The NFL's rule change to a single cut down date at the end of the preseason has created one of the most eventful days on the league calendar. Teams around the league will be scrambling to process the replenished list of free agents that can help a roster before week one.
The Dallas Cowboys have already been active in this process, with Stephen Jones telling Cowboys Nation to prepare for additions on the offensive line as well as at safety. Dallas has already traded Cornerback Charvarius Ward to the Chiefs for former fourth round pick Parker Ehinger, a guard out of Cincinnati.
Update [12:31 PM CDT]:
The #49ers are releasing former first-round pick G Jonathan Cooper, source said.
The team's additions to the offensive line may not stop here, with the Cowboys laboring through their final two preseason games without Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Travis Frederick. The Cowboys deficiencies up front made it hard to truly evaluate some fringe players on offense, which will make today's roster decisions even harder.
@49ers' veteran guard Jonathan Cooper on the bubble as cuts loom (via @MaioccoNBCS) https://t.co/9zlzrlFAMt
One decision that could make sense is bringing back the services of veteran guard Jonathan Cooper, who is reportedly on the bubble with the San Francisco 49ers. The Cowboys allowed Cooper to depart in free agency this offseason, after he started 13 games for them at left guard in 2017.
With plenty of reasons to feel good about Cooper's replacement -- 50th overall pick Connor Williams -- the Cowboys should be solid at guard with Martin also expected to return to the starting lineup against the Panthers.
Cooper played 92 snaps this preseason for the 49ers, including a game high 60 in the team's preseason finale - an oddity for any hopeful starters or experienced players. Recovering from surgery on a knee injury suffered against the Eagles in week 17 last year, Cooper could use the reps to potentially impress a new team for 2018.
If released by the 49ers, Cooper will of course want to sign on for a starting position elsewhere. The Cowboys did offer the former first round pick the most stability he's found in his five years of professional football though. Cooper's 13 starts in the silver and blue were the most he's ever had in a season, starting a combined 14 games for the Cardinals and Browns between 2014-16.
Should this past loyalty be enough for Cooper to consider rejoining the Cowboys, the team will have to seriously consider the investment in quality depth over current interior options like Jacob Alsadek, Damien Mama, and Kadeem Edwards.
As I wrote in my Sean's Scout review of the Texans game, all three players had their struggles executing any of the blocks the Cowboys ask of their athletic linemen.
This was a strength of Cooper's game at left guard for the Cowboys, playing well in space and creating movement in the running game.
For the second year in a row, the Cowboys initial free agent acquisitions seem underwhelming in the total impact they'll have on the season. Former 49ers Guard Marcus Martin was placed on IR, and Defensive End Kony Ealy was released yesterday.
In order to get value out of Wide Receivers Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson, and to avoid a disastrous situation for Quarterback Dak Prescott in pass protection again, the Cowboys must continue upgrading their offensive line before the regular season begins.
Doing so with high value signings will be critical, and it won't get much better than welcoming back Jonathan Cooper at a reduced price as insurance for Williams, Martin, and even Travis Frederick - as Cooper did get some work at center in his first practices with the Cowboys last summer.
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!
DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class
Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.
Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.
One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.
ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.
ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t
DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.
Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.
Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.
When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott
Throughout the 2018 NFL season, one of the major story lines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys was how frequently Dak Prescott was taking sacks. It's an area that the Cowboys will have to look at in the offseason to better protect their franchise quarterback moving forward. In the playoffs, however, Dak Prescott and the offensive line were much better at keeping their prized possession upright than they were in the regular season.
In the regular season, Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times for an average of 3.5 times a game. There was only one game where he wasn't sacked at all, way back in week two against the New York Giants. Four times this season, the Cowboys' quarterback was sacked five or more times. The New Orleans Saints got him for a season high seven times.
According to Pro Football Focus, Dak was "kept clean" -- not pressured -- on 63% of his drop backs during the regular season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. When kept clean, Prescott completed 74.1% of his passes, which was good for 5th in the NFL during the regular season. He was under pressure 37% of the time, which was the sixth highest rate in the NFL and his completion percentage dropped to 52.6%, still good for 10th in the NFL. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield.
During the playoffs, Prescott's "kept clean" percentage rose from 63% to 68% and he was only sacked once in each game. The one sack against the Los Angeles Rams probably shouldn't have been called a sack as the referee blew the whistle because Prescott was "in the grasp"...
...of his offensive lineman.
During the playoffs, the Cowboys offensive line kept the pressure off of Prescott at a better rate, allowing him to be pressured on only 31.9% of his drop backs. Meaning he was kept clean at an improved rate from the regular season at 68.1% of his drop backs. This while playing against two teams that are really good at rushing the passer. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both finished in the top half of the league in sacks this season and feature players like Aaron Donald, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark who all had double-digit sacks.
As we know, pressure rates and sacks aren't all completely on the offensive line. The quarterback, wide receivers, and the play calling all factor in, but the Cowboys are trending in the right direction with their pass protection. A full offseason for Connor Williams in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program, better health for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and -- fingers crossed -- Travis Frederick, should all help the offensive line play at a higher level heading into the 2019 season.
It can't be overstated how important it will be to get Travis Frederick back into the fold this season. Joe Looney was good, and that might be overstating it a bit. He was not noticeable on most plays during the season, but getting your All-Pro center back will tremendously help the offense in every facet of the game. Frederick's one of the smarter players in the NFL, who helps everyone on the offense to see the blitzes and calls out the protections. Both his mental and physical ability will be a welcomed site when the Cowboys begin practicing in the offseason.
With another year of growth for the quarterback and for the young pieces along the offensive line, and with a full offseason for Dak Prescott to grow with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys should be better next season at keeping the quarterback clean.
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Should Tavon Austin’s Role Get Expanded Against His Former Team?
Dallas Cowboys5 days ago
5 Potential Candidates Cowboys Could Target to Replace OC Scott Linehan
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Texas Forever? Kris Richard Appears Closer to Staying with Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys2 days ago
3 Reasons Not to Hate Kellen Moore Becoming Offensive Coordinator
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Cowboys Getting Over $30 Million Cap Space from Expiring Dead Money
Dallas Cowboys1 day ago
7 Free Agents the Cowboys Should Target
Dallas Cowboys3 days ago
Tony Romo Won’t Be the Next Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator
Player News4 days ago
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick