There is a reason I've been quiet about arguably the top story for the Dallas Cowboys this offseason, which is Dez Bryant's future with the team. Foremost, there has been very little news to actually drive this story that Bryant will either be on the team in 2018 or not. At the end of the day, this is another player under contract for the Cowboys - making talks of his departure from Dallas purely speculation.
Almost all of this changed yesterday though, with a report that Cowboys Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones will finally get his much-anticipated meeting with his team's star wide receiver on Friday.
This offseason arrived abruptly for the Cowboys, who missed out on the playoffs in 2017 while watching Bryant struggle once again with second-year Quarterback Dak Prescott. Since the end of the season for Dallas, two things (that now pertain to this Dez Bryant situation) have been perfectly clear.
1. Despite pressure to shake up the coaching staff even further, the Dallas Cowboys retained Head Coach Jason Garrett, Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan, and Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli
The extent of which the Cowboys turned over their coaching staff as a response to a disappointing nine wins may be bad news for fans, but should be viewed as good news for Dez Bryant.
From top to bottom, the Cowboys have become known (for better or worse) as a loyal franchise to its players and coaches. Since being drafted in 2010, perhaps no player has felt this loyalty from America's Team more than Dez Bryant.
If we believe that the team is imposing some sort of fabricated "deadline" to deal with Dez Bryant this offseason, a player they can happily carry into next season if they choose, a decision following Jerry's meeting with Dez will be made by a similar brain trust to that of the last seven years.
This may seem obvious, but it is immensely important to keep in mind. Under Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan, the Cowboys failed on offense this season. Entirely.
Fixing the offense for the Cowboys certainly seems achievable in a short period of time, which is likely all Garrett and Linehan have to turn this team around. Are both coaches, along with the rest of a staff they could collectively drag down, prepared to fight for their coaching lives without a competitor like Dez Bryant on the field in 2018?
The logical answer here would be a simple "no".
Sorting through a potential roster move that would instantly change the direction of the Cowboys is not easy though, and requires a further look at what the Cowboys plan could be to compete without Bryant next season.
2. The Cowboys have shown a lot of interest in acquiring wide receivers since the start of the offseason.
At the first opportunity to improve their roster, the Cowboys began free agency by showing interest in WR Sammy Watkins. When Watkins signed a three-year deal in Kansas City worth almost $26.5 million guaranteed, the Cowboys regressed to their usual FA approach.
This is to say that Stephen Jones and the Cowboys stepped away from the market of top-tier free agents, waiting patiently again to fill out the roster with less expensive talent. The team was able to add two new wide receivers through free agency though, signing both Deonte Thompson and Allen Hurns.
The team has also not stopped showing interest in available WRs, as they're focused has shifted to the 2018 NFL Draft. With a deep group of pass catchers available, the Cowboys have visited with nearly all of the top receiver prospects - including Oklahoma State's James Washington as late as this week.
The only safe takeaway from the Cowboys doing their due diligence at a position of need (as the roster stands here on April 12th still, with Dez Bryant on the field) is that they will be looking to continue adding young receiving talent in hopes of restoring confidence to their young quarterback and becoming more potent on offense in 2018.
This may be an unattractive headline, but it is the calculated one when it comes to dissecting how the Cowboys feel about Dez Bryant in this moment - which brings us to the reported details of what Jerry Jones and Bryant will actually sit down to discuss tomorrow.
There are indeed discussions at The Star about a meeting between owner Jerry Jones and WR Dez Bryant on Friday, per a source. Whether that conversation is a "pay cut" conversation or a "you're cut" conversation? Source said "have no clue". #Cowboys
All of the work the Dallas Cowboys have done in evaluating both free agent and draft eligible wide receivers has been handled without Jerry Jones truly "getting his hands dirty". It still makes sense that Jones, who remains as important a decision maker in Dallas as any, will meet with Dez Bryant to either discuss an emotional farewell from the Cowboys or a pay cut to remain with the team.
If the latter option is truly being offered to Bryant, a declining player with two year's worth of struggles under a QB the Cowboys are not planning on moving on from anytime soon, this entire offseason's worth of work has been about creating negotiating leverage against Dez. The Cowboys may not like the idea of entering the draft with an even larger need at WR, but they can certainly show Dez Bryant that they're prepared to address his position in a big way.
For a team whose salary cap is primarily managed by Stephen Jones though, this could be a case of Jerry delivering Stephen's message to Bryant. One can only imagine the twisted game of high-stakes telephone that could be played between the Jones' should Jerry still be loyal to Dez Bryant.
There is no reason to sit here today and think that Jerry Jones is not a supporter of Bryant, nor that he is alone in wanting the 29-year old WR on the team next season. There may be even more reason to believe that these Cowboys executives will be outweighed, not just by the "anonymous staffer" that called for Bryant's departure recently, but by an equally powerful contingency of players, coaches, or front office members.
Hence the need for Dez Bryant to sit down with Jerry Jones. It doesn't get any higher than the Hall of Fame owner of the Dallas Cowboys. Jones has not been put in the position to potentially cut an All-Pro player without the proven help of his son Stephen as well as Will McClay.
Whatever the Cowboys do with Bryant, we may never know who the final decision maker was, or if the team was able to reach any consensus on it - which I believe will truly be the more important Cowboys story to come of this.
Friday will not be your average start to a weekend in late April for Cowboys Nation.
Report: Center Travis Frederick Undergoing Shoulder Evaluation
After missing the team's walkthrough this morning, it is being reported that Dallas Cowboys starting center Travis Frederick is having his shoulder evaluated due to multiple stingers. According to reports, Frederick has been dealing with stingers all training camp, and the Cowboys are unsure what is wrong with his shoulder.
Frederick rarely misses any practice time at all, and has not missed a start since he entered the league in 2013. He's the catalyst of this offensive line, and will be greatly missed if his injury is severe enough to make him miss regular season game time.
Jason Garrett says Travis Frederick is getting his shoulder looked at in Los Angeles. He's been dealing with stingers. No update behind that #cowboyswire
Joe Looney has been tasked with replacing Frederick for the time being, taking first team center reps during today's walk through and practice.
Given how meaningless Saturday's game is, I'd expect Looney to start at center against the Bengals this weekend as well. Hopefully the evaluation reveals that Frederick's issues are not serious and he will be ready for game one, but consistent stingers will always make fans fear for the worst.
Cowboys G Marcus Martin Needs Surgery; Impact on 53-Man Roster
Marcus Martin, the veteran guard Dallas signed as a free agent last March, suffered a potential season-ending injury in the team's preseason opener last Thursday night. Just how long he'll be out is still be determined, but it still should impact the Cowboys' final 53-man roster this season.
Martin tore ligaments in his right big toe against the 49ers. However, as of yesterday, it was not decided if he would pursue surgery.
The Cowboys don't expect backup OG Marcus Martin to play this season after he tore ligaments in his big toe in the preseason opener, but he's seeking a 2nd opinion before deciding whether to have surgery. Martin signed a 1-year deal with Dallas as a free agent this offseason.
A former third-round pick in 2014, the 24-year-old was brought in as a potential reserve at both guard at center. He was still in competition with Joe Looney and others for a roster spot, though, and his minimal one-year contract suggested nothing was guaranteed.
Even if Martin doesn't have surgery, he is almost sure to miss the start of the season. Dallas would likely place him on injured reserve, but still have the option to recall him after Week 8.
Marcus' absence all but guarantees that Looney will return in 2018. This will be his third year in the system and his ability to play center is critical.
In my 53-man roster projection last week, I had both Looney and Martin making the team. So if I had that right, that means a spot has opened up for probably fifth-year veteran Kadeem Edwards, who was playing with the second unit in the preseason opener.
The notorious Chaz Green, who has played guard at times, could also be the beneficiary of the open roster spot.
Damien Mama, an undrafted free agent in 2017 who Dallas added this offseason, is the only other guard currently on the roster. We should get to see more of him as the preseason continues.
Marcus Martin's availability, or lack thereof, and how it ultimately impacts the roster will be determined in the coming weeks.
LB Jaylon Smith 100% Healthy Entering 2018 Season
If you need any more reason to be excited about the Dallas Cowboys upcoming 2018 season, then look no further than their 2016 second-round draft pick, Jaylon Smith. His comeback story from the devastating knee injury he sustained in his last collegiate game at Notre Dame has been well-documented, but recent news suggests his journey has finally come full circle.
Once considered a top-five pick, Smith saw his draft stock plummet due to concerns he may never be able to step foot on the field ever again. Fortunately, the Dallas Cowboys were willing to gamble he would be able to make a full recovery and once again become the player he was with the Fighting Irish.
The long and grueling rehab process couldn't have been easy to endure. Jaylon Smith was forced to pretty much redshirt his rookie season and played on a pitch count Year 2 while he continued to rehab, waiting for nerve regeneration that may never fully heal.
Luckily for him, he joined a team with a really good support system both on and off the field. A support system that just so happened to include his brother, Running Back Rod Smith. It's that support system that could have made a huge difference in his approach to rehab. An approach that may have finally paid off.
All reports indicate Jaylon Smith is 100% healthy once again, or as close to it as possible. Rod Smith, his brother, said Jaylon is back to being as good as he was at Notre Dame. Jaylon however said he is even better than he was. But, they are not the only ones weighing in on Smith's health.
Scouting Director Will McClay went on 103.3 FM ESPN Radio Monday morning and declared LB Jaylon 100 percent healthy from the injury he suffered in college that kept him out his rookie season in 2016 and had him on a pitch count in 2017.
Will McClay isn't the only one that has noticed a difference in Jaylon Smith. Head Coach Jason Garrett has said Smith has grown leaps and bounds from last year and are treating him like a player with no limitations.
"Again, he worked hard in his rehab. Coming into this off-season he was able to take that brace off. I think that's freed him up a little bit," Garrett said.
"And he just looks much more natural. So again, you'll have to ask him that very question, but from our point of view, he looks like he's moving around really well, changing direction really well, making a lot of plays. I think he's gaining more confidence with each day. We really don't have a plan for him right now. He's full-go and ready to practice every day with no limitation."
All of these accounts certainly make it sound like Jaylon Smith's arrow is trending upwards and that he is as healthy as he has been since joining the Dallas Cowboys.
Luckily, we don't have long to see him in action. I don't know about you, but Thursday night when the Cowboys take on the San Francisco 49ers in the Week 1 of the NFL Preseason can't get here soon enough.
Are you excited to see a 100% healthy Jaylon Smith this season?
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