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.
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.
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.
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!
Breaking: Cowboys Acquire Amari Cooper for 2019 1st Round Pick
The Dallas Cowboys are recovering from a disappointing loss to the Washington Redskins, but that hasn't stopped them from being aggressive to try to salvage a 3-4 season. It looks like the Dallas Cowboys are going all-in on Dak Prescott for 2018 and 2019 to see if they can return him to his 2016 form. It's being reported by Josina Anderson that the Dallas Cowboys are set to acquire former first round pick and Oakland Raiders Wide Receiver Amari Cooper.
Breaking: A source tells me that WR Amari Cooper will be traded to the Dallas #Cowboys.
Amari Cooper has been the subject of a lot of trade discussion over the last week and a half and it looks like he's going to be coming to Dallas to help solidify their wide receiver group. Adam Schefter from ESPN is reporting that the compensation the Dallas Cowboys are sending for Cooper is a first round pick.
Cowboys traded a first-round pick to Raiders for WR Amari Cooper, per source.
That's way more than I was wanting to spend to get him in here, but Cooper is just 24 years old. He's playing in his fourth NFL season and has averaged After posting 1,000 yard seasons in each of his first two years in the NFL, Cooper fell back down to earth in 2017 with only 680 yards on 48 catches. He did have seven touchdowns last year and did that in only 14 games.
In 2018, he's averaging 4.4 receptions per game for 56 yards and has one touchdown on the season. On a Oakland Raiders offense that is struggling, Cooper is second in targets, third in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. It's bold move for a player that has had his fair share of drops in his career, though he seems to have gotten better in that area.
Despite a pretty good game from the wide receiver trio of Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup, and Allen Hurns, it looks like the Dallas Cowboys are dissatisfied. Over the last few years teams like the Los Angeles Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles have taken chances on acquiring players via trade and it's worked out well for them. The Dallas Cowboys are certainly taking a big risk, but Amari Cooper has the talent worth taking a chance on.
With the Cowboys heading into the bye week and in need of an offensive spark, if they were going to try to salvage their season, they needed to make a move. It can be debated that the price was too high, but Cooper instantly makes this offense better.
Cowboys Interest in Raiders WR Amari Cooper Increases Ahead of Trade Deadline
This week, Stephen Jones discussed the difficulties of making a trade, saying "it just seems like in the NFL trades are hard to make, to make it all come together for two teams".
The two teams that could be lining up to change that are of course Jones' Cowboys as well as John Gruden's Oakland Raiders. Yet another Raiders player has been in the headlines as a trade target, 24-year old Wide Receiver Amari Cooper.
WR-needy Cowboys doing their due diligence on Raiders' WR Amari Cooper: https://t.co/pE2wmrzCXu
Playing at the Washington Redskins on Sunday, the Cowboys will have yet another reshuffled lineup at wide receiver, playing without Tavon Austin. Their biggest offseason addition to this unit was Allen Hurns, and he's been underwhelming with just eight catches.
Thus the Cowboys are reportedly doing their "due diligence" on Cooper, sensing the need for a mid-season acquisition at WR for the right price. The Cowboys ability to potentially find that price in a deal advantageous to them, given how the Raiders handled the departure of Khalil Mack in a trade to this Chicago Bears, is what makes this story relevant.
A lot has been said about Cooper since his name emerged as the latest player potentially out of the Bay Area. Whether you believe he's still an impact receiver with the potential to regain his Pro Bowl form of 2015 and 2016 or one that "doesn't love football," as some have been inclined to say, the former fourth overall pick represents an investment into the WR position that the Cowboys have not made in some time.
In those Pro Bowl seasons, Cooper averaged over 77 catches a season while putting up over 1,000 yards in both. The Raiders have used this to justify their reported asking price of a first-round pick for Cooper, something the Cowboys are not alone in their reluctance to give.
With Cooper, the Raiders are holding onto their last bit of relevancy. A reeling 1-5 football team that needs to maximize their return on trading Cooper, the Colts and Redskins are also following in the Cowboys footsteps by preparing as much as they can on the player.
Cooper has caught 22 passes for 280 yards and a touchdown through six games this season.
For as desperate as the Raiders are to jump-start their organization, the Cowboys should be just as desperate to add a threat like Cooper to their passing attack. Unlike the Raiders, they're in the hunt for a division title, something much harder to put a price on when it comes to the Jones' finalizing any deal for Cooper in the coming days.
The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday, October 30th, at 3 PM Central Time. The Cowboys will be two days into their bye week, not in action again after Sunday until November 5th.
Cowboys WR Tavon Austin Skipping Surgery, May Return in 2018
A groin injury sustained last week against Jacksonville won't send Tavon Austin to injured reserve, at least for now. The Dallas Cowboys receiver has elected to forego surgery at this time, giving him a chance to return to action in 2018.
There was concern that Austin could land on IR initially following the Jaguars game, but he sought a second opinion this week. It appears that this new information was enough for Tavon and the Cowboys to decide that surgery can wait.
Sounds like WR Tavon Austin will not have surgery at this time after getting a second opinion on his groin injury. He could miss a few weeks, however. #cowboyswire
Austin should miss this Sunday's game with the Washington Redskins. He has been the team's punt returner this season and a useful tool on offense, playing mostly receiver but also lining up the backfield at times.
Despite his limited opportunities, Tavon is tied with Cole Beasley for the team lead with two receiving touchdowns in 2018.
How long Austin will remain out is unknown at this time. After the Washington game, Dallas will have their bye week and then host the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football.
Both of these are games that the Cowboys, feeling good after a blowout victory over Jacksonville, should be able to win without Austin. But they would certainly like him back for the Week 10 road game with the Philadelphia Eagles.
In Tavon's absence, Cole Beasley will likely field punts. We may see more of Deonte Thompson in the speed routes that Austin ran on offense, though Dallas could also finally see what recently returned Brice Butler has to offer.
With an expiring contract this year, Tavon will likely want to get back soon and trying to improve his stock for the 2019 offseason. Hopefully, he can still have a positive impact on his value and the Cowboys season in the weeks ahead.
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