Yesterday I shared with you who I believe are the Dallas Cowboys top 10 offensive players currently on the roster, and today I want to do the same on the defensive side of the ball. We all know that the Cowboys haven't invested as much in defense as they have on offense, but that doesn't mean they're not talented there as well.
I found it a little bit more difficult to narrow down my top 10 defensive players then I did the offensive one's, and I'm sure you will disagree with how I have some of them ranked. But, that just opens up the discussion to debate. You can use the comment section located at the end of the article to do just that.
#10 - DB, Xavier Woods
Xavier Woods wasn't a starter as a rookie, but that doesn't diminish the impact he made in the Dallas Cowboys secondary in his first year in the NFL. He was kind of a do it all defensive back last year and ended up performing like a player that should've been drafted much sooner than the sixth-round. He is in line to become one of the starting safeties this year and I expect him to have a great season in 2018.
#9 - LB, Jaylon Smith
It may be a little bit of a stretch to put Jaylon Smith in the top 10 considering he's only played one full season in the NFL, but I believe his arrow is trending upward. We saw flashes of the player he once was at Notre Dame last season, which on its own probably makes him one of the best defensive players on the roster. But, his health has improved even more and we should see a much improved player. He could be used as both a traditional linebacker and a pass rusher this season.
#8 - CB, Jourdan Lewis
When coming out of Michigan last year all you heard about Jourdan Lewis was that he was a cornerback who possesses first-round talent, but will slide due to his lack of ideal height/length. Well, that proved to be true, but it didn't stop the Cowboys from drafting him. He went on and had a fantastic rookie season and might just have been the best CB on the roster last year. He is expected to be the nickel CB this year, but he should compete to start on the outside as well.
#7 - S, Jeff Heath
I've been critical of Jeff Heath in the past, but I do believe he is one of the Dallas Cowboys best defensive players currently on the roster. He has the trust of the coaching staff and for good reason. He is reliable and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He's never going to blow you away with his athleticism, but you're not going to find him out of position. Plus, he's not a bad backup kicker either.
#6 - CB, Chidobe Awuzie
I've heard the nonsense of possibly moving Chidobe Awuzie to safety, but I think that would be a mistake because he is a chance to be one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. He struggled to get on the field early as a rookie due to reoccurring injuries, but once he did he proved why he was considered one of the best CBs in the 2017 draft class. He has the height/length to cover any WR in the NFL, but it's his understanding of route concepts that puts him in a position to make a play on the ball.
#5 - CB, Byron Jones
Many Dallas Cowboys fans have already written off Byron Jones and labeled him as a first-round bust, but I believe they are mistaken. Jones has been forced to play out of position at safety due to need since arriving in Dallas, but we will finally be able to see him play where he feels most natural now that he is moving back to cornerback. I expect him to look like an entirely different player in 2018 and prove his doubters wrong.
#4 - DE/DT, Tyrone Crawford
Like Byron Jones, Tyrone Crawford receives a lot of hate from Dallas Cowboys fans. A lot of that has to do with him not really living up to his big money contract, but you can't blame him for taking the money he was offered. His importance to the defense is due to his versatility. He is able to play DE or DT, and has done so at a relatively high level. He is at his best when playing the run, but he does offer a little bit as a pass rusher as well.
#3 - DT, David Irving
David Irving has mostly been a flash player the majority of his career. We would see moments of brilliance from him and then he would kind of disappear for stretches on end. Fortunately, it looks as if he was able to finally put everything together in 2017 and ended up being one of the best defensive tackles in the entire league. He still has to prove he can be consistent both on and off the field, but there is no denying he is one of the best defensive players the Cowboys have.
#2 - LB, Sean Lee
The only thing keeping Sean Lee from being the best Dallas Cowboys defender and possibly the best linebacker in the entire NFL is injuries. Unfortunately, I don't see that changing anytime soon. Typically players start sustaining more injuries the older they get and that didn't bode well for Lee being able to stay healthy. But, his preparation and film study is second to none. He seems to know exactly where the ball is going before it is even snapped.
#1 - DE, DeMarcus Lawrence
For me, DeMarcus Lawrence is the Dallas Cowboys best defensive player. Because of a reoccurring back injury earlier in his career it took him a while to finally put it all together, but there's no denying the Cowboys have finally found their "War Daddy". He was arguably the most dominant defensive end in the NFL last year and I expect him to pick up where he left off.
How would you rank the Dallas Cowboys top 10 defensive players?
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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