There is no hotter name in backup quarterback conversations right now than Robert Griffin III, currently with the Baltimore Ravens. After a rough preseason with their own reserve passers, should the Dallas Cowboys go after RG3?
With Joe Flacco as the starter and Lamar Jackson the future in Baltimore, Griffin could be had for the right price. It is unlikely Baltimore will simply cut him, though, given the current buzz and need for quality backup QBs around the league.
Dallas has no such luxury on their depth chart right now. Cooper Rush looked nothing like his 2017 self and Mike White looked like a fifth-round rookie is supposed to. Neither inspires confidence if something were to happen to Dak Prescott.
Before we go any further, I'll admit that I'm being a little hypocritical here. Just a few days ago, I wrote about how bringing in some veteran backup would be a potential progress stopper for Rush or White.
I stand by that argument if your organizational strategy is to develop a pipeline of QB talent. If you want to be able to one day flip these guys into draft picks, you can't give up on them so quickly.
But if your bigger priority right now is making sure the 2018 season doesn't totally fall apart if Dak Prescott gets injured, then Rush and White don't look like good insurance policies. That's why Dallas should be interested in Robert Griffin III.
One thing RG3 gives you that few other guys could is someone to match Dak Prescott's mobile playing style. It's not every day you can replace the kind of QB, and Griffin would allow the Cowboys to play somewhat similarly to how things run with Dak in the lineup.
Another plus is Griffin's Texas roots, having grown up in a small town between Austin and Dallas and going to college at Baylor. It would be a nice homecoming for the player and a treat for local fans.
More importantly, though, is just the simple fact that this guy was once one of the most exciting players in the NFL. His rookie season was phenomenal, something that's been almost forgotten now after several difficult years.
Griffin's reputation is in shambles, but that's partly because of two of the most dysfunctional organizations in the NFL. Washington mishandled him horribly, and then a change in coaches led to him losing even more favor.
Robert then landed in Cleveland, where nothing good grows. How can a guy get his career back on track with teams who stay perpetually derailed?
RG3 spent 2017 away from the NFL, getting remarried and starting a new family. If his play this preseason with Baltimore is any indication, Griffin is ready to resume his football career with new focus and confidence.
Robert completed over 65% of his passes last month, going 27/41 for 243 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He also ran it 11 times for 52 yards.
Not only would Griffin give Dallas a probable upgrade over the current backups, but his experience could be a benefit to Dak Prescott. He lived the highs of rookie stardom and then saw it all crash down.
Dallas should be interested, but the question is what do the Ravens want in return? They may value RG3 as a mentor to Lamar Jackson and depth behind Joe Flacco for the same reasons that the Cowboys could want him.
If you're making this move it's because you think Griffin could save your season at some point. That's worth something, and Dallas will probably have to give up at least a fifth-round pick to beat other teams' offers.
If a bidding war starts then the Cowboys will likely back out quickly. They're not ones to overspend, be it in money or draft picks, given their recent history and fiscal management.
There will be other veterans that Dallas could consider as upgrades over Cooper Rush and Mike White. But none of them have Griffin's intrigue when it comes to both past success and possible upside. He's still just 28 and could have a great comeback story just waiting to be written.
Obviously, we wouldn't want him to ever have to play. Backup QBs are like the airbags in your car; you want them to work great, but you never want to see them deployed.
Dak Prescott is highly durable from what we've seen so far, but anything can happen. And the last thing Cowboys fans want to live through is another season like 2015, where the backup QBs offered zero hope after the starter was lost to injury.
Dallas has a roster ready to compete for a championship. They should help their chances with a better insurance policy on their QB depth chart.
Right now, Robert Griffin III is the only guy I see out there who could provide that clear upgrade.
Did DC Rod Marinelli Have Increased Role in Cowboys Loss at Rams?
The Dallas Cowboys Divisional Round loss at the Los Angeles Rams is still fresh on the minds of their players, staff, and front office. So much so that the team had to fan the flames on a Jason Garrett comment expecting Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan to return. Garrett himself walked back this "report" once Stephen Jones noted it's still too early for any coaching staff changes. The focus will remain on Linehan's post until it's removed or the Cowboys OC is retained, but one coordinator the Cowboys now expect to keep is Rod Marinelli on defense.
Marinelli himself disputed the season-long belief that this was likely his last as the Cowboys defensive coordinator. With Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard not taking any of the three HC positions he interviewed for, Marinelli doesn't have to worry about shuffling his title to accommodate Richard - who called the plays from week one this season anyway.
Rod's title does include his specialty as defensive line coach though, a unit that the Rams dominated with their offensive line to a historic degree. The Rams' season-high 273 rushing yards was provided by both Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson surpassing 100 yards on the ground, the first time in team history they've had two backs reach this mark in a single playoff game.
Rams HC Sean McVay hardly had to reach into his vaunted 'bag of tricks' to expose the Cowboys defense in a way they hadn't been all year, but there was still an element of brilliance in his offensive game plan. It came out after the game that the Rams picked up on the keys the Dallas defensive linemen used to signal stunts and twists before the snap. While this is nothing more than just great scouting yielding an unforeseen advantage, it's left the Cowboys with more than enough time to ponder what went wrong in the Coliseum.
The Rams offensive line knew what the Cowboys defensive line was going to do before the snap on Saturday. https://t.co/oGo6Eiz4av
The answer to this may be nothing other than the coaching questions the Cowboys are already considering. With Richard's interviews in Tampa Bay, Miami, and New York coming at the beginning of the week leading up to game day, it's possible Marinelli had a larger say in the Cowboys preparation on defense.
It was Marinelli's defense that conceded 412 yards to the Rams in 2017 in a loss at AT&T Stadium. Matching him up with McVay leaves a lot to be desired, while Richard helps bridge this gap - something he was seen desperately trying to do on the sideline with a battered Cowboys defense.
As each day of the offseason passes, a change at either coordinator position becomes less likely in Dallas. On offense, the play caller has more than a season's worth of evidence showing the deficiencies of the Cowboys attack. In a league fueled by recency bias however, Marinelli certainly didn't leave his best performance on the field in Los Angeles.
Somewhere in the middle of this is Jason Garrett, safely in place as the head coach that should be personally trying to upgrade his top two assistants however possible. Marinelli signing up for another year makes this hard on defense, though Richard should resume play calling duties next season.
Again, this leaves the onus of the Cowboys improvements for 2019 on the offensive side of the ball, something that'll be realized when the shock of their defense letting them down in the biggest game of the season is gone.
Cowboys Getting Over $30 Million Cap Space from Expiring Dead Money
You may have already heard that the Dallas Cowboys will be flush with salary cap space in 2019, and that's very accurate. A huge portion of it comes from over $30 million in expiring cap penalties, otherwise known as "dead money."
Quick explanation; dead money occurs when a player is released or retires prior to the expiration of their contract. Any guaranteed money, such as the original signing bonus or money converted in a restructuring, that has not yet been paid out according to the contract schedule is accelerated.
For example, when Tony Romo retired after 2016, he still had $19.6 million in guaranteed money owed to him. Dallas chose to split this dead money over two years, and thus had a $10.7 cap penalty in 2017 and $8.9 million last season.
But now Romo's dead money, along with Dez Bryant's and several other players, is coming off the Cowboys' books. The result is a roughly $30 million infusion of salary cap space for 2019.
Here were the major culprits for last year's dead money:
(All cap figures are taken from Spotrac.com)
- QB Tony Romo - $8.9 million
- WR Dez Bryant - $8 million
- DT Cedric Thornton - $2.5 million
- CB Orlando Scandrick - $2.3 million
- CB Nolan Carroll - $2 million
- WR Deonte Thompson - $1.8 million
- DE Benson Mayowa - $1.1 million
- K Dan Bailey - $800 thousand
- TE James Hanna - $750 thousand
Those players alone make up a little over $28 million. Another $4 million or so came from over 30 players with lesser penalties that still added up.
Right now, the Cowboys have only $1.76 million in dead money on their 2019 salary cap. Nearly all of that is the $1.6 million still owed to Orlando Scandrick.
That difference is where the cap space comes from, and it will be of tremendous help to Dallas as they have major financial moves coming. They need to re-sign DeMarcus Lawrence, deal with a major salary bump for Amari Cooper, and consider a contract extension for Dak Prescott.
The 2019 number will change, of course, as the offseason rolls on. If Dallas elects to release players like Sean Lee, Tyrone Crawford, or others, some dead money will appear. But that will be offset by whatever cap savings motivated the move in the first place.
This is a good reminder of why the Cowboys' new era of fiscal conservatism is a good thing. After years of what felt like perpetual "salary cap hell," they are finally getting out from under those penalties and have complete flexibility this offseason. They may not even need to cut a guy like Crawford, who they almost would have been forced to in past seasons.
We'll be talking a lot more about individual players and their contracts in the weeks ahead, but this summary helps us see that Dallas isn't nearly up against the financial wall as they have been. We still miss guys like Romo and Dez, but we won't miss that awful dead money in 2019.
Cowboys Expect C Travis Frederick Back for Offseason Program
Lost in yesterday's hoopla over Scott Linehan's return was a positive report about Center Travis Frederick. In his comments to the media, Jason Garrett said that Frederick's recovery timetable should allow him to a full participant in the team's offseason program.
After never missing a start in his first five years, Travis missed all of 2018 dealing with the effects of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The disease attacked his neurological system and required immediate and intensive treatment.
Jason Garrett says the team anticipates Travis Frederick being involved in the offseason program right from the start this spring if he continues on the same positive track in recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome. #cowboyswire
While Joe Looney performed admirably in Frederick's absence, he's not an elite talent. Travis has been arguably the best center in the NFL since entering the league in 2013.
It's hard to qualify what effect not having Frederick had on the Cowboys offense in 2018. Ezekiel Elliott still led the league in rushing, but short-yardage plays weren't as automatic as we've seen in past years. A 4th-and-1 stuff was part of what led to the Cowboys' loss this past Saturday.
Dak Prescott was the second-most sacked QB in the NFL in 2018. After being sacked just 25 and 32 times in his first two seasons, the number skyrocketed to 56 sacks.
That's not all on Frederick, of course. Tyron Smith had some health issues and there were was turnover at left guard.
But having your All-Pro veteran center out there to help with the pre-snap reads, and help the rookie guard on his left, might have helped avoid some of those issues.
Indeed, Travis Frederick's return is just one of many reasons for optimism with the 2019 season. One of the best players on the team, he was sorely missed this year and can only help as Dallas looks to build on their division title and playoff appearance.
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