Our excitement is growing quickly for the start of the Dallas Cowboys 2016 training camp! Friday is the opening press conference in Oxnard, CA, and then the first practice will be on Saturday.
Sadly, the entire roster won't be on display. Several Cowboys, and most of them names you know well, are still recovering from injuries and surgeries that will prevent from starting camp with their teammates.
These players will all likely be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list. While there, those players do not count against the team's 90-man roster limit and the Cowboys can add some other bodies to get through practices. Also, during the camp and preseason only, players can be removed from the PUP list and returned to duty without any wait period.
Here is a rundown of the players all likely to be on the PUP list as camp begins:
McFadden suffered a broken elbow after falling on concrete during the summer. He had surgery to repair it and not expected to return until sometime in mid-August, at the earliest.
Missing camp and preseason time isn't good for the veteran running back. McFadden's job status is in question with the additions of Ezekiel Elliott, Alfred Morris, and Darius Jackson to the position. His absence may give the Cowboys enough time to get comfortable with not having McFadden around, allowing them to release for $2 million in cap savings.
Another injured running back, Dunbar was not expected to return for any of the camp or preseason time as he recovered from major knee surgery. Many felt he would begin the regular season on PUP, but recent comments by Stephen Jones have moved the expectation up for a Week One return.
Unlike McFadden, Dunbar has a more unique role that could preserve his position with the Cowboys. He was emerging as an offensive weapon early last year before the injury. Dunbar will hope that younger players, such as Elliott or receiver Lucky Whitehead, don't fill that void with their athleticism.
Another player in a precarious contract situation, Escobar is still working his way back from an Achilles tear last December. Like with Dunbar, he recently got a positive projection about potentially being ready for the start of regular season.
With James Hanna already locked up for three years and two young prospects behind him in Geoff Swaim and Rico Gathers, the tight end position may be fully stocked for 2016 without Escobar. His rookie deal expires after this year, making him an easy fall guy if he's not clearly better than the other backups. By missing camp and preseason, he gives those other players more opportunities to prove their value.
It went somewhat unnoticed but Mayowa had a minor knee procedure last month. Jason Garrett said it was not serious and they expected him back close to the start of camp.
A lot will be expected of Mayowa this year. Dallas is paying him close to $3 million a year despite low production as a reserve in Oakland. With DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory out to start the season, Mayowa is the first name you would look to start in their absence.
Hopefully, Mayowa is able to join the team quickly and hit the ground running. He will have to adjust to playing 4-3 defensive end after two years as a 3-4 linebacker.
The Cowboys' third-round pick this year, Collins broke his foot during OTAs in May. His 10-12 week recovery window falls in the middle to end of August.
Collins' absence leaves the Cowboys thin at defensive tackles. Behind the starters, Tyrone Crawford and Cedric Thornton, they have an injury-plagued veteran in Terrell McClain and some undrafted prospects. Guys like Jack Crawford and David Irving can help, but are also in the mix to play at defensive end.
Given that he's a rookie, Collins may not be rushed back for Week One. Dallas could look to keep him on PUP as the regular season starts, giving extra time for the foot to heal. It would also let the Cowboys ease Collins in and practice for a few weeks before they would need him in a game.
Smith's absence is no surprise. He was not expected to play at all in 2016 when Dallas drafted him the second round last April.
There have been murmurs of the young linebacker being able to play at some point this year. However, that would have required a surprisingly fast recovery for his knee that has not yet come. At this point, don't count on him.
~ ~ ~
Remember, these are only the guys are almost certain to be on the PUP list. There are a few more, such as Orlando Scandrick (knee) and DeMarcus Lawrence (back), who could be surprising additions for just the early portion of camp. It doesn't hurt the Cowboys to give them some time off early in camp and then bring them back when ready.
Other teams have already started announcing their players will be on PUP to start camp. With the first practice just four days from now, Dallas should be making theirs known very soon.
How Cowboys Could Benefit From Randy Gregory’s Suspension
Randy Gregory is back! His suspension is officially over and he will be able to join the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard, California when training camp gets underway less than a week from now.
Speculation has already started as to what this could mean for the Dallas Cowboys defense this season, and shockingly expectations are rather high for a player who hasn't stepped foot on the field in over a year. But, that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to focus on Gregory's mess of a contract, because it is rather interesting.
Randy Gregory was signed to a four-year contract after being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second-round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Gregory's rookie deal was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2018 season, but his multiple suspensions have now changed that expiration date.
You see, Gregory has only played in a total of 14 games in his career, 12 as a rookie and two in Year 2. His third year in the NFL was completely wiped out due to his year-long suspension. If you were to add that all up, it equates to just one accured season in the NFL. Remember that, because it could have a huge impact on his contract down the road.
What all of this means is that the Cowboys can pretty much stretch out Gregory's contract now that they are three years in on the deal and have only gotten one accured season out of the agreement. That basically means they can push his contract back a year, meaning his 2017 salary ($731,813) gets pushed back to 2018, his 2018 salary ($955,217) gets pushed to 2019. That would essentially make him a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) in 2020.
Or does it?
Depending on how the Dallas Cowboys handled paying Randy Gregory during his suspension could actually make him an Exclusive Rights Free Agent (EFA). This is a similar situation in which David Irving found himself in after the 2017 season. The Cowboys placed a second-round tender on him in order to secure his services for another season, albeit at a $2.91 million price tag.
As you can see, the Dallas Cowboys pretty much hold all the cards when it comes to Randy Gregory's contract situation. It's all a little confusing, but that's what makes it such a unique and interesting situation.
Of course, the Cowboys could decide to extend Gregory early if he completely dominates upon his return this season. It's highly doubtful though considering his past suspensions, but still technically a possibility. If it does happen, you can go ahead and ignore everything I've written previously.
Earl Thomas: Age is Just a Number Part II
Yesterday, I wrote a piece attempting to assuage the fears that many in Cowboys Nation have about handing a contract extension out to Earl Thomas, who is 29 years old as we enter the 2018 NFL season.
In the comment section, a reader posed a very good question that is the basis for the rest of this article:
It's a great question that certainly required some research, but Cowboys fans all across the world should be encouraged by my findings.
Just to refresh, here are the players we looked at as favorable comparisons to Earl Thomas at this point in his career. I searched Pro Football Reference for safeties who had at least three All-Pro First Team selections and at least six Pro Bowl appearances.
The average age of the players listed at the time when they reached their third All-Pro was 31 years old. I'm removing Deion Sanders and Roger Wehrli from the equation as most of their work was done at cornerback.
Let's look at a chart that outlines what these guys careers looked like at age 29 and beyond to get a better picture. Remember, Earl Thomas already has three All-Pro selections and six Pro Bowls. Many of these guys didn't reach those kind of accolades until their 30s.
The first thing I noticed as I looked into this question is that only two players had three or more All-Pro First Team selections prior to age 29, like Earl Thomas has. Those players were Rod Woodson and Ronnie Lott. Every other player on this list didn't hit their third All-Pro selection until age 29 or later.
Only one player reached his sixth Pro Bowl prior to his age 29 season, that player is Ronnie Lott, who many NFL Analysts consider to be the greatest safety of all-time. Most of the players didn't achieve their third All-Pro selection until their age 29 season or later. Earl Thomas reached his third All-Pro selection at age 25.
Here's a hot take for you: Earl Thomas, when it's all said and done could be considered the greatest safety of all-time. I'll just leave that there to marinate and if a trade does happen, we'll come back to that.
Back to the chart.
Another thing I want to point out is that none of these players were 100% healthy. Such is the life in the NFL, especially as you get older, but they were available for at least 14 games a majority of their seasons aged 29 or later. Health is an unpredictable animal in the NFL, but the safety position allows for much more longevity than many other positions. And as the chart depicts, it's a position that ages well.
So, as you can see in the chart, players who were highly productive prior to their age 29 season were also highly productive for several seasons after. These players went onto average almost seven more years in the league from their age 29 seasons.
Most players continued to average a healthy amount of interceptions. The player that saw the biggest decline from the early part of his career to the post-29 part of his career was Brian Dawkins. The former Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos safety went from three interceptions per season prior to 29 to 1.9 interceptions per season 29 and after.
When it comes to the safety position, the elite seem to be able to get the most of their bodies and their abilities and can prolong their prime. The position relies as much on intelligence and awareness as it does quickness and athleticism. Earl Thomas has the mental capacity to play the game for many more years and there's been zero evidence to suggest that he is experiencing any physical decline.
At the rate of his career that he's on, Earl Thomas is destined for the Hall of Fame. He's one of the faces of the Legion of Boom defense that propelled the Seattle Seahawks into the elite category of teams in the early part of this decade.
If and when an Earl Thomas trade does occur, don't sweat an extension for Thomas.
Thomas' credentials put him in an elite group of players who played the game for a very long time and there's no reason to believe he won't continue to do so.
The Dallas Cowboys aren't that far off from having a Super Bowl contending defense built in the image of the Seattle Seahawks. Going to get the All-Pro, future Hall of Fame safety is the final piece to the to the Dallas Cowboys completing construction on "Doomsday III."
Everything else is there for the Dallas Cowboys, now all they have to do is: Go. Get. Earl!
Noah Brown Takes to Twitter to Call Out ESPN
ESPN has long been considered "The Worldwide Leader in Sports," and for a long time that title was justified. If you wanted your national sports news, where did you turn to but the cable sports channel to watch that day's episode of SportsCenter. But over the last few years, it's become more and more clear that it's "The Worldwide Leader" in name only.
The ratings are dropping and the network has had to make a lot of business decisions as it relates to much of their on-air talent over the last several years. With their latest under 25 starting 22 -- ahem, troll job -- they seem to have finally come to terms that they are basically First Take.
Noah Brown put it best in his reaction to the ESPN "Insider" voting that led to Saquon Barkley being named to the starting 22 ahead of Ezekiel Elliott. Brown, Elliott's teammate when both were at Ohio State University, came to his defense upon seeing the list.
43 of our NFL Insiders voted. Here's their best starting roster under the age of 25.
I'm sure there could be debates about different positions on the squad. Personally, quarterback is one where an argument could be made for Carson Wentz or Dak Prescott over DeShaun Watson, but that's for another time.
But to have a rookie, who has never played a down in the NFL ahead of the NFL's league leader in rushing for 2016, Ezekiel Elliott, is laughable.
The fact that they had 43, again I use the quotations, "Insiders" vote on this and Ezekiel Elliott wasn't listed as one of the two running backs just shows you how far they've come as a network.
Let's remember that Ezekiel Elliott has averaged a touchdown a game -- receiving and rushing -- in his 25-game career. No running back has more rushing yards than Elliott does over the last two years, including 2017 league rushing leader, Kareem Hunt. No running back has more rushing touchdowns than Elliott's 22 rushing TDs.
Ezekiel Elliott's yards per carry is a healthy 4.63. Todd Gurley sits at 3.93. No player with more than 1,800 rushing yards over the last two years has a better yards per attempt than Ezekiel Elliott.
I get that you'd vote Todd Gurley in there, but to not have Ezekiel Elliott, arguably the game's best running back on your Under 25 starting 22 just makes you look like Skip Bayless or Stephen A. Smith. Not a sports journalism entity worthy of people throwing money at for "Insider" access.
I won't say that I never or will never watch ESPN, because where else am I gonna go for Monday Night Football, Todd Archer, or the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championships? When I'm at my father-in-law's, I'll watch SportsCenter first thing in the morning, because it will be on and you don't change another man's television.
"The Worldwide Leader," however, loses credibility when they promote a list like this that has such a glaring omission.
Perhaps, maybe the goal wasn't to put out an accurate list. Maybe the goal was to get us talking about their list, just like when NFL Network releases their Top 100 players list. Like they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity.
This troll job from ESPN has certainly gotten them some publicity, or should I say, notoriety.
Star Blog2 weeks ago
What if Dak Prescott isn’t Dallas’ Franchise QB?
Star Blog2 weeks ago
4 Decisions That Could Shape Cowboys 2018 Season
Dallas Cowboys6 days ago
Ex-Giants Coach Ben McAdoo Talks Trash About Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Tavon Austin: “Green Means Go” for Cowboys Newest Play Maker
Star Blog1 week ago
Would Trading La’el Collins for Earl Thomas Make Sense?
Star Blog5 days ago
True or False: Sifting Through the Cowboys Trade Rumors
Dallas Cowboys2 days ago
Noah Brown Takes to Twitter to Call Out ESPN
Dallas Cowboys6 days ago
Kris Richard Allows Cowboys to be Patient on Earl Thomas