There is a vocal portion of Cowboys Nation who believe that Dallas shouldn't give Dak Prescott a long-term extension. They'd rather the team let Prescott leave in free agency and find a new starting quarterback in the draft. But that is no simple proposition; finding a winning QB in the NFL Draft is much harder than many realize.
Yesterday, I briefly touched on this notion in another article about Dak's value to the Cowboys. I said that Dallas runs a huge risk if they try to find someone better than Prescott, potentially entering another ugly period of QB play like we saw between Troy Aikman and Tony Romo's tenures.
That risk is clearly qualified by an examination of NFL Draft history.
If you think finding a new QB is as simple as spending a 1st-round pick, then check out the last five years of passers taken in that round.
- Baker Mayfield (1st)
- Sam Darnold (2nd)
- Josh Allen (7th)
- Josh Rosen (10th)
- Lamar Jackson (32nd)
- Mitch Trubisky (2nd)
- Patrick Mahomes (10th)
- Deshaun Watson (12th)
- Jared Goff (1st)
- Carson Wentz (2nd)
- Paxton Lynch (26th)
- Jameis Winston (1st)
- Marcus Mariota (2nd)
- Blake Bortles (3rd)
- Johnny Manziel (22nd)
- Teddy Bridgewater (32nd)
Out of 16 total first-round quarterbacks, how many of them are proven winners? How many of them are already considered busts? How many are somewhere in between?
That 2014 group has two recurrent punchlines, Bortles and Manziel. Johnny is completely out of the league and Blake has entered the "veteran backup" stage of his career. Bridgewater is the only guy with a possible future, seemingly the heir apparent to Drew Brees right now in New Orleans.
The next year's duo of Winston and Mariota are both barely holding on to their jobs. Neither has had sustained success and are trending downward.
The top two in 2016 are doing well, but what about Paxton Lynch? That was the guy Dallas apparently coveted in the draft but missed on, eventually settling for Dak Prescott in the fourth round.
Lynch lasted just two years in Denver and was released at final cuts in 2018. He was signed this past January by Seattle as a reclamation project.
Let's just stop here for a bit and reflect, because Paxton Lynch serves as a perfect illustration of the danger of trying to replace Dak Prescott in the draft.
Given Dak's winning record in the NFL, Dallas would be drafting in the 20s the year after he's gone. So we're not talking about hopefully landing a Mayfield, Goff, Wentz, or some other top prospect. The likely scenario would be taking a player more like Lynch, Bridgewater, or Lamar Jackson and hoping they wind up as good as their elite classmates.
Lynch didn't seem like a bad pick three years ago. The Cowboys certainly didn't think so, and neither did a legendary QB in John Elway. But so far he's been one of the worst 1st-round quarterbacks in recent NFL memory.
But even if the player they draft doesn't bust as hard as Paxton, what's the upside? What are the chances that a QB drafted somewhere in the back of the first round will emerge as an elite player?
What are the odds he'd be any better than Dak Prescott?
Odds, risk, gamble; these are the keywords in this discussion. Trying to draft an upgrade at QB over a player with Prescott's proven ability and success isn't a strategy, but more like taking your winnings and betting it all on the next dice roll.
Now if your idea is that Dallas lets Dak leave and then tanks the following year, getting a high pick in the 2021 or 2022 drafts, then what are you really rooting for there? A lost season, and potentially a lost window as your offensive line and other players get that much older?
Nobody is saying that Dak Prescott is the best QB in the NFL. But he's the best QB for the Dallas Cowboys right now and for the next several years.
Dallas can't afford to hit the reset button anytime soon. They have invested in an infrastructure with the offensive line and now a top-dollar contract for DeMarcus Lawrence, with another likely on the way for Amari Cooper. They have to keep giving themselves the best chance to win in the present.
Prescott is that best chance for now. He's brought them to the playoffs twice and was an Ezekiel Elliott suspension away from a third postseason appearance.
It's still a gamble; Dak has his liabilities to work through. But we lived through Tony Romo's more reckless years, even when faith wavered in his ability to lead the Cowboys back to the Super Bowl.
Sure, you can wish that Dak Prescott was Pat Mahomes. But 31 other teams right now wish they had that guy, too. Just like most of the NFL has wished they had Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees in recent years.
Chasing that dream through the draft, the NFL's annual trip to the casino, can easily leave you broke.
Dallas already hit big when they found Dak Prescott in the late fourth round. They could lose everything if they get greedy.
Report: Cowboys’ Travis Frederick Ready for Start of Training Camp
With the Dallas Cowboys opening training camp with their first practice on Saturday, July 27th in Oxnard, California, a lot of information is coming out regarding who will be available when they report.
It was already reported that Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence and Cornerback Byron Jones will be placed on the physically unable to practice (P.U.P.) list to start training camp. Now, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network is reporting that Travis Frederick will avoid the Non-Football Injury list (NFI) and be ready to report for the starting of training camp.
Very good news for the #Cowboys: All-Pro C Travis Frederick, who dealt with Guillain-Barré syndrome last year, is expected to be active for the start of training camp. He avoids NFI and is ready to go.
Frederick has been out of action for a year after being diagnosed with Guillen-Barre Syndrome during last year's training camp. Guillen-Barre is a disorder that can affect the peripheral neurological system. Basically, the neurological system that doesn't consist of the brain and the spinal cord, which is the central nervous system.
There was talk that Frederick might have been ready to go for the playoffs at the end of last season, but the team continued to hold him out in order to get him back 100% for 2019. It looks like the time has come for Frederick to regain his spot as the leader and lynch-pin of the offensive line.
While Joe Looney was effective in 2018, there's no doubt the team suffered a drop off from All-Pro Travis Frederick to career backup Looney. Getting Frederick back in the middle of the offensive line is the most significant upgrade the Dallas Cowboys could have made this offseason on either side of the football.
Frederick is one of the smartest players on the team and does a lot for Dak Prescott and the offensive line in terms of setting protections. For Dak Prescott, he'll be able to have a little more faith that the front of his pocket will hold up if he needs to step up to make a throw. Frederick will also help Connor Williams as the two work combo blocks against opposing interior defenders. Frederick will immediately improve the Dallas Cowboys red zone offense as they'll be able to get more of a push on the interior.
It was almost expected that this would be the case, but hearing it for certain should give the Dallas Cowboys and their fans a lot of optimism for what's to come in 2019. Travis Frederick returning to the starting lineup is a huge addition for a Dallas Cowboys offense that looks ready to roll in 2019.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Training Camp Preview: Cornerback
The Dallas Cowboys have spent a lot of draft picks the last few years to build up their cornerbacks group. There is a lot of potential heading into 2019, but Dallas needs these young players to take the next step if they want to compete for a championship. This weekend's start to training camp will be an important part of the process.
Dallas' best move to help the cornerback position was switching Byron Jones back there in 2018 after a few seasons at safety. Jones went to his first Pro Bowl and has positioned himself for a big contract extension.
Byron is currently set to play 2019 on his fifth-year option of $6.27 million, which is a steal for a CB of his caliber. Whether or not the Cowboys allow him to enter unrestricted free agency next year, or get a new deal signed, will be something to watch for throughout the upcoming season.
Jones' future may be in question, but we at least know he'll be the team's top corner this season. None of the other Dallas CBs can enjoy that same certainty in 2019, as depth chart positioning and job security are all in flux right now.
Here is the current CB depth chart headed into training camp:
- Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie
- Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis
- Michael Jackson, Donovan Olumba
- C.J. Goodwin, Chris Westry
- Treston Decoud
Will this list hold as is, or will we some shifting over the five weeks of training camp and preseason?
The battle for snaps between Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis will be an intriguing ongoing storyline. Awuzie was the starter last year, and will hopefully make a big developmental leap in his third year.
But Anthony Brown has proven himself a capable player despite being just a 6th-round pick in 2016. Entering the final year of his rookie deal, Brown will certainly be pushing for a significant role this season to hopefully help his free agent marketability in 2020.
If things go like they did last year, both Awuzie and Brown will get plenty of playing time. The true enigma of this bunch is Jourdan Lewis, who is hoping to be more than just the number-four CB in 2019.
Though he was drafted a round later than Awuzie in 2017, Lewis was generally considered the superior talent by most draft analysts. He fell due to a domestic violence accusation a month before the draft for which he was eventually found not guilty.
Jourdan was looking good at the end of his rookie season, but the arrival of Kris Richard as Defensive Backs Coach last year seemed to cause a regression. Lewis only got in on a little over 18% of the total defensive snaps in 2018, while the top three all had 67% or higher.
Despite his few opportunities, Lewis still had one of the biggest plays of the year with his interception that sealed Dallas' stunning upset over the New Orleans Saints. His potential has been noted, with Coach Richard even calling him an "exception" to his general preference for bigger, stronger cornerbacks.
But even if the team likes Jourdan, can he beat Awuzie or Brown? Could he perhaps have more value in a trade, with two years left on that rookie deal, to a team in greater need at CB?
The idea of moving Lewis, which existed prior to the draft, gained steam when Dallas used a 5th-round pick this year acquire CB Michael Jackson out of Miami. He fits that prototypical build at corner, and perhaps the Cowboys are hoping he can show enough early to provide an adequate replacement if they want to trade Jourdan.
If not Jackson, prospect Donovan Olumba is another option. He nearly made the 53 last year but got squeezed out when Dallas only kept four cornerbacks. After a year on the practice squad, Olumba is back and could be ready for a roster spot.
Veteran C.J. Goodwin has bounced around the NFL since 2014 but has some real-game experience. If the young guys aren't in a position to be game-day active, perhaps he would be the best option. Dallas added him in the middle of the 2018 season and he was helping on special teams and as a reserve corner at the end of the year.
Undrafted rookie Chris Westry, listed at 6'4", is another intriguing player to watch in camp. That rare size is something you can't teach, and hopefully Richard can develop Westry enough to get something out of the physical gifts.
This should be a fun 2019 training camp at cornerback, with competition potentially at every spot on the depth chart except the very top. And while secure at number-one, even Byron Jones has his own question marks around his long-term future in Dallas.
We'll start getting some answers in just four more days!
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OTHER 2019 CAMP PREVIEWS
Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence and CB Byron Jones to Start 2019 Camp on PUP
The Dallas Cowboys will be missing two of their defensive leaders when they open 2019 training camp this Saturday. Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence and Cornerback Byron Jones will both start camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List as they recover from offseason surgeries.
Lawrence, who got a new five-year contract in April, immediately underwent shoulder surgery once his deal was finalized. DeMarcus reportedly was waiting for contract negotiations to be completed before he had the procedure.
Jones had hip surgery in late May. He is playing 2019 on the fifth-year option from his original contract, and is no doubt hoping for his own long-term extension sometime in the near future.
Sources: DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones will open Cowboys camp on PUP and won't practice in California https://t.co/jzWV5FjBO6 via @sportsdaydfw
Neither Lawrence or Jones, who are both coming of Pro Bowl seasons in 2018, are expected to be absent once the regular season starts in September. But either participating in this year's training camp is doubtful, and even preseason appearances are in question right now.
With DeMarcus out at DE, newcomers like Robert Quinn and Kerry Hyder will get plenty of chances to show their stuff. It's also a nice opportunity for Taco Charlton, assuming he's recovered from his own offseason surgery, to get some work against the first-team offensive line.
No Byron at CB will give Jourdan Lewis a nice opportunity to work with the starters as well. He was likely stuck at the 4th spot behind Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, and Anthony Brown but should now get more time on the field and against the best competition.
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