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NFC East Free Agency: Key Dallas Cowboys Players

Sean Martin

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Following the Cowboys Thanksgiving loss to the Panthers, I took a look at five upcoming free agents that needed to make the most out of Dallas' remaining five games. Now, with just one game remaining for the 2015 season and free agency looming, let's revisit the list as well as expand on it to further figure out the 2016 future of the Dallas Cowboys.

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Dallas Cowboys Key 2016 Free Agents Cowboys Blog - NFC East Free Agency: Key Dallas Cowboys Players

Greg Hardy DE

Hardy has just 1.5 sacks since Thanksgiving, but more importantly the controversial pass rusher has not caused any trouble to conclude the season. This will likely be the most important factor the Cowboys consider when deciding the value of resigning #76.

DeMarcus Lawrence has emerged as the player we all have been waiting to see in the past weeks, and a look at the film shows that Hardy has played a role in creating matchups for Lawrence to win.

Cowboys Nation spent a significant amount of time this offseason drooling over the potential of a 2015 defensive line that included DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Nick Hayden, Greg Hardy, and rookie Randy Gregory.

Another year of Hardy in 2016 paired with a healthy Gregory and Crawford as well as a more experienced Lawrence may finally have this defensive front playing to the consistent level we want to see.

Rolando McClain LB

A bright spot for the Cowboys this season has been a healthy Sean Lee. However, Lee's "partner in crime" Rolando McClain will be a free agent this offseason. While the Cowboys have a core of young linebackers ready to fill in if needed, there is no underestimating the impact that McClain has had - being fourth on the team in tackles.

While McClain may fall victim to another tight cap situation for Dallas this offseason, I hope the Cowboys do everything in their power to bring the middle linebacker back to play alongside Sean Lee for 2016.

Jack Crawford DE

Crawford very quietly finished third on the team in sacks this season with four. We know how much Rod Marinelli values depth along his defensive front, and Crawford would be a great piece to keep in Dallas at the right price.


Robert Turbin RB

Another Cowboys offseason is almost upon us and with that will come plenty of discussion about the running back position. While Darren McFadden has emerged to take over the lead role, the Cowboys will still need more help behind DMC - who will be in his last year of a two-year deal in 2016.

Robert Turbin has seen limited time, 30 carries to be exact, but has made the most of them by running hard and showing his value in the Cowboys blocking scheme. While a combo of McFadden and Turbin even still leaves Dallas with concerns at running back, the two players could be a dangerous tandem once taking reps with Tony Romo at quarterback.

Morris Claiborne CB

Morris Claiborne's contract time has come to an end in Dallas and for the vast majority of his time here, he has been a complete bust. However, a sudden turnaround here in 2015 by Claiborne will have the Cowboys considering bringing him back for 2016.

The Cowboys secondary will be another unit that gets a lot of offseason discussion, as Brandon Carr's future with the team is also uncertain. Byron Jones appears to have found his home at safety, leaving Carr, Claiborne, Terance Mitchell and Deji Olatoye as the current corners.

Orlando Scandrick returns in 2016 and can play the outside and the slot with equal success. Between him and Jones, the Cowboys seemingly have half the field locked up. The other half, as well as the slot, will have to be covered by any combination of Carr, Claiborne, a draft pick, Mitchell or Olatoye.

Out of those five options, assuming Carr does return, keeping Claiborne to share some time with him as well as primarily focusing on the slot seems like the Cowboys best bet - if they can make the numbers work with Morris Claiborne.

James Hanna TE

Hanna has served as the Cowboys blocking tight end this season, and losing him would leave Dallas with just Gavin Escobar and rookie Geoff Swaim behind Jason Witten. Since Escobar is mostly a receiving tight end, the decision here for the Cowboys will come down to resigning Hanna or trusting their 7th round selection in Swaim.

Lance Dunbar RB

Until his season-ending injury in week 4 at the Saints, Dunbar was the Cowboys leading receiver out of the backfield. The speedy back has had a long injury history in Dallas, and will likely not return.

Rookie Lucky Whitehead has emerged as a "gadget player" the Cowboys can use for years to come in a similar role to Dunbar, while drafting a mid-round back will also likely be a priority.

So, you tell me, what 2015 free agents should return to the Cowboys in 2016? Leave a comment below, or shoot me a tweet to @ShoreSportsNJ!

Tell us what you think about "NFC East Free Agency: Key Dallas Cowboys Players" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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Report: Amari Cooper Likely out for the Rest of the Preseason

Matthew Lenix

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Report: Amari Cooper Likely out Until Week 1

Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Amari Cooper is likely out for the remainder of the preseason according to ESPN's Todd Archer. He is currently dealing with a form of plantar fasciitis that has kept him out of practice since August 6th.

The three-time pro bowler changed life in Dallas last season as the team went 7-2 in it's final nine games after he was acquired to win the NFC East. Cooper isn't worried about any long term effects, though, as this is something he's familiar with.

"I'm not worried about it at all, because I know if it does linger, it doesn't matter," Cooper said. "I had 1,000 yards when I played on plantar fasciitis before."


The Cowboys host the Houston Texans this Saturday in what is known as the "dress rehearsal" game before the regular season. Starters normally play about a half of football to get the juices flowing for when games really count in September. Ideally, the plan would be for Cooper and Dak Prescott to get a rhythm of sorts before the season starts but that will have to wait until the team prepares to take on the New York Giants on September 8th.

However, the good thing here is this issue doesn't seem to be serious and Cooper will be ready for the start of the 2019 season.


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Report: Cowboys Agree To Contract Extension With LB Jaylon Smith

Kevin Brady

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Jaylon Smith, Eagles

The Cowboys are neck-deep in contract negotiations with some of their team's most important players, but it appears they have gotten one key guy signed this afternoon.

ESPN's Todd Archer is reporting that the Cowboys have agreed to a contract extension with middle linebacker Jaylon Smith, though the exact terms of the contract have yet to be announced.

Todd Archer on Twitter

The Cowboys have agreed to a contract extension with linebacker Jaylon Smith, according to sources. Smith was set to be a restricted free agent after this season but the Cowboys and his representatives started talks in the spring and they ramped up once camp began. Smith, a...

Of course, the Cowboys drafted Jaylon Smith early in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft despite the horrific leg injury he suffered in Notre Dame's college bowl game. Some didn't think Smith would ever recover to be the same player he once was, but in 2018 Smith emerged as an excellent middle linebacker once again. Smith finished the 2018 season with 121 combined tackles and 4 sacks, and has looked just as imposing thus far in the preseason.


Smith regained his athleticism and sideline to sideline speed, while retaining his impressive hit power and sound tackling to become one of the league's best. Combining Smith with Leighton Vander Esch, the Cowboys have put together arguably the best linebacker group in the NFL.

And now, there's no end in sight for the dynamic duo.


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Report: 2 Dallas Cowboys to be Activated off of P.U.P. List

John Williams

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Per a report from ESPN's Todd Archer, the Dallas Cowboys will soon activate Tyrone Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence off of the Physically Unable to Perform (P.U.P.) List.

"The Cowboys are planning to activate defensive linemen DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford from the physically unable to perform list on Tuesday, according to a source. They will work through individual drills in their first steps on the field before going through full practices. Lawrence had shoulder surgery not long after signing a five-year, $101 million contract in April. Crawford has been working his way through a hip issue that kept him out of the offseason program. Safety Byron Jones (hip) and receiver Noah Brown (knee) remain on PUP."

Todd Archer - ESPN.com

This report comes after DeMarcus Lawrence had offseason shoulder surgery in April and signed his five-year deal making him the highest-paid player in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, at least for now. It looks as if Lawrence will be ready for a week one return.

It's long been believed that Lawrence would be available for week one of the regular season and hasn't suffered any setbacks to this point that should lead you to believe otherwise. With Robert Quinn suspended for the first two games of the regular season and Randy Gregory's status still up in the air (he still hasn't applied for reinstatement), getting Lawrence and Crawford back for the first two weeks of the season becomes instrumental.


The Dallas Cowboys defensive line has looked really good through the first two games of the preseason, but as good as they've been, they'll need Lawrence and Crawford once the regular season starts. Lawrence will slot back in as the left defensive end and Tyrone Crawford will split snaps at right defensive end with Dorance Armstrong and 3-technique defensive tackle with Maliek Collins, Trysten Hill, and Kerry Hyder.

While the additions of DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford will help the defense tremendously, there still isn't a timeline on the return of Pro Bowl Cornerback Byron Jones. Jones has been out since having hip surgery this offseason.

With as good as the Dallas Cowboys defense has looked this offseason, there's reason to believe that they can be even better once each of these guys are back in the lineup full-time. For a defense that was one of the 10 best defenses in the NFL in 2019, they'll need Lawrence, Crawford, and Jones to make the jump into the elite stratosphere of NFL defenses.

With the Dallas Cowboys' eyes set on capturing that sixth Lombardi Trophy, getting Lawrence and Crawford back in time to be ready for the regular season is vital to starting the 2019 season off right.


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