As we move through the preseason, DCN staff will present to you their takes on the coming finalization of the Cowboys' 53 man roster. Today we have Jonathan Day's projections. Previous staff projections from preseason week one: Mike Harlos.
Tony is the clear no-brainer here. I am hoping the back-up position is an open battle. Weeden very well wins by merit of NFL starting QB experience, but I would love to see the young UDFA Dustin Vaughan supplant him from this spot and prove that he could be looked upon as Romo’s eventual replacement, who is the better long-term solution – Weeden – 31 and Vaughan – 23. Furthermore, given what I saw of Vaughan in his first NFL experience in preseason game 1, I honestly believe he could be worthy of keeping around to develop – he showed elusiveness in the pocket, command of the offense, and threw the ball at all levels with accuracy and zip. He also has the prototypical size at 6-5 233 lbs. At West Texas A&M, a division II school, he threw for 5,401 yards and 53 touchdowns in 2013, setting school records.
This will be one of the battles to watch throughout preseason. I don’t see them keeping more than 6 and the only spot that I believe is truly up for grabs is that 6th spot. Devin Street likely is kept by merit of the fact that he was drafted, but I wouldn’t exactly say his name is written in ink, either. He has to prove he can contribute on special teams and that could prove to be a hindrance.
Transversely, at tight end, I really don’t see there being much of a battle here. This, of course, is largely dependent on whether or not they keep a fullback. I lean towards them keeping at the very least one fullback, which makes the three TEs the Cowboys keep a pretty easy decision, compared to the rest of the battles occurring team-wide.
Perhaps not as difficult of a decision as the WR quandary, but nevertheless, I have a tough time deciding both who and how many as far as running backs. My belief is that should DeMarco Murray get injured, which given the fact he has failed to play a full 16 games thus far in his career due to injuries is a real possibility, the plan is to slide either Joseph Randle or Ryan Williams into the starting role and allow Lance Dunbar to continue to be a relief / change of pace back. Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of Randle, but so far, with his experience in the system, he has the inside track. Ben Malena, at this point, is likely viewed as practice squad material, regardless of who and how many are kept.
For now, Clutts has the inside track on J.C. Copeland. Clutts has more experience and has a better chance of being a significant contributor on special teams. But Clutts' name is by no means written in ink and that final cut will likely be delayed until after the final preseason game.
Smith and Free are solid, but we haven’t had any opportunity to see what the younger guys vying for a spot can do, so for now, I’ll stick with the players who at least know the system.
With the lone exception of the first round pick, once again, experience wins out …for now.
Locked. Inked. Clutch. If you want to move him from that spot, bring a wrecking ball...and just in case, bring a spare too!
Similar to wide receiver, a major battle will occur across the line, which should make the preseason all the more interesting to watch. Every spot, except for that of Selvie, Lawrence, Crawford and Spencer, is up for grabs. The aforementioned would really have to underperform in an extremely noticeable way to not make the final 53, but as far as who will be starting, that's still anybody's guess. Considering the Cowboys are planning to send guys in waves, it makes sense to go heavier than conventional wisdom on the defensive line; otherwise, one player sustaining an injury could hamstring the wave (pun intended). Kenneth Boatright, for now, is on the outside looking in. But he could take Gardner’s or Mincey’s position on the final 53 if he is able to show up in a significant way during preseason.
Because of Crawford's flexibility to slide inside, I initially considered only keeping three DTs. But again, if he or anyone else is injured, Marinelli will likely have to dig into free agency - like last year’s debacle - to duct-tape the line. I wouldn't be surprised to see the defense go deep across the board up front. Nick Hayden is the wildcard; I would like both Coleman and/or Bishop to prove to be an improvement over Hayden, but he could make the final 53 due to having experience in this system.
Many have probably picked Will Smith by merit of being drafted, but Orie Lemon is someone I know can contribute on special teams and, according to reports, he spent the offseason working out with Dez Bryant. Nevertheless, this is yet another one of those decisions that will be left for after the last preseason game.
Four corners may seem light, but I don’t see Moore, Patmon, Webb, or Phillips proving to be more significant contributors than the players kept for the sake of going deep in the front seven. If the Cowboys keep five, likely at the expense of the defensive line, Webb may win. Once again because of his experience in the scheme as well as the fact that he was drafted in the 5th round in 2013.
J. J. Wilcox
A common theme on defense, more so than any year in recent memory, is that pretty much every starting position, with few exceptions, are up for grabs. Church is written in ink; the rest will have to kick, claw, scratch and bite to start and/or make the final 53. Again, Preseason is going to be very interesting. I would not be surprised to see the Cowboys keep more than four safeties given the injury issues that have attacked this position over the last two years. But if they do so, it will be at the expense of the defensive line, which is already one injury away from Marinelli having to dig through the free agent scrap heap. For me, I would rather see the Cowboys take their chances at safety than the defensive line.
Out of all three, clearly Dan Bailey has the most job security. Every year the Cowboys try to find a less expensive option at long snapper, but Ladouceur is so money at what he does, replacing him won’t be easy. The Cowboys' punter position on the other hand, is as open of a competition as that 6th WR spot; Chris Jones is by no means a lock.
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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