleming and Marcus Martin as backups at tackle and guard, respectively, last March. They also re-signed Joe Looney, whose been a reserve center and guard the last two seasons.
If a new talent hadn't been added in the draft, one of these players was likely going to start next year. Looney or Martin obviously had the inside track as experienced guards. But if Dallas could have also elected to move La'el Collins back to LG and start Fleming at right tackle, if that was the way to get the five best players on the field.
Of course, there's no guarantee that Connor Williams will be able to start as a rookie. He was considered a first-round talent by some, though, and a high value pick for where he was taken. One of the veterans may be used to at least start the season.
Still, the Cowboys have been all about the youth movement the last few years. Connor will get every opportunity to become the fifth starter, giving the veterans way more competition than they had before.
Tony Romo Won’t Be the Next Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator
The pipe dream has been going on since former Dallas Cowboys Quarterback-turned CBS Analyst Tony Romo hung up his cleats for the black blazer. Fans from all corners of Cowboys Nation have clamored for a return to the field or at worst the sideline as the Cowboys offensive coordinator.
Let me stop you right there. It's not happening.
First of all. He's never been a coach at any level of football, so to assume that he could leave the broadcast booth and step into coaching an NFL offense and doing so at a high level is a huge leap of faith in number 9. Sure, Jon Gruden left the Monday Night Football booth for his lucrative deal with the Oakland Raiders, but he had won a Super Bowl and had been an offensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL for years before joining the broadcasting ranks.
Tony Romo has an excellent understanding of football. He displays it on a regular basis during the CBS broadcasts. But doing from the broadcast view, seeing what the defense is trying to do, and calling the plays to counter what the defense is trying to do are very different things.
Secondly, the coaching job would be a major time commitment that at the moment he doesn't have. Even if he's working a 40 hour work week in preparation for his three-hour time slot, the demands on NFL coaches are easily twice that with many coaches putting in 100 hour work weeks in preparation for Sundays. Tony Romo has a family that even he's talked about as part of the reason that he went into broadcasting instead of looking to hop on with another NFL team.
Finally, the job would mean a significant pay cut from what Romo is already making. It's estimated that the former Cowboys quarterback is making anywhere from $5-10 million dollars a year with CBS. Jason Garrett is making $6 million per year as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, so even if the Jones family was willing to pay first-time NFL coach Tony Romo a ton of money to come out of the broadcast booth, there's zero chance they pay him what he's making as a broadcaster. To do so, would be to undercut the head coach. Jason Garrett is Jerry Jones' guy. The owner and general manager wants Garrett to be the guy that leads the Cowboys to Super Bowl success, so there's zero chance he'd pay a coordinator close to Garrett's money, which would lead to constant speculation about the head coach and his future with the organization.
I love Tony Romo. His jersey is one of only two Cowboys jerseys that I own -- along with Darren Woodson -- and I think he could make a good coach one day, but I'd be hard pressed to see him come out of the coaching booth to take a coordinator job and have immediate success. The guys that are offensive coordinators in the NFL have been grinding for years to earn their jobs. Most started as position coaches -- see Sean McVay as Redskins TE coach. The Dallas Cowboys will spend the next few days, and perhaps weeks, identifying their replacement for Scott Linehan, but let's put to bed the dream of Romo as offensive coordinator.
It's just not going to happen.
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.
Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:
Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh
Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.
Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.
The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.
For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!
Breaking: Scott Linehan and Dallas Cowboys Part Ways
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network is reporting that the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan have mutually agreed to part ways following a tumultuous season that saw the Dallas Cowboys offense finish outside the top 12 three out of his four seasons in Dallas.
Sources: The #Cowboys are firing OC Scott Linehan. Taking their offense in a new direction. An announcement is coming.
Scott Linehan was brought in prior to the 2015 season and saw his offenses finish 31st, fifth, 14th, and 22nd in his four years as the Cowboys play caller. The 2015 season can be excused as the Cowboys rolled out Kellen Moore, Matt Cassell, and Brandon Weeden for 13 starts after Tony Romo was injured twice during the season, but the team 2-11 in those 13 starts and the Cowboys failed to make the playoffs despite a strong performance on the defensive side of the football.
The Cowboys saw an offense that finished fifth in the NFL in points in 2016 decline each of the last two offseasons and Linehan has been continually criticized by analysts, fans, and players as well.
Many believe that the reason that Dez Bryant and Brice Butler weren't brought back in the offseason was because of the public criticism of the offense and the play caller instilling the offense and that criticism has carried over to this season when Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper acknowledged that the Philadelphia Eagles were sitting on the slant routes that they had run all game. Dak mentioned that he changed Amari's route to a go route, which led to a 75 yard touchdown that helped open up the offense.
Cole Beasley has been frustrated with his role for much of the season and deservedly so. He was often non-existent in the offensive game plan until the final five minutes of football games.
In the running game, the offense had become too predictable and reliant upon jumbo formations that led to Ezekiel Elliott having to run against eight in the box anywhere from 25-30% of the time. For perspective, Todd Gurley only ran against eight-man fronts around eight percent of the time. Scott Linehan never looked to attempt to take players out of the box, instead insisting on motioning more players into the box for the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott to run against. It's amazing when you think about it, that Ezekiel Elliott was able to win the rushing title when facing loaded fronts as often as he did.
This was a move that needed to happen and the Dallas Cowboys didn't need to waste anymore time to make it happen. The offense had become stale and frustrating for the players as well as the fans. While Jason Garrett started the offseason saying he "didn't expect any changes," this was a move that absolutely had to happen for the offense to take a step forward. Below, you can read Jason Garrett's announcement on the move.
Cowboys have fired Scott Linehan
Even after the move for Amari Cooper, the offense looked better, but it still struggled at times to move the football.
The Cowboys have a young team with especially young players on the offensive side of the football. They have a quarterback who can throw from the pocket, but has excellent movement skills and capabilities of throwing the ball on the run. He's an excellent runner on designed runs. Despite us knowing all that, Scott Linehan looked reluctant to use him on designed quarterback runs that weren't read options or speed options. What you saw on designed runs in the Seattle game is what this team should be doing five times a game.
Now the question becomes, who should the Cowboys next offensive coordinator be? Our own, Staff Writer Brian Martin, laid out 5 Options to be the Next Offensive Coordinator earlier this week. I suggest you give it a read.
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