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Ezekiel Elliott: No Tony Romo, No Problem?

“It’s broken.” The collective hearts of Cowboys Nation were shattered into a million pieces as Tony Romo walked into the tunnel at Lincoln Financial Field with his hand on his collarbone as ominous clouds hovered in the air on September 20th, 2015. When word trickled out that Romo had in fact broken his collarbone… the resolve of Cowboys Nation reared its legendary force as hope for the season remained despite the fact that we were, two weeks into a season rich with Super Bowl hopes, suddenly down our offense’s top two weapons (Dez Bryant being injured the week before in a last-second victory over the Giants). “This team will survive until Tony comes back,” was our battle cry.

RJ Ochoa

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Cowboys Headlines - Ezekiel Elliott: No Tony Romo, No Problem? 4

"It's broken."

The collective hearts of Cowboys Nation were shattered into a million pieces as Tony Romo walked into the tunnel at Lincoln Financial Field with his hand on his collarbone as ominous clouds hovered in the air on September 20th, 2015.

Cowboys Headlines - Ezekiel Elliott: No Tony Romo, No Problem?

When word trickled out that Romo had in fact broken his collarbone... the resolve of Cowboys Nation reared its legendary force as hope for the season remained despite the fact that we were, two weeks into a season rich with Super Bowl hopes, suddenly down our offense's top two weapons (Dez Bryant being injured the week before in a last-second victory over the Giants). "This team will survive until Tony comes back," was our battle cry.

Such would not be the case as the Cowboys would go on to lose seven consecutive games without number nine behind center. It was, being blunt here, a pathetic display of just how much the team needs Tony Romo to have literally one modicum of success. Romo would return on a day with actual ominous clouds as it rained in a victory over the Miami Dolphins while Tony's resurgence gave us visions of sunshine once more.

The exclamation point of misery was put on the season when Tony Romo laid on a football field writhing in pain for the second time in a season - just one week after our hopes were reincarnated. There would be no sunshine in 2015... just cold and dark despair.

As it stands the current roster of the Dallas Cowboys seems like one that could in fact challenge for Super Bowl supremacy. This is what makes the club's inability to overcome the loss of Tony Romo, and Dez Bryant in stretches, all the more frustrating. With so much supposed talent everywhere else - why couldn't they do more?

The ineptitude of just a year ago was enough to earn the Cowboys the 4th Overall Pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. While many believe the selection, The Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott, is an indication that the Cowboys are doing all that they can to aid Tony Romo himself... I began thinking recently that perhaps they are doing everything they can to thrive in a situation without Romo.

I'm not projecting into the future here. I'm speaking specifically in the instance that Tony Romo suffers an injury that causes him to miss time. Ezekiel Elliott helps with that. How, though?

Cowboys Headlines - Ezekiel Elliott: No Tony Romo, No Problem? 1

The simple answer is that thanks to Zeke's supreme skill set running the ball, whoever is calling the signals has significantly less responsibility on their shoulders and the overall composition of the team isn't compromised too severely. How can I be so confident in that?

Zeke has done it before.

Braxton Miller Goes Down For Season With Injury (August 18th, 2014)

Ohio State's 2014 campaign, which ultimately ended with a championship in the inaugural College Football Playoff, started off pretty miserably for Buckeye Nation.

Braxton Miller, then a top Heisman Trophy candidate, reinjured his right shoulder to a degree that would cause him to miss all season. Consider that the loss of a player of Miller's caliber, then two-time reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, would surely have ramifications on the team's top tailback in Ezekiel.

Suddenly the most explosive player in the Buckeye backfield was the man in a crop top. How did he respond?

J.T. Barrett Era (August 30th, 2014 - November 29th, 2014)

Opponent Carries Yards Touchdowns
Navy 12 44 1
Virginia Tech 8 32 1
Kent State 7 65 0
Cincinnati 28 182 1
@ Maryland 24 139 0
Rutgers 12 69 1
@ Penn State 26 109 1
Illinois 9 69 0
@ Michigan State 23 154 2
@ Minnesota 18 91 0
Indiana 13 107 1
Michigan 17 121 2
Total 197 1,182 10

What can we discern from this?

It obviously took Zeke a few games to rev up that engine, but once he did he didn't really look back. I urge you to again consider that this ride started just twelve days after the biggest offensive threat besides him was taken away.

Imagine if someone could have come in and had this kind of success when Romo went down? At this point Zeke was averaging 98.5 yards per game and an astonishing 6 yards per carry! That's insane!

For some perspective on that consider that Adrian Peterson, the NFL's Leading Rusher in 2015, averaged 92.8 yards per game and only 4.54 yards per carry. That was with the full compliment of weapons surrounding him, granted in Minnesota that's not much but the point still stands.

What Zeke did up to this point in his 2014 season is nothing short of remarkable on its own, it's beyond comprehension when you consider the handicap placed on him just twelve days before it began.

Buckle up. This is about to become unfathomable

Cardale Jones Era (December 6th, 2014 - January 12th, 2015)

Dallas Cowboys fans know just how cruel the game of football can be with its wicked twists and turns. Sometimes when you feel like you can't sink any lower - the football gods come roaring with a surprise.

Cowboys Headlines - Ezekiel Elliott: No Tony Romo, No Problem? 2

As if the loss of Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller wasn't enough, 11 games into the 2014 campaign J.T. Barrett had thrown his hat into that ring while leading the Buckeyes to a 10-1 record. During the annual showdown between The Ohio State and the University of Michigan, Barrett's season was ended as he broke his ankle and seriously fractured any National Championship hopes for tOSU.

Zeke Elliott just shrugged. The dawn of his finest hour was fast approaching.

Urban Meyer and his staff, who deserve a ton of credit obviously, plugged Cardale Jones in. His first game? The Big Ten Championship. No big deal. In the season's remaining three games as the Buckeye QB Cardale never completed more than 18 passes. Zeke though, he shined.

Opponent Carries Yards Touchdowns
Wisconsin 20 220 2
Alabama 20 230 2
Oregon 36 246 4
Total 76 696 8

Take a moment to calm down. I'll wait.

Before our little math lesson let's consider the facts regarding Ezekiel Elliott at this point:

  • He is 19 years old.
  • His season began with twelve days notice that his starting quarterback would miss it.
  • His College Football Playoff run began with a week's notice that his new starting quarterback, the one he already adjusted to and performed valiantly with, would miss it.
  • He was the primary focus of opposing defenses.

232 yards per game. 9.16 yards per carry. Wow.

When the pressure was the highest and when he was counted on the most he didn't just deliver he was legendary. When you really think about the circumstances he was facing... what he did is unparalleled.

How Do Dallas RBs Do Without Tony Romo?

What can we deduce from all of this information? What's the point of this, really?

It's no secret that Tony Romo has a history of injuries that we all pretend to avoid. The hard truth is that it's not just likely, but it's arguably probable that he will miss some time in 2016. The selection of Ezekiel Elliott aids that in the most supreme way possible.

2015 is a weird parallel to this because Romo missed so much time, but do you remember when he missed the game against the Arizona Cardinals in 2014? Here are DeMarco Murray's stats from that game plus the ones immediately before and after it.

Opponent Carries Yards Touchdowns
Washington Redskins 19 141 0
Arizona Cardinals 19 79 0
@ Jacksonville Jaguars (London) 19 100 0
Total 57 320 0

You're probably wondering why I included the games immediately before and after. Allow me to explain.

It was during the third quarter of the Washington game that Romo suffered the injury that would keep him out of the Cardinals game, at which point DeMarco already had 65 yards on the evening (a 51-yard run right after Brandon Weeden came in the game would heavily inflate his statistical night), and it was the Jacksonville game where the world was uncertain just how much Tony Romo would be involved. Is it a serious stretch to say that these were the three games where DeMarco Murray was counted on most? Not at all. In a time of no Romo he was supposed to be the man.

Cowboys Headlines - Ezekiel Elliott: No Tony Romo, No Problem? 3

DeMarco averaged 5.6 yards per carry and 106.67 yards per game in this stretch, and you might be wondering why I'm being so critical considering that that's pretty respectable in terms of NFL standards.

In the seven games preceding these DeMarco averaged 4.9 yards per carry and 130.43 yards per game. Look at how significantly he decreased in production when Romo was out/questionable.

If I got really picky and removed that 51-yard run Murray had immediately after Romo went down, the run which significantly inflates this data to his benefit, his numbers from those three games would be 4.8 yards per carry and 89.67 yards per game. Abysmal.

~~~

Comparing the situation that Ezekiel Elliott faced in 2014 to the time that the Cowboys couldn't lean as much on Tony Romo in the same season is quite fascinating.

While Zeke flourished in an environment where more was expected of him, DeMarco Murray faded. We saw a similar situation across the majority of 2015 when the Dallas Cowboys as a whole essentially faded without the services of Tony Romo.

Zeke Elliott is the answer to this conundrum. He singlehandedly aids the team more than anyone in recent memory in the event that Tony is down. This is all also indicative that he'll be the perfect piece for the heir to Tony Romo's throne to lean on when it's his time.

Zeke Elliott is everything that we need. Thank God he's ours.

Do you think that Ezekiel Elliott can handle a situation where Tony Romo is absent? Let us know! Comment below, Email me at RJ@RJOchoaShow.com, or Tweet to me at @rjochoa!

Tell us what you think about "Ezekiel Elliott: No Tony Romo, No Problem?" in the comments below. You can also email me at RJ.Ochoa@SlantSports.com, or Tweet to me at @RJOchoa!



I like long walks on the beach, mystery novels, no just kidding those suck. The Dallas Cowboys were put on this earth for us all to love and appreciate. I do that 24/7/365. I also love chicken parmesan. Let's roll. @RJOchoa if you wanna shout!

Dallas Cowboys

Zack Martin Got Paid, Is DeMarcus Lawrence Next?

John Williams

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DeMarcus Lawrence, Broncos

Zack Martin's new contract became official last week as the four-time All-Pro received the long-term deal he's been looking for. Per Todd Archer, his rookie fifth year option now turns into a seven-year deal for $93.41-million dollars with $40-million guaranteed (42.8%), including a $20-million dollar signing bonus.

Todd Archer on Twitter

The total deal for All-Pro right guard Zack Martin is seven years for $93.41 million and includes a $20 million signing bonus, according to a source. As Adam Schefter reported, the guaranteed money is $40 million. The Cowboys created around $3 million... https://t.co/q8ovYSiQRg

The Dallas Cowboys and Martin's representatives worked all off-season to come up with a deal that would make Zack the highest paid guard in the NFL going into his fifth season. And as much as anyone on the team, he deserves it.

He's started every game in his four-year career. He's 28 years old and this contract locks him up through his prime.

With Martin's deal done, the Dallas Cowboys front office can now turn its attention to the next wave of players that will be ready for big-time contracts.

Let's look at who that is and what they could demand.

KD Drummond from the Cowboys Wire on USA Today had a great piece outlining what this deal means for the 2018 and 2019 salary caps moving forward. Per his math, for 2018, this deal gives the Dallas Cowboys an extra $3 million this year, leaving their cap space at a little more than $14 million.

For 2019, the Dallas Cowboys will have a projected $50-million dollars in cap space. Cap Projections courtesy of OverTheCap.com. $50 million in 2019 is far from the cap hell that everyone wants to tell you about.

Be sure to follow KD on Twitter as well as Inside The Star's very own Jess Haynie to keep up to date with the salary cap implications.

DeMarcus Lawrence, Aaron Rodgers, Packers

Dallas Cowboys DE Demarcus Lawrence (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

DeMarcus Lawrence, Defensive End

Let's start this discussion by saying that the Dallas Cowboys don't have to do a single thing with DeMarcus Lawrence's contract to help them on the salary cap. His cap figure is locked in at $17 million for 2018 and as noted above, the Cowboys have a little more than $14 million in space.

Zack Martin was arguably the biggest offseason priority in 2018. The other player who could make that argument was Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, who the team placed their franchise tag on this off-season.

With the franchise tag in place, Lawrence wasn't allowed to hit free agency, which would have definitely led to a bidding war for the All-Pro pass rusher's services.

The deadline to convert the franchise tag to a long-term deal is about a month away, which gives the Dallas Cowboys front office plenty of time to get a deal done with Lawrence.

If the Dallas Cowboys were to get an extension done, with some creative structuring of the contract they could cut his salary cap figure.  If the Cowboys placed the franchise tag on him again during the 2019 offseason, which is a real possibility, his guaranteed contract would be $20.4 million.

Let's look at Olivier Vernon's deal as a template for what DeMarcus Lawrence could get through a contract extension:

  • In 2016, Vernon signed with the New York Giants in free agency a five-year, $85-million contract with $40-million guaranteed (47.1%) and a $20-million signing bonus.
  • His year one cap figure was $13 million. A $1.75-million base salary, $7 million as a roster bonus, and $4 million as part of his prorated signing bonus that was spread out over the life of the contract.

Vernon had only one season with more than 10 sacks when he had 11.5 in his second year as a pro, but was consistently healthy. DeMarcus Lawrence had an elite season in 2017, but has had injury struggles throughout his career. 2017 was the first time he'd started all 16 games.

If you go to OverTheCap.com and look at the guaranteed portions of contracts for the top earning 4-3 defensive ends, you'll see that Jacksonville Jaguars DE Calais Campbell and the Cleveland Browns' Myles Garrett are the only players that come close. Their guaranteed money is at or just over $30-million dollars.

Vernon's deal was an above market value contract at the time, but could be the range that Lawrence and his representatives are looking at to get Tank paid.

Through the franchise tag alone, we're talking about a minimum of $37.4-million guaranteed that could go to Lawrence over the next two years. That would be just under Vernon's guaranteed numbers, and though Vernon's contract was above market value, that is probably where Lawrence's deal will have to start.

You can thank the New York Giants for paying Vernon above market value, which is probably leading to some of the contract negotiation difficulties between the Dallas Cowboys and Lawrence's representatives.

With all of that said, here's what I'd estimate Lawrence's deal to look like if it were to get signed before July 16th, when franchise tags become official for the 2018 season.

5 years for $90 million, $18 million per year, with $44-million guaranteed, and a $24-million signing bonus. 

That would make him the highest paid 4-3 defensive end in NFL history, and if 2017 is any sign of future production, he's well worth it.

That may seem like a rich contract, but considering that Zack Martin just got $40-million guaranteed to play a position that is not nearly as valued as EDGE, it makes sense that Lawrence would get more.

The Dallas Cowboys may let him play this season on the franchise tag, but that would mean they will probably have to use it again next year to try to get a long-term deal negotiated with him in the 2019 off-season.

The sooner they get a deal done with Tank, the better as his play will only drive his contract up.

Dak Prescott Weighs in on Cowboys "Dak-Friendly" Offense

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

Dak Prescott, Quarterback

Dak Prescott is headed for a big payday. Remember, before the final eight games of the 2017 season, Prescott had led the Cowboys to an 18-6 record over his first 24 games. His 22-10 record, which includes the offense's late season meltdown, is still pretty impressive during a quarterback's first two years in the NFL.

Only one quarterback since the 1970 AFL-NFL Merger had more wins in their first two seasons than Dak Prescott's 22: Russell Wilson. And we know the kind of defense the Seattle Seahawks were working with at the time.

Dak Prescott had a terrible second half of 2017, as did the rest of the offense, but don't let that cloud your judgment of what kind of player he is. Remember, in his rookie season he had the third highest passer rating behind Tom Brady and Matt Ryan at 104.9.

Over the first eight games of 2017, his passer rating was 97.9 and he had a 16:4 touchdown to interception ratio. That includes the 68.8 passer rating in Denver when the entire team fell flat in the week two destruction at the hands of the Broncos.

He's a good quarterback and in 2018 he'll assuage all your concerns. Here's what I had to say about Dak Prescott's 2018 season.

Looking to the 2019 season, the time when 2016 rookies can begin negotiating contract extensions, it's likely Dak Prescott will get some big money to make him the Cowboys quarterback for the next 10 years.

There's no telling how rich the deal will be at this point, but we can guess that it will be somewhere between Derek Carr's $125 million (32% guaranteed) and Matt Ryan's $150 million total value (63% guaranteed).

Year three for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys will be huge to determine just where that contract should fit. Best case scenario for the Cowboys is that Prescott plays lights out en route to a deep playoff run and they reward him with a very rich contract.

If 2018 creates more questions, then a 2020 franchise tag could be in Prescott's future.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

With approximately $14 million in space this year and $50 million available to them in the 2019 salary cap, the Dallas Cowboys have the financial flexibility to hand out some long-term deals to some of their homegrown players.

As we know, this is the Dallas Cowboys' standard operating procedure: Draft well and then pay those draftees who earn a second contract. DeMarcus Lawrence and Dak Prescott have earned that second contract. The only question is, when will they get signed?



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Dallas Cowboys

Dak Prescott’s Next Contract Looms Over Cowboys’ Financial Future

Jess Haynie

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Dak Prescott
Ashley Landis/Dallas Morning News

Even though his rookie contract goes through 2019, Quarterback Dak Prescott's next deal is already one of the key issues facing the Dallas Cowboys. Preparing for that second contract, which could highly expensive, is critical as the team deals with the rest of the roster and prepares for the future.

As a fourth-round pick Prescott's rookie deal is delightfully cheap. He counts just $726k and $816k against the salary cap over the next two seasons. You could hardly ask for better from a guy whose already been to a Pro Bowl.

But this financial grace period has a rapidly approaching end date. Dallas will soon have to pay Dak the standard for NFL quarterbacks, and the difference is staggering.

Consider what Jimmy Garoppolo just got from the 49ers; $137.5 million over five years. That's an average of $27.5 million per season.

Yikes, right?

And think about this; while Garoppolo may look like the second coming right now, he still hasn't accomplished what Dak Prescott already has.

Dallas Cowboys Well Represented In 2017 ESPY Awards 1

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

Prescott has taken his team to the playoffs. He's gone to the Pro Bowl. His career passer rating puts him in the Top 10, between Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers, on the NFL's all-time list.

Yes, last year was a step backward. But if Dak gets back to rookie form, and there's plenty of reason to think he will, then he will be able to use Garoppolo's deal as the floor in negotiations.

Again... yikes!

The scary reality here is that the Cowboys will no sooner get out from under Tony Romo's big contract then they probably have to get into a new one with Prescott. The last Romo's dead money, $8.9 million, finally drops off after 2018.

We know how Romo's cap hits, both while still playing and even after his release, have limited the Cowboys in free agency. That is an unnerving prospect for the future once Dak Prescott gets his next deal.

That's why you see the Cowboys eating all of Dez Bryant's dead money now. That's why they're potentially relying on so many recent draft picks like Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Connor Williams and Michael Gallup to take on big roles for the next 3-4 years at their inexpensive rookie salaries.

That's why Cole Beasley (2019 free agent) probably won't be back next season, or why Sean Lee ($7 million cap relief) could easily be a cap casualty next year.

Clearly, Prescott's next contract hangs over everything.

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

Of course, nothing is certain. Prescott's sophomore slump may devolve into something more, and the conversation could quickly change.

But Dak doesn't have to be better than ever to earn the big money. He only has to get back to his rookie form; just do what he's already done.

With the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott hopefully back to their 2016 form and availability, Prescott should have the cushion to be the kind of QB that he was in that 13-3 season. And if he can get the Cowboys one step closer in the playoffs, such as an NFC Championship Game appearance, then Dallas will have no choice but to commit long-term.

While what the Niners gave Jimmy Garoppolo could be considered asinine for the lack of actual accomplishment so far, that doesn't matter in terms of market value. The bar has been raised, and Dak won't have to do much to clear it.

You know that Jerry and Stephen Jones see this as well as anybody, and every move the Cowboys make now is done with Dak's future deal in mind. That's the reality for any NFL team; dealing with the imbalance in QB compensation compared to the rest of the league.

Even if it's still two years away, they have to prepare for it as if it's guaranteed. Given what other QBs like Garoppolo, Kirk Cousins, and Matt Stafford are making right now, Dak doesn't have to accomplish much more to make it happen.



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Dallas Cowboys

Jimmy Johnson Could Be Next Cowboys Ring of Honor Inductee

Jess Haynie

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Auto Draft 4
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

According to reports, former Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jimmy Johnson may finally be joining the team's Ring of Honor.

Clarence Hill of the Star-Telegram reported this morning, per a source, that Johnson could be among the next group of inductees to the franchise's version of the Hall of Fame.

The other potential candidates mentioned were former scouting guru Gil Brandt from the Tom Landry era and Tight End Jay Novacek, who won three Super Bowls in Dallas in the 1990s.

Novacek would join Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Charles Haley, and Darren Woodson as Ring of Honor members acquired during Jimmy Johnson's brief but historic run as Cowboys coach.

It is that heavy presence of Johnson's players in the Ring, not to mention the three championships that crew won from 1992-1995, that has long merited Jimmy's inclusion in the Cowboys' most exclusive club.

Jimmy was only personally on had for two of three titles, but even that ties him with Tom Landry for Super Bowl wins in Cowboys history. And as many would argue, that 1995 championship team was still running on what Johnson put together.

Jimmy Johnson Could Be Next Cowboys Ring of Honor Inductee

Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones

Jimmy's place among the Cowboys' greatest contributors is irrefutable. But whether he'd ever get into the Ring of Honor has always been questioned due to his contentious breakup with team Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones.

Johnson left the Cowboys after the 1993 championship season as he and Jones could no longer have a working relationship. Jerry's bitterness over the credit that Jimmy got for building the 90s dynasty, and Jimmy's refusal to pass any of that along to his Jones, led to Johnson's resignation as egos drove a wedge between friends.

Time appears to have healed the wounds, for the most part. As pictured above, Jimmy was in attendance for Jerry's 2017 Hall of Fame induction and public comments between them have become far more cordial in recent years.

At ages 75 and 74, respectively, Jerry and Jimmy should close this book while they still can. There is no better way to do than by Johnson taking his rightful place in the Ring of Honor.

Not only will that move bring a resolution to their story, but it will also help Jimmy in his pursuit of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to be recognized on the team level.

Jimmy Johnson belongs with Troy, Emmitt, Playmaker, and the rest who he brought together. He was responsible for the most successful era of Dallas Cowboys football in the team's history. He also provided the catchphrase that has endured for almost 30 years now, "how 'bout 'dem Cowboys?"

You can't tell the story of the Dallas Cowboys without Jimmy Johnson. It's time to give his chapter a happy ending.



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