From the end of the 2015 season to today, the Cowboys' most improved position is undoubtedly at running back. They have so many new options in Ezekiel Elliott, Alfred Morris, and Darrius Jackson, as well as returning players in Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar. If any one of them is called to action, good things are sure to happen.
Unfortunately, Dunbar may not be called upon until after the first six weeks of the 2016 season, as he is likely to start the season on the PUP list. That is unfortunate for him and unfortunate for the Cowboys. Until his season-ending injury in Week 4 against the New Orleans Saints, he had asserted himself as a vital part of the Cowboys’ offense.
He only received five carries in 2015, but he managed to impact the passing game dramatically. He worked out of the backfield and occasionally flexed into the slot. With Dez Bryant out with a broken foot, Dunbar and Jason Witten became the targets for Tony Romo and Brandon Weeden early into the season. Dunbar caught the ball 21 out of the 23 times he was targeted.
Anyone watching the Week 1 game against the New York Giants could see that Dunbar is a great asset, especially when the Cowboys are down, late in the fourth quarter. But with Dunbar likely to start the year on the PUP list, who will fill his role on the Cowboys' offense?
One possibility is Darren McFadden. There’s been a lot of rumors that McFadden could be cut before the season begins because he doesn’t fit the offensive scheme. But, with Dunbar on PUP, McFadden could find a comfortable place on the team playing Dunbar’s role. McFadden had 40 catches last year for 328 yards. That shows he is capable of taking on a more receiving-back role.
Another option would be Darius Jackson. Jackson had a school-record 16 touchdowns last year and ran for 1,110 yards on 207 carries. The Cowboys probably have faith in Jackson to work more as a receiver because he caught 21 balls for 201 yards and two touchdowns last year in Eastern Michigan. He’s bigger than Dunbar and might be just as fast. Jackson could find himself a role on the 53 man roster, catching passes during the 4th quarter or 2 minute drills.
The Cowboys probably won’t rule out the possibility of Lucky Whitehead seeing some of Dunbar’s production too. Whitehead finished the season with 10 carries for 107 yards and six catches for 16 yards. It was clear that the coaches saw potential in Whitehead and were looking to get him the ball.
With Dunbar out, the Cowboys don’t have a definite pass-catching runner, but they do have other options to fill in for the time being. It’s unclear, as of now, who the substitute could be. One thing’s for sure, when Dunbar does return, his catching, running and returning abilities are certain to impact the game.
Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal
At long last, the Dallas Cowboys have their first free agent addition of this offseason. Having lost starters Jonathan Cooper and Anthony Hitchens at left guard and linebacker respectively, the team has added depth at LB with Joe Thomas signing a two-year deal.
The 2018 season will actually mark Joe Thomas' second stint with the Dallas Cowboys, as he was signed to their practice squad in 2015. The team that signed Thomas out of South Carolina State following the 2014 draft, the Green Bay Packers, added Thomas back to their active roster for the 2015 season.
Source: Cowboys have agreed to a 2-year deal with free agent LB Joe Thomas. He visited the Cowboys today. Thomas has played in 42 games over the last three seasons with the Packers. He had a career-high 70 tackles in 2016.
Thomas has spent the last three seasons starting eight games for the Packers, recording 70 tackles and an interception in 2016.
A contingency plan of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith carrying the Cowboys for 16 games at LB requires adequate depth, which is exactly what the Cowboys are typically in the market for come free agency. Waiting longer than usual to make their first splash, the Cowboys absolutely need an addition like Thomas to perform better than last year's FA class.
Used in sub packages by the Packers while also playing special teams - where the Cowboys have lost core players in Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber - Thomas will have a great chance to impress two new Dallas coaches in Ben Bloom and Keith O'Quinn.
Terrance Williams Contract Creates 2018 Job Security
There's been a lot of talk about what the Dallas Cowboys will do at the receiver position this offseason. While there's a great divide on what the team should do with Dez Bryant, there's a fairly unanimous opinion that Dallas should find an upgrade over Terrance Williams. No matter where he ends up on the depth chart, though, Williams' contract should keep him on the roster in 2018.
Last offseason, Terrance signed a four-year, $17 million deal to stay in Dallas. Because we are now just in the second year of that deal, it is cost prohibitive against the salary cap to release or trade him.
Williams is scheduled to count $4.75 million against the 2018 cap. If Dallas were to cut him, it would accelerate his remaining guaranteed money and create $7.25 million in dead money this year. He would cost more against the cap off the roster than on it.
Even the June-1st provision doesn't help. Williams' dead money in 2018 drops to $4.75 million, which is a net zero against his existing cap hit. It would also push $2.5 million of dead money to 2019. There's no benefit there, and you lose an experienced player who knows your system.
If the Cowboys do like their WR depth enough to want to move on from Terrance, one option is to try to trade him. A trade would lower the cap penalty to $3.75 million and save $1 million. If he's traded after June 1st, it would save $3.5 million against this year's cap.
Of course, it takes two to tango in this scenario. Williams hasn't scored a touchdown since 2016 and has never proven he can take on a significant role in an offense. He was serviceable when Dez Bryant and Jason Witten commanded more attention, but he's a low-end WR2 at best and many teams likely wouldn't want him in their top 2-3 receivers.
Perhaps something could happen during training camps or preseason, when injuries may make other teams desperate. Then again, something could happen in Dallas that makes them less willing to part with Terrance.
As it stands, it seems unlikely that Terrance Williams won't be a Cowboy in 2018. And really, that's not bad thing.
Even if he gets pushed down the depth chart, Terrance would be a good insurance policy against injuries or any other issues that could happen between now and September. $4.75 million is more than you'd like to pay your fourth WR but it's a one-year problem.
If the Cowboys do add more WR talent this offseason, there is a trickle-down effect that strengthens the entire club. Williams, with his experience, is an upgrade over Brice Butler as the fourth receiver.
Therefore, unless circumstances both here and elsewhere allow Dallas to find a trade partner, Terrance Williams should be back next year.
Cowboys Trade for FB Jamize Olawale from Raiders
Less than a week after the Cowboys lost fullback Keith Smith to the Raiders in free agency, the two teams have worked out a trade to send FB Jamize Olawale from Oakland to Dallas.
Fullback trade! The #Raiders are sending FB Jamize Olawale to the #Cowboys, sources say. Dallas has its fullback, one who was with Oakland since 2012.
To facilitate the trade, the Cowboys will send their fifth-round pick (173rd overall) to the Raiders for their sixth-round pick (192nd), moving back just 19 spots.
In return, Dallas not only brings in a veteran replacement at FB but a player they already know.
Jamize Olawale was an undrafted rookie free agent of the Cowboys in 2012. Despite a strong showing in that preseason, Dallas did not have room for him on the roster. He was on the team's practice squad until December, when Oakland poached him.
Since then, Olawale has been a regular roleplayer in the Raiders' offense. He's missed just six games since 2013.
Jamize brings more offensive firepower to the FB position than Keith Smith had. He's scored at least one touchdown in each of the last three seasons. He can be effective both running and receiving.
Through the trade, Dallas picks up the final year of Olawale's current contract. It calls for a $1.5 million base salary in 2018.
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