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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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Should Cowboys Sign This RFA to a Contract Sheet?

Brian Martin

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Should Cowboys Sign This RFA to a Contract Sheet?

Fortune favors the bold. It's a rough translation of an old Latin proverb and the mantra I believe the Dallas Cowboys should indoctrinate this offseason.

I think it's time the Dallas Cowboys start to make a few bold moves. I truly believe they are close to competing for a championship title and one or two offseason moves could increase those odds. One such move would be to sign restricted free agent (RFA) Shaquil Barrett to an offer sheet.

It's expected that the Denver Broncos will place a second-round tender on Barrett and I think the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to explore the possibility of signing him to a contract sheet. If Denver declines to match the offer, the Cowboys would then send them their second round draft pick as compensation.

You on board?

Probably not at this point, but let me try to explain why I believe this is a good move on the Cowboys part, even if it is an uncharacteristic one.

You see, the Cowboys could definitely use someone to play opposite DeMarcus Lawrence and I think Shaquil Barrett could be the solution.

I know it sounds like a lot to give up a second round draft pick, but the Cowboys have been deplorable at drafting players in the second round the past decade. Sean Lee, DeMarcus Lawrence, and possibly Jaylon Smith have really been the only "hits" the Cowboys have found in the second round. That's simply unacceptable!

So, why not use that second rounder to acquire a player who is already a proven commodity in the NFL?

Shaquil Barrett

Denver Broncos OLB Shaq Barrett (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

I know the first thing a lot of you are going to do is to look up Shaquil Barrett's stats to see what he has accomplished in the NFL. But, stats don't always show the big picture.

You see, Barrett has been stuck behind some pretty talented pass rushers in Denver, so his statistics aren't going to jump off the paper. But, when given the opportunity he has proven he deserves a larger role. That's where the Dallas Cowboys come in.

The Broncos probably don't have the money to keep Shaquil Barrett if the Cowboys sign him to a contract sheet. It doesn't necessarily even have to be a big money contract offer. The Broncos simply don't have the salary cap to do much, especially considering they are still looking for a starting quarterback.

I honestly like the idea of the Cowboys going after Barrett. You may have forgotten, but he gave a healthy Tyron Smith fits last season.

With an injured Shane Ray, Shaquil Barrett got the start against the Cowboys in 2017 and finished the game with two quarterback hits, six QB pressures, and five stops. No other player found that kind of success against Tyron Smith all season, even when he was banged up.

Unfortunately, when Shane Ray returned, Barrett's usage on defense declined. That's why you can't always judge a players productivity by statistics. You have to judge him more on a per-snap basis, and if you do that you will discover he was very effective as both a pass rusher and run stopper.

I believe Barrett is ready for a full-time role. Yes, he has been used as a standup 3-4 OLB with the Broncos, but he has the required traits to put his hand on the ground and maintain his effectiveness.

The downside to all of this is the Dallas Cowboys would have to give up their second-round draft pick, but draft picks are sometimes overvalued anyways. Shaquil Barrett is probably better than anybody the Cowboys could draft in the second round, so I say pull the trigger.

Should the Cowboys sign Shaquil Barrett to a contract sheet?


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Could a Former Division Rival be Cowboys’ LG Solution?

Brian Martin

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Could Former Division Rival be Cowboys' OG Solution?

When it comes to prioritizing the Dallas Cowboys offseason needs, offensive guard is definitely near the top of the list. Opinions will certainly vary, but for me, solidifying the offensive line with a new starting left guard is the top priority for the Cowboys.

I know many of you will disagree and believe the Dallas Cowboys need to continue to upgrade their defense. But, this teams success or failure will be determined by how their offensive line performs. That's just the way the Cowboys are built, which is why they have invested so heavily putting this unit together.

Four out of five of the Dallas Cowboys starting offensive line is set in stone, but there is currently no one on the roster to step into the vacant left guard position unless you want to see the coaching staff give Chaz Green another try.

No, I didn't think so.

With the start of the 2018 free agency just a few weeks away, the Dallas Cowboys have certainly narrowed down some of the potential free agents they would be interested in bringing aboard if the price is right. Remember, they have turned into "bargain shoppers".

There are a few intriguing free agent options who I believe could step in to upgrade the LG position for the Cowboys next season, and not break the bank. One such option is a former division rival of the New York Giants, Justin Pugh.

Justin Pugh

New York Giants OL Justin Pugh

The former 19th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft has spent five years in New York while playing out his rookie contract, but that time has come to an end. The Giants aren't likely to re-sign him, which means he will get his first taste of free agency.

Justin Pugh could step in and be an immediate upgrade over what the Dallas Cowboys employed at the left guard position in 2017. He has exceptional mobility. He reaches the second level with ease and plays with good body control and footwork. He is a perfect fit in a zone blocking scheme like the Cowboys employ.

Pugh is also versatile. He has played both right tackle and offensive guard for the Giants. He of course would be asked to play between Travis Frederick and Tyron Smith at LG with the Cowboys, but versatility to play another position is never a bad thing.

Unfortunately, Pugh doesn't come without baggage. He has missed a total of 13 games over the last two seasons with the Giants, including eight last season due to a back injury. This is definitely a huge red flag, especially for the Cowboys after dealing with the same issue with Tyron Smith.

But, this is why Justin Pugh will likely be in the Cowboys price range. Sportrac currently estimates his contract at 4 years at $23,983,847, which equates to $5,995,968 annually. I personally think that's a little low for someone of Pugh's caliber and versatility, but it certainly understandable when you take into account his recent injury history.

I personally think this is a longshot to happen because  the Cowboys would prefer to go younger and cheaper, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Do you think Justin Pugh makes sense for the Cowboys?


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Star Blog

Dallas Cowboys Wishlist: 2018 Free Agency Edition

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Dallas Cowboys Wishlist: 2018 Free Agency Edition
Andy Lyons / Getty Images

Sadly, we can't wake up on Sundays to NFL football. The Dallas Cowboys are not on TV every week for us to watch them play. To make matters worse, we'll have to wait until September to get real football from our favorite team.

But that doesn't mean there's nothing to talk about until then! For the die-hard Cowboys fan, the offseason should be quite entertaining. Free agency will begin in March, and it should be an intense one for Dallas.

They need to handle a tight salary cap while trying to add a bit of help for this football team. Recently, Inside The Star Contributor John Williams wrote an in-depth piece about the Cowboys' cap situation and how they can manage to get things done, despite having little cap space right now.

Last season, I wrote a weekly Cowboys Wishlist about things I wanted to see for each game. Now there are no games, but I decided to write a special edition for this upcoming free agency.

Cowboys en Español: El Futuro de David Irving y DeMarcus Lawrence

Dallas Cowboys DL David Irving, DeMarcus Lawrence (Kevin Jairaj / USA TODAY Sports)

Wish #1: Keep The Rushmen

The front office will have one hell of a challenge trying to retain all of its free agents. The two most important ones may be their two defensive linemen. If they can keep them, DL won't be a top need heading to the Draft.

Lawrence is one of the biggest names in free agency this 2018, but the Cowboys should find a way to keep him from ever being available.

If they're able to franchise tag him, that'd be the way to go since he's only had one elite season in his four-year career and they may not want to sign him to a huge long-term deal and risk not seeing the same guy next season.

David Irving is a more polarizing player, with off-the-field issues. However, he's been a very disruptive guy and he has the chance to be a unique player. His talent is really out of this world. Keeping him and Irving would give this franchise a top defensive line for the first time in many years.

Anthony Hitchens 1

Dallas Cowboys LB Anthony Hitchens (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Wish #2: Pay Anthony Hitchens

When healthy, Sean Lee is one of the NFL's top linebackers. He is simply an outstanding player who's always around the ball and seems to know where the ball is going before the opposing coach even calls the play.

The problem is, he has a lot of trouble remaining available. Anthony Hitchens is a guy who's found the way to step up every time the General is out, and he's shown a great progression as a player year after year.

Lee will be 32 by the time the season starts, giving Dallas something to think about. Hitchens is a guy capable of starting and competing in the NFL. If the front office finds a way to keep him, they'll be getting closer to being less "Sean Lee-dependent."

Wish #3: Get Seattle Seahawks' Earl Thomas

When we talk about a potential big name addition to the Dallas Cowboys, we're usually a bit pessimistic. This team isn't one that makes splashes like this, but Earl Thomas to Dallas makes a ton of sense. Former Seahawks' defensive coordinator is now the Cowboys' defensive backs' coach.

With Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis (and maybe Byron Jones moving to CB), this team will have a promising secondary. Add Earl Thomas, and it will go from "promising" to "great" in a heartbeat.

The Cowboys could not only have a top DL, but a top secondary if they're able to get this veteran.

Let's hope the Cowboys listen to Thomas and they go get him.

A Case For Dez Bryant Remaining a Dallas Cowboy in 2018

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Wish #4: Get Dez Bryant to Take a Pay Cut

When I started writing this, I wanted to add a "get this wide receiver in FA"... but I won't. A few weeks ago, I wrote a case in favor and one against Dez Bryant remaining a Cowboy in 2018. Personally, I would be fine with him parting ways with the team.

However, I'm aware of how hard it can be finding a replacement for a guy like #88. The biggest issue with Dez is definitely his cap hit. He hasn't justified the money he's being paid on the field as he should be.

If they can get him to take a pay cut, it may end up being the ideal scenario for the Dallas Cowboys.

It'll be a very interesting offseason, and here at Inside The Star we'll continue to provide you with content about it all.

Tell me what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Wishlist: 2018 Free Agency Edition" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


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