The NFL off season can be a tricky time for fans and football writers alike. Prior to 32 teams opening up their training camps this summer on a quest towards Super Bowl LI, they must get through the remainder of June and most of July without a whole lot going on.
For Cowboys Nation to pass the time, we can always count on those lovable and incredibly accurate national headlines - right?
Wrong. It is at this point in the summer that outlets like Fox Sports always undervalue the Dallas Cowboys and their status entering the new season. While it is fair to say the team certainly has some question marks to address for 2016, the offensive line and rushing attack are two areas that Jason Garrett and the staff have to feel pretty comfortable about.
Recently, Fox Sports went ahead and ranked every rushing attack in the league, factoring in the overall talent on the offense along with the mobility of the team's quarterback.
You can check out the rankings right here, but you may be surprised at how much you have to scroll down before finding the Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys, with Ezekiel Elliott, Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, Lance Dunbar, and Darius Jackson all currently on the roster, ranked sixth in the league. Coming in ahead of the Cowboys were - from highest to lowest - the Steelers, Panthers, Seahawks, Bills, and Cardinals.
Pittsburgh topping the list is not a shock, as Le'Veon Bell returns to a backfield that features the still-reliable DeAngelo Williams - who proved himself in the absence of Bell last season.
The second and third spots on this list went to teams that rely heavily on their quarterbacks for rushing success. While Cam Newton and Russell Wilson are unbelievably dangerous talents, there is no substitute for being able to run the ball effectively thanks mostly to your dominant offensive line like the Cowboys can.
Additionally, the Seahawks will be entering their first season in which Wilson will not have the luxury of handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch. Thomas Rawls appears poised to have a breakout year there in Seattle, and will split carries with former Cowboy Christine Michael as well as rookies C.J. Prosise and Alex Collins.
This generally unproven backfield does not deserve a spot above the likes of the veterans the Cowboys employ like Morris and McFadden though, and that's without even factoring in Ezekiel Elliott.
That brings us to the Buffalo Bills, who led the league in rushing thanks mostly to LeSean McCoy. While their 2015 output on the ground was impressive, especially considering their lackluster QB and WR play, the "best" rushing attacks should be the ones that have the potential to win more games.
While I don't mind the Cardinals being directly ahead of the Cowboys, the truth is that Dallas should find themselves pulling away from Arizona into the top three on this list.
Here is exactly what Fox had to say about where they ranked the Cowboys, offering nothing but praise towards the entirety of the offense:
Despite having to deal with injuries and troubled players at the running back position (Joseph Randle), the Cowboys had the ninth-best rushing offense in the league last season. Darren McFadden led the bunch with 1,089 yards. McFadden is now dealing with an elbow injury suffered while dropping his phone, which gives way to the inevitable. Rookie Ezekiel Elliott enters the league with massive expectations running behind Dallas' star-studded offensive line. Furthermore, Lance Dunbar will be back, and the addition of Alfred Morris gives them a bruising back. Thanks to depth, overall talent and a great offensive line, the Cowboys will be one of the best offenses in the NFL.
What truly matters here is that Ezekiel Elliott should have every single Cowboys fan stoked for the upcoming season. Enough cannot be said about establishing an identity for your football team, and the Cowboys saw an opportunity to do just that when they added Zeke to run behind this offensive line with the fourth overall pick.
Opposing defensive coordinators are going to be terrified of Elliott, while also having to worry about the likes of Morris, Dunbar, and potentially Jackson. As if that wasn't enough, Cowboys' Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan can always have Tony Romo drop back and throw the ball to Dez Bryant and his host of targets.
The Cowboys rushing attack is going to be the heartbeat of this team in 2016, and our collective hearts are ready to watch it dominate on Sundays!
Where should the Cowboys rushing attack rank among the NFL's best? Comment below the article to start the conversation!
Could Loaded FA Safety Market Drive Down Earl Thomas’ Value?
It's no secret the Dallas Cowboys and Earl Thomas share a mutual interest in one another. Thomas has publicly stated his desire to join America's Team and the Cowboys did their darndest to make that happen last offseason. Nothing ever materialized a year ago, but it's looking as if the stars have finally aligned and a union between the two could merely be just weeks away.
Surprisingly enough, the Dallas Cowboys may have dodged a bullet last year when the Seattle Seahawks refused to part ways with their All-Pro safety. Not only would they have had to surrender a high draft pick, but they would've also had to extend Thomas' contract. Fortunately, timing is everything and now the Cowboys might just have to do the latter.
A potential contract between the Cowboys and Thomas is of course what I want to dive in today. I'm not going to get into numbers right now, because it's nearly impossible to project any kind of contract for any safety this offseason, especially for the former Seahawk, Earl Thomas.
Right now, it's a little difficult to know who might have the advantage in contract negotiations, Earl Thomas or the Dallas Cowboys. A lot of times the one that has the leverage, however slight, is the one that gets the better of the deal. As surprising as it may be, the Cowboys might just have the advantage here and I'll tell you why.
First off, this year's market for free agent safeties is pretty stacked with starting caliber players. See below:
- Earl Thomas
- Landon Collins
- Lamarcus Joyner
- Tyrann Mathieu
- Adrian Amos
- Clayton Geathers
- Ha-Ha Clinton Dix
- Glover Quinn
- Tre Boston
- Kenny Vaccaro
- George Iloka
- Jimmie Ward
- Adrian Phillips
Earl Thomas is obviously the headliner here amongst the free agent safeties, but having so many starting caliber players available could drive down Thomas' market value just a bit. This is especially true when you take into consideration the market for FA safeties just a year ago. It was almost a complete standstill last year, with only Kurt Coleman signing a three-year $16.5 million deal with the New Orleans Saints. Not even the "Honey Badger" Tyrann Mathieu could get more than a one-year deal.
With all of these safeties available in free agency, we could be looking at another stingy market. This of course could be good or bad news for the Dallas Cowboys, especially as it pertains to Earl Thomas. Since he is the top FA safety available, everything could once again be at a standstill until he is signed.
Of course, we all know this will ultimately come down to determining Earl Thomas' market value. There is no denying he is still arguably the best free safety in the game today, but there are concerns about his age (30) and the two lower leg injuries he's sustained in the past three years.
Even with the loaded free agent market of starting caliber safeties and Thomas' age and recent injury history, he's still likely to receive a contract that earns him $10 million annually, give or take. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he gets another four-year deal worth $40 million, $25.7 million guaranteed, with a $9.5 million signing bonus like he signed with the Seahawks back in 2014.
The Cowboys of course would probably find a four-year $40 million deal for Earl Thomas acceptable. They would more than likely frontload the contract with a lot of protection in the details. They have the cap space to make this happen and still be able to sign their own, so money shouldn't be a problem.
Now, whether or not Thomas' market value may dip a little due to all of the above mentioned reasons will be something we will have to wait and find out. Regardless, I'd be a little shocked if Earl Thomas doesn't finish his career with the Dallas Cowboys.
Do you think Earl Thomas' market value will take a little hit this offseason?
Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors
What a difference a receiver makes, right? As Dallas fans, we know the impact of a player who can shake coverage, get open, and catch the ball. How was the season going before the Cowboys pulled the trigger for Amari Cooper in the deal with the Raiders? Cooper proved to be the lightning rod and a turning point in a season that was growing increasingly dismal. Dak Prescott and Cooper went together like peanut butter and jelly, while the Cowboys stormed to a division title and a postseason berth.
Now, imagine all of that times two… maybe even two and a half if Antonio Brown could be had from the Steelers. Scary right? We understand there’s only one ball to go around but that didn’t stop Kevin Durant from joining the Warriors, did it?
As of this writing, the best online sportsbooks like Intertops, are dealing Dallas as the seventh of 16 choices to win the NFC championship at odds of 12-1. Imagine how those odds would shrink if Brown wore a Cowboys uniform next season, giving Prescott the luxury of not one upper echelon wideout but that plus an elite receiver. Hut, hut, hut and a few clouds of smoke later the Cowboys would be moving the chains or celebrating in the endzone.
Brown and Cooper would be a devastating combination with Ezekiel Elliott coming out of the backfield. Brown was made for Dallas, it gives him an even grander stage than the one he shared with Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh.
Despite the fact that the 'Boys haven’t won a Super Bowl since Barry Switzer was roaming the sidelines in the mid-90s, America’s Team still resides in Dallas. But we need a game-changer and Brown is just such an athlete. But what do we give in return and will that cost be worth whatever productive years Brown has left after this one? Let’s not forget that the mercurial Miami native will be 31 when the season begins and men who make a living with their legs don’t get better at that age. But Brown is so good and so unique that, even if he drops half a click, he's still amongst the best in the game.
That level of talent is hard to replicate and it could be the missing piece which allows Dallas to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender next season and the year after.
However, up to this point, we’ve been very good at dreaming of a Brown to Dallas trade but haven’t quite worked out the details. It takes two to tango and if we expect to get the Steelers’ attention we need to give them something valuable in return. Dallas surrendered their first-round pick (27th) this season when they traded for Cooper so that’s no longer an asset.
Pittsburgh would be vying for a first-round pick (and likely more) for Brown's services but some have speculated Dallas would consider dealing rookie-standout Leighton Vander Esch.
Wait... what? We know, you’re clutching your pearls, and the words are stuck in your gasp. We get it. The kid was a home run this past season, leading the Dallas defense in tackles and earning a Pro Bowl invitation in his inaugural NFL season. But this would be a Faustian deal.
The Cowboys give up a player who is poised to be a stud for years to come for a playmaker in Brown that could render a Super Bowl in the immediate future. Brown's expiration date will surely turn his milk sour sooner rather than later, but in the here and now, Antonio Brown could be the bell cow who leads the Cowboys to the promised land before he’s put out to pasture.
Just something to think about...
2018 In Review: CB Anthony Brown Bounces Back
To say it's been an up-and-down start to the career of young cornerback Anthony Brown would be an understatement.
As a sixth round pick in 2016, everything Brown contributed during his rookie season was a plus. Due to injury he was asked to step into a greater role as the season went on, and he performed well enough to make the front office comfortable allowing multiple veterans to walk for nothing in free agency the following Spring. Brown looked like a legitimate starting cornerback in the league, and when Dallas brought in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis during the next draft, the young secondary seemed set.
Then 2017 happened. And Anthony Brown struggled. Really struggled.
These struggles, coupled with the emergence of both Lewis and Awuzie during their own rookie seasons, made Brown's status heading into 2018 rather uncertain. Some wondered if they would trade him for a day three pick, others thought Brown could even end up being cut. Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown were slated to compete for the nickel cornerback job in training camp, and as it turned out, all Brown needed was that one extra chance to compete.
Brown won the job outright during the preseason, and began 2018 as the starting nickel. A fan favorite, most thought Lewis would reclaim his rightful spot on the depth chart sooner or later, but Anthony Brown's play (and Kris Richard's preferences) kept Lewis on the bench for much of the season.
Simply put, Anthony Brown balled in 2018, and was the Cowboys' second best corner for most of the year. By the end of the season Chidobe Awuzie had regained form, but Brown and Byron Jones were the most consistently reliable corners on the roster all of 2018.
Brown tallied 44 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception in 2018, and finished third on the team in pass breakups with 8. As the slot corner Brown had an excellent season, especially for a former sixth round pick.
Now he enters a contract year, and with the Cowboys having so many guys to pay over the next two offseasons, he could find himself as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. And if he can keep up his play from last year moving forward, he could be in for a nice payday that Spring.
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