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Draft Day Anxiety for Cowboys Roster

Jess Haynie

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Tony Romo

During the 2012 draft, then-Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins was participating in a local draft party. When Dallas' selection of Morris Claiborne was announced, Jenkins was reportedly upset and left sullen for the rest of the night. Entering the last year of his rookie deal, Jenkins saw the writing on the wall.

Though it usually goes unseen, we can be sure that other NFL players have had pretty bad reactions to what their teams do in the draft. Jenkins knew he'd at least get one more year in Dallas. But what if you're the guy who may not even get past final cuts?

Here's a look at some current Cowboys who may not be happy based on how the upcoming 2016 draft unfolds:

TWill1. Terrance Williams, WR

Williams should already be feeling the heat from fellow veteran Brice Butler, whose strong play at the end of last year has many thinking he could challenge Williams for the starting job. If Dallas also drafts a wide receiver with an early pick it could put Williams in a similar mood as Jenkins last year.

Like Jenkins, Williams is entering the final year of his rookie deal. He has started most of his games in three years in Dallas and has solid production. Williams has an impressive highlight reel of circus catches but an equally frustrating collection of dropped passes, many of which have come on third-down.

With Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley already locked up in long-term deals, a decision by Dallas to draft a receiver high would be a pretty clear indication that they don't plan on committing to Williams after this year. I don't expect them to use their fourth-overall pick on a receiver but the 34th pick (second round) is very possible.

Nov 27, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain (55) on the sidelines during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

2. Rolando McClain, LB

In my most recent mock draft I have the Cowboys selecting UCLA's Myles Jack with their first pick. While there are technically three starting linebacker positions in the defense, the reality is that adding Jack would be bad news for McClain's long-term prospects.

Dallas employs a nickel scheme with just two linebackers on the field on a large number of their plays. McClain and Sean Lee have those spots now but Jack's coverage ability is one of his strongest traits and where his elite potential really shines. He could supplant McClain in that role, or at least carve out a chunk of McClain's snaps.

The Cowboys have yet to trust McClain enough to give him more than one-year deals, given his history of motivation issues and personal problems. If they take Jack then it's likely they will not seek to re-sign McClain next offseason. If that has a negative impact on McClain's motivation now, it could even accelerate the process of Jack taking over his jobs.

Cowboys Headlines - 83. Darren McFadden

Most guys wouldn't have to worry after having over 1,400 total yards but McFadden's track record for injury and performance drop-offs after big years is a major red flag. If Dallas takes a running back with an early pick then it could mean trouble for McFadden, perhaps in the very near future.

Dallas signed veteran Alfred Morris to a two-year deal in March. This was probably a good thing for McFadden; someone they could trust to take some of the workload and keep McFadden running at high efficiency. Even if it turned out to be a 50/50 split of touches, both players stood to be highly productive behind the Cowboys' elite offensive line.

If Dallas ends up with Ezekiel Elliott in the first round, or even if they take a runner with their second pick, it creates a crowded backfield and perhaps squeezes McFadden out. They've also re-signed Lance Dunbar and his niche role in the offense won't be challenged by another player.

Unlike other positions where a rookie can use some grooming, running back is one where you're compelled to get the young guy going as soon as possible. McFadden would not only be losing touches but could be released for an almost penalty-free $2 million in savings. That money may be needed if Dallas ends up keeping Brandon Carr next year.

Morris_Claiborne_Cowboys4. Brandon Carr & Morris Claiborne

Speaking of Carr, let's address him and Claiborne together. If Jalen Ramsey falls to Dallas then most expect them to jump at it. But even if they were to trade down and get Vernon Hargreaves or some other top corner, or perhaps even if they get one in the second round, then it could spell trouble for one of the veterans.

You've heard these figures before but they bear repeating. If Carr is released outright then Dallas gets about $6 million in cap relief now. If they make him a June 1st cut then it goes up to $9 million and pushes the difference to next year. If Dallas adds a cornerback in the draft then it's likely Carr will be released to help fund rookie deals and give the rookie a clear top-three role.

Claiborne's fear will be more about losing playing time than losing a job. He is on a one-year deal for just $2.6 million, a relative bargain for even a solid reserve cornerback. Claiborne is no doubt hoping he can earn a nice extension with his play this year, but a highly-drafted rookie could take him off the field at times and limit his opportunities to earn it.

Dallas Cowboys tight end Gavin Escobar returns to the locker room during afternoon break during Cowboys training camp, Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Oxnard, Calif. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

AP Photo/Gus Ruelas

5. Gavin Escobar

After Dallas signed backup James Hanna to a three-year, $8 million deal many assumed that they aren't planning to extend Escobar after this year. If they were to draft a player on top of that then it would almost assure Escobar will be gone next season.

If Escobar were to have a breakout season then Dallas still has flexibility to re-sign him. Jason Witten's deal expires in 2017 and they could work out a transitional plan for next year. However, if they've added another significant talent at the position then it could create a logjam that forces Escobar to the open market.

Cowboys Headlines - 116. Barry Church & J.J. Wilcox

Much like Carr and Claiborne, last year's starting safeties have plenty to worry about during the draft. One of them could end up released, if not right after the draft then perhaps during the August cut downs.

Wilcox may have already lost his starting job. The talk out of Dallas is that they want second-year stud Byron Jones playing safety next year. It is assumed that Wilcox would be the one getting benched, being more inconsistent than Church. If Dallas drafts a cornerback then it means Jones' move to safety is fairly decided.

Money could make Church the fall guy, though. Dallas can save a little over $4 million cutting Church and just around $1.7 million if they released Wilcox. If they were to add a rookie defensive back and then also elect to keep Brandon Carr around, Church's cap savings are a big chunk that could be needed to pay rookie salaries.

There is always entanglement between the corners and safeties when figuring out your roster, and that's especially true when plays have position flexibility. Byron Jones already has that and adding Ramsey would only further muddy the waters. The only certainty is that someone, for finances alone, would have to be released. Only the Cowboys know who they value most.

Romo7. Tony Romo

Given the relationship between Romo and Jason Garrett I doubt anything happens at the QB position that Romo isn't on board with. However, since I can't be entirely positive about that, we have to mention the possibility.

If Dallas selects Jared Goff or Carson Wentz in the first round then you have to wonder how much time Romo has left. If he's released next year there would still be over $19 million in dead money, albeit with about $5 million in savings from his actual cap hit.

Dallas may conclude that they've got about $24 million tied up in the QB position one way or another next year. That could all be with Romo's contract, or it could be with Romo's dead money about about $5 million that they'd be paying Wentz or Goff on a rookie deal. Then Romo's deal would come off the books cleanly and open up tons of cap space for 2018.

It's hard to imagine them keeping the rookie on the bench for more than two seasons. You want to give the kid time to prove himself before his rookie deal expires. Plus, if the apprenticeship lasts through 2017 and then Romo's released, the dead money drops to just about $8 million with $14 million in savings.

Again, Romo may be fully on board with these plans. However, he could also be like many competitors who don't believe in their own mortality. Romo likely wants to be a career Cowboy but watching his team draft a quarterback in the top five could threaten that goal.



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!

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2 Comments
  • Mr. Bamboozaul

    It's time to go Goff ing. ..

    • Jess Haynie

      What do you like about Goff over Wentz? Just curious.

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BREAKING: David Irving Suspended For 2nd Consecutive Year

Mauricio Rodriguez

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David Irving

For the second consecutive year, Defensive Lineman David Irving is being suspended for four games by the NFL. This time, the suspension comes after Irving violated the NFL's policy on substance of abuses, as Ian Rapoport reported.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

Cowboys DL David Irving is being suspended 4 games for violating @NFL policy on substance of abuses, sources say. Another big-time D-linemen hit with a suspension for Dallas.

Irving will play for the Dallas Cowboys after the team placed a second-round tender on him earlier in the year. Why no team was interested in picking such a talented defensive tackle for a second round pick is becoming clearer and clearer as the time goes on.

In April, when David Irving got hacked by his former girlfriend one of the tweets that stood out the most was one which said "Wait until you all find about his failed drug tests." Now, we're seeing what the tweet was about.

Irving is a very talented player that could have a great career ahead of him. Of course, with this being the second consecutive year in which he receives a suspension to start the season, one could question how much he wants it.

The Cowboys will play the Panthers, Giants, Seahawks and Lions to start the season. They'll have to do it with one of their most promising defensive players in David Irving.

Here at Inside The Star, we'll keep you updated with this story and every Dallas Cowboys news.

Tell me what you think about "BREAKING: David Irving Suspended For 2nd Consecutive Year" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Jason Witten’s Lasting Message to Cowboys TE Rico Gathers

Sean Martin

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Cowboys 2016 Draft Class: Who Will Be The Stand Out In 2017?
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

When Dallas Cowboys legend Jason Witten retired from the NFL last month, he left behind an unproven group of tight ends for the Cowboys to field as Witten moves on to the Monday Night Football broadcast booth. This is not a TE group short of potential, although that's nothing new for the laundry list of players that have failed at the position behind the Hall of Fame bound Witten.

Headlining this group of potential heirs to Witten has to be 2016 draft pick Rico Gathers. Not yet given the same opportunities that Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin are receiving through the Cowboys ongoing mini camp, Gathers has been criticized for his commitment to his team.

Looking to make the transition from the basketball court at Baylor to the football field, Gathers' journey began at Witten's soon-to-be home forever. Playing his first organized football game since middle school, Gathers and Witten were teammates in the Hall of Fame game at Canton, Ohio in 2017.

A game rarely leaving fans with a lasting memories, Gathers immediately flashed potential in the passing game, hauling in three passes for 59 yards and a touchdown. Gathers would go on to spend the season on IR after a concussion suffered in practice, recovering from it in time to return but never seeing the field.

This leaves Gathers' prospects of putting it all together in year three at a difficult crossroads. It will be hard to question Gathers' commitment moving forward, as the message from his former teammate Jason Witten still lives with him.

Jason Witten's Lasting Message to Cowboys TE Rico Gathers

If Witten truly sees a "bright future" for Rico Gathers, who Head Coach Jason Garrett says needs work in the running game, there is no reason the Cowboys can't find a role for him this season. With an entirely unproven group of wide receivers, Gathers could be the reliable mismatch for Dak Prescott to target in the middle of the field.

Prescott was the ninth worst quarterback in the league last season in red zone completion percentage, surely something the 6'6" TE Gathers could help improve.

Gathers may be a long way off from becoming Prescott's version of Witten to Tony Romo, but there is still hope for the 2016 draft pick, according to now football analyst Jason Witten.

Tell us what you think about "Jason Witten’s Lasting Message to Cowboys TE Rico Gathers" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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David Irving to be Present at Dallas Cowboys Minicamp

John Williams

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Cowboys en Español: El Futuro Incierto de David Irving

David Irving has been a notable name throughout the offseason for the Dallas Cowboys, for both on the field and off the field headlines. First, his RFA tender had fans and analysts wondering just what the Cowboys would do with him. Many, myself included, thought placing anything lower than a first-round tender on the stud defensive tackle would mean he was collecting sacks for someone else in 2018.

Thankfully, the Dallas Cowboys' gamble paid off and they were able to save some money by only having the second-round tender applied to 2018.

Then came the accusation of domestic violence from his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child, catching us off-guard just before OTAs began in May. Which was then retracted not long after the initial report.

After all of that had quieted down, most of the talk revolved around David Irving not being in shape for OTAs. Not having been around for much of the offseason work the last several weeks before OTAs would keep Irving from working out.

He's had a lot going on in his life lately away from the game of football, and understandably so. As a father to a young child, I can see how you'd get distracted from your job when family stuff comes into play that affects the well-being of your child.

On the football side of things, at least, we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

Today, it's being reported that David Irving will in fact be present for this week's mandatory minicamp.

Brandon George on Twitter

Also, the Cowboys expect DL David Irving to participate in the 3-day mandatory minicamp that begins today at The Star, a source said. The Cowboys could have both Irving and RG Zack Martin back on the practice field if Martin's contract extension gets finalized this morning.

You may be asking yourself, "what's the big deal? Irving isn't Aaron Donald."

Well, you're mostly right.

Perhaps next to Donald, David Irving was the most disruptive interior player in the NFL last season. David Irving had seven sacks in the eight games he played in.

Read that again. Seven sacks in eight games. That would be 14 sacks over the course of the season if that pace were to continue to play out.

Aaron Donald had 11 sacks in 2017.

Pro Football Focus rated David Irving as its third best pass rusher among interior defensive linemen.

Pro Football Focus on Twitter

Dominant interior defenders.

To go along with Irving's seven sacks in eight games -- every time I read that I'm floored -- he recorded six passes defended. That was good for second in the NFL at the defensive tackle position and was second on the Dallas Cowboys.

Again, in only eight games played.

Even if you were to pace out his tackle numbers over 16 games, they aren't very spectacular -- 26 solo and 18 assisted -- but he'd still finish in the top 30 among defensive tackles.

Only two other players in the NFL had seven or more sacks and six or more pass breakups; New Orleans Saints Defensive End Cameron Jordan and Cincinnati Bengals Defensive End Carlos Dunlap. Both of those guys played in all 16 games and, while I hate to keep bringing this up, Irving only played in eight.

He's an elite interior defender who has only gotten better since joining Rod Marinelli and the Dallas Cowboys.

If he's able to get his personal life in order -- and that most assuredly comes first -- he's going to be a wrecking ball for the Dallas Cowboys defensive line.

Getting Zack Martin's contract extension completed was probably the most important task of the summer, but getting David Irving back into the practice fold is a close second.

With him and DeMarcus Lawrence coming off a tremendous 2017, the sky is the limit for those two in 2018.

With all the improvement that was made on the defensive side of the ball, I can't help but think of the sign that Greg Hardy paid for several years ago.

"Sacks Comin'."



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