Welcome to this week's edition of Martin's 5!
The Dallas Cowboys really have absolutely nothing to play for this week against the Philadelphia Eagles, so the most important thing to them should be protecting their players from suffering any kind of injuries that would put them in jeopardy of being available for the playoffs.
It is no secret that the Eagles absolutely hate anything and everything about the Dallas Cowboys. They will be doing their best to finish the season on a high note, just like they did last week against the New York Giants.
You could say that the Eagles pretty much dominated the New York Giants last week, the only team that has beaten the Cowboys, a fact I'm sure the Eagles are well aware of.
Another dominating win over a division foe could go a long ways in building the confidence of the organization for next season, especially since they could be the only team in the NFC East to miss the playoffs this year.
So, you can bet the Philadelphia Eagles will be on their "A" game Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.
Having said all that, here is the five things I'm wondering about this week. I hope you enjoy.
One: Although it was several seasons ago, Jerry Jones and even Jason Garrett still have that 2007 season fresh in their minds about the disappointing early exit from the playoffs. That is why they have said that they plan on playing their starters in hopes of carrying that momentum into the postseason. What I'm wondering is how much we will see Dak Prescott and other key members of the team play against the Philadelphia Eagles this weekend? The offensive line will already be without Tyron Smith because of a MCL sprain he suffered against the Detroit Lions last week, so that leaves Prescott's blindside a little bit more exposed. If I'm Jason Garrett and the coaching staff, I'm keeping a close eye on how the protection is holding up for #4 and whether or not he is taking unnecessary hits. I'm not going to risk him getting banged up for a meaningless game. I would honestly treat this like a preseason game by getting the starters a little work, but closely monitoring who might need a little extra rest.
Two: As much as I wanted to see Ezekiel Elliott challenge Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record, it unfortunately doesn't seem as if it is all that important to him or the Dallas Cowboys. The coaching staff decided to give the majority of the second half carries to Darren McFadden against the Detroit Lions, even though a few more big gains by Elliott would have put him within range of legitimately breaking Dickerson's record. I wonder if Elliott will end up regretting not being more adamant about trying to break the record? I know he is saying the right thing right now by focusing on the team goals, but to fall short of a record that has stood for so long after being so close has to weigh on his mind just a little bit. I don't expect Ezekiel Elliott to receive very many carries against the Philadelphia Eagles this week. I think Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris will handle the majority of the workload. I expect Elliott to receive 10-15 carries at most.
Three: The Dallas Cowboys announced that Mark Sanchez will be the backup for Dak Prescott this week against the Philadelphia Eagles. It's not all that surprising if you consider that they have been pretty adamant about protecting Tony Romo against injury so that he is available in the postseason if needed. But, what I'm wondering is how much different the offense will look with Sanchez at QB? Sanchez has some mobility, but nothing like Prescott. It will be really interesting to see how offensive coordinator Scott Linehan tries to play to the strengths of Sanchez, especially against the Philadelphia Eagles who have been pretty good about getting after opposing QB's. I've heard several people who would like to see Mark Sanchez return next season to be the backup QB to Dak Prescott, so this could give us a glimpse of the future the QB position.
Four: Mark Sanchez might not be the only one auditioning for a roster spot with the Dallas Cowboys in the future. Emmett Cleary, the Cowboys swing tackle the season, could also make a case for continuing his career with the organization. Cleary is in his second season in the NFL out of Boston College and will be playing left tackle in place of the injured Tyron Smith this week against the Eagles. This will be a tough task for Cleary, because the Eagles have one of the better defensive lines in the NFL. I'm sure the Cowboys will give him a little extra help, but there will be times where he will have to win some one-on-one battles. If Cleary performs pretty well, he could earn a future roster spot with the Cowboys, which could be a big bonus for the organization because of the lack of depth at the position. Doug Free is signed through 2017, Chaz Green can't stay healthy, so Tyron Smith is the only one that can really be counted on in the future. Don't be surprised if this is a position of need once the draft comes around.
Five: The Dallas Cowboys have secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but I'm wondering how much of an advantage the hometown crowd can give the Cowboys? We have seen in the past that the crowd isn't always dominated by Cowboys fans. This could be the year where season-ticket holders don't sell their tickets and are actually attending the games. This team has been exciting from the get-go and Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott have a lot to do with that. Teams around the NFL hate going on the road and playing in places like Arrowhead Stadium and CenturyLink Stadium because of the crowd noise. Maybe with the excitement surrounding this year's team the Cowboys can turn their stadium into one of those types of venues. We can only hope that is the case, because it could go a long ways in helping the Dallas Cowboys hold an advantage over their opponents.
Is there anything you are wondering about this week?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to share anything you're wondering about this week.
Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?
Super Bowl LIII is in the books, and the Dallas Cowboys can look back on a better-than-expected 2018 campaign. Having won the NFC East with a 10-6 record and bowing out to eventual finalists Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys' young team can look ahead to 2019 as a chance to take another step forward.
The offseason is now upon us, with the NFL free agency period opening in the middle of March and the NFL Draft coming around at the end of April. Until those times, experts, pundits, and fans are left to assess their teams and predict their activities in the running to the start of next season.
The Dallas Cowboys are in a precarious position, with the team exceeding expectations, still being very young and having plenty of cap space, but also having many top-end players set to become free agents and being without a first-round pick in this year’s draft. There does, however, appear to be a way for the team to make improvements and solidify their place atop the NFC East and potentially go on to win in the Conference Finals.
Lock Down the Big Guns
Many see DeMarcus Lawrence as the top potential free agent this spring, so the Dallas Cowboys need to do everything in their power to lock down the 26-year-old defensive end.
Vice President Stephen Jones has emphasized the team’s target of retaining their own stars, per Star-Telegram, with Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and perhaps Byron Jones being in the discussion for long-term deals.
As it stands, the team will have roughly $48.5 million in cap space for next season, which leaves plenty of space to re-sign their top players. They look set to let go of Tavon Austin, David Irving, and quite possibly Cole Beasley, among others, leaving a need to add reinforcements.
Adding New Talent
One of the most heavily rumored moves for Dallas in this free agency is picking up native Texan and former Legion of Boom linchpin Earl Thomas, per Forbes.
Against the Rams in the playoffs and throughout the season, the Cowboys lacked a defenseman who could make plays on the pass. Thomas is one of the notorious ball hawks in the league, boasting 28 career interceptions, three of which came in just four games of last season.
If the Cowboys can re-sign their stars while keeping some space for an Earl Thomas-sized contract, which clocked in at $10.4 million in 2018 for the Seattle Seahawks, their odds of going all the way next season will significantly increase.
Right now, the expected names of the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs lead the odds to win the next Super Bowl at +750. Behind them, the Rams sit at +900 having suffered a suffocating defeat in this year’s Super Bowl. Much further down are the Cowboys at +2500 right now with redbet. If they re-sign Lawrence, pay their young stars, and bring in Thomas, they’ll shoot up the table of favorites.
Then, there’s also the additions in the draft to consider.
The Cowboys may be without a first-round selection, but that may end up working in their favor. Round one of the 2019 NFL Draft is set to be laden with defensive selections according to most mock drafts, with a few quarterbacks sprinkled around and a minimal selection of offensive weapons. If the Cowboys re-sign Lawrence, they’ll be looking good at defensive end, so should then turn to giving Prescott another weapon in the passing game, which will also help to keep defenses honest and give Elliott more room to operate.
As stated, the NFL is a passing league, and Prescott exploded once he was given a viable option in Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup is expected to take another step forward next season, but just in case, the Cowboys can add another strong receiving option in the draft thanks to the strength of the defensive class. A.J. Brown of Ole Miss will almost certainly go in the first round, but exciting talents in D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, and Deebo Samuel could all still be available when Dallas rings in during the second round.
Improving Dallas' pass options and pass defense will go a long way toward improving the team and allowing them to push on to a bigger and better campaign in 2019.
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...
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