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Re-Signing LB Anthony Hitchens is a Must for Cowboys

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Anthony Hitchens
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys still have four games left in the 2017 season, but this offseason may already be on the minds of those in the Cowboys front office. This offseason, the Cowboys have multiple key players hitting free agency: DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving, Jonathan Cooper, Alfred Morris, and Anthony Hitchens.

That last guy on my list may be the most underappreciated player on the team.

When you're in the same free agent pool as DeMarcus Lawrence, who leads the NFL in sacks with 13.5, and David Irving, who has been on a tear of late (7.0 sacks in just eight games), it's understandable to fly somewhat under the radar. But allowing Anthony Hitchens to sign elsewhere would be a massive mistake for the Dallas Cowboys.

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Cowboys LB Anthony Hitchens (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

In his four years with the Cowboys, Anthony Hitchens has improved each season and this year he has finally broken out. In his first three years with the team Hitchens has 36 starts, 220 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 1 interception.

Not only has he been great at middle linebacker, but he's also slid in and played WILL linebacker at a high level when asked to.

Hitchens' position flexibility is something this defense heavily relies on.

After suffering a foot injury in a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders, some initially thought that his season would be over. Hitchens missed just four games in the beginning of the year and came back to be one of the few bright spots on a defense that has been extremely inconsistent all season.

In eight games, Hitchens has 40 tackles, and has been a force stopping the run. The fourth-year player has had to play multiple linebacker positions due to the injuries of Sean Lee, and the inconsistent play of Jaylon Smith and Justin Durant.

Wherever Anthony Hitchens is asked to play he does his job at an extremely high level.

Jon Machota on Twitter

The runner was ruled down, but what a crazy effort by Anthony Hitchens to strip the ball upside down in the air https://t.co/xOd570ZKqO

If his level of play hasn't impressed the Cowboys' front office enough to re-sign him, the lack of talent and depth at linebacker definitely should.

At the end of the 2017 season, the Cowboys linebacker depth chart will look a little something like this:

  • Sean Lee
  • Jaylon Smith
  • Damien Wilson

That is not ideal after seeing the struggles of both Jaylon Smith and Damien Wilson, and the injury history of Sean Lee.

This Defense Lacks Physicality Without Hitchens

Hitchens always seems to be around the football and that shows from his 15 total tackles from the Washington game last week.

While he's not quite on the same level as Sean Lee, Hitchens does a very good job of shooting the right gaps and taking good angles on ball carriers. His play against the run and the little bit of work he does in coverage, makes him one of the best defenders on the Cowboys' roster.

https://twitter.com/aRwarriorX/status/936410936470056960

The Cowboys' defense by no means has been great in 2017, but it's tough to think about what the defense would look like if Anthony Hitchens isn't on the roster.

Re-signing a player that stays relatively healthy and has the position flexibility of Anthony Hitchens is a no-brainer for me. Let's hope the Dallas front office feels the same way.

Must Anthony Hitchens be re-signed this offseason? Let me know below!



Born in 1995, loved Football but more importantly the Dallas Cowboys since day one. Living in Redskins Country flying the Blue and Silver flag as high as possible. Covering the Dallas Cowboys for InsideTheStar.com and CowboysNation.com. Catch me on twitter @ConnorNFLDraft!

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. blaine

    December 7, 2017 at 8:51 am

    I think Hitchens has earned a new contract. However, that shouldn’t deter the team from seeking linebacker talent in the draft(Roquon Smith/Malik Jefferson). Hitchens is the perfect plug and play player, and it seems to behoove him to come off the bench in Marinelli’s rotating scheme. Just my opinion.

    • EverybodyTalks

      December 8, 2017 at 9:22 pm

      Totally agree. I still want the boys to grab an ILB in the draft. Roquan in the 1st, would be great. He even looks like Sean Lee in his play. If not him, there are some very good ILBs in the 2nd and 3rd rounds also.

  2. oneputter

    December 7, 2017 at 9:48 am

    i do like hitchens, solid LB who has become the “thumper” of the group. he is a must re-sign.

    i am also a fan of wilson. he quietly plays his game while making a lot of plays, he can also lay the wood. i do think he needs to be used in blitz packages a more. hopefully 57 works on his coverage skills over the off season something he needs to improve on, he needs to return as well.

    regarding the video of him blowing up the TE, you saw what happened to Paul (TE) last time he tried to lead block, 50 put his but to sleep…..he wanted no more of it.

  3. Donald Mabus

    December 7, 2017 at 11:30 am

    Hitchens is a rotational guy at best. He misses way too many tackles trying to lower the boom. Wrap the runner up and bring them down. That is something the whole team needs to work on. Hitchens also lacks coverage skills.

  4. Hector Espindola

    December 8, 2017 at 11:51 am

    Yes, he must be re-signed! Specially if Lee goes down again. I don’t know if there will be enough money to sign all those free agents, but I do know the team does not have a “quality next man up”, except for Rod Smith, who can be a fine replacement of Morris.

  5. Bilbo Baggin

    December 10, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    Ya if we can afford Lawrence,Irving and him. Love those first 2 playing together if they can stay off the suspended list or injury list. We need stud corners in the draft though hope they let McClay pick this one.

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Report: Free Agent DL David Irving Not in Dallas Cowboys’ 2019 Plans

Jess Haynie

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David Irving

The Dallas Cowboys and troubled Defensive Lineman David Irving appear to be at an impasse. According to a report from David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, the team has "no intention" of trying to re-sign Irving and will allow him to become an unrestricted free agent.

Irving started the 2018 season with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He only appeared in two games after that, registering one sack and four tackles.

David Moore on Twitter

Source: Cowboys have no intention of keeping DT David Irving at this time https://t.co/vqMNZty6Aq via @sportsdaydfw

Despite reports of David's ongoing issues with an ankle injury, Dallas never placed him on injured reserve. Then came the reports that Irving was missing practices and team meetings while dealing with personal issues related to the custody of his daughter.

The team stayed pretty mum on the subject of Irving's status throughout the year, falling back on the ankle injury when pushed. But after months, it became clear that either David, the team, or both parties were disinterested in his return to football.

The Cowboys had high hopes after 2017, when Irving posted seven sacks in just eight games. They placed a second-round tender on him last offseason as a restricted free agent and were surely ready to give him a long-term deal if he'd built on that success.

But David's issues, physical or otherwise, have clearly done the opposite.

Dallas is known for working with troubled players, as we've recently seen with Randy Gregory. That they're closing the book on Irving suggests there's an issue with his desire towards football.

It's a sad loss for both. David's potential is enormous, as evidenced by his productivity when he actually does play. But he appears more likely to hit the Commissioner's exempt list in 2019 than the football field, given the reports of multiple failed drug tests over the last year.

Hopefully David Irving can turn things around one day and capitalize on his talent. But if it ever happens, it appears that it won't be with the Dallas Cowboys.



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BREAKING: WR Terrance Williams Gets Dropped by Dallas Cowboys

Jess Haynie

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Takeaway Tuesday: What We Learned From Cowboys Loss To Packers
AP Photo/Ron Jenkins

The Dallas Cowboys have ended their six-year relationship with Wide Receiver Terrance Williams. According to multiple sources, they have declined a team option on Williams' contract and he will now be an unrestricted free agent in 2019.

The move will reportedly save the Cowboys $2.25 million in salary space this year.

Williams was the team's third-round pick in 2013 and started 68 of the 83 games he played in. He developed into a solid number-two receiver by the end of his rookie deal in 2016 and was given a new four-year contract that offseason.

David Moore on Twitter

Terrance Williams career w/ the Cowboys is done. Sources say the club has declined the WR's option for 2019, making him a free agent. The move is no surprise. He caught just 2 passes for 18 yards last season. His departure frees up $2.25 million on the cap.

After another decent year in 2017, things took a bad turn for Terrance last season. It started with an offseason arrest for public intoxication that eventually led to a three-game suspension, although Williams served that while on injured reserve.

The Cowboys already appeared to be giving Williams' spot away when they made several offseason acquisitions at WR; Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin all were brought in even before Terrance's arrest.

While Williams did start in two of Dallas' first three games in 2018, he only had three passes his thrown his way. The team finally put him on IR due to ongoing complications with a surgically-repaired foot.

While it didn't end well, Terrance Williams' time in Dallas was ultimately a solid return for a third-round pick. He made a few big plays and was a proficient run-blocker, good enough to start in almost 75% of the team's games since he was drafted.

The Cowboys now hope that another third-round pick, Michael Gallup in 2018, will do bigger and better things.



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A Lot Had to Happen for Amari Cooper to Join the Cowboys

John Williams

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Amari Cooper

Amari Cooper was a game changing player from the moment he showed up at The Star in Frisco, Texas. In the first game against the Tennessee Titans, you could just tell that this was a different kind of player. The Cowboys hadn't had a wide receiver with his mixture of size and skill.

Cooper to me showed off the brilliant route running of Cole Beasley, in a body similar to Dez Bryant. Oh, and with 4.4 speed.

Electric.

But Amari Cooper's presence with the Dallas Cowboys may not have happened in 2018 if any one of a number of dominoes didn't fall during the 2018 offseason and regular season.

Shunned by Sammy

Early in the free agency period, it was reported that the Dallas Cowboys had brought in Sammy Watkins and made him a lucrative offer that would have paid him around $16 million per year, but as Patrik Walker from 247 Sports discussed, he ultimately signed with the Kansas City Chiefs for more guaranteed money.

I recall first the feeling of dread when I heard about the pursuit of Sammy Watkins, immediately followed by relief when I saw that he signed with the Chiefs. I was in the midst of a government mandated internet blackout.

Don't get me wrong, Sammy Watkins is a fine player, but he isn't a $16 million per year player. Aside from his athleticism and size he doesn't really bring much to the table. He was pretty much a younger, and similarly injury prone -- at their respective points in their careers -- as Dez Bryant.

In 2018, Watkins only played in 10 games for the Chiefs and barely passed the 500 yard mark while catching only three touchdowns. Now, he's not the top priority in the Chiefs passing game, but he's not a player that can be relied upon to lead an offense.

Had the Cowboys signed Watkins last offseason, it's highly unlikely that they would have traded a 2019 first round draft pick to add another wide receiver in Amari Cooper.

Dez Bryant Goes Bye-Bye

The next thing that happened that may not have, was the release of long-time Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Dez Bryant. Dez Bryant had been with the team since 2010, when the team made him their first round pick that season. After post really good numbers from 2012-2014, Dez had a drop off in production, mostly due to injuries in the 2015-2017 seasons.

Dez Bryant, a fan favorite, was a player that relied upon his superior athletic ability, physicality, toughness, and ability to get passes in the air that made him special. Injuries to his legs and feet started to rob him of his athletic ability. Combine that with the fact that he and Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott could never really get on the same page when it came to fade routes, traditional or of the back shoulder variety.

Had the Cowboys not made the decision to move on from Bryant, the Cowboys offense would have probably been better the first seven games of the season. They may not have necessitated allocating a first round pick to acquire Cooper and it's possible he gets traded somewhere else or stays in Oakland altogether.

Poor Starts to the Season

The Oakland Raiders went into the 2018 season having made a lot of noise by signing Jon Gruden out of the broadcast booth and trading Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears. After a 1-5 start to their season, the fire sale continued as they put Amari Cooper on the trade block.

The Dallas Cowboys started the season 3-4, but looked much worse on offense than what we could have anticipated. We knew they would take a bit of a step back in the passing game as they were trying to work in new faces, but it was bad for the first seven, and really eight weeks of the season.

The Cowboys went into the season with a plan to use their wide receiver group as a committee to try and fill their needs with several players of varying skill sets. Sounds good in theory, but in practice it was a debacle. Receivers not named Cole Beasley, struggled to get open and the offense was listless through the first two months of the season.

Had either team been better than they were to start the season, the chance of a trade taking place would have been small. Teams like to think they can get by with what they have. Had the Cowboys been 4-3 instead of 3-4, they may have thought they could get by with Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, and Michael Gallup as their lead receivers.

Trade Compensation

It was rumored that prior to the Dallas Cowboys sending their 2019 first round pick to the Oakland Raiders that the Philadelphia Eagles offered a second. The Raiders, who were looking to stock pile picks to rebuild, held out for the first they desired for their former 2x Pro Bowler.

Had the Raiders took the Eagles offer as the best offer on the table at the time, the Cowboys would have missed out on Cooper and likely missed out on the division and the playoffs in 2018. On the flip side, we know how much the Cowboys value their draft picks. We've seen them pass on game changing player who would have cost much less because they value their draft picks and believe in their ability to find difference makers in any round.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Dallas Cowboys were really fortunate to end up with Amari Cooper. If any of the above things goes differently, it's extremely unlikely that he's wearing a Cowboys uniform in 2018 at all. Now, coming off a 1,000 yard season -- in only 15 games -- and a Pro Bowl appearance, Cooper is set to get paid some big money by the Dallas Cowboys front office. As they get ready to pay Cooper upwards of $16 million a year or more, they should have only one thought on their mind for the good fortune that brought Cooper to Dallas;

Thankfulness. 



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