After yesterday's big trade that sent Michael Bennett from Seattle to Philadelphia, Dallas fans were up in arms about the lack of movement so far from the Cowboys front office. After a disappointing 9-7 season and narrowly missing the playoffs, it's no surprise that Cowboys Nation is anxious to see the team have an aggressive offseason.
Names like Dez Bryant and Orlando Scandrick have been floated as potential trades Dallas could make for draft picks, but are these realistic? Do the Cowboys really have any assets that other teams might want?
Remember, along with the player comes his contract. We mostly agree that Dez isn't worth his $16.5-million cap hit with the Cowboys. But is Bryant worth a $12.5-million base salary to someone else? Even that is debatable after three down seasons. What's more, NFL teams generally aren't trying to trade players they wouldn't just end up releasing. Other teams know this and will usually wait it out.
Again, let's look at Dez.
If teams believe that Dallas will eventually release him, they can then negotiate a new deal with Bryant that better fits his market value. So, not only do they get a better financial arrangement, but they didn't have to trade anything to the Cowboys to get him.
This is why the NFL isn't like the NBA with trades. It's rarer because the circumstances of NFL contracts are more limiting.
You have to have a team in fire sale mode -- like the Seahawks right now -- or something like what we just saw with Jimmy Garoppolo going to the 49ers. The player needs to be good enough, and often young enough, that the new team just can't risk letting them go somewhere else.
That's the problem with guys like Bryant and Scandrick. At this point, neither one is seen as a top guy at their position. Dez turns 30 in November and Orlando just turned 31 last month. Both guys are on the downsides of their career.
With only a $3-million base salary in 2018, Scandrick is probably more tradable than Dez despite being older. He could be a solid veteran slot corner for a competitive team. But again, other teams see what's going on in Dallas.
They see Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, and Anthony Brown on the roster. They hear about Byron Jones maybe moving back to corner. Someone who likes Scandrick expects him to be cut and is probably willing to try their luck in free agency.
Even if a team did want to secure Orlando now, the offer wouldn't get you excited. If Michael Bennett only got a 5th-round pick and a marginal young receiver from Philly, Scandrick isn't getting you anything better.
Is an extra 6th-round pick going to make you feel better about the Cowboys' Super Bowl hopes?
The truth is that the Dallas Cowboys just don't have much to work with right now. Like most teams, they're trying to build around their young talent and aren't putting them on the market. The guys they might trade away are being discarded for a reason, and it's the same reason other teams aren't in a rush to acquire them.
1 Guy Who Might be Tradable is David Irving
Some would argue, and I'm one, that Irving is too good to give up. Keeping him with DeMarcus Lawrence gives Dallas two of the more dynamic pass rushers in the NFL right now. The Cowboys need both to get back to championship contention. However, the reality is that Irving will likely command a sizable new contract after 2018. Paying him $3-4 million this year from a Restricted Free Agent tender is a bargain, but it's only a one-year move. The bill for David's services will quickly come due.
If the Cowboys can't see paying Irving next year, now would be a good time to go ahead and move him. He turns just 25 in August and can play several spots, making him attractive to just about any other team.
But again, trading Irving takes away a guy who can help you win this season. Whatever you get back, even a 2nd-round pick, probably doesn't help you as much now as he can.
Is one year of David Irving worth more than four years of an unknown rookie? Irving has flashed superstar potential and the guy you draft might not even make it in the league.
So yes, Irving is probably the most attractive guy on the roster right now that could most easily be moved. But the Cowboys will have to think long and hard about it, because upside like his doesn't come along every day.
Perhaps the Most Probable Trade Asset is Byron Jones
A former first-round pick still in his physical prime, Jones hasn't been the elite safety Dallas hoped for but is still a solid player. Another team might think they could utilize him better, either in how he's used at safety or by moving him to cornerback. Of course, the Cowboys may not want to lose Jones if they're already planning to cut Orlando Scandrick.
They may also like him better for next year's CB depth chart than Anthony Brown. You don't want to create a depth problem because you got trade happy.
But with his rookie deal expiring in 2018, and no sign the Cowboys will pick up his fifth-year option, Jones could be out the door next year with no compensation. That's a poor return on a first-round pick, so Dallas might want to try to find a trade partner just to get something back on their investment.
The Cowboys are in the tough spot of needing to make some big roster changes while also trying to stay competitive. They don't want to miss out on the window of time they have with Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott still on their rookie deals. They need to make an aggressive push now, because soon they're going to have to tie up a lot more resources in their young stars.
Will that push involve trading some their current talent? Even if they want to move guys, are trade partners out there?
We'll find out pretty soon.
Despite Changes, Cowboys Offense Still Runs Through Ezekiel Elliott
We've talked a lot this offseason about the changes at Offensive Coordinator and slot receiver, or how Jason Witten's return will impact the tight end position. But while all of these will impact the Dallas Cowboys' offense in 2019, the constant feature remains Running Back Ezekiel Elliott and the rushing attack.
From 2016 to 2018, since the Cowboys drafted Elliott, Dallas has ranked 1st, 3rd, and 10th among NFL teams in "run vs. pass" play calls. That's only logical; you don't spend a fourth-overall pick on a RB and then not make him the featured player in your offense.
Zeke has certainly rewarded Dallas' decision; Elliott has led the league in total rushing two out of three years, and he led in yards-per-game in 2017 while dealing with his suspension.
Leaning on Elliott has been smart business based on his effectiveness, plus the investment in the offensive line over the last several years.
Dallas has now sunk three first-round picks (Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin), one second (Connor Williams), and now two thirds (Chaz Green and Connor McGovern) on building up their front wall. They've spent a lot of money to keep their All-Pro guys around, plus La'el Collins.
Some would try to paint the run-heavy approach as how the team is trying to hide the weaknesses of Dak Prescott at quarterback. But in 2014, with DeMarco Murray at RB and Tony Romo at QB, the Cowboys were still 3rd in the league in rush vs. pass attempts.
This isn't about Zeke or Dak, or any other specific player. This about a team philosophy that starts at the top with Jason Garrett, and that isn't going to change even with Kellen Moore taking over as the new Offensive Coordinator.
We're all excited to see what new wrinkles comes from getting rid of Scott Linehan. We highly anticipate the development of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup in the offense, coupled with the addition of Randall Cobb. We're salivating at what Blake Jarwin might become under the tutelage of the great Jason Witten.
Heck, maybe we'll see fullback Jamize Olawale's receiving skills put to more use. Perhaps gadget guys like Tavon Austin or rookie Tony Pollard will be deployed in more creative ways.
And yes, Dak Prescott's growth is another major factor in Dallas' 2019 success. It's especially interesting, and even concerning, as talks are ongoing about his long-term contract.
But make no mistake, this is still the Ezekiel Elliott show. Even if a few more of his carries become receptions in Moore's scheme, Zeke should still get the lion's share of the touches.
That's why this week's news about his incident in Las Vegas is so troubling. It probably won't lead to a suspension, but we saw what happened in 2017 when Elliott was missing for over a third of the season.
While Dallas should be better able to withstand losing Zeke now than it was two years ago, it may still be more than Prescott, Cooper, and the rest could handle. It definitely wouldn't put the Cowboys in good position to compete for a Super Bowl.
In the end, the 2019 will still come down to how well Dallas runs the ball. It's the engine; nothing else matters if the rushing game doesn't set everyone else up for success.
Don't ever take it for granted. This is still Ezekiel Elliott's offense.
What Would a Successful Season Mean for Kellen Moore’s Future?
Out of every chess piece moved by the Dallas Cowboys this offseason, the decision to name 30-year old Kellen Moore might be the most interesting one. Not only that, but it could be the one that makes the biggest impact on the team. After all, the Cowboys are ready to go talent wise.
With Kellen Moore taking up a new role, it's intriguing to imagine what a successful season would mean for his future with the Dallas Cowboys. Truth be told, Moore is in a pretty fortunate position to debut as an offensive coordinator. He'll be driving a unit full of talented players with almost no weak links. Last year, it wasn't the lack of quality players lined up that had the offense struggling throughout the season, but the guy in charge.
At first, the philosophy of not needing a #1 wide receiver clearly blew up on the Cowboys face. The passing game in Dallas needed a spark and they didn't find it until they traded a first rounder for Amari Cooper. Cooper's impact on the team was clear right away as he put on impressive performances on a weekly basis.
But even when Cooper was at his best, the offense still presented relevant struggles. Despite getting more first downs, the Cowboys still had trouble scoring touchdowns when in the red zone and kept leaving points on the field.
Although he's been a controversial conversation among members of Cowboys Nation, there are a few reasons to be excited about what Kellen Moore can bring to the table as a young offensive coordinator. Ever since he declared for the NFL Draft out of Boise State, where he ran a very complex offense on his way to become the QB with most wins in NCAA history, he was seen by many as an extremely smart prospect. Many expected him to have a mediocre career as a player, but saw him as a potential coach down the line.
Now it's his chance to prove the world just how smart he is and his potential as a coach. He will not only be proving it to the Cowboys organization, but all of the NFL and college football teams. Don't forget what NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah mentioned a few months ago.
I've mentioned this before- Kellen Moore is a rising star and he'll be in the mix for HC gigs (CFB or NFL) in the near future. https://t.co/hLjOb4HAUc
With a great group of talent at his disposal, it's fair to imagine Moore having a pretty successful "rookie" season at a major coaching position. If he indeed manages to turn heads with the Dallas Cowboys offense in 2019, what does that mean for his future?
In a league that's turning to the young offensive-minded coaches thanks to guys like Sean McVay, is it possible one team decides to pull the trigger and make him an offer for a head coaching gig? It certainly would seem premature, but it's still a possibility in the NFL, where teams have become increasingly impatient with their coaches.
I definitely wouldn't be surprised if next offseason, we're concerned about another team (college or NFL) trying to snatch Moore off the Cowboys. I insist in pointing out this would be a premature decision if it does happen, since Moore has very little experience, but looking at the trend in the NFL it certainly could happen.
This might be the most important year in Kellen Moore's young career. For now, let's hope he does a good job leading Dak Prescott in his fourth year as a professional player and an offense that has a solid OL and a pretty good set of skill players.
Connor Williams Working as Left Tackle in Cowboys Practice
Second-year guard Connor Williams has been working as the Cowboys' left tackle during practice this week. While this isn't the plan for him in 2019, it does provide a glimpse into potential uses for Williams down the road and how Dallas might handle future offensive line moves.
Using Connor at LT this week has been a matter of necessity. The top players on that depth chart, Tyron Smith and Cameron Fleming, were not participating for other reasons.
With Tyron Smith getting a vet day and Cam Fleming not practicing because of a bruised shin, Connor Williams worked at left tackle Wednesday. He said it was his first left tackle snaps since he was at Texas. He said it felt like riding a bike after a little bit.
Indeed, Williams spent three years at left tackle in college. It was the last position he'd played before being drafted in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft by Dallas, who immediately moved him to guard.
Connor started 10 of 13 games at guard last season. He played mostly on the left side, starting Weeks 1-9, before getting injured. Xavier Su'a-Filo played well enough in his absence that Williams didn't get the starting job back when he was healthy. However, when Zack Martin had to miss a few games at the end of the year, Connor started a right guard for those two weeks.
When Martin returned for the playoffs, Williams was back as the starting left guard in both postseason games.
Tyron Smith and Cam Fleming will be your starter and backup at left tackle next year. But for 2020 and beyond, Connor Williams' ability to play tackle creates some interesting possibilities.
La'el Collins will be an unrestricted free agent next year. Fleming will still have one year left on his deal and Dallas just spent a third-round pick on the versatile Connor McGovern. Throw in that Williams can play some tackle, and it seems as if they're covering bases for Collins eventual departure.
We could very well see a starting lineup in 2020 with McGovern at LG and Williams at RT. Another possibility is that Fleming starts at RT and Williams stays at guard, but can be moved to tackle if needed.
If nothing else, it's nice to know that Dallas has options. We may never see Connor Williams play a regular season snap at left tackle, but versatility is a great asset. It can greatly increase a player's value, and give his team some leverage and flexibility in roster management.
For the Cowboys, it does make you wonder what the future holds for the offensive line.
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