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Who is Dallas Cowboys Second-Best Defensive Player?

Jess Haynie



Cowboys Blog - Sean Lee Named To Pro Bowl 2

I've been working on a project ranking the Dallas Cowboys roster that will be unveiled soon. In the process, I've discovered a question that leads to interesting discussion. In fact, it could have a major bearing on the 2017 season. Who is the second-best player on the Cowboys defense?

Sean Lee

LB Sean Lee

I say "second-best" because, as I'm sure you'll agree, number one is clearly Sean Lee. The team's top linebacker is the only current Dallas defender to ever go to the Pro Bowl and is the only one who would even be in that conversation right now.

The last defensive player other than Lee to be a Pro Bowler was defensive lineman Jason Hatcher, an alternate in 2014.  The last time more than one player from the Cowboys defense were in the Pro Bowl was 2012 as DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff were both named.

There is no question, whether you're a fan of the team or an outside observer, that Sean Lee stands alone in Dallas defensive supremacy. While nobody may challenge him for that top spot in 2017, the Cowboys need some guys to at least close the gap. Right now, it's difficult to point at one guy who clearly stands apart from the rest as the next-best player.

The guy with the strongest case for the number-two spot is safety Byron Jones. Consistently ranked among the better safeties in the NFL last season, Jones has been a steadying presence in an otherwise tumultuous secondary. He and cornerback Brandon Carr were the only defensive backs to start all 16 games last season.

What holds Byron back is a lack of big plays. He only has one career interception in two years. The expectation was that Jones, a superior athlete and intelligent player, would be a ballhawk in the defensive backfield. He has had some acrobatic plays on some deflections but hasn't had the turnovers that really make a guy's reputation.

Of course, that isn't the fairest measure of a player's greatness. Some guys don't get many picks because quarterbacks won't dare to throw it near them. This is usually truer of cornerbacks, but it's no unreasonable to think that opponents were happier to throw it towards Barry Church or J.J. Wilcox's side of the field than where Byron was prowling.

Entering his third season and only his second as a full-time safety, Byron Jones should be better than ever. If that helps him to make just a few more highlight plays, it should quickly elevate his status both with the Cowboys and perhaps get him a Pro Bowl spot in 2017.

Jaylon Smith

LB Jaylon Smith

Is it possible that when 2017 is over, another Cowboys linebacker could be the number-two guy?

Nobody on the Dallas defense was ever called an elite, top-five draft prospect but Jaylon Smith. Had it not been for his well-documented knee injury, Smith would have gone very early in the 2016 draft and been expected to be an instant impact player. If Jaylon's healthy enough to play up to that potential, could he be Sean Lee's best teammate?

We don't want to get carried away with expectations for Jaylon, but we just established that the bar isn't terribly high. Byron Jones was a steady performer but not exceptionally great in 2016, nor was anyone else. Maliek Collins and Anthony Brown has surprisingly good rookie seasons but still have work to do. David Irving flashed things but also needs more consistency.

If he's a good as advertised, Jaylon Smith will be all over the field. He will likely get a least one or two interceptions. As we said with Byron, all it takes is a few big plays to emerge from the pack. Smith could easily do this if everything's working for him physically.

~ ~ ~

The Cowboys need someone else to become more of a difference maker. Sean Lee makes up for several deficiencies but needs help for this to be a championship-level defense. Whether it's a pass rusher, defensive back, or another linebacker, at least one more Pro Bowl defender needs to emerge in Dallas.

The good news is that this is a roster on the rise. Thanks to their recent focus on the draft over free agency, the Cowboys enjoy a team full of young, developing talent. Most of our players should better next season, which is an exciting thought for a team that won 13 games.

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!

1 Comment
  • Kevin Brady

    I think at this point it’s Byron Jones for sure. Hopefully Jaylon Smith can make it more of a competition for #2 or even #1 this year, but that’s Byron’s spot for now in my opinion.

Dallas Cowboys

Terrance Williams Contract Creates 2018 Job Security

Jess Haynie



Cowboys Headlines - Breaking Down Terrance Williams' Game-Ending Decision 1
Louis DeLuca/Dallas Morning News

There's been a lot of talk about what the Dallas Cowboys will do at the receiver position this offseason. While there's a great divide on what the team should do with Dez Bryant, there's a fairly unanimous opinion that Dallas should find an upgrade over Terrance Williams. No matter where he ends up on the depth chart, though, Williams' contract should keep him on the roster in 2018.

Last offseason, Terrance signed a four-year, $17 million deal to stay in Dallas. Because we are now just in the second year of that deal, it is cost prohibitive against the salary cap to release or trade him.

Williams is scheduled to count $4.75 million against the 2018 cap. If Dallas were to cut him, it would accelerate his remaining guaranteed money and create $7.25 million in dead money this year. He would cost more against the cap off the roster than on it.

Even the June-1st provision doesn't help. Williams' dead money in 2018 drops to $4.75 million, which is a net zero against his existing cap hit. It would also push $2.5 million of dead money to 2019. There's no benefit there, and you lose an experienced player who knows your system.

Did Terrance Williams' Big Game Quiet His Doubters?

Dallas Cowboys WR Terrance Williams

If the Cowboys do like their WR depth enough to want to move on from Terrance, one option is to try to trade him. A trade would lower the cap penalty to $3.75 million and save $1 million. If he's traded after June 1st, it would save $3.5 million against this year's cap.

Of course, it takes two to tango in this scenario. Williams hasn't scored a touchdown since 2016 and has never proven he can take on a significant role in an offense. He was serviceable when Dez Bryant and Jason Witten commanded more attention, but he's a low-end WR2 at best and many teams likely wouldn't want him in their top 2-3 receivers.

Perhaps something could happen during training camps or preseason, when injuries may make other teams desperate. Then again, something could happen in Dallas that makes them less willing to part with Terrance.

As it stands, it seems unlikely that Terrance Williams won't be a Cowboy in 2018. And really, that's not bad thing.

Even if he gets pushed down the depth chart, Terrance would be a good insurance policy against injuries or any other issues that could happen between now and September. $4.75 million is more than you'd like to pay your fourth WR but it's a one-year problem.

If the Cowboys do add more WR talent this offseason, there is a trickle-down effect that strengthens the entire club. Williams, with his experience, is an upgrade over Brice Butler as the fourth receiver.

Therefore, unless circumstances both here and elsewhere allow Dallas to find a trade partner, Terrance Williams should be back next year.

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Player News

Cowboys Trade for FB Jamize Olawale from Raiders

Jess Haynie



Jamize Olawale, Raiders

Less than a week after the Cowboys lost fullback Keith Smith to the Raiders in free agency, the two teams have worked out a trade to send FB Jamize Olawale from Oakland to Dallas.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Fullback trade! The #Raiders are sending FB Jamize Olawale to the #Cowboys, sources say. Dallas has its fullback, one who was with Oakland since 2012.

To facilitate the trade, the Cowboys will send their fifth-round pick (173rd overall) to the Raiders for their sixth-round pick (192nd), moving back just 19 spots.

In return, Dallas not only brings in a veteran replacement at FB but a player they already know.

Jamize Olawale was an undrafted rookie free agent of the Cowboys in 2012. Despite a strong showing in that preseason, Dallas did not have room for him on the roster. He was on the team's practice squad until December, when Oakland poached him.

Since then, Olawale has been a regular roleplayer in the Raiders' offense. He's missed just six games since 2013.

Jamize brings more offensive firepower to the FB position than Keith Smith had. He's scored at least one touchdown in each of the last three seasons. He can be effective both running and receiving.

Through the trade, Dallas picks up the final year of Olawale's current contract. It calls for a $1.5 million base salary in 2018.

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Player News

Dallas Cowboys to Re-Sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur for 2018

Sean Martin



Dallas Cowboys to Re-Sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladoucer for 2018 1

Continuity is the key to good special teams play in the NFL. Already losing long-time Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia to the Raiders - who promptly snatched ST aces Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber in free agency - the Dallas Cowboys have announced their intentions to re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur for the 2018 season.

Returning on a one-year deal, the fan favorite Ladouceur will be back to do what he does best in cleanly executing almost every special teams snap for Chris Jones or Dan Bailey to handle.

Todd Archer on Twitter

Long snapper L.P. Ladouceur will re-sign with the Cowboys on Monday, according to sources, on a one-year deal. He will be in his 14th season with the franchise. Only Jason Witten, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Bill Bates and Mark Tuinei will have more years of...

While Jones has improved as the Cowboys' punter with each passing season, Kicker Dan Bailey actually enters 2018 as another question mark on this unit. With the general belief around the team being that Bailey will be just fine moving forward, the Cowboys will no longer have to worry about who handles long snaps next year either.

Dallas Cowboys to Re-Sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladoucer for 2018

Dallas Cowboys LS L.P. Ladouceur

L.P. Ladouceur is back in the silver and blue, and in this moment, everything can be alright with the world.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys to Re-Sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur for 2018" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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