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.
Cowboys to Use 5th-Year Option on Ezekiel Elliott’s Contract
To nobody's surprise, the Dallas Cowboys intend to exercise the fifth-year option on star Running Back Ezekiel Elliott's contract. This will keep Zeke signed with the Cowboys through the 2020 season.
The deadline for teams to use the options years on the draft class of 2016 is Thursday, May 2nd, just a few days following the 2019 NFL Draft.
Cowboys VP Stephen Jones on the team eventually exercising the fifth-year option on Ezekiel Elliott's contract: "Obviously we're gonna do it.
It's appropriate that Stephen said "obviously," because there is no reason for the Cowboys not to utilize this provision. It's one of the perks of drafting a player in the first round; the option does not apply to any other rookie deals.
Right now, the 2020 option year projects to pay Elliott around $10 million. That is a bargain considering other franchise backs like Todd Gurley, Le'Veon Bell, and David Johnson are all now averaging $13-$14 million per season.
In fact, it may be more of a discount than Zeke is willing to give. He may very well holdout if the team doesn't give him a new contact closer to his market value.
For all we know, the Cowboys have every intention of doing just that. This move is little more than a formality; a placeholder that prevents Elliott from entering unrestricted free agency in 2020 and secures his rights while a new deal is negotiated.
Connor Williams Adding Size and Strength Huge for Cowboys OL
It's no secret that heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, the book on Connor Williams coming out of Texas was that he didn't have enough length to play tackle in the NFL and didn't have enough bulk to play guard. At least not at first.
It was an issue we saw play out early in the 2018 season as he struggled with some of the more powerful defensive tackles. He struggled so much that the team went to Xavier Su'a-Filo during his injury and for a couple games after he was healthy, thinking they had a better option. After having a bit of time to sit back and watch, Williams came back into the starting lineup with a better feel for that power and was much improved over the last half of the season, including the playoffs. He never relinquished his job again.
Though he played better, it was obvious what his number one offseason focus would be; adding size and strength. According to Dallas Cowboys Vice President Stephen Jones, he's done just that.
Speaking to 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday afternoon, Jones gave us some insight into how Williams is looking this offseason.
Cowboys VP Stephen Jones on offensive lineman Connor Williams, last year's second round pick: "My understanding is that he's taken some huge steps in terms of his strength and size. My understanding is that he's put on some really good weight.
Jones then added some lofty expectations on the second year guard from the University of Texas.
Cowboys VP Stephen Jones on @1053thefan: "I think Connor Williams is gonna be a mainstay in our offensive line for many years to come. ... I think we'll be talking about him just like we do several of the other players on our offensive line.
Connor Williams was already proving himself capable of standing up to powerful defensive lineman as late in the season and in the playoffs, but this is very encouraging to hear as we look to 2019.
Against the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams, Williams and the rest of the Dallas Cowboys interior offensive line had big challenges in front of them. Seattle's Jarran Reed and Los Angeles' Aaron Donald were two of the better defensive tackles in 2018. Donald, is considered by many, the best defensive player in the NFL because of his brute strength that is matched by his quickness.
Against both players, Williams performed well. Not perfect, but well enough to be encouraged about what Williams could bring in 2019. Per Pro Football Focus, he only allowed five total pressures during the playoffs, including one in the divisional round against the Rams. There's a reason that everyone is so high on Williams heading into his second year.
The front office included.
Stephen Jones praise is significant. The Dallas Cowboys feature three All-Pro offensive lineman. To say that "we'll be talking about him just like we do several of the other players on our offensive line" is very high praise. There aren't many teams in the NFL that boast as much talent along the offensive line as the Dallas Cowboys do in Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Travis Frederick. For Jones to think Williams cold be that level of player doesn't sound like generic front office speak.
With a full year under his belt, including two playoff starts, Williams should be confident heading into his second year. Adding strength and weight will help him anchor better against the strong interiors he'll face weekly in the NFL. Getting Center Travis Frederick back in the lineup will help him with the mental aspect of the game.
There's a lot to be excited about with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019 and the offensive line remains one of those things. How Connor Williams improves from year one to year two will be one of the major storylines throughout the offseason heading toward week one. The Cowboys offensive line remains a focal point for America's Team and all eyes will be on Williams as he looks to make the second year jump.
La’el Collins Has Surgery Ahead of Contract Year
The list of injured Dallas Cowboys players getting surgery keeps getting larger. DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones will welcome La'el Collins to the "surgery recovery" group chat after Collins had a procedure to repair a torn rotator cuff. According to the report from Forth-Worth Star Telegram, Collins suffered the injury at the end of the 2018 season.
La'el Collins expects to be ready for training camp, but don't expect much from him in the upcoming offseason program.
For Collins, this is a very meaningful season. At 25 years old, he's heading into a contract year in 2019. So far, his career has been decent at best. He began playing at guard, where he showed some pretty impressive flashes before moving to right tackle, where he's started since 2017.
Even before it was reported that he would have surgery, many in Cowboys Nation have wondered about his future. The truth is, since he signed as an undrafted free agent in 2015, his career hasn't lived up to the hype. Prior to the 2015 NFL Draft, an off-the-field misunderstanding made every team pass on him. However, he was seen by many as a top prospect in the class and was a projected first round pick.
Although he improved when Marc Colombo took over as the OL coach, Collins has struggled during his time at right tackle. At this point, he hasn't earned a long term deal.
Right now, the Cowboys should see offensive tackle as a need in the NFL Draft. Not a priority one, but definitely one to watch out for in the later rounds. Tyron Smith is 28 years old, but his injury history doesn't look promising at all. I can definitely see this team addressing the lack of depth at the position at some point in Day 3.
This whole discussion raises yet another question. Would the Cowboys trade La'el Collins? I don't think it would happen, but it doesn't sound like a terrible idea either. At the moment, Cameron Fleming is on the roster and he isn't a bad starter. Now granted, he might be a downgrade from Collins. However, if you're able to get a good draft pick in exchange, it's worth considering. Use Fleming as a bridge player between for a younger one down the line.
Connor Williams could also move over to tackle, although I doubt they want to try experiments like this with a young player just like they did with La'el Collins. Let Williams grow as a guard and keep him there.
La'el Collins or not, the Cowboys have a need at offensive tackle and Collins' makes it even more evident. The good news is he expects to be back by training camp and doesn't seem like a huge question mark for week 1 as DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones do.
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