Typically, any NFL related news this time of year is of the negative nature and yesterday certainly didn't disappoint.
Sadly, I woke to the news that former Vikings and Cardinals head coach Dennis Green passed away at the age of 67. Green may never be remembered as one of the more popular head coaches in the NFL, but he left a lasting impact on the National Football League and will be remembered by many that had the privilege of knowing him.
We also learned that Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell could possibly be suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season and would have to put his comeback from injury on hold for the first month of the season.
Bell's possible suspension is tough news for the Steelers offense, especially knowing that they are already without Martavis Bryant because he was suspended for the first part of the season as well.
I was going to say that we, as fans of the Dallas Cowboys, could sympathize with the Steelers and their suspensions, but there's probably not another team in the league that Cowboys fans despise more than Pittsburgh.
Of course, then there was a news that every Dallas Cowboys fan found disturbing when they heard that rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott had been accused of domestic violence by an ex-girlfriend. This is especially disturbing considering that the Cowboys are still dealing with the backlash from bringing in Greg Hardy last year.
There are conflicting reports regarding Elliott and his part in the domestic violence, so I will not only be following this situation closely, but I'll wait to pass judgment until all of the evidence is collected.
To me, the news I found most shocking though was when I found out that the Houston Texans dominant defensive player JJ Watt had to have back surgery and could possibly miss extended time while he recovers.
Texans DL JJ Watt's surgery was for a herniated disc, source said. He had symptoms while working out on his own. 8 week return is best-case
If Ian Rapoport is correct and JJ Watt can recover in eight weeks, then he could possibly be ready to play when the season kicks off in Week 1.
That would be the best case scenario for Watt, but you have to remember that this is his back we're talking about and that's something that is doctors and the Houston Texas training staff will want to monitor closely to make sure there are no lingering effects.
Mark Garafolo, with the help from his sources, seems to think that JJ Watt is looking at a longer recovery time that could last into the 2016 season.
On JJ Watt, texted with a source informed of his prognosis who pumped the brakes on early optimism. Cautioned it could take up to 10 weeks.
That would certainly be bad news for JJ Watt and the Houston Texans defense. A 10 week recovery time would mean that Watt could possibly make his debut by Week 4, but taking the cautious approach would probably be wise on the Texans part.
This injury also lessens Watt's chances of winning MVP, which could help other candidates receive more votes that would have went his way.
Now, I'm never one that wants to see a player suffer an injury, especially someone of JJ Watt's caliber and I'm personally wishing him a speedy recovery. But this possibly could be good news for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and increase the chances of him being a favorite to win MVP.
Earlier this week, Sean Martin, a fellow Staff Writer here at Inside The Star, shared who Fox chose as a favorite to win MVP out of the NFC East division. I encourage you to take a look because they make a compelling case for Tony Romo and Sean didn't excellent job of writing it up.
Personally, I agree with Fox and I believe that JJ Watt's injury actually increases the odds that Tony Romo could be the NFL MVP in 2016.
If you think about it, there are not that many players around the league that might be considered early favorites like Tony Romo. As it stands now, I would put Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton as the only players that could possibly receive more votes for MVP.
Tom Brady's chances are hurt due to his suspension for the first month of the 2016 season. Ben Roethlisberger is hurt by the fact that two of his offensive weapons will miss the first four games of the season. JJ Watt's chances of winning MVP has decreased now that he may have to miss part of the season while recovering from his back surgery.
We all know that you can pretty much exclude any defensive players. This has become an offensive league and that is why an offensive player is usually the one that wins NFL MVP.
Who else would you consider a candidate to win MVP other than Tony Romo?
Of course, Tony Romo's health will play a big part in not only the success of the Dallas Cowboys 2016 season, but also his chances of winning NFL MVP and even Comeback Player of the Year.
I personally think if Tony Romo can have the same type of year like he had in 2014 when he threw for 3,705 yards, 34 touchdowns, and just nine interceptions, then he would definitely be in the running for NFL MVP.
The good news is, that if Tony Romo has any kind of resemblance to an MVP season, then the Dallas Cowboys should be looking at making another playoff berth just like they did in 2014.
So, do you think that JJ Watt's injury helps Tony Romo's chances of winning NFL MVP in 2016?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to share your own personal thoughts and opinions on this topic. I really look forward to hearing from you so that we can discuss this further.
Despite Late Push as Rookie, Will Taco Charlton Struggle to See Field in 2018?
It feels like ages ago that the Dallas Cowboys spent the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Michigan Defensive End Taco Charlton. Perhaps this is a result of the constant distancing fans have made from this unpopular pick, or the corresponding moves the Cowboys have made at DE since drafting Charlton.
These moves include using the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence after seeing him explode for 14.5 sacks, spending a fourth round pick this year on Kansas' Dorance Armstrong, and seeing Randy Gregory reinstated in time for training camp.
Across the entirety of the Cowboys roster, there will be plenty of "odd men out" that miss the cut down to 53 players. Defensive end remains one of the most cluttered spots on the current 90 man roster however.
Prior to establishing the depth the Cowboys now have up front on defense, they did Taco no favors by starting his career at right defensive end. While Gregory may still be a long way from earning the starting role here, similarly styled players like Armstrong have the edge here over Charlton.
This relegates Charlton to the strong side, where he always projected best out of college. By the time the Cowboys realized this a season ago, they also knew a franchise pass rusher was playing his way into the team's long-term plans.
Lawrence's stellar consistency off the edge reduced Charlton's role in the Cowboys rotation of pass rushers. An ideal spot for the rookie to develop with less pressure on him, Charlton's opportunities to continue playing left end may only be reduced this season.
The first-round pick is capable of kicking inside at defensive tackle, a position the Cowboys could certainly use help at. However, asking Charlton to go through another position shift would only halt the progress that took quite a bit of patience from Dallas to see.
It's far from unheard of for the Cowboys to do this with their young players, but for now Charlton remains a defensive end looking to make his impact. The Cowboys are in much better position now than they were at this time a year ago when it comes to setting expectations for him to do so.
Given everything he showed on tape at Michigan as well as in his pre-draft interviews, Charlton is a player that needs to succeed at the task at hand. When this plan is altered, the 6'6" pass rusher is much less effective -- without even considering any athletic struggles that Charlton has compared to other prototypes at defensive end.
As a unit, the Cowboys defensive line has all the pieces to be very effective this season. Taco Charlton is a piece to this puzzle, a backup left end that must find a way to flourish in this role.
For most former 28th overall picks, doing so would be considered a fall from grace. For the Cowboys, it's simply an example of strong roster building that's forced life to come at Charlton quickly. How he responds with a full season under his belt will make or break the hype this deep Cowboys defensive line has garnered, lead of course by the starter at Charlton's position in DeMarcus Lawrence.
Cowboys OT La’el Collins Could Become Major Bargain
When you talk Cowboys offensive line, you always think of Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin first. Right Tackle La'el Collins still has to prove he belongs in the same sentence with his elite teammates. If he does that in 2018, Collins could become one of the best bargains on the roster.
Making the move from left guard to right tackle last year, Collins improved with time and was playing his best football at the end of the year. This was despite ongoing back issues that had him on the injury report most weeks.
La'el started all 16 games at right tackle and did enough that the Cowboys committed to keeping him there in 2018, even despite a big hole back at left guard. They are hoping consistency and stability will allow Collins to really blossom this season, building on the strong progress shown last year.
For 2018, Collins has a $5.76 million cap hit. According to Spotrac, that makes him the 13th-most expensive right tackle in the NFL this year.
That middle-of-the-pack expense is consistent with where La'el currently rates among NFL right tackles. Bleacher Report ranked Collins as the 16th-best RT in football last year.
But that ranking was based on the season as a whole. If La'el plays all of 2018 the way he was playing towards the end of last year, he will have emerged as one of the better right tackles in the game.
If Collins develops as we hope, that salary suddenly becomes a major bargain. The most expensive right tackles in the NFL are making $7-$9 million this season.
But this can go a couple of ways. With his 2019 cap hit rising to $7.9 million, La'el needs to next step forward.
If Collins were to struggle this year, it could make him a potential cap casualty next offseason. Dallas can save $6.5 million in cap space if Collins is released or traded in 2019.
Dallas could elect to give Connor Williams, their second-round pick this year, a look at right tackle next season. It's the position he played in college.
They could also consider veteran backup Cameron Fleming, who will still be just 26-year-old. Fleming has two Super Bowl rings and several starts, including in the postseason, from his time with the Patriots.
While we think of La'el Collins as a first-round talent, it's important to remember that he was ultimately an undrafted free agent. Dallas did not have to invest anything to acquire him, and ultimately that makes it easier to let him go.
Naturally, we prefer the other side of this coin. If Collins builds on 2017, he will join the upper echelon of right tackles in the league. And if the Cowboys' offensive line isn't already the best in the NFL, that would only cement them as the best unit in football.
If La'el makes the leap, it could mean huge things for the Cowboys' offense and team success this year.
How Cowboys Could Benefit From Randy Gregory’s Suspension
Randy Gregory is back! His suspension is officially over and he will be able to join the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard, California when training camp gets underway less than a week from now.
Speculation has already started as to what this could mean for the Dallas Cowboys defense this season, and shockingly expectations are rather high for a player who hasn't stepped foot on the field in over a year. But, that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to focus on Gregory's mess of a contract, because it is rather interesting.
Randy Gregory was signed to a four-year contract after being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second-round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Gregory's rookie deal was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2018 season, but his multiple suspensions have now changed that expiration date.
You see, Gregory has only played in a total of 14 games in his career, 12 as a rookie and two in Year 2. His third year in the NFL was completely wiped out due to his year-long suspension. If you were to add that all up, it equates to just one accured season in the NFL. Remember that, because it could have a huge impact on his contract down the road.
What all of this means is that the Cowboys can pretty much stretch out Gregory's contract now that they are three years in on the deal and have only gotten one accured season out of the agreement. That basically means they can push his contract back a year, meaning his 2017 salary ($731,813) gets pushed back to 2018, his 2018 salary ($955,217) gets pushed to 2019. That would essentially make him a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) in 2020.
Or does it?
Depending on how the Dallas Cowboys handled paying Randy Gregory during his suspension could actually make him an Exclusive Rights Free Agent (EFA). This is a similar situation in which David Irving found himself in after the 2017 season. The Cowboys placed a second-round tender on him in order to secure his services for another season, albeit at a $2.91 million price tag.
As you can see, the Dallas Cowboys pretty much hold all the cards when it comes to Randy Gregory's contract situation. It's all a little confusing, but that's what makes it such a unique and interesting situation.
Of course, the Cowboys could decide to extend Gregory early if he completely dominates upon his return this season. It's highly doubtful though considering his past suspensions, but still technically a possibility. If it does happen, you can go ahead and ignore everything I've written previously.
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