The key word buzzing around the Dallas Cowboys right now is contracts. From Dak Prescott to Ezekiel Elliott to Amari Cooper to Byron Jones, and with other young stars on the horizon, the team is looking for ways to hold on to as much of its talent as possible. Today, given the concerns that are out there, I wanted to show you just how possible it really is.
Another key factor is the amount of cap space that should be opened up by the end of the season. Just consider the following players with expiring contracts:
- OT La'el Collins - $9.9 million cap hit
- DE Robert Quinn - $8 million
- LB Sean Lee - $6 million
- WR Randall Cobb - $4.56 million
- TE Jason Witten - $4.25 million
- S Jeff Heath - $2.95 million
- DT Maliek Collins - $2.2 million
- TOTAL: $37.9 million
Another big gain will come from Tyrone Crawford's contract. Dallas could save $7 million this year if he doesn't make the 2019 roster, and $8 million is if he's released in 2020.
There's also $5.5 million in dead money from the contracts of previously released players such as Terrance Williams, Orlando Scandrick, and Allen Hurns that will be expiring.
So now, between current cap space, expiring contracts and dead money, and cutting Crawford, we now have about $73 million to work with in 2020. That's when the large cap hits of any of these extensions will really take effect.
We have our available funds, so let's take a quick look at what market value is for our young stars.
We've heard about $32 million as the average salary on Dak Prescott's new deal, which would match what Carson Wentz just got from the Eagles. Ezekiel Elliott wants about $15 million in line with Todd Gurley, and Amari Cooper will likely be seeing $18-$19 million based on the contracts of Michael Thomas and Odell Beckham.
For Byron Jones, the top-five CB contracts average about $14-$15 million. So if we add all that up, we come to roughly $80-$81 million in average salary on these four deals.
So, working against the $73 million we discussed already, that does create a deficit. But we have yet to consider a crucial detail that many commonly forget.
Many hear "Ezekiel Elliott seeks over $15 million per year" and don't consider that he already counts $7.9 million against the cap as is. If Zeke gets re-signed, the bump in those first few years is only going to be about $5-$6 million more than the present.
Amari Cooper already counts $13.9 million against the cap. Byron Jones counts $6.3 million and Dak Prescott counts $2.1 million. All together, these four guys have a composite cap hit of $30.2 million.
So, with this taken into consideration, we really only need about $50 million to get these players extended. And considering the first few years of the contracts will generally come in below the average, the actual amounts needed for 2019 and 2020 would be a little below that.
Now we're not talking about a deficit anymore. Dallas would still have well over $20 million from that $73 million we put together earlier, perhaps using some of it to it re-sign players like Randall Cobb or Robert Quinn depending on how they perform in 2019.
Of course, there will be casualties. Dallas will likely have to let OT La'el Collins leave in free agency and hope that either promoting Cam Fleming or moving Connor Williams to right tackle covers them from 2020.
It also means not hanging on to veterans like Jason Witten or Sean Lee beyond this year unless they are willing to take major pay decreases. But that could be a moot point if either retires, which is fairly likely for both.
Now you may be wondering why, if this looks so easy, we're even having the current issue with Ezekiel Elliott's holdout. Why not just pay him if it's so doable?
The issue isn't just the 2019 or 2020 salary cap. The Cowboys have to think about the future for players like Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Chidobe Awuzie, Xavier Woods, and every other young player they're projecting will deserve a second contract in the coming years.
It is by those future years that the cap hits on Zeke, Byron, and others could potentially restrict your activity with other player. But by then, there are all sorts of new realities that could also be at work
How many more years will Tyron Smith be viable at his high cap hit? And what will future increases to the league's salary cap, plus a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2020, mean for the financial landscape of the NFL down the road?
Also, in a few years, how comfortable will Dallas be to dip back into the restructuring business with contracts of Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Zack Martin, and others? It's a dangerous game, but a way to create salary cap room if necessary.
~ ~ ~
The bottom line here is that everything is possible. There is way more cap space out there than many would lead you to believe, and especially if the Cowboys continue filling their team with quality draft picks as they have in recent years.
The issue with Zeke is about a lot of things. It's about the overall value of the RB position, which the NFL seems to be collectively trying to keep from exploding after the recent deals for Gurley, David Johnson, and Le'Veon Bell. It's also about Elliott's personal history and Dallas wanting some assurances if he finds himself in the Commissioner's office anymore.
Money is an issue but only because these mitigating factors. From a purely fiscal standpoint, Dallas CAN pay Elliott. Amari Cooper, Dak Prescott, Byron Jones, and any other young stud they want to hang on to over the next several years.
Just give it time, and don't let mainstream sports media fool you into overly worrying.
The Time has Come to See More of Tight End Blake Jarwin
When Jason Witten made his triumphant return from the Monday Night Football booth to the Dallas Cowboys' locker room, the addition was met with a bit of reserved optimism. On the one hand, it was awesome to get one of the best players in the history of the franchise back on the field and in the locker room. On the other hand, it meant that he would eat into the snap counts of Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, or any rookie they potentially drafted in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Though, upon arrival, the Cowboys and Witten stated the future Hall of Famer would only play roughly 25 snaps a game, it didn't take long to figure out that Witten was the starting and full-time player at tight end. In training camp, Witten got a majority of the first-team snaps. In the first nine games of the 2019 season, Witten's played nearly twice as many snaps as Blake Jarwin.
It's an unfortunate turn from the narrative we were being fed in the offseason as Blake Jarwin provides a receiving dynamic that no other tight end for the Dallas Cowboys can. He's quicker, more agile, and has much more athleticism than Jason Witten.
On a per snap basis, Blake Jarwin is offering more in yards per snap and in yards per route run. Jarwin has accrued 0.811 yards per snap to Jason Witten's 0.711. Basically, if you prorate Jarwin's yards per snap total of 0.811 to Jason Witten's snap count of 475, Jarwin would theoretically have nearly 50 more receiving yards than Witten while providing another downfield threat to the passing game.
If we look at yards per route run, Jarwin's outpacing Witten 1.97 to 1.37 per Pro Football Focus. If you were to give Jason Witten's number of routes run to Blake Jarwin and prorated based on Jarwin's production in 2019, he would have roughly 484 receiving yards or 150 more receiving yards than Jason Witten.
Obviously, Jarwin's still got some development that needs to happen as a run blocker to be able to get on the field more. The Cowboys coaching staff, however, has still elected to roll with Jason Witten over Blake Jarwin even in pass-heavy situations as we saw on Sunday Night Football. This is the first game of the year where the Cowboys needed to be in heavy passing mode, but they continue to keep one of their more athletic weapons on the sideline when they need to get chunk plays.
Jarwin's ability to attack up the seam can help open everything up for everyone else in the offense. Just having another vertical threat on the field can create space for Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Randall Cobb underneath.
Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff isn't going to flip their snap counts anytime soon, but the time has come for Blake Jarwin to get more of the situational passing work. When the Cowboys get into obvious passing situations -- 3rd and longs or in two-minute situations -- Blake Jarwin needs to be the tight end on the field.
We've seen each of the last two weeks what Jarwin can do once he gets the ball in his hands. Against the New York Giants, he ripped off a game-changing 42-yard touchdown run and catch. On Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, Jarwin had a big 26-yard reception that helped get the Cowboys going offensively.
Jason Witten will go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor. It's time he and the coaching staff recognizes that the Dallas Cowboys could be an even more dynamic offensive team by getting the more athletic Blake Jarwin on the field more.
QB Colin Kaepernick to Hold Workout, Cowboys Showing an Interest
Former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is apparently attempting to resurrect his NFL career and will hold a private workout for teams on Saturday in Atlanta according to Adam Schefter.
NFL clubs were informed today that a private workout will be held for Colin Kaepernick on Saturday in Atlanta. Session will include on-field work and an interview. All clubs are invited to attend, and video of both the workout and interview will be made available to clubs.
For fans who believed Colin Kaepernick was blackballed after all of the kneeling during the national anthem fiasco, this is long overdue. For everyone else, they probably couldn't care less. But, where exactly do the Dallas Cowboys stand? After all, that's all we really care about here around Cowboys Nation. Right!?
Well, it appears as if the Dallas Cowboys could be at least a little bit interested. Or, it could just be them doing their due diligence. Either way, it looks as if they will have somebody on hand at the workout.
After speaking to another team from my last tweet, as of now, I'm told there is interest within the #Cowboys organization to send at least one representative to Colin Kaepernick's workout, per source.
If you put aside all of the protest stuff and kneeling during the national anthem, this is a move that actually makes quite a bit of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. And, you can bet that this is an opportunity Kaepernick himself has been waiting for.
I'm just getting word from my representatives that the NFL league office reached out to them about a workout in Atlanta on Saturday. I've been in shape and ready for this for 3 years, can't wait to see the head coaches and GMs on Saturday.
This may be the opportunity Kaepernick has been waiting for, but why should the Cowboys be interested? Well, let me try to lay it out for you little better…
You see, the Dallas Cowboys are going to need another backup quarterback next season. Cooper Rush is in the last year of his rookie contract and is set to become a free agent after the completion of the 2019 season. In Colin Kaepernick they would not only be upgrading Dak Prescott's backup, but also adding a QB with a similar skill set as him as well.
Now, there is a catch of course. There always is. Kaepernick hasn't thrown a pass in the NFL since the 2016 season. Also, he'd have to be willing to accept a backup role. Those are some pretty big red flags, but he could do a lot worse than bringing his talent to Texas as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys could actually be the best spot for him to resurrect his career. The national attention he would receive as a member of America's Team could be the best place for him to put his talents on display and prove he still has something left in the tank, even if it is in a backup role. If he can do that, there's no telling where his career could go from there.
In all honesty, this sounds like a win-win for both the Dallas Cowboys and Colin Kaepernick. Uniting these two could be a match made in heaven. It's very possible both parties are interested in one another, but unfortunately we won't know how things turn out anytime soon. It's a waiting game now…
Do you think Colin Kaepernick would be a good fit with the Dallas Cowboys?
Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys Turned Their Back on Prescott’s MVP Performance
The Dallas Cowboys have lost games to the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets and the Minnesota Vikings. Last Sunday Night, the Cowboys hosted the Vikings on primetime and lost in a game that went down to the wire. It felt like the toughest loss of the season. Why? Let's dive in to this week's edition of Takeaway Tuesday.
Cowboys Turned Their Back on Dak Prescott's MVP Performance
Cowboys Nation was shocked with the Cowboys' play-calling late in the game and for good reason. After starting the drive backed up at their own five, Prescott completed six of seven passes for 79 yards. Then, on second down and two to go, the Cowboys ran the ball with Ezekiel Elliott for no gain. On a short yardage down, that was comprehensible. Maybe not ideal, but understandable. On third down, though, they handed it off again to Zeke.
In the game in which Dak Prescott was playing at an MVP level, with less than two minutes on the clock, the Cowboys took the ball away from him to put the game on the star running back who was having a rough day with less than 50 yards against a stout Vikings defense.
Now granted, the play on third down seemed to be an RPO concept with Jason Witten as the pass option. But why are you giving Dak one pass option when he's dominated all night? Why are you instead trusting Elliott in a game in which he failed to average three yards per carry? Prescott was unbelievably clutch, throwing for almost 400 yards, three touchdowns and a 100% conversion rate on 3rd & 7+.
This was by far the number one reason why the loss to the Vikings was so frustrating to watch. The Cowboys have a franchise quarterback. But they need to learn to trust him as such and put the games on his hands when needed. Not on their running back, regardless of how much they pay each.
Jason Garrett Must Be More Aggressive in Fourth Down Decisions
It's easy to say this in retrospective, but I believe the Cowboys didn't make the right decisions when facing fourth down last Sunday night. The first notorious decision came in the second quarter, when the Cowboys faced 4th & 4 with the ball on the Vikings' 40 yard-line. Being behind 14-0, they decided to punt.
It turned out fine for the Cowboys in the end, tying the game 14-14 later in the second. But the analytics trend in the NFL really has evidence to back up the fact that Dallas should've gone for it in such a critical spot.
In the fourth quarter, the Cowboys decided to kick the field goal being on their opponents' five. Down 21-28, Brett Maher went out to kick the field goal, which put the Cowboys behind by four points instead of seven. They still needed a touchdown to take the lead with ten minutes left on the game.
Kevin Brady took a deeper look at the Cowboys' win probabilities on this article for Inside The Star.
was working on a post for @InsideTheStarDC on this last night. here's the estimated WP for each scenario on that fourth and goal.
The Baltimore Ravens are taking the league by storm using analytics and making the right decisions in fourth down. Yet, some teams in the NFL are not catching up. The Cowboys are one of those teams.
Cowboys Defense Exposed Again
The main reason the Cowboys lost to the Vikings was coaching and that's clear. But defense earned the second place. Kirk Cousins played a good game versus Rod Marinelli's unit, despite the box score suggesting otherwise. He made a couple of impressive throws at AT&T Stadium while Kyle Rudolph finished night with two touchdown catches and a two point conversion.
Dalvin Cook, one of the toughest offensive weapons to face in this league totaled 183 yards last weekend. It's not easy to face Cook and limit him and the Cowboys failed to do so. The linebackers had a very rough day overall and there wasn't a single performance to point out as a positive.
Slow Starts Won't Stop
Every week. Every week we talk about how this Cowboys team started slow against any opponent. In six games, they haven't scored a TD in the first quarter. Not even at the beginning of the season, when they went 3-0 against poor teams did they start a game on the right foot. Who to blame? Both players and coaches, but I'd lean toward coaching first.
Bottom line, there's a huge problem with the way this football team prepares for gameday and the Cowboys need to figure it out fast. Their backs are against the wall and playing from behind every game costs games. At 5-4 and headed toward tough opponents in the second half of the season, it's time to put an end to such starts.
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