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Locked Up: Prioritizing Long-Term Deals for the Dallas Cowboys

John Williams

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Dallas Cowboys Still Plagued by Red Zone Struggles

The Dallas Cowboys front office decision makers are going to have a busy offseason in 2019. They've got several important pieces to get under contract as well as players that need contract extensions.  DeMarcus Lawrence is a free agent that will likely sign a big deal and may get the franchise tag to prevent other teams from offering a lucrative contract to walk away from the Dallas Cowboys. Other players like Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Byron Jones, and Ezekiel Elliott have been mentioned as possible targets for contract extensions.

The reason the Dallas Cowboys are looking to hand out extensions to some of those guys mentioned above, is one, because they earned it, and two, because if you pay them a year early, there's a good chance you get them at a better rate than if you pay them once they're free. If the Cowboys wait till Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Byron Jones all become free agents in the 2020 offseason, they'll have to worry about other teams jacking up the price on their players. Remember this past offseason when Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins signed deals with new teams for more than $14 million per year. It's always better to have sole negotiating rights when attempting to get your players under contract.

The Dallas Cowboys are likely going to get all these guys done this offseason, it's just a matter of when. It's always fun spending someone else's money, so here's how I'd prioritize getting their deals done.

1. DeMarcus Lawrence, Defensive End

Another year and another Pro Bowl appearance for DeMarcus Lawrence who followed up his 14.5 sack 2017 season with 10.5 sacks this season and was just as electric against the run. The Dallas Cowboys used the franchise tag on Lawrence last season and he played the full season on it, betting that he would have another stand out year.

That he did.

Lawrence sack numbers may have gone down, but his effectiveness was still on display every week. He's one of the best EDGE players in the NFL and is about to get paid like it. The Dallas Cowboys will look to get a long-term deal done before the start of free agency. Both Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett have commented on the importance of locking up the best player on their defense. If they aren't able to get a deal done before free agency starts, they'll franchise tag him again and then hope to get his long-term deal finalized before the tag locks in sometime in July.

2. Dak Prescott, Quarterback

I know many people in Cowboys Nation aren't excited about the idea of extending Dak Prescott, but here's what you need to know. He's a good quarterback still developing and has gotten better each season he's been in the NFL.

Dak's about to get paid.

As I outlined a couple of weeks ago, Prescott has done enough to earn one of the top contracts in the NFL. He's been the quarterback of the team that's won the NFC East two out of the last three seasons and has been to the Pro Bowl twice in his young career. In 2018, Dak set career highs in completions, attempts, and passing yards, all the while getting sacked a rate nearly double his previous career high.

Locking up your young quarterback sets the stage for just about everything else on the offense. It creates an identity. Get Dak Prescott done and quit worrying about the face of your franchise for the next five seasons.

Cowboys' Revenge Against Atlanta Hinges on These 3 Key Matchups 1

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper (19) in action against the Philadelphia Eagles during an NFL football game on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

3. Amari Cooper, Wide Receiver

The Dallas Cowboys have another year of Amari Cooper under contract for the 2019 season, but he showed his value in the last half of the 2018 season. After coming over from the Oakland Raiders, from week nine through 17, Cooper had 53 receptions on 73 targets for 725 yards and six touchdowns. At a 16 game pace, Cooper would have had 135 targets for 94 receptions, 1,289 yards and 11 touchdowns. Any question on whether he's a lead receiver for an NFL team should have been answered by his second half with the Dallas Cowboys.

Of his 1,005 receiving yards, 725 came with the Cowboys while six of his seven touchdowns on the season came after he arrived in Dallas.

Cooper's game fits excellently with Dak who looks to find the open receiver in his progression. Cooper is always open. He creates big windows with his route running ability and displayed excellent hands throughout the season.

The offense got better when Cooper came over and that's no coincidence. With a full offseason to work together with Dak Prescott, the Cowboys will get even more out of Cooper in 2019. Lock your quarterback up and lock his favorite target up at the same time and prosper.

4. Byron Jones, Corner Back

The Dallas Cowboys finally found a role that suits their 2015 first round draft pick, Byron Jones. He played excellent this season at corner back. Byron Jones is a corner back.

Pro Football Focus rated Byron Jones the fifth best corner back in the 2018 season among players that played at lead 600 snaps. Though he did not record an interception, and that's something that you hope will improve with more comfort at the position, he was tied for 10th in the NFL at the corner in pass break ups. He allowed a reception on only 53.6% of the attempts that went Jones' direction, which among corners, was good for ninth in the NFL.

Jones had really nice games against some of the NFL's best in 2018:

  • Week 2 vs Odell Beckham Jr.: 1 target, 0 receptions
  • Week 5 vs DeAndre Hopkins: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 74 yards
  • Week 10 vs Zach Ertz: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 24 yards
  • Week 11 vs Julio Jones: 3 targets, 1 reception, 19 yards
  • Week 13 vs Michael Thomas: 2 targets, 0 receptions
  • Week 14 vs Zach Ertz: 1 target, 0 receptions
  • Week 15 vs T.Y. Hilton: 1 target, 1 reception, 8 yards
  • Week 16 vs Mike Evans: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 72 yards, 0 touchdowns

Each of the players above are in the upper echelon of their position and Byron Jones only allowed a player to gain more than 25 yards in his coverage twice. Week five against DeAndre Hopkins and Week 16 against Mike Evans. Jones shut out Michael Thomas and Odell Beckham Jr., and held Julio Jones and T.Y. Hilton to just one catch each.

It was a really nice year for Byron Jones in his first full season at corner back and he was rewarded with a Pro Bowl appearance. A nice contract should be coming his way this offseason.

5. Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back

The Dallas Cowboys hit a home run when they drafted Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick in 2016. He's been as good as anyone in Cowboys Nation could have hoped for. Elliott's led the NFL in rushing twice in his three-year career and in each of those seasons, he only played 15 games as the coaching staff opted to sit him with nothing to play for week 17.

There was a report at the end of the regular season that Ezekiel Elliott wanted to be extended this offseason as opposed to waiting until the 2020 offseason. The Cowboys have a few options with Elliott. They can extend him, place the first round pick fifth-year option on him, or allow him to play out his contract.

It's no guarantee that the Cowboys would offer Elliott a second contract after the 2020 season. If they're going to sign him to an extension, the time is now. He's 23 years old and an extension now would mean that his contract would run out around age 27 or 28, which is generally the age for running back drop off.

Elliott's coming off a season where he led the NFL in rushing and more than doubled his previous career highs in targets and receptions, and finished with more than 2,000 total yards on the season.

The Dallas Cowboys don't have to do anything with Ezekiel Elliott, but  if they're intending to have him signed through his prime years, it makes a lot of sense to get him done now.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Dallas Cowboys have a lot of money to spend this offseason getting some of their own locked up to long-term deals. They'll be working with the player's representatives to find numbers that work for both sides over the next few months. Locking in their core players for the foreseeable future is paramount to the Cowboys' window being extended for the next five years.



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What Could the Dallas Cowboys Get for Taco Charlton in a Trade?

John Williams

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5 Positives for Cowboys Heading Into the Off-Season 1

Per a report from Mike Fisher of 105.3 The Fan and 247Sports.com, it seems that the Dallas Cowboys are fielding calls from teams inquiring about Defensive End Taco Charlton. Sources state that teams will be calling the Cowboys during the 2019 NFL Draft about the Cowboys former first round pick.

mike fisher ✭ on Twitter

Source: Teams plan to call #Cowboys on Taco Charlton trade ideas during 'interesting weekend' (vip) https://t.co/lon93QmzIh

 

It's an interesting turn of events for the former first round pick. Charlton, taken with the Cowboys first pick at the end of the first round hasn't really lived up to first round billing. For a variety of reasons, he hasn't been able to find a consistent role on the field.

With Randy Gregory being suspended indefinitely, there was some thought that Taco would get a chance to earn a role with the starting defensive line, but after the Cowboys traded for former All-Pro Robert Quinn, his path to playing time looks narrow.

With the NFL Draft starting tonight, rumors are swirling on all sorts of players, but it's hard to know which ones are accurate as teams will put out misinformation all over the place. But there's no reason to believe that the Cowboys aren't shopping Taco Charlton.

The question is, what could the Cowboys get in return for Taco Charlton?

Trading Taco Charlton at this point in his Cowboys career would be admitting they made a mistake selecting him in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. That doesn't even begin to touch on the discussion of whether they should have taken Pittsburgh Steelers Outside Linebacker T.J. Watt over Charlton to begin with.

The Watt vs Charlton debate doesn't even matter at that point. If you're trading your former first round draft pick, you're telling the world, and your fans that you made a mistake. That being said, once you are willing to admit your mistake, it's best to move on.

In looking at potential compensation for Taco Charlton, it's important to look back and find players with similar careers who were traded. Thanks to Pro Football Reference, I went all the way back to 2010 to look at every defensive end traded and attempted to find players who have had similar production to Taco through his first two seasons.

In Taco Charlton's first two year's he's registered four sacks and 46 total tackles. He's played in 27 games for the Dallas Cowboys. The following players were traded in the middle of their rookie contracts, and to that point had similar career production to Taco Charlton. They varied in their original draft position. Henry Anderson was a former third round pick of the Indianapolis Colts. Kamalei Correa was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the second round. Jihad Ward was also drafted in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. Lawrence Jackson was a first round draft pick back in 2008 by the Seattle Seahawks and was traded before the 2010 season. Cassius Marsh was traded by the Seattle Seahawks prior to the 2017 season to the New England Patriots after originally being selected in the fourth round.

Query Results Table
Date From Traded AV To Received AV
Aug 28, 2018 Baltimore Ravens Kamalei Correa 3 Tennessee Titans 2019 6th round pick (191st overall)
Apr 28, 2018 Indianapolis Colts Henry Anderson 4 New York Jets 2018 7th round pick (235th overall, Zaire Franklin) 2
Apr 28, 2018 Oakland Raiders Jihad Ward 1 Dallas Cowboys Ryan Switzer 2
Sep 2, 2017 Seattle Seahawks Cassius Marsh 6 New England Patriots 2018 5th round pick (168th overall, Jamarco Jones)
Aug 18, 2010 Seattle Seahawks Lawrence Jackson 5 Detroit Lions 2011 6th round pick (173rd overall, Byron Maxwell) 24
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/24/2019.

 

What Could the Dallas Cowboys Get for Taco Charlton on the Trade Block?

Table created using Pro Football Reference’s Player Comparison Tool

Four of the five trades of players with similar careers to Taco Charlton included draft compensation. Three of the five trades made were for future draft picks. The trades for Correa, Marsh, and Jackson look to be moves by the original team attempting to get something for a player that they planned on cutting after training camp. Henry Anderson and Jihad Ward were traded for during the NFL Draft.

This gives us a range of pick compensation for Taco Charlton anywhere from the 168th overall pick to the 235th pick in the seventh round. That's a big disparity in value. According to the Trade Value Chart, that's anywhere from 23.8 points to one point in value for Taco. Based on previous trades of similar players, it's possible that the best they could get for their defensive end is a pick at the end of the fifth round.

Trading Taco Charlton isn't as simple as just trading for him. The Cowboys would have to get offers for the player that would make more sense than having the player. If they are able to get someone to give them a fifth round choice or if they're able to use Taco with one of their own draft picks to move up in the draft to get a player they covet, it makes sense to pull the trigger.

If the Cowboys could get an extra fifth, they could use it on a player like Rodney Anderson out of Oklahoma, Kingsley Keke from Texas A&M, or Jalen Hurd from Baylor and have a fresh start with a new player on a rookie contract.

In any trade rumor, it takes two teams to make a deal and if Mike Fisher's source is accurate, then the Cowboys may have several dance partners this weekend.

To me it doesn't make sense to trade him for anything less than a fifth round draft choice. Sure, he hasn't been what the Dallas Cowboys had hoped for when they took him at the end of the first round, but he's still a player that looked to be trending up at the end of his rookie season. In the NFL where rosters turn over quickly, it's best to get something for a player who hasn't lived up to expectations and not ride it out in hopes that they turn it around.

As they say, "hope is not a strategy."



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3 Biggest Non-Divisional Games on the Dallas Cowboys 2019 Schedule

John Williams

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The Dallas Cowboys Are Legit Contenders

There hasn't been a repeat champion of the NFC East since the early 2000's when the Philadelphia Eagles won three in a row from 2002-2004. Unfortunately, history is already against the Dallas Cowboys repeating as division champions again in 2019. For the Cowboys to repeat as NFC East champs, they'll have to navigate a tough slate of opponents.

That's the reward of winning your division.

Though much can change in the next five months as the NFL prepares to play football games that matter in September, there are already key matchups for this young Dallas Cowboys team. We know the NFC East is always a difficult division to play in. The rivalries make for a lot of close games. The Cowboys have to play well in the division to have a shot at winning the division. But with the schedule they have, they'll have to win some contests that they probably shouldn't to stake their claim as Super Bowl contenders.

Divisional games are always important, but let's take a look at the three games outside the division that will have the greatest impact on the fortunes of the Dallas Cowboys 2019 season.

1. Week 4 - Dallas Cowboys @ New Orleans Saints

The Cowboys have an opportunity to get off to a hot start in the first quarter of the season with games at home against the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins, and a road game against the Washington Redskins. There's a legitimate chance for them to start the season 3-0.

Whatever momentum they do gain in the first three games of the season could all come to a screeching halt with a tough week four matchup in New Orleans.

New Orleans has been a tough place to play in the Sean Payton and Drew Brees eras. The Dallas Cowboys defense will have a tough test attempting to slow down the high scoring Saints offense two years in a row.

When the two teams met in 2018, the Dallas Cowboys defense completely dominated the Saints. On that day, they held the Saints to 176 total yards (111 passing and 65 rushing) and an amazing 3 for 11 on third downs. It was especially impressive because the Cowboys only had two sacks and one turnover in the game. The Saints just couldn't find a rhythm as the Cowboys came with a lot of energy and physicality. It was a defining moment for this young defense and gave us a picture of what they could possibly be.

If the Dallas Cowboys can find a way to win this game and potentially start the season 4-0, it would be huge for their playoff hopes.

On the flip side, if the Dallas Cowboys start the season 2-1, they could be going into New Orleans with the possibility of starting the season 2-2. The pressure would be incredible for the Cowboys the rest of the way with the slate of teams they have at the end of the season.

The Cowboys have to leave the first quarter of the season at worst 3-1 to have a shot at the playoffs in 2019.

2. Week 14 - Dallas Cowboys @ the Chicago Bears

The toughest part of the Dallas Cowboys schedule always comes around the Thanksgiving day game, and this season is no different. Starting with their week 12 game at the New England Patriots, the Cowboys will play three games in 12 days culminating with their week 14 game against the Chicago Bears.

The Bears, coming off an NFC North title in 2018, are similar to the Dallas Cowboys. They boast an incredible defense with one of the best pass rushers in the NFL and a young an improving offense.

Playing in Chicago is always a tough task, but doing so in December is a tall order. Doing so after going to New England, then playing at home, then going back on the road seems like an impossible task.

It's a game that will likely be a grind-it-out affair, as both teams want to run the ball and play defense. Depending on what happens in the previous two games, this could be a must-win to start the final quarter of the season.

3. Week 15 - Los Angeles Rams @ Dallas Cowboys

The rematch of the NFC Divisional round matchup is just another in a long line of important conference matchups for the Dallas Cowboys. It will be a very important game for the Cowboys because it will be a home game after their three games in 12 days stretch. They'll have to go to Foxboro and Chicago in a span of 12 days, which makes for tough travel.

Facing a Los Angeles Rams team that absolutely dominated the Dallas Cowboys defense is an opportunity for redemption, but will have huge implications on the playoff standings for the NFC.

The Cowboys and Rams could both be leading their divisions at this point in the season, which would make this game important for seeding. Or, they could be fighting for a wild card berth. Either way, a conference game this late in the season has huge consequences in the way the tie breakers shake out.

This one will carry an emotional importance as well.

The way the 2018 season ended for this club, especially on the defensive side of the ball, left a lot of players -- and fans -- with a bad taste in their mouths. It completely changed the way a lot of people view a defense that finished in the top 10 in most major defensive categories. The loss to the Rams was one of the worst defensive performances of the season and it came at the worst time of the season.

Not only was the defense bad, but the running game was terrible that day too. Ezekiel Elliott only managed 47 yards on 20 carries for one of the worst rushing performances of his career. It took a really good second half from Dak Prescott and the passing game to get the Cowboys within one score with a shot to get the ball back at the end of the game.

If the Cowboys can get revenge for that playoff loss, it would do a lot for the morale of this team heading into the final two weeks of the season.

These conference games will have huge implications for the Cowboys and their playoff hopes. Though the NFC East will have a bigger impact on their ability to win the division, how they fare in these three games will give us a better understanding of the legitimacy of their contender status. Each of these games is against the team that won the division the previous season. If they can go 2-1 against this quality of competition, then we'll know this is a team to be reckoned with heading into January.



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Dallas Cowboys 2019 Schedule: Reaction and Analysis

Jess Haynie

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Dak Prescott/Carson Wentz Is No Rivalry, And There's Only One Side To Blame

The full NFL 2019 regular season schedule was released last night. Here is my reaction to the Dallas Cowboys' schedule and analysis of how what I think it means for them next season.

Of course, a schedule can have a very different feel come September-December than it does in April. The teams don't change, but their circumstances can be wildly altered by the time they actually have to take the field.

Just ask the Cowboys' opponents from the 2015 season. Nobody was looking forward to playing that Dallas team coming off its 12-4 playoff run the year before. But all it took was a Tony Romo injury in the preseason to suddenly make the Cowboys a cupcake.

But for now, we can only react to what we know. Before we dive in, here's a quick reminder of the complete 2019 regular season schedule for the Dallas Cowboys.

    • Week 1: New York Giants @ Cowboys
    • Week 2: Cowboys @ Washington Redskins
    • Week 3: Miami Dolphins @ Cowboys 
    • Week 4: Cowboys @ New Orleans Saints (SNF)
    • Week 5: Green Bay Packers @ Cowboys
    • Week 6: Cowboys @ New York Jets
    • Week 7: Philadelphia Eagles @ Cowboys (SNF)
    • Week 8: BYE
    • Week 9: Cowboys @ New York Giants  (SNF)
    • Week 10: Minnesota Vikings @ Cowboys (MNF)
    • Week 11: Cowboys @ Detroit Lions
    • Week 12: Cowboys @ New England Patriots
    • Week 13: Buffalo Bills @ Cowboys (T'giving)
    • Week 14: Cowboys @ Chicago Bears (TNF)
    • Week 15: Los Angeles Rams @ Cowboys
    • Week 16: Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles
    • Week 17: Washington Redskins @ Cowboys

We already knew this wasn't going to be an easy slate. The Cowboys won the NFC East last year, meaning they were guaranteed to play against four division winners this season; Bears, Patriots, Rams, and Saints. They also get the regular two games against the Eagles, who were a Wild Card team last year.

Let's just talk about those six games for a minute. New England is still New England; Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will ensure that it's one of the toughest games of the year, and especially on the road. The Patriots have won 12-straight home games going back to 2017.

The Bears and Rams are both rising teams that shouldn't suffer any drop off next year. Chicago QB Mitch Trubisky is entering his third year and LA's Jared Goff will be in his fourth season, but only third in Sean McVay's offense. Both have starting QBs with rookie contacts, which means having the resources to load up on talent elsewhere on the roster.

Much like the Patriots, the Saints still have their franchise QB and coach and should remain a top team. They will also be out for blood after the Cowboys humiliated them last season, as will their fans, and that could make for a very tough road game in New Orleans.

Then, of course, there are the Eagles.

Eagles vs Redskins Tonight; What Outcome is Best for Cowboys?

Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

The NFC East appears to be a two-horse race in 2019. The Giants are arguably the worst team in the NFL right now and the Redskins are dealing with major QB problems. It should be Dallas and Philadelphia once again battling for the top spot.

The Cowboys and Eagles should both get some cushy wins against their fellow division opponents. It could come down to their games against each other, and so far Dallas has dominated Philly when Carson Wentz is playing QB. With Nick Foles gone, how will that impact the Eagles going forward?

As for the rest of the schedule, the only other game that seems easy on paper is against the Miami Dolphins. Teams like the Bills, Jets, and Lions could go either way. The Packers and Vikings should both be tough opponents.

The teams aside, the general layout of the schedule isn't bad. The Week 8 bye is nice for a break right in the middle of the season. Dallas only has to play back-to-back road games one time, Weeks 11 and 12 against the Lions and Patriots.

The first three games against the Giants, Redskins, and Dolphins give Dallas a great opportunity to start the year right and build momentum. They will definitely need to go into December with some cushion, because that stretch against the Bears, Rams, and Eagles could be very difficult.

Overall it's a solid schedule. It's got some tough spots because of the Cowboys' performance last year, but that means they were a good team then and they stand to be even better now. There's nothing here that prevents Dallas from building on the success of 2018 and making then an ever better season.



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