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The Dallas Cowboys’ Problems Start at the Top

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As I'm sure you all know, the Dallas Cowboys are 5-6 and are long shots on making the playoffs this season. When we take a look at what the Cowboys have struggled with this season the list is rather long.

Whether it's the injuries to Sean Lee, Tyron Smith, or Dan Bailey, the six game suspension that the NFL smacked down on Ezekiel Elliott, or maybe the coach's inability to adjust, there is plenty to talk about when discussing the weaknesses of this Dallas Cowboys football team.

The biggest problem with the Dallas Cowboys comes from the top. Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, and Will McClay deserve a lot of blame for what has happened to this football team.

In recent years, the Dallas Cowboys front office has been looked at as geniuses for drafting guys like Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, or signing guys like Benson Mayowa and George Selvie, unfortunately that luck has run out.

Cowboys 2016 Draft Class: Who Will Stand Out In 2017?

Dallas Cowboys during rookie minicamp, Front row left to right: Dak Prescott (4), Maliek Collins (96), Jaylon Smith (54), Ezekiel Elliott (21), Charles Tapper (79). Back row Anthony Brown (30), Darius Jackson (34), Kavon Frazier (35) and Rico Gathers (80). Photo by James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

Over the last few weeks I evaluated every draft pick the Cowboys have used since 2013. In my evaluation I pulled out guys who I had graded as above average and pro-bowl players. I was shocked to find out that out of 42 total draft picks, I had only seven draft picks graded out as above average players based on their careers so far.

(* = pro-bowl caliber player)

That is not a successful formula for building a super bowl team.

The lack of ability to draft, sign, and develop players to play at a high level is something that this team cannot afford to do, especially with the way they handle free agency.

Last offseason the Cowboys signed Damontre Moore, Stephen Paea, and Nolan Carroll in free agency. None of those players are currently with the team. In 2016, the Cowboys signed Benson Mayowa and Cedric Thornton to pretty big contracts. Benson Mayowa has yet to record a sack in 2017 and Cedric Thornton was one of the Cowboys' final cuts before the '17 season.

How do you fix this problem? It may be time to let Will McClay walk and try to help another team build its roster.

Practice Squad Poaching

While Will McClay has certainly helped this team a lot over the years with drafts and bringing in other guys off the street, he's struggled in building a championship team.

As we all know, the last time the Cowboys won a Super Bowl was January 28th, 1996, that's also the last time the Cowboys won an NFC Championship. That is a 21-year span that the team has gone without playing in an NFC Championship game.

Will McClay obviously knows what he's doing, but similar to the Cowboys coaching staff, he and Stephen Jones seem to be very stubborn in the way they do things. Like I mentioned above, McClay and Jones don't like spending big money in free agency, as we've learned over the last few off-seasons.

I understand why, but you better be able to hit on a good percentage of your draft picks if you're not comfortable paying proven veterans.

That stubbornness from the front office is something that must change in order for the Cowboys to get back to a championship caliber team. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like that's going to happen anytime soon.

On Stephen Jones radio show today with 105.3 The Fan he all but confirmed my "stubbornness" comment.

Jeff Cavanaugh on Twitter

It's very difficult for us to think we can pick a shorter defensive end and have success." - Stephen Jones on draft DEs.

This is something I will never understand with this front office. Their lack of ability to evaluate defensive talent has put this team in a bind for years now, and it doesn't seem like they are interested in changing their ways.

The comment from Stephen was made after Jeff Cavanaugh asked about Carl Lawson (7.0 sacks) and T.J. Watt (5.0 sacks). Jones practically made it clear that they will stay away from short pass rushers with short arms, hints the Taco Charlton pick. That is absolutely ridiculous seeing as some of the better pass rushers in the NFL are undersized (Carl Lawson, Melvin Ingram, Brandon Graham).

This type of mentality concerns me as someone who covers the team and as a fan.

Having confidence as an NFL general manager is one thing, being stubborn and not having the ability to adjust is another. Stephen Jones and Jerry Jones are not going anywhere, we know that. But it may be time to start thinking about getting someone new in the building to evaluate talent and make personnel decisions. The track record proves itself.

The Cowboys can't keep drafting projects or signing journeymen in free agency if they want to compete for a Lombardi trophy. Especially when you take into account the window you have with an extremely cheap franchise quarterback.

Do you think Will McClay is the right guy as the Dallas Cowboys "General Manager"? Let me know below!



Born in 1995, loved Football but more importantly the Dallas Cowboys since day one. Living in Redskins Country flying the Blue and Silver flag as high as possible. Covering the Dallas Cowboys for InsideTheStar.com and CowboysNation.com. Catch me on twitter @ConnorNFLDraft!

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20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Randy Martin

    November 28, 2017 at 3:21 pm

    I was a little taken aback when you made the statement that YOU only had 7 of 42 players with draft grades above average as I’m not sure what your credentials are? Should you be looking for a position with an NFL team? But as I set that aside and just went with the gist of the article I began to mull the idea. Will McClay has been enjoying a reputation as somewhat of a draft guru and someone that other teams would like to poach as a GM. Oddly though, his background and experience is all arena league from the Dallas Desperadoes which happened to be JJ’s team as well. A bit of an odd pedigree from a man in this position. It is also my understanding that McClay wanted TJ Watt in that pick and Garrett was pounding the table for Taco. When you say the problems start at the top, it’s really the very top. The best coach Jones ever hired was Jimmy Johnson and he was fired simply because the two egos could not co-exist. Since then it has been a cavalcade of yes men. Men that Jones could trust would, in the end, do his bidding. The long drought of super bowl appearances can be hung at the feet of Jerry Jones because in the end all the staff and player personnel decision are the responsibility of the owner by hiring the right personnel and delegating and letting them do their job. Jerry is unable or unwilling to do that. Dallas ownership will likely forever remain in the hands of a Jones family member so unless, until something happens to Jerry, and we see a different style from another family member (Stephen) I don’t expect to see a lot of change. You can hear it in everything that is said and everything that is done. As they say, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. All I hear is “we’re staying the course” and they don’t see the iceberg dead ahead!

  2. JAMIE STARR

    November 28, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    When will they implement a draft for coaches ? These Cowboy coaches are not having this team ready to play games. Do you remember the GB game in the playoffs last year ? How do you have two weeks to prepare and you are down in the first half by 20 points ? Sounds like a coaching issue to me…… LET’S GET SOME REAL COACHES IN THIS B. TIME FOR JASON GARRETT TO GO !!!

  3. Frego 17

    November 28, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    Great article my friends not too many call it, has it is, you do on this article, lots of people are afraid to criticized a rich man like Jerry, you do.
    That’s great.

    Money makes everyone stubborn, in you’re frame of mind you belive that you know it all,
    They have their right the Joneses, there the owners,
    But I really second guess this people if they really want to win. Everything points they don’t, the Jonese’s are bussiness people, not football talent evaluaters, but there so stubborn and ego maniacs, and they want to prove the world that is was them. not JIMMY.
    My question , is how long is going to take them to realize, there not good at What there doing.. 22, years in my opinión should br enough , to realize they need to step aside, and let someone do the talent evaluation.
    They are a super great, and I mean great bussiness family , but that’s about it.
    Thank you for you’re article was great..

  4. Travis Diggs

    November 28, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    Connor you should be ashamed of yourself for implying that it starts at the top but put it on Mcclay, He’s at the top??Really??? Who signed Carroll, Thorton, Paea, and others??, It wasnt Mcclay, We all know who signed them, are yall that nieve at insidethestar. Jerry makes the final call, You and everybody knows that. You can’t fix a average defense with just the draft and one year deal players. This team is loaded with talent, its up to Jason Garrett how far they go and Rod Marinelli does what he can do with just ok players who only wanna play if Sean Lee’s with them. Talent is not the issue here. Jerry continues to mess up but writers and whoever else puts blame on everybody and anybody else without pointing the finger at the key issue here, Jerry

  5. Duncan

    November 28, 2017 at 7:02 pm

    Repeating the obvious – we will never win unless changes are made in the front office and we all know that will never happen.
    The inability of our coaches have also put this team in peril – it’s painful to watch year after year.

  6. Suave Freddie

    November 28, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    ALL of ComboyNation should express what they feel about this team. Year after year, the Cowboys become the drama king of the NFL. They just make it easier for the HATERS to hate the Cowboys even more. J.J. & Stephen just don’t get it anymore. If you don’t know how to build a playoff caliber team, then it’s time to step down and hire those that have experience and ingenuity to build one. The Cowboys were better off before J.J. came into the picture. I’m sure there would have been/be flexibility to be a playoff caliber team by now without J.J.. This team is very STAGNANT in which it has been built. TOO PREDICTABLE!! NO ENTHUSIASM!! NO EXPLOSIVENESS!! NO ACCOUNTABILITY!! NO DISCIPLINE!! TOO EASY TO READ their playbook. Read article that Tony Romo would be a good head coach for the Cowboys.That would be something different to start of with. He’s an EXVELLENT commentator. Why noy as a coach. J.J. does not have anything to lose. Players would RESPECT him more than Garrett. Tony would discipline the team and hold them accountable.Just look at the Rams. IT’S TIME FOR A CHANGE!! But in this real world of the Joneses, don’t expect too much.

  7. Jamminn

    November 28, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    We all know it’s garrett and his layed back laxidasial approach to the game. Hisnpmay colling was vanilla when he was a off coordinator I said it then we will never win a sb with him here then they made him coach and I said it again he’s lame no balls approach clapping every damn game ? Saying even thought we lost 3 game we did some good things? Really? What good did we do sweep the locker room? This guy is a joke and Jerry is a business man he is a good business man but let me tell you if I owned a 4.5 billion$ franchise I would have the best coach money could buy not a back up washed up QB trying to learn how to coach on the fly which he’s not thank you Arron Rodgers 2 years in a row showing us. Can’t manage a game clock etc. see a real coach coaches takes young kids and turns them into power houses . Bilicheck takes a whole defense rebuilds it ends up in the super bowl. Remember when we played the 49ers and Steve young was out they had Elvis grirbach for crying out loud come in here and shalack the Boys moved rice to the slot taking Deon out of the game that my friend is coaching making adjustments. 1 player and you can’t win a game we have had great teams 12/4 13-3 teams before 11-5 etc 2 playoff wins? Really wasted Romos career now we are on our way to wasting Dak and Elliot’s .Go get John Gruden he’s a Dak fan who knows how to call plays and make adjustments go get Bill cower who will yell in a guys face in front of the whole nation hold a player accountable but oh yea Jerry’s they movie star here I remember now he’s the one in the spot light guess what u are a fool a rich fool but a fool non the less .until Jerry makes the best move and understands he has let at least 4 Super Bowl teams slip thru his rich fingers or croaks we will always be outside looking in 72-78-92,93,95 Super Bowls 22 years ago is HISTORY

    • pdstix78

      November 29, 2017 at 7:52 am

      You would think they’d get tired of getting embarrassed on national TV. I’m sure Cousins will come out during and put numbers up. Nobody fears this team, especially on defense. Opposing offenses look forward to having their way every week

  8. eric jensen

    November 28, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    I agree! Long arm Def players, not players that short arms ,not fast, and short in height!! Need players 6’4 or better, but faster 4:32! Look at B.Hayes, need that kind of players,but coaching staff & owners staff need to get their head out their asses!!

  9. Cowboysdude

    November 28, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    What this writer is failing to understand is the obvious…..they aren’t trying to build a SB winner, they are building a bank account winner. They KNOW 2 things…..Cowboys fans are delusional about their team and 2. They just say what the fans want to hear and they just buy it.. YES both are true and it blows my mind totally. I don’t purchase anything Cowboys and haven’t since they hired the red headed clap monkey they loosely call a “HC”….. Could you imagine what the fan base of other teams would do if they hired a coach and told the fans he was “learning on the job”? WTF? At this level? UUhhhhhhhh No, just no. Wake up cowboys fans….. you are being taken for a ride….. quit paying the fare…..

  10. oneputter

    November 28, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    Watt only looks better in Pittsburgh because of the talent next to him and behind him. you put him in dallas and he looks no better than TC does right now….c’mon people!

    the scheme is outdated, we run the same darn stunt on nearly every play….we blitz the same player every single time, c’mon you know who and from where it’s coming, my 11 yr old son can recognize our one blitz…..that’s the frkn problem with this defense.

    • pdstix78

      November 29, 2017 at 7:45 am

      That’s what happens when you gotta proven loser running your defense

      • oneputter

        November 29, 2017 at 2:45 pm

        ba-lee dat!!!

    • Tommy Davis

      November 30, 2017 at 10:57 am

      Defensively, Marinelli is the problem. He put 9 players on the line and left 2 defensive backs to defend the entire field on 2 occasions resulting in touchdowns, that is unacceptable. Also, not utilizing your best cover corner (Jordan Lewis) more while allowing Anthony Brown to play outside corner when he is a major liability on the outside is unfathomable. Jeff Heath is too slow to be a starting safety, he does not have close out speed to be able to help in deep coverage. Jaylen Smith should play outside linebacker, not the middle. He could be a terrific pass rusher coming off the edge with his speed. We have a very good D-line, but we need to put the best players on the field in the secondary. When the cowboys utilize a four man front, 2 linebackers and 5 defensive backs, they are an excellent defense. They rarely line up that way.

  11. Duncan

    November 28, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    Why is everyone on this forum so much smarter than the Clowns in the Cowboys front office who are making millions of dollars – that includes the coaching staff.
    After reading these post it’s comforting to see the passion of our fan base and how everyone is on the same page with the Jones’s family and the head coach.
    Watch Kirk Cousins will light us up Thursday nite on National TV “AGAIN”.

  12. billy jack

    November 29, 2017 at 1:03 am

    i dont know I thought Jerry was the general manger so he should be fired and let Mcclay given the chance to prove what he can do

  13. John Williams

    John Williams

    November 29, 2017 at 1:50 am

    Well written Connor.

    It’s tough man. Jerry Jones is the decision maker on the team and he puts a lot of trust in Garrett and McClay. Will McClay has done a great job streamlining the communication process between the scouts and the coaching staff and I think has done a good job finding diamonds in the rough.

    I had a huge issue with Stephen talking about a DE profile. He was the one guy in the room that I thought was open minded and willing to adjust if necessary. To me that’s evidence that Rod Marinelli hsa way too much influence in evaluations and in draft selection. I think Taco proves it.

    There are a lot of problems, but who knows what changes, if any will be made.

    • pdstix78

      November 29, 2017 at 7:43 am

      This team is just a mess. Jerry won’t acknowledge it, but they’ll continue to spin their wheels with this current coaching staff

  14. Gilbert Perez

    November 29, 2017 at 8:41 am

    Jerry acting like a GM has been the problem for 22 years. Why not give Will McClay a shot at being GM. Can’t be any worst than Jerry’s decisions over the years

  15. Jonathan Young

    November 29, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    Will McClay is not the PROBLEM. It’s Jerry Jones & his EGO, people have said this for years that Jerry needs to get out of his own way. Other than Jimmy Johnson, Bill Parcells would be the only other coach that really coached the Cowboys. Until Jerry Jones is unable to be in the way. Then Stephen Jones or whoever wants to really put their heart into the day to day operations of the team we’re only going to be as good as we have been over the last 25 year’s…

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Star Blog

Could Loaded FA Safety Market Drive Down Earl Thomas’ Value?

Brian Martin

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Could Loaded FA Safety Class Drive Down Earl Thomas' Price Tag?

It's no secret the Dallas Cowboys and Earl Thomas share a mutual interest in one another. Thomas has publicly stated his desire to join America's Team and the Cowboys did their darndest to make that happen last offseason. Nothing ever materialized a year ago, but it's looking as if the stars have finally aligned and a union between the two could merely be just weeks away.

Surprisingly enough, the Dallas Cowboys may have dodged a bullet last year when the Seattle Seahawks refused to part ways with their All-Pro safety. Not only would they have had to surrender a high draft pick, but they would've also had to extend Thomas' contract. Fortunately, timing is everything and now the Cowboys might just have to do the latter.

A potential contract between the Cowboys and Thomas is of course what I want to dive in today. I'm not going to get into numbers right now, because it's nearly impossible to project any kind of contract for any safety this offseason, especially for the former Seahawk, Earl Thomas.

Earl Thomas

Free Agent FS Earl Thomas (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Right now, it's a little difficult to know who might have the advantage in contract negotiations, Earl Thomas or the Dallas Cowboys. A lot of times the one that has the leverage, however slight, is the one that gets the better of the deal. As surprising as it may be, the Cowboys might just have the advantage here and I'll tell you why.

First off, this year's market for free agent safeties is pretty stacked with starting caliber players. See below:

  • Earl Thomas
  • Landon Collins
  • Lamarcus Joyner
  • Tyrann Mathieu
  • Adrian Amos
  • Clayton Geathers
  • Ha-Ha Clinton Dix
  • Glover Quinn
  • Tre Boston
  • Kenny Vaccaro
  • George Iloka
  • Jimmie Ward
  • Adrian Phillips

Earl Thomas is obviously the headliner here amongst the free agent safeties, but having so many starting caliber players available could drive down Thomas' market value just a bit. This is especially true when you take into consideration the market for FA safeties just a year ago. It was almost a complete standstill last year, with only Kurt Coleman signing a three-year $16.5 million deal with the New Orleans Saints. Not even the "Honey Badger" Tyrann Mathieu could get more than a one-year deal.

With all of these safeties available in free agency, we could be looking at another stingy market. This of course could be good or bad news for the Dallas Cowboys, especially as it pertains to Earl Thomas. Since he is the top FA safety available, everything could once again be at a standstill until he is signed.

Earl Thomas

Free Agent FS Earl Thomas (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Of course, we all know this will ultimately come down to determining Earl Thomas' market value. There is no denying he is still arguably the best free safety in the game today, but there are concerns about his age (30) and the two lower leg injuries he's sustained in the past three years.

Even with the loaded free agent market of starting caliber safeties and Thomas' age and recent injury history, he's still likely to receive a contract that earns him $10 million annually, give or take. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he gets another four-year deal worth $40 million, $25.7 million guaranteed, with a $9.5 million signing bonus like he signed with the Seahawks back in 2014.

The Cowboys of course would probably find a four-year $40 million deal for Earl Thomas acceptable. They would more than likely frontload the contract with a lot of protection in the details. They have the cap space to make this happen and still be able to sign their own, so money shouldn't be a problem.

Now, whether or not Thomas' market value may dip a little due to all of the above mentioned reasons will be something we will have to wait and find out. Regardless, I'd be a little shocked if Earl Thomas doesn't finish his career with the Dallas Cowboys.

Do you think Earl Thomas' market value will take a little hit this offseason?



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Star Blog

Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors

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Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors

What a difference a receiver makes, right? As Dallas fans, we know the impact of a player who can shake coverage, get open, and catch the ball. How was the season going before the Cowboys pulled the trigger for Amari Cooper in the deal with the Raiders? Cooper proved to be the lightning rod and a turning point in a season that was growing increasingly dismal. Dak Prescott and Cooper went together like peanut butter and jelly, while the Cowboys stormed to a division title and a postseason berth.

Now, imagine all of that times two… maybe even two and a half if Antonio Brown could be had from the Steelers. Scary right? We understand there’s only one ball to go around but that didn’t stop Kevin Durant from joining the Warriors, did it?

As of this writing, the best online sportsbooks like Intertops, are dealing Dallas as the seventh of 16 choices to win the NFC championship at odds of 12-1. Imagine how those odds would shrink if Brown wore a Cowboys uniform next season, giving Prescott the luxury of not one upper echelon wideout but that plus an elite receiver. Hut, hut, hut and a few clouds of smoke later the Cowboys would be moving the chains or celebrating in the endzone.

Brown and Cooper would be a devastating combination with Ezekiel Elliott coming out of the backfield. Brown was made for Dallas, it gives him an even grander stage than the one he shared with Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh.

Despite the fact that the 'Boys haven’t won a Super Bowl since Barry Switzer was roaming the sidelines in the mid-90s, America’s Team still resides in Dallas. But we need a game-changer and Brown is just such an athlete. But what do we give in return and will that cost be worth whatever productive years Brown has left after this one? Let’s not forget that the mercurial Miami native will be 31 when the season begins and men who make a living with their legs don’t get better at that age. But Brown is so good and so unique that, even if he drops half a click, he's still amongst the best in the game.

That level of talent is hard to replicate and it could be the missing piece which allows Dallas to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender next season and the year after.

However, up to this point, we’ve been very good at dreaming of a Brown to Dallas trade but haven’t quite worked out the details. It takes two to tango and if we expect to get the Steelers’ attention we need to give them something valuable in return. Dallas surrendered their first-round pick (27th) this season when they traded for Cooper so that’s no longer an asset.

Pittsburgh would be vying for a first-round pick (and likely more) for Brown's services but some have speculated Dallas would consider dealing rookie-standout Leighton Vander Esch.

Wait... what? We know, you’re clutching your pearls, and the words are stuck in your gasp. We get it. The kid was a home run this past season, leading the Dallas defense in tackles and earning a Pro Bowl invitation in his inaugural NFL season. But this would be a Faustian deal.

The Cowboys give up a player who is poised to be a stud for years to come for a playmaker in Brown that could render a Super Bowl in the immediate future. Brown's expiration date will surely turn his milk sour sooner rather than later, but in the here and now, Antonio Brown could be the bell cow who leads the Cowboys to the promised land before he’s put out to pasture.

Just something to think about...



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Star Blog

2018 In Review: CB Anthony Brown Bounces Back

Kevin Brady

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Anthony Brown's Resurgence A Great Sign for Cowboys Defense
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

To say it's been an up-and-down start to the career of young cornerback Anthony Brown would be an understatement.

As a sixth round pick in 2016, everything Brown contributed during his rookie season was a plus. Due to injury he was asked to step into a greater role as the season went on, and he performed well enough to make the front office comfortable allowing multiple veterans to walk for nothing in free agency the following Spring. Brown looked like a legitimate starting cornerback in the league, and when Dallas brought in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis during the next draft, the young secondary seemed set.

Then 2017 happened. And Anthony Brown struggled. Really struggled.

These struggles, coupled with the emergence of both Lewis and Awuzie during their own rookie seasons, made Brown's status heading into 2018 rather uncertain. Some wondered if they would trade him for a day three pick, others thought Brown could even end up being cut. Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown were slated to compete for the nickel cornerback job in training camp, and as it turned out, all Brown needed was that one extra chance to compete.

Brown won the job outright during the preseason, and began 2018 as the starting nickel. A fan favorite, most thought Lewis would reclaim his rightful spot on the depth chart sooner or later, but Anthony Brown's play (and Kris Richard's preferences) kept Lewis on the bench for much of the season.

Simply put, Anthony Brown balled in 2018, and was the Cowboys' second best corner for most of the year. By the end of the season Chidobe Awuzie had regained form, but Brown and Byron Jones were the most consistently reliable corners on the roster all of 2018.

Brown tallied 44 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception in 2018, and finished third on the team in pass breakups with 8. As the slot corner Brown had an excellent season, especially for a former sixth round pick.

Now he enters a contract year, and with the Cowboys having so many guys to pay over the next two offseasons, he could find himself as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. And if he can keep up his play from last year moving forward, he could be in for a nice payday that Spring.



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