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Tyron Smith, DeMarco Murray, and Dez Bryant, Three Very Different Free Agent Considerations

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Yes, no, and maybe.  In order, those are the answers to Tyron Smith, DeMarco Murray, and Dez Bryant, and whether or not Dallas should sign them to long-term agreements.

These are the decisions that must be pondered at length.  Sean Lee just signed a long extension, and his oft-injured body will miss the 2014 season.  Tony Romo has yet to play a down of his new deal, and he's coming off two back surgeries.  DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin just left with unfilled-performance expectations left amidst expensive contracts.

Dallas has long seemed the dead-money capital of the NFL.  For whatever reasons - many of them injury-related - piles of players have left here with substantial money remaining on Jerry's cap tab.  You know the names; it's too depressing to type.

Of course, for the right price, Dallas would be foolish not to sign all three of these players, but agents don't ask for the right price.  They ask for the max, and there's only one that you pay max money.

Tyron Smith.  Yes.

Elite left tackles are among the Hope Diamonds in the NFL draft.  They're rare, and they protect the rarest of rare gems, the franchise quarterback.  The Cowboys have one in Smith, who looks to be on his way to years of all-pro-level performances for Romo and quarterbacks still in high school.  Sign him, and back up the Brinks truck.  Well worth it.  Case closed.

Demarco Murray.  No.

I hate what the NFL has done to running backs.  They're relative afterthoughts, a dime-a-dozen, not worth building an offense around anymore.  The glory days when the league featured Emmitt, Barry, Thurman, Lorenzo, Hampton, Watters, Faulk, Foster, Okoye, Butts, Davis, Means, Warren, Bettis...are pretty much over, at least for now.  Yes, all those guys were playing during the same era.

Today's rules make throwing the ball virtually indefensible, and teams have resorted to high school spread offenses and read-options.  Sure, a good back is a nice luxury to have, but not at supreme dollars.  Money is better spent on the passing game, so unless Murray is willing to take a short-term, low-dollar deal for the security of a longer stay, Dallas should let him go.  Especially with his propensity for injury.  That money could be spent better in free agency at a more prominent position.

Dez Bryant.  Maybe.

This is where sleepless nights lie ahead for Jerry and the personnel department.

On talent alone, of course you extend Bryant.  His impact in undeniable, and his freakish talents don't grow on draft trees.  He's certainly won the fan base over after a bit of a rough start to his playing career.  His passion and work ethic as a player are beyond reproach, and his general attitude has been a huge breath of fresh air.  Top five receiver in the league, arguably top three.

What's scary is his back.  The past two seasons, Dez has had issues with his back tightening up on him during games and as the season wears on.  Anyone with back issues knows that this doesn't typically get better.  Already, Romo has questions about his back, and he's just a QB.  The style Dez plays may not hold up with a bad back, and he could be a salary-cap nightmare if he's rendered useless with a big price tag crippling future decisions.

The best way to handle Dez may be the franchise tag.  That'll be a hefty price next year, but worth it, without having to commit money beyond 2015.  In fact, league rules say they could turn around and do the same thing to Dez the following year.

Might that make Dez mad?  Yep, but perhaps that can provide the impetus to get him, and his agent, on board with a more incentive-laden contract with a hometown discount attached.  Make sure he's comfortable and well-paid, with clauses that allow him to make more with good health and production.  Logical, sensible numbers.

In fact, if he does sign such a contract, that same franchise tag could be eligible for Murray if they so desire.

Jason Garrett and Will McClay have done a good job cleaning up the roster of aged, pricey veterans that are too often not reliable week to week.  The signing bonuses amassed have made it hard on Jerry to cut them loose, though he is thankfully capitulating to do just that.

It's not Jerry-like to let guys like Gurode, Ware, Miles, Newman, Barber, etc, walk away with stiff cap penalties in their wake.  He's stubbornly learning - thanks to McClay and Garrett, and probably Stephen - that these players aren't his kids and friends.  You gotta learn to let them go.

Far better cap positioning is still a couple of years away.  That key free agent here and there will be attainable if they keep from doing anything dumb in the meantime.  And that will partly be determined by how they handle Smith, Murray, and Dez.



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Star Blog

Could Loaded FA Safety Market Drive Down Earl Thomas’ Value?

Brian Martin

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Could Loaded FA Safety Class Drive Down Earl Thomas' Price Tag?

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.

Earl Thomas

Free Agent FS Earl Thomas (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

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.

Earl Thomas

Free Agent FS Earl Thomas (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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?



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Star Blog

Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors

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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...



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Star Blog

2018 In Review: CB Anthony Brown Bounces Back

Kevin Brady

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Anthony Brown's Resurgence A Great Sign for Cowboys Defense
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

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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