Welcome to this week's edition of Martin's 5!
The Dallas Cowboys have a chance to lock up home-field advantage with a win over the Detroit Lions Monday night. That would be a huge advantage once the playoffs get underway.
Of course, if they are able to lock up home-field advantage, that means that the last game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles is pretty much meaningless.
A lot of people are starting to speculate if the Cowboys will sit their starters in order to assure their availability in the postseason, but I think we are getting ahead of ourselves. I don't know about you, but I like to take things one game at a time.
Even though we are closing out the 2016 regular-season, there are still a lot of questions surrounding this team despite their success.
Below are five things that are running through my head this week ahead of the matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions.
One: The players that made the 2017 Pro Bowl were recently released this week. The Dallas Cowboys have five of their players voted in that could play in Orlando, Florida if they're not playing in the Super Bowl, but Sean Lee isn't one of them. I'll be completely honest here, I wasn't that surprised that #50 missed out getting voted into the Pro Bowl. The way the ballot is set up for the voting has Sean Lee listed as an outside linebacker. That means he is competing against players like Von Miller and Khalil Mack, although technically they are entirely different types of players. Lee is more of a traditional inside linebacker, while Miller and Mack are outside linebacker/pass rushers. Lee will never have the QB sacks like a 3-4 linebacker, just like 3-4 linebackers will never have the tackle numbers like Lee has. Having said all that, I wonder if it's time that the voting criteria changes? Sean Lee without a doubt played at a Pro Bowl level, but wasn't voted in on what I believe is a disappointing technicality. I personally think it's time to clearly differentiate the differences between a 4-3 linebacker and a 3-4 linebacker.
Two: I'm going to stay on the topic of Sean Lee here for second, because I'm wondering if he is going to be paying any extra attention to where Golden Tate is on the field this week? If you remember a few seasons ago when Golden Tate was still a member of the Seattle Seahawks, he had a vicious blindside hit on Sean Lee, that a lot of us believed was a dirty play. Now, I'm not saying Lee will go out of his way to target Tate, but if Tate is the one with the ball in his hands and Lee is in the vicinity, #50 could put a little extra pop in his hit when making the tackle. I don't know about you, but I would love to see Sean Lee deliver a big hit to Golden Tate Monday night. It would kinda be like poetic justice and hopefully set the tone for the game. You can bet that the entire defense remembers that dirty hit Tate delivered years ago, even if they weren't a member of the Dallas Cowboys at the time.
Three: A lot of eyes will be on Ezekiel Elliott this week as he gets closer and closer to breaking Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record. Elliott is currently just 258 yards shy of Dickerson's record, but I wonder how much #21 and the Dallas Cowboys will focus on breaking that record? Personally, I would love to see Ezekiel Elliott break Eric Dickerson's long-standing rookie rushing record, but not at the expense of harming his availability for the postseason. Elliott is a huge reason why the Cowboys have been so successful this season. Because of him, the Dallas Cowboys have pretty much been able to win the time of possession in just about every game this season and that has really helped keep the defense fresh. That is something that needs to continue in the postseason and one of the reasons why I think Elliott and the Cowboys should probably put the rookie rushing record on the back burner. Individual accolades are great and all, but not over the team success.
Four: Darren McFadden played his first game in 2016 last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was already used in some unexpected ways. I wonder if Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan will continue to find new and creative ways to incorporate McFadden into the game plan? McFadden's versatility and fresh legs could be a huge benefit from here on out for the Cowboys offense, especially in the postseason. He can be a threat in the passing game, he is good in pass protection, and he can help spell Ezekiel Elliott from time to time if needed. There are number different ways he can help the offense, but it will really be interesting to see how Linehan uses him.
Five: It looks like Randy Gregory could possibly make his 2016 debut this week against the Detroit Lions, but I wonder what kind of impact he can have for the defense? Gregory has been able to work out at the facility while serving his suspension, but hasn't really practiced at all the entire season. That makes me wonder what kind of game shape is actually in and if he would really be an upgrade over the current defensive ends on the roster? We all know that the defense for the Dallas Cowboys could use all the help they can mustard to help improve their pass rush, so Gregory's addition could possibly help in that area, at least that's what we're all hoping. The Cowboys will have a tough decision to make regarding whether or not they add Randy Gregory to the active roster this week. If he is added to the roster, that means someone has to be cut. Who's the odd man out?
Is there anything your wondering about this week?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to share your thoughts and opinions on this topic.
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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