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Ranking Cowboys Roster by Job Security: Part 2

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Blog - Ranking Cowboys Roster by Job Security: Part 2

(Click HERE for Part One of this two-part series.)

Yesterday we started looking at the roster and focused on the guys either definitely or highly likely to be in next year’s training camp. Today the conversation turns to far more questionable players, those either entering free agency or with contract and performance issues that could lead to their release. This promises to be a more interesting and controversial discussion, so I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the Comments section!

TIER 3 – The Probables

Players: L.P. Ladouceur, Kellen Moore, Rod Smith (RB), Vince Mayle, Rod Smith (WR), Terrell McClain, Jack Crawford, Chris Whaley, Casey Walker, Mark Nzeocha

Analysis: Everyone listed here is under contract for 2016 except for Crawford. Ladouceur probably could’ve been in Tier 1 but he does cost about $1.2 million on the cap. If times got tough there’s always the chance that Dallas could cut him and bring back one of the young long snappers they’ve had in past camps. It’s doubtful given Ladouceur’s perfection at his craft.

The Kellen Moore Truthers out there not doubt feel he should be higher than this, but he could easily be cut if Dallas ends up adding Robert Griffin III or some other veteran free agent. I think they’d keep Moore regardless of what happens in the draft so that there’s a veteran in the mix at camp.

Jack Crawford is an unrestricted free agent who I think Dallas will try to lock up before the market opens. His versatility as an inside/outside lineman is attractive and fills a gap created by the likely departure of Jeremy Mincey. He also has not had enough exposure during his Dallas tenure that he or his agent would expect much success in free agency, meaning they’ll likely jump at whatever Dallas offers.

Speaking of defensive tackles, McClain and Whaley are both injury-plagued guys that Dallas has been footing the medical bills for for at least a couple of years. There’s no real cap benefit to cutting either, so I think Dallas will continue to hope in getting return on their investment and bring them back to compete. McClain has shown he can be a factor when healthy and could wind up replacing Nick Hayden if things finally go well for him physically.

The rest of the players are young prospects who should get to camp but do run the risk, like any depth chart bottom dwellers, of being squeezed out by other signings or draft picks. I’m fully prepared for any of them to be released but not based on current circumstances.

TIER 4 – The 50/50 Club

Players: James Hanna, Ronald Leary, Greg Hardy, Nick Hayden, Rolando McClain, Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Jeff Heath

Analysis: This is where things get interesting. I could probably do an entire article on just Hardy or Carr or Claiborne, among a few others. We’ll try and cover as much ground as we can here.

Hardy is a very unique case. He’s made a ton of money the last two seasons from his incentive-heavy deal with Dallas and the franchise tag from Carolina in 2014. Dallas has already eaten the public outcry from signing and keeping Hardy during his personal problems. With Hardy coming off a down year and having already earned massive paydays, there’s a chance Dallas could secure him with a modest deal. He’s still just 28-years-old and flashed his dominance at points during the year. It will all come down to how much Dallas wants to deal with the headaches and whatever issues Hardy poses in the locker room, and only they really know what their breaking point is.

It’s unfortunate that Claiborne’s free agency coincides with the Carr situation, because that is hurting Dallas’ leverage in dealing with both of them. Dallas can free up about $6 million by cutting Carr outright and $9 million if they spread the hit over two years. His camp refused to discuss a salary reduction last year but his market value would be even lower now. Ideally you would just release him and upgrade the position with someone who is a better fit for the scheme, but that’s where Claiborne’s potential departure creates issues.

With his rookie deal now expired, Claiborne will be an unrestricted free agent. As a former sixth-overall pick he hasn’t been underpaid, making over $16 million during his first four years. It’s unlikely that Claiborne could even get that kind of money in free agency now despite being just 26-year-old (as of Feb 7th), given his injury issues and lack of performance. How much does Claiborne want to remain in Dallas? How much do the Cowboys feel he could still contribute? These will determine if they even discuss a new deal, and perhaps this will ultimately decide Carr’s fate as well.

Rolando McClain is the last of the major question marks. He really turned it on toward the end of the season and will still be in his prime at 27-years-old entering free agency. McClain has proven to be a game-changer when he’s motivated, but that is the eternal rub when it comes to him. How much stock can you really put in what McClain did during a contract year given his history of retirements and off-and-on performance? Dallas could look to bring him back on another one-year, incentive-laden deal but I doubt they’ll go beyond that. McClain didn’t attract any flies in free agency last year so perhaps he’ll take whatever he can get.

Ronald Leary and Jeff Heath are both Restricted Free Agents who were previously undrafted.  Dallas would likely be able to secure Leary with the $2 million (projected) second-round pick tender, making him a strong backup at a reasonable price. The question there, which I plan to write more about soon, if whether or not they really want to cost Leary his shot at a starting job and bigger payday elsewhere. Heath they could probably give the $1.5 million original pick tender to if they really value his work on special teams, but they’ll likely just let him test the market and bring him back for even cheaper if at all.

Nick Hayden will again be an unrestricted free agent and I hope that they finally look for an upgrade. I’ve never understood why they like Hayden so much. He’s a 4-3 tackle who can’t rush the passer and doesn’t consistently stop run. I get he’s probably a nice locker room guy but you could do much, much better and need to given the state of the defensive line. I really hope they find a difference-maker this offseason who can free up Tyrone Crawford to be more of a disruptive presence.

James Hanna will also be a free agent and probably has way more value to the Cowboys than anyone else. He is a far better blocker than Gavin Escobar and might even be able to play out of the backfield with Tyler Clutts also being a free agent. Dallas might offer him a solid deal not only for what he can do now but also as insurance and leverage in 2017 for when they have to make a decision on Escobar’s future.

TIER 5 – The Unlikely

Players: Matt Cassel, Lance Dunbar, Robert Turbin, Tyler Clutts, Charles Brown, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Jeremy Mincey, Kyle Wilber, Josh Thomas, Danny McCray

Analysis: Matt Cassel is a free agent and I don’t think any of us will be disappointed to see him go. I’m really surprised that he couldn’t do more with what he had to work with, especially given the uptick in play we saw from Kellen Moore. Cassel had clear confidence issues on the field and that completely destroys any value he had as a veteran presence.

Lance Dunbar was poised to have a breakout year after his first few games but ultimate just broke, landing on Injured Reserve for yet another season. He is now 26 and, despite the clear talent, has shown no ability to stay on the field. Dallas could bring him back for a minimal deal but I imagine they will look to younger plays at the position with the shortest shelf life. Robert Turbin, also 26 and a free agent, seems unlikely to return.

Dallas tried to find a better fullback than Tyler Clutts last year, signing Jed Collins and Ray Agnew III before they ever brought Clutts back. I imagine they will again search for an upgrade, or perhaps just use Hanna or another tight end in the role.

Bernadeau has starting experience and versatility as a guard or center. He could end up starting somewhere as a stop-gap given that he’s 30-years-old. I think Dallas would be happy to bring him back as a backup but he’ll want to see what his options are before re-signing. Charles Brown was brought in as a stop-gap himself but I’m sure Dallas will look to other options for their tackle depth chart.

Mincey has said he’d like to return to Dallas but I think they’ll look to get younger. As already mentioned, Jack Crawford provides the same versatility and Dallas should be looking to make several upgrades to the defensive line this offseason. Another free agent is Kyle Wilber and he may end up signing with a 3-4 team to get back to the pass-rushing that originally got him into the NFL.

Lastly, defensive backs Josh Thomas and Danny McCray are both veteran free agents at the bottom of their depth charts. It is rare that those guys come back, and especially given the overhaul we expect the Cowboys to make in the secondary.

~ ~ ~

There are other players associated with the team right now; 11 guys signed to Futures contracts. Any of them could end up at training camp or are just as likely to be dumped to make room for other prospects who become available from waivers, undrafted free agents, and so on. There’s really no point in getting into those guys given the state of flux.

The dominoes should begin falling sometime in early-mid February. We’re sure to go even deeper on some of these topics, especially those top defensive free agents, in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned!

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Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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2 Comments
  • George Johnson

    Kellen Moore should be given a chance to compete for the 2nd team QB position no matter who they bring in as a veteran including RG3. K Moore has improved each year in the NFL and will probably continue to improve/develop. Scott Linehan was pleased with K Moore's performance in the ten and one half quarters he played, considering it was his first time starting and first time getting 1st team reps. I think K Moore has an excellent chance to earn the 2nd team QB position in 2016. It will be difficult for anyone to beat him out. The knock on K Moore; his physical limitations including not having a strong arm, did not seem to show up much in his play. The weaknesses that did show up in his play (i.e. interceptions, lack of enough touchdown throws and lack of consistent accuracy) are the things K Moore has always excelled at in the past, so I fully expect him to correct/improve these weaknesses.

    • http://Google%20+ Ronald Dulaney

      Well said, George. K Moore doubled his QBR in his only two NFL starts. His arm was more than adequate to throw for over 400 yards. Yeah, he tried to do too much and got burned for it. But he's a quick study football nerd, so I expect he will reign in those urges in the future. Had McFadden hung on to that goal line flub, and the defense been a little stouter in the first quarter, he probably would have won his second outing ever. Either way, I think he's earned a shot at competing for the backup spot next camp.

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Orlando Scandrick Talks Cowboys’ Disappointing Season on FOX Sports

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys Headlines - Forget the Triplets: Cowboys Need The Underrated to Shine in 2016
Ashley Landis / The Dallas Morning News

For better or worse, the Cowboys don’t even need to play football to be all over national TV. I guess it’s just part of being the one and only America’s Team. For the second consecutive week, Fox Sports had a Dallas Cowboys’ player on set for Fox’s “Undisputed.”

Just a week ago, Brice Butler made waves with some controversial comments that failed to make him look like a “great teammate.”

This time, Fox’s guest was Cowboys’ Cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Unlike Butler, I really think we should give Scandrick credit for being a very good teammate, and acting like one on his TV appearance.

Throughout the segment, it feels as if Orlando is being tricked into saying something against his teammates. Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe start bashing on Dez Bryant‘s performance and the fact that he should be replaced.

Of course, this is the kind of stuff fans in Cowboys Nation are thinking about. Heck, I really wouldn’t even mind if Dez isn’t wearing a star next season. However, I really disliked Butler’s comments when asked if he would’ve done a better job if given the same opportunities as Dez.

Scandrick’s responses were awesome though. When asked if he would defend Dez, he didn’t even hesitate.

“I don’t think he’s lost any confidence. He’s one of the most confident players I’ve ever been around. I think it can all be fixed. I think he just needs to get back to work and get back to the basics.” – Orlando Scandrick on Dez Bryant.

Scandrick also answered questions about what went wrong with the Cowboys this season by pointing out the fact they lost one of their best players because of a suspension, and some injuries. But he also said what’s been in our minds for a long time. When asked what was the biggest reason they struggled, he said some painful, yet truthful words: “We played some bad football against some very good teams.”

Later, he was asked about how Sean Lee’s absence affected the defense, he insisted they didn’t step up. At the end of the day, the NFL is a league in which you can’t be that dependent on a single player.

Sean Lee is an awesome player, but I think we’d all like to see this defense be a little less dependent on him.

Scandrick even had to defend Dak Prescott.

Dak was highly criticized after a sophomore season in which he struggled, alongside the entire team. But in the words of Orlando, we should “give him time.” Dak had a lot on his plate, but he made a lot of progress for the Cowboys.

You can listen to the entire interview here.

Orlando Scandrick’s time in Dallas may be coming to an end, especially with young guys like Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis taking over. He’s signed through 2019, so who knows; maybe we see him wearing the star for a bit longer.

“It’s always a possibility.” – Orlando Scandrick on potentially not returning to Dallas next season.

Even still, it’s nice to see him support his football team and his friends on a show which featured a non-starting Cowboys’ wide receiver taking shots against his team. Orlando Scandrick deserves an applause.

Tell me what you think about “Orlando Scandrick Talks Cowboys’ Disappointing Season on FOX Sports” in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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Dallas Cowboys

Should Cowboys Pursue Veteran Backup at Quarterback?

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys en Español: Cooper Rush
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys only have two quarterbacks under contract right now, starter Dak Prescott and backup Cooper Rush. With only three years of combined experience between them, one could argue that a veteran presence would be useful. Should Dallas make a veteran QB a free-agent priority in the 2018 offseason?

Of course, there’s plenty of other QB experience on the Cowboys staff. Head Coach Jason Garrett played professionally from 1989-2004, and started his coaching career with quarterbacks.

Scott Linehan has been coaching offense with an emphasis on the passing game for 30 years.

Kellen Moore, who is taking over for the departed Wade Wilson as quarterbacks coach, has played very recently and will bring a fresh perspective.

However, losing Wilson’s experience from the room, and the lack of any veteran player at QB, shouldn’t be dismissed.

Dak Prescott has said veteran Mark Sanchez — who was with Dallas in 2016 — was a major help during his whirlwind rookie season. Tony Romo enjoyed veteran advice from guys like Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna, and Kyle Orton throughout his playing career.

This isn’t to say Dallas would want to bring in a veteran to knock Cooper Rush down the depth chart. After a surprising preseason, Rush took the backup job from Kellen Moore and certainly has intriguing upside.

If the Cowboys were to add a veteran, that player would have to come in with the understanding he’s competing with Cooper and may not be guaranteed a job.

The good news is that it’ll be a buyer’s market for veteran quarterbacks this offseason.

Guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, and Matt Moore could all be available. Even a player with more pedigree, such as Sam Bradford, may have trouble finding starting work with many jobs taken among the NFL’s 32 teams.

Dallas could even consider bringing back Mark Sanchez, given his previous relationship with Dak Prescott. He only had a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears.

Given Prescott’s seeming durability, Dallas will likely only keep two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster in 2018 and for years to come. Because of that, they may be content to focus on Dak and Cooper Rush, and just get through the offseason with training camp bodies.

However, the case can certainly be made for adding another veteran player with the desire to teach to help these young quarterbacks develop. Prescott was not the same guy in 2017 that we saw as a rookie, and perhaps the absence of guys like Sanchez and Tony on the sideline had something to do with that.

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Why WR Coach Sanjay Lal is a Good Hire for Cowboys

Kevin Brady

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Why WR Coach Sanjay Lal Is A Good Hire For Cowboys

Yesterday, it was announced that the Dallas Cowboys will hire Sanjay Lal to be their new wide receivers coach. Lal spent 2017 with the Indianapolis Colts in the same position, but has made multiple stops around the NFL prior to joining the Cowboys staff.

Most recently and arguably most notably, Sanjay Lal was the receivers coach for both the New York Jets (2012-2014) and the Buffalo Bills (2015-2016). This means he coached on Rex Ryan’s staff for two different teams, with two very similar offensive philosophies.

Run the football.

As seen in the video below, Sanjay Lal has experience working as the wide outs coach for an offense with a run-first philosophy. He even says himself that their offense in New York was “ground and pound,” but notes that “without a pass game there’s no pound.”

Cowboys fans became all too familiar with the truth behind that statement during the 2017 season, as even solid efforts in the run game were rendered meaningless by their lack of explosion through the air.

Jets Nation Inside Camp: Sanjay Lal Mic’d Up

Jets wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal is mic’d up during training camp, and also discusses trying to play pro football before becoming a coach in the NFL.

A lot has been made of Sanjay Lal’s lack of 1,000-yard receivers during his time as a coach. The offensive philosophies of the teams which he coached for, however, show why this criticism is flimsy.

It’s quite possible the Cowboys will once again be without a 1,000 yard pass catcher this season, but if Ezekiel Elliott and the run game are clicking, and Dak Prescott is spreading the ball to different targets, this stat won’t mean a thing.

Lal was also the coach in Buffalo when Sammy Watkins had the best years of his career, including a 1,000-yard season.

During that stint he coached Robert Woods to productive seasons as well. Now Woods is a dangerous target for the Los Angeles Rams after being coached by Lal for multiple seasons.

These were also the same years that quarterback Tyrod Taylor was at his best.

While in New York, with the Jets, Lal’s most productive receiver was Jeremy Kerley, who finished with 827 yards in 2012 and 523 in 2013. What’s important to note here is that Kerley played as a slot receiver for much of his time as a Jet.

The Cowboys lacked any type of production from the slot in 2017, but maybe Lal can change that by getting the best out of Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer, as he did with Kerley.

Bryan Broaddus on Twitter

Know that some believe he had a real shot to be an OC in this league one day. https://t.co/1s21w2jZGR

All indications from those “in the know” suggest Sanjay Lal is on his way to becoming an offensive coordinator soon. Many believe he has the smarts and the football IQ to command an offense himself, as soon as he gets the right opportunity.

Maybe that opportunity will come down the line in Dallas, where he can continue to coach within that “ground and pound” style, which he has done for many years while also implementing elements of his own passing game expertise.

Everyone has been critical of the Cowboys’ inability to bring in external hires, and to spark up new/creative offensive ideas. Lal has spent time among some of the smartest offensive minds in football.

Maybe he’s the man to bring in that outside creativity this offense seems to lack.

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