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NFC East Position Rankings: Tight Ends

We are a little over halfway through the NFC East position group rankings, with our Dallas Cowboys in the “lead,” with three wins out of the first five groups. Now we move to tight ends, a group which the Dallas Cowboys have dominated in over the last decade, but are beginning to fall behind the pack. Dallas Cowboys Like I said, the Cowboys have had Jason Witten since 2003. So they are used to being on top of the tight end category in the NFC East. However, the tide is beginning to turn as Witten ages and the younger Cowboys tight ends have yet to step up.

Kevin Brady

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Jason Witten, Giants

We are a little over halfway through the NFC East position group rankings, with our Dallas Cowboys in the "lead," with three wins out of the first five groups.

Now we move to tight ends, a group which the Dallas Cowboys have dominated in over the last decade, but are beginning to fall behind the pack.

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Blog - Lasting Moments: Week 17 Players of the Week 2

Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82) reaches the ball past the goal line for a touchdown after catching a four yard pass as Washington Redskins' Jeron Johnson, left, and Mason Foster (54) right rear, defend in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Like I said, the Cowboys have had Jason Witten since 2003. So they are used to being on top of the tight end category in the NFC East. However, the tide is beginning to turn as Witten ages and the younger Cowboys tight ends have yet to step up.

Witten had a lackluster season a year ago, partly because of the absence of Tony Romo. With his boy back, Witten should be back to catching those underneath and over the middle routes on third down, and will hopefully get his touchdown numbers back up.

But that isn't enough to keep the Cowboys atop this category.

Gavin Escobar went missing in action last year after Romo's first collarbone injury and has yet to really return. This may very well be his final season in Dallas, if he even gets that far.

James Hanna hasn't provided much since he entered the league, but maybe that will change this season.

Dallas did draft former Baylor Bears basketball player Rico Gathers in the sixth round of the 2016 draft, and I expect him to make the practice squad as a tight end.

Philadelphia EaglesCowboys Headlines - NFC East Position Rankings: Tight Ends

The Eagles are expected to carry four active tight ends this season, led by Zach Ertz.

Ertz and veteran Brent Celek may be the most consistent weapons in the pass game for the Eagles, and will be expected to carry the load of the offense in 2016.

Last year the two combined for 102 catches and over 1000 yards, but only tallied up 5 touchdowns. For the Eagles to be successful offensively, those touchdown numbers must improve.

Trey Burton and Chris Pantale will most likely be the other two tight ends on the roster, with Pantale serving a sort of fullback role as well.

New York GiantsCowboys Headlines - NFC East Position Rankings: Tight Ends 1

The Giants tight end situation presents probably the biggest question mark on their entire offense.

Matt LaCosse has reportedly taken a good amount of first team tight end reps for the Giants during OTA's and the early days of mini-camp.

With that being said, Will Tye and Larry Donnell both return, and both guys have produced at times. Tye and Donnell will be looked to as the first and second tight end options in the passing game.

Donnell will now be the veteran of this group, and is expected to return from his season ending injury stronger than ever (by Giants fans a writers).

The Giants also drafted South Carolina tight end Jerell Adams in the fifth round of the 2016 draft.

Oh, and my sort-of-hometown but really just home-state tight end Ryan Malleck is getting a chance to make the team.

Washington RedskinsCowboys Headlines - NFC East Position Rankings: Tight Ends 2

2015 saw the rise of the new top tight end of the NFC East, Jordan Reed.

Now being one of the highest paid tight ends in the whole league, Reed is a serious threat to every defense who tries to contain him. He finished with 87 catches for just under 1000 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.

Yeah, he's pretty good. Luckily my Cowboys have Byron Jones, and I can't wait to see those two match up twice a year for the forseeable future.

Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul each missed the 2015 season, but are returning for 2016. Both of these players are viable options to be the number two tight end behind Reed.

The Redskins did also add another big name tight end in Vernon Davis. The former 49ers and Broncos' tight end is hoping to sort of revitalize his career in Washington behind Reed. If he can return to any resemblance of his old-49er form, he and Reed could create a deadly combination.

No, I don't expect that out of Davis, but the Redskins have a solid tight end group regardless.

Who's the best?

Cowboys Headlines - NFC East Position Rankings: Tight Ends 3

Nov 3, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed (86) signals a first down during the first quarter at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

As much as I love future hall of famer Jason Witten, the Washington Redskins have the best tight end group out of the entire NFC East.

Jordan Reed is a top five tight end in the entire NFL, while Niles Paul, Logan Paulsen, and Vernon Davis provide solid depth at the position.

With the best receiving group and now the best tight end group in the entire division, the Redskins have put together a dangerous offense which will give teams problems in 2016.



Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and am currently a college student. Lets get going.

Dallas Cowboys

Zack Martin Got Paid, Is DeMarcus Lawrence Next?

John Williams

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DeMarcus Lawrence, Broncos

Zack Martin's new contract became official last week as the four-time All-Pro received the long-term deal he's been looking for. Per Todd Archer, his rookie fifth year option now turns into a seven-year deal for $93.41-million dollars with $40-million guaranteed (42.8%), including a $20-million dollar signing bonus.

Todd Archer on Twitter

The total deal for All-Pro right guard Zack Martin is seven years for $93.41 million and includes a $20 million signing bonus, according to a source. As Adam Schefter reported, the guaranteed money is $40 million. The Cowboys created around $3 million... https://t.co/q8ovYSiQRg

The Dallas Cowboys and Martin's representatives worked all off-season to come up with a deal that would make Zack the highest paid guard in the NFL going into his fifth season. And as much as anyone on the team, he deserves it.

He's started every game in his four-year career. He's 28 years old and this contract locks him up through his prime.

With Martin's deal done, the Dallas Cowboys front office can now turn its attention to the next wave of players that will be ready for big-time contracts.

Let's look at who that is and what they could demand.

KD Drummond from the Cowboys Wire on USA Today had a great piece outlining what this deal means for the 2018 and 2019 salary caps moving forward. Per his math, for 2018, this deal gives the Dallas Cowboys an extra $3 million this year, leaving their cap space at a little more than $14 million.

For 2019, the Dallas Cowboys will have a projected $50-million dollars in cap space. Cap Projections courtesy of OverTheCap.com. $50 million in 2019 is far from the cap hell that everyone wants to tell you about.

Be sure to follow KD on Twitter as well as Inside The Star's very own Jess Haynie to keep up to date with the salary cap implications.

DeMarcus Lawrence, Aaron Rodgers, Packers

Dallas Cowboys DE Demarcus Lawrence (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

DeMarcus Lawrence, Defensive End

Let's start this discussion by saying that the Dallas Cowboys don't have to do a single thing with DeMarcus Lawrence's contract to help them on the salary cap. His cap figure is locked in at $17 million for 2018 and as noted above, the Cowboys have a little more than $14 million in space.

Zack Martin was arguably the biggest offseason priority in 2018. The other player who could make that argument was Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, who the team placed their franchise tag on this off-season.

With the franchise tag in place, Lawrence wasn't allowed to hit free agency, which would have definitely led to a bidding war for the All-Pro pass rusher's services.

The deadline to convert the franchise tag to a long-term deal is about a month away, which gives the Dallas Cowboys front office plenty of time to get a deal done with Lawrence.

If the Dallas Cowboys were to get an extension done, with some creative structuring of the contract they could cut his salary cap figure.  If the Cowboys placed the franchise tag on him again during the 2019 offseason, which is a real possibility, his guaranteed contract would be $20.4 million.

Let's look at Olivier Vernon's deal as a template for what DeMarcus Lawrence could get through a contract extension:

  • In 2016, Vernon signed with the New York Giants in free agency a five-year, $85-million contract with $40-million guaranteed (47.1%) and a $20-million signing bonus.
  • His year one cap figure was $13 million. A $1.75-million base salary, $7 million as a roster bonus, and $4 million as part of his prorated signing bonus that was spread out over the life of the contract.

Vernon had only one season with more than 10 sacks when he had 11.5 in his second year as a pro, but was consistently healthy. DeMarcus Lawrence had an elite season in 2017, but has had injury struggles throughout his career. 2017 was the first time he'd started all 16 games.

If you go to OverTheCap.com and look at the guaranteed portions of contracts for the top earning 4-3 defensive ends, you'll see that Jacksonville Jaguars DE Calais Campbell and the Cleveland Browns' Myles Garrett are the only players that come close. Their guaranteed money is at or just over $30-million dollars.

Vernon's deal was an above market value contract at the time, but could be the range that Lawrence and his representatives are looking at to get Tank paid.

Through the franchise tag alone, we're talking about a minimum of $37.4-million guaranteed that could go to Lawrence over the next two years. That would be just under Vernon's guaranteed numbers, and though Vernon's contract was above market value, that is probably where Lawrence's deal will have to start.

You can thank the New York Giants for paying Vernon above market value, which is probably leading to some of the contract negotiation difficulties between the Dallas Cowboys and Lawrence's representatives.

With all of that said, here's what I'd estimate Lawrence's deal to look like if it were to get signed before July 16th, when franchise tags become official for the 2018 season.

5 years for $90 million, $18 million per year, with $44-million guaranteed, and a $24-million signing bonus. 

That would make him the highest paid 4-3 defensive end in NFL history, and if 2017 is any sign of future production, he's well worth it.

That may seem like a rich contract, but considering that Zack Martin just got $40-million guaranteed to play a position that is not nearly as valued as EDGE, it makes sense that Lawrence would get more.

The Dallas Cowboys may let him play this season on the franchise tag, but that would mean they will probably have to use it again next year to try to get a long-term deal negotiated with him in the 2019 off-season.

The sooner they get a deal done with Tank, the better as his play will only drive his contract up.

Dak Prescott Weighs in on Cowboys "Dak-Friendly" Offense

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

Dak Prescott, Quarterback

Dak Prescott is headed for a big payday. Remember, before the final eight games of the 2017 season, Prescott had led the Cowboys to an 18-6 record over his first 24 games. His 22-10 record, which includes the offense's late season meltdown, is still pretty impressive during a quarterback's first two years in the NFL.

Only one quarterback since the 1970 AFL-NFL Merger had more wins in their first two seasons than Dak Prescott's 22: Russell Wilson. And we know the kind of defense the Seattle Seahawks were working with at the time.

Dak Prescott had a terrible second half of 2017, as did the rest of the offense, but don't let that cloud your judgment of what kind of player he is. Remember, in his rookie season he had the third highest passer rating behind Tom Brady and Matt Ryan at 104.9.

Over the first eight games of 2017, his passer rating was 97.9 and he had a 16:4 touchdown to interception ratio. That includes the 68.8 passer rating in Denver when the entire team fell flat in the week two destruction at the hands of the Broncos.

He's a good quarterback and in 2018 he'll assuage all your concerns. Here's what I had to say about Dak Prescott's 2018 season.

Looking to the 2019 season, the time when 2016 rookies can begin negotiating contract extensions, it's likely Dak Prescott will get some big money to make him the Cowboys quarterback for the next 10 years.

There's no telling how rich the deal will be at this point, but we can guess that it will be somewhere between Derek Carr's $125 million (32% guaranteed) and Matt Ryan's $150 million total value (63% guaranteed).

Year three for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys will be huge to determine just where that contract should fit. Best case scenario for the Cowboys is that Prescott plays lights out en route to a deep playoff run and they reward him with a very rich contract.

If 2018 creates more questions, then a 2020 franchise tag could be in Prescott's future.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

With approximately $14 million in space this year and $50 million available to them in the 2019 salary cap, the Dallas Cowboys have the financial flexibility to hand out some long-term deals to some of their homegrown players.

As we know, this is the Dallas Cowboys' standard operating procedure: Draft well and then pay those draftees who earn a second contract. DeMarcus Lawrence and Dak Prescott have earned that second contract. The only question is, when will they get signed?



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Dallas Cowboys

Dak Prescott’s Next Contract Looms Over Cowboys’ Financial Future

Jess Haynie

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Dak Prescott
Ashley Landis/Dallas Morning News

Even though his rookie contract goes through 2019, Quarterback Dak Prescott's next deal is already one of the key issues facing the Dallas Cowboys. Preparing for that second contract, which could highly expensive, is critical as the team deals with the rest of the roster and prepares for the future.

As a fourth-round pick Prescott's rookie deal is delightfully cheap. He counts just $726k and $816k against the salary cap over the next two seasons. You could hardly ask for better from a guy whose already been to a Pro Bowl.

But this financial grace period has a rapidly approaching end date. Dallas will soon have to pay Dak the standard for NFL quarterbacks, and the difference is staggering.

Consider what Jimmy Garoppolo just got from the 49ers; $137.5 million over five years. That's an average of $27.5 million per season.

Yikes, right?

And think about this; while Garoppolo may look like the second coming right now, he still hasn't accomplished what Dak Prescott already has.

Dallas Cowboys Well Represented In 2017 ESPY Awards 1

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

Prescott has taken his team to the playoffs. He's gone to the Pro Bowl. His career passer rating puts him in the Top 10, between Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers, on the NFL's all-time list.

Yes, last year was a step backward. But if Dak gets back to rookie form, and there's plenty of reason to think he will, then he will be able to use Garoppolo's deal as the floor in negotiations.

Again... yikes!

The scary reality here is that the Cowboys will no sooner get out from under Tony Romo's big contract then they probably have to get into a new one with Prescott. The last Romo's dead money, $8.9 million, finally drops off after 2018.

We know how Romo's cap hits, both while still playing and even after his release, have limited the Cowboys in free agency. That is an unnerving prospect for the future once Dak Prescott gets his next deal.

That's why you see the Cowboys eating all of Dez Bryant's dead money now. That's why they're potentially relying on so many recent draft picks like Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Connor Williams and Michael Gallup to take on big roles for the next 3-4 years at their inexpensive rookie salaries.

That's why Cole Beasley (2019 free agent) probably won't be back next season, or why Sean Lee ($7 million cap relief) could easily be a cap casualty next year.

Clearly, Prescott's next contract hangs over everything.

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

Of course, nothing is certain. Prescott's sophomore slump may devolve into something more, and the conversation could quickly change.

But Dak doesn't have to be better than ever to earn the big money. He only has to get back to his rookie form; just do what he's already done.

With the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott hopefully back to their 2016 form and availability, Prescott should have the cushion to be the kind of QB that he was in that 13-3 season. And if he can get the Cowboys one step closer in the playoffs, such as an NFC Championship Game appearance, then Dallas will have no choice but to commit long-term.

While what the Niners gave Jimmy Garoppolo could be considered asinine for the lack of actual accomplishment so far, that doesn't matter in terms of market value. The bar has been raised, and Dak won't have to do much to clear it.

You know that Jerry and Stephen Jones see this as well as anybody, and every move the Cowboys make now is done with Dak's future deal in mind. That's the reality for any NFL team; dealing with the imbalance in QB compensation compared to the rest of the league.

Even if it's still two years away, they have to prepare for it as if it's guaranteed. Given what other QBs like Garoppolo, Kirk Cousins, and Matt Stafford are making right now, Dak doesn't have to accomplish much more to make it happen.



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Dallas Cowboys

Jimmy Johnson Could Be Next Cowboys Ring of Honor Inductee

Jess Haynie

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Auto Draft 4
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

According to reports, former Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jimmy Johnson may finally be joining the team's Ring of Honor.

Clarence Hill of the Star-Telegram reported this morning, per a source, that Johnson could be among the next group of inductees to the franchise's version of the Hall of Fame.

The other potential candidates mentioned were former scouting guru Gil Brandt from the Tom Landry era and Tight End Jay Novacek, who won three Super Bowls in Dallas in the 1990s.

Novacek would join Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Charles Haley, and Darren Woodson as Ring of Honor members acquired during Jimmy Johnson's brief but historic run as Cowboys coach.

It is that heavy presence of Johnson's players in the Ring, not to mention the three championships that crew won from 1992-1995, that has long merited Jimmy's inclusion in the Cowboys' most exclusive club.

Jimmy was only personally on had for two of three titles, but even that ties him with Tom Landry for Super Bowl wins in Cowboys history. And as many would argue, that 1995 championship team was still running on what Johnson put together.

Jimmy Johnson Could Be Next Cowboys Ring of Honor Inductee

Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones

Jimmy's place among the Cowboys' greatest contributors is irrefutable. But whether he'd ever get into the Ring of Honor has always been questioned due to his contentious breakup with team Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones.

Johnson left the Cowboys after the 1993 championship season as he and Jones could no longer have a working relationship. Jerry's bitterness over the credit that Jimmy got for building the 90s dynasty, and Jimmy's refusal to pass any of that along to his Jones, led to Johnson's resignation as egos drove a wedge between friends.

Time appears to have healed the wounds, for the most part. As pictured above, Jimmy was in attendance for Jerry's 2017 Hall of Fame induction and public comments between them have become far more cordial in recent years.

At ages 75 and 74, respectively, Jerry and Jimmy should close this book while they still can. There is no better way to do than by Johnson taking his rightful place in the Ring of Honor.

Not only will that move bring a resolution to their story, but it will also help Jimmy in his pursuit of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to be recognized on the team level.

Jimmy Johnson belongs with Troy, Emmitt, Playmaker, and the rest who he brought together. He was responsible for the most successful era of Dallas Cowboys football in the team's history. He also provided the catchphrase that has endured for almost 30 years now, "how 'bout 'dem Cowboys?"

You can't tell the story of the Dallas Cowboys without Jimmy Johnson. It's time to give his chapter a happy ending.



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