The Dallas Cowboys approach to free agency over the past couple of years has been somewhat frustrating for a lot of fans. A lot of that is because the team is staying away from the overpriced big name free agents and then bargain shopping for players to fill holes in the roster.
The strategy is a smart approach considering the salary cap hell in which the team has found themselves in the past, thus requiring them to hold on to aging players that have seen a decline in their play.
Still, fans like their new toys and are always hoping the Cowboys will bring in one of those high-priced veteran players, mainly because they are household names. They fail to realize that these players are on the market for a reason and the money required to sign them to a contract rarely meets their production level. Take Brandon Carr for instance.
But if you were paying attention to what Jerry Jones and his son Stephen said earlier in the off-season, you wouldn't be surprised by the way the Cowboys have patiently waited for the free agency period to work itself out and let it come to them.
"I'm not a big fan of free agency; I'll be the first to admit it. Unfortunately, good players get paid like they're great players, average players get paid like they're good players and it's a Domino effect. It's not a great way to put your team together. Obviously you'd like to build your team through the draft and keep your players that hopefully you drafted well and keep those type of players so we're not out there in free agency."
~ Stephen Jones
America's Team has done exactly what Stephen Jones said and have quietly been able to not only bring back some of their own free agents, but sign some new players that should be immediate upgrades to the roster.
I can understand the frustration from a lot of fans, but I think this relatively new strategy is due in large part to one person within the Cowboys organization, Will McClay, Dallas' Senior Director of College/Pro Personnel.
It's my honest opinion that McClay and the work he's done within the Cowboys organization is one of the soul of reasons that Jerry and Stephen Jones feel comfortable enough to sit back and wait for free agency to play itself out, and then find reasonably priced veterans to fill holes and hopefully upgrade the roster.
If you're not familiar with McClay, then you're missing out and are not likely to know exactly how valuable he is to the Dallas Cowboys.
McClay is a meticulously detailed person who is responsible for making sure that the entire scouting department for the Cowboys is on the same page when it comes to free agency, as well as building the draft board in preparation for the NFL Draft.
McClay's value cannot be stated enough.
He knows how to build a roster and understands the types of players that the coaching staff is looking for. This, in large part, is due to his background as a player at Rice University and then in the Arena League for the Detroit Drive, where he first received a coaching opportunity once his playing days were over.
McClay bounced around the Arena League for several years before getting his first taste of the NFL working for the Jacksonville Jaguars as the Assistant Director of Pro Scouting.
He then moved on and joined the Cowboys player personnel department before coming full circle and becoming defensive coordinator of the Dallas Desperadoes, where he would stay until he eventually was named head coach in 2004. He remained the head coach for the Desperados for five seasons before once again joining the Cowboys staff.
As you can see, his background might not be the most impressive, but he does understand the game and what it takes to build a roster.
It is something that the Cowboys truly value, and other teams around the NFL have started to take notice of McClay's work as well. In fact, McClay is largely responsible for bringing in players off of the street that no other team in the NFL wanted, and they ended up contributing for the Cowboys. Players such as Nick Hayden, and George Selvie immediately come to mind, but there are several others.
His name has already come up a few times as being considered for a general manager's job in the NFL, but thankfully he has decided to stay with the Cowboys for now.
Although his days with the Dallas Cowboys may ultimately be numbered, the organization will continue to rely upon his knowledge and opinion on who the team should target in free agency and in the draft.
We can only hope that Will McClay will remain with the Cowboys organization for years to come and that he continues to help build the roster the right way.
Which Cowboys Benefit From David Irving’s Suspension?
While losing David Irving for the first four weeks of 2018 is a bad thing for the Dallas Cowboys defensive line, it does create opportunities for some of the other defensive tackles. Who has the most to gain from Irving's suspension?
Because he was mostly going to be used inside as the 3-technique DT, David's absence will naturally benefit the guys who are best suited to play that role. Thankfully, Dallas isn't lacking for those types of players.
Veteran Tyrone Crawford can use all the playing time he can get. As a likely salary cap casualty next year, Crawford doesn't want to get buried on the depth chart as Dallas focuses on their younger players who project to stick around beyond 2018.
With Irving out, Dallas will likely lean on Tyrone as they often do when someone is missing on the defensive line. With more talent now at defensive end, Crawford was going to be competing with Irving, Maliek Collins, Jihad Ward, and other younger guys for work at tackle.
But now there's a problem, and it's easy to slide Crawford into the 3-tech role that Dallas once envisioned him being a star at. Remember, it was their projection of Tyrone as a breakout DT that got him his big contract to begin with.
Yes, Irving's only gone for four weeks. Dallas will still be giving him work in camp based on the role he should fill for the majority of the season. But that's why a veteran like Tyrone Crawford is a great temporary plug-in, because he doesn't need all of the practice reps to step in and perform.
Another key beneficiary could be third-year DT Maliek Collins. Last season, Collins got stuck playing 1-technique and not getting the same opportunities to make plays and get noticed that he had his rookie year.
But now Dallas has several guys in Jihad Ward, Richard Ash, and Brian Price who can play the 1-tech role, which will hopefully get Collins back where he belongs. Maliek's athleticism belongs a little further away from center, letting him try to take on guards in single coverage.
Collins is dealing with a foot issue now but should be back for the preseason. That's enough time for him to be where he needs to be Week One, provided he's healthy.
How Dallas would balance playing time between Collins and Tyrone Crawford could be a matter of how much they play certain schemes. One could see Collins, the bigger guy, playing more in the base defense and then Crawford being used in passing situations.
There is always a lot of rotation in a Rod Marinelli line, so discussions about playing time can get a little silly. Unless you're a true stud like DeMarcus Lawrence who you don't want to take off the field, the Cowboys like to keep guys fresh.
But that's why this is a big opportunity; David Irving has that stud potential. He's the kind of talent who could keep solid players like Crawford and Collins out of view if he hits his stride.
For the first four weeks, though, Irving will be in the NFL doghouse and Dallas will likely lean on its two most experienced defensive tackles to fill the void. There will be more reps for guys like Datone Jones and Jihad Ward too, but Crawford and Collins have way more skins on the wall
That trust should keep them on the field more while David Irving's suspended, and perhaps beyond.
BREAKING: David Irving Suspended For 2nd Consecutive Year
For the second consecutive year, Defensive Lineman David Irving is being suspended for four games by the NFL. This time, the suspension comes after Irving violated the NFL's policy on substance of abuses, as Ian Rapoport reported.
Cowboys DL David Irving is being suspended 4 games for violating @NFL policy on substance of abuses, sources say. Another big-time D-linemen hit with a suspension for Dallas.
Irving will play for the Dallas Cowboys after the team placed a second-round tender on him earlier in the year. Why no team was interested in picking such a talented defensive tackle for a second round pick is becoming clearer and clearer as the time goes on.
In April, when David Irving got hacked by his former girlfriend one of the tweets that stood out the most was one which said "Wait until you all find about his failed drug tests." Now, we're seeing what the tweet was about.
Irving is a very talented player that could have a great career ahead of him. Of course, with this being the second consecutive year in which he receives a suspension to start the season, one could question how much he wants it.
The Cowboys will play the Panthers, Giants, Seahawks and Lions to start the season. They'll have to do it with one of their most promising defensive players in David Irving.
Here at Inside The Star, we'll keep you updated with this story and every Dallas Cowboys news.
Cowboys Offense Finds Rhythm to End Minicamp, Hurns and Gallup Stand Out
The Dallas Cowboys are back in offseason mode, concluding their OTAs and minicamp from The Star. With a hiatus until training camp, it was important for several high-profile players to make a strong first impression on the 2018 season. From the start of mini camp, these impressions were left mostly by Rod Marinelli's defense and -- more specifically -- Kris Richard's young group of cornerbacks.
Still working through significant change on the offensive side of the ball, the Cowboys did rally on day three under Quarterback Dak Prescott to put out a better performance. The Cowboys coaching staff should love their lasting memories of both FA acquisition Wide Receiver Allen Hurns and rookie Michael Gallup.
There is a strong chance that these two receivers will be the Cowboys starters in Oxnard for training camp. We have heard a lot about the impact new WR Coach Sanjay Lal has had on his group, slowing the game down to focus on route running. This will give the team's rotation of unproven receivers a chance with Prescott, as he can focus on throwing to a 'spot' more often.
One spot that Prescott has struggled to hit in two seasons as the starter in Dallas is the back of the end zone for fade routes. A red zone go-to under Scott Linehan, free agent WR Dez Bryant was often the intended target on these missed passes.
Less of a route running technician and closer to the mold of a physical player like Bryant, Allen Hurns emerging as the Cowboys #1 option would solve a lot of uncertainty at the WR position. In yesterday's practice, Hurns was able to haul in a perfect ball from Prescott on the fade as he beat Byron Jones.
It's going to take some time for Jones to readjust to playing cornerback, but the vision for Kris Richard of him and Chidobe Awuzie starting on the outside is a great one. In a battle of proven players, Hurns got the best of Jones to spark the Cowboys offense at the right time.
Overall, there should be no reason to panic about (well, really anything from mini camp) the Cowboys offense right now, and plenty of reasons to be excited about what this defense will develop into.
Once the pads come on at training camp, the players the Cowboys are paying to play at an elite level will start to shine, including their newly re-signed Guard Zack Martin -- the highest paid guard in the league now. There are no doubts that the bread and butter for this offense will be handing the ball to Ezekiel Elliott behind this wall of an offensive line.
From this increase in competition in the trenches, we'll also get more meaningful battles along the defensive line. In shorts and helmets for now, the Cowboys secondary was given their chance at mini camp, and came out solid early.
Another player they've struggled to truly corral though is Michael Gallup. Perhaps pressing a bit thanks to his limited opportunities thus far, Jourdan Lewis was taken across the field by Gallup on a misfire from Cooper Rush.
This is nothing new for Gallup however, who's been ahead of the curve on creating the desired separation as a "violent" receiver on the outside.
A steal with the 81st overall pick in this year's draft, Gallup has a long way to go in beating out the likes of Terrance Williams, Cedrick Wilson (limited through this portion of the offseason with injuries), and even Cole Beasley, who's received some reps on the outside.
With both Hurns and Gallup making plays on the Cowboys final practice until late July, it's easy to let the mind wander with possibilities of the Cowboys offense playing at full strength against a defense that might be up for the challenge better than ever compared to year's past.
As always, the practice fields of Oxnard will serve as a battle ground for a young but deep Cowboys team to earn their spots on the 53-man roster, one that surely won't have room for all of the wide receiver hopefuls seen this week in mini camp.
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