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Star Gazing: Dallas Cowboys 2019 Free Agent Wishlist

Brian Martin



Are the Dallas Cowboys Done Pursuing FS Earl Thomas?

Stephen Jones and the Dallas Cowboys aren't looking to be big spenders this offseason in free agency. We'll have to see if that remains the case though. Regardless, I thought it would be fun if we take a look at the 2019 free agent class and create a wish list of players the Cowboys could be interested in.

Since this is a wish list I disregarded what it would take for the Cowboys to bring any of these free agents aboard. That after all would take all the fun out of this anyway. This would be much more like how things were handled under Jerry Jones before the salary cap. Can you imagine how exciting this offseason would be if that were still the case?

Let's get started shall we…

Defensive Free Agent Targets

Earl Thomas

Free Agent FS Earl Thomas

FS, Earl Thomas

As we know, the Dallas Cowboys aggressively tried to work out a trade with the Seattle Seahawks for Free Safety Earl Thomas last season to no avail. With the Seahawks now out of the picture because Thomas is a free agent, the Cowboys can sign him to a contract this offseason without having to surrender a draft pick. Timing is everything.

Thomas is the most likely free agent on this list to land in Dallas in 2019. It's kind of difficult to imagine the Cowboys won't do everything within their power to bring him aboard, especially after pursuing him so aggressively last year. A reunion with Kris Richard could be exactly what he and the Dallas Cowboys need to return to the Super Bowl.

DT, Grady Jarrett

As much as I'd love to see Earl Thomas in a Dallas Cowboys uniform in 2019, I'd much rather have free agent Defensive Tackle Grady Jarrett. This guy might just be the second best DT in the NFL behind Aaron Donald and his ability to impact games as a pass rusher would make the Cowboys defense immensely better.

Jarrett is the perfect under tackle or 3-technique in the Cowboys 4-3 defensive scheme. He has improved every season since entering the league in 2015 and has a total of 14 quarterback sacks in his career, six of which he accumulated this past season. With a defensive line void of much talent, he would immediately upgrade Dallas' front seven and give them a disruptive pass rushing presence in the middle.

DE, Frank Clark

Frank Clark is the defensive end I wanted the Dallas Cowboys to draft with their second round pick in 2015 instead of Randy Gregory, even though he had his off the field problems as well. He has without a doubt had the better career of the two  and would create a dynamic duo playing opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. He's accumulated 35 quarterback sacks in his career, 13 of which came in 2018.

Randy Gregory did flash how talented he could be in the second half of the 2018 season, but Clark has proven to be the more consistent DE since entering the league. He is equally effective against the run as he is getting after the QB and his addition would give the Cowboys defense the best pass rushers in the entire league. With him and Lawrence coming off the edges, opposing QBs would have to run for their lives.

Offensive Free Agent Targets

Jared Cook

Free Agent TE Jared Cook (Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports)

TE, Jared Cook

There's no question the Dallas Cowboys are looking to upgrade their tight end position in the offseason, so why not address the glaring need with the top free agent TE? Although he's 31 years old, Jared Cook would immediately step in as the TE1 in Dallas and become a major asset in the passing game for Dak Prescott.

Jared Cook couldn't have asked for a better time to be hitting the open market. He is coming off a career year in which he caught 68 passes for 896 yards and six touchdowns, his best season yet in the NFL. He's at his best when he's used as a receiver in the passing game, but he's no slouch as a blocker. He would be an upgrade in Dallas, even though Blake Jarwin showed some promise towards the end of the season.

WR, Robby Anderson

The Dallas Cowboys tried to make their offense a little more explosive last season by adding Tavon Austin, but unfortunately that didn't pan out. But just because that didn't work shouldn't keep them from trying again, which is why free agent Robby Anderson would be pretty high on their wish list this offseason. Anderson is however a restricted free agent, but this is a wish list after all so I'm not factoring that in.

Anderson of course isn't without his warts as a player. He has some off the field issues that he needs to clean up, but there's no denying his ability in the passing game. He would give the Cowboys offense that deep threat they've been missing for about a decade now, which would make the passing game all that more potent. The thought of Michael Gallup and Anderson on the outside, with Amari Cooper in the slot would probably give Dak Prescott wet dreams.

RB, Mark Ingram

Despite being a little banged up in 2018, Dallas Cowboys Running Back Ezekiel Elliott still managed to lead the NFL in rushing yards, earning the rushing title for the second time in three years. He is arguably the best RB in the entire league, but it's time to upgrade the backup position behind him in order to keep him as healthy as possible. That's why Mark Ingram should be on the Cowboys free agent wish list.

Ingram would help form a formidable one-two punch with Zeke, more than likely turning the Cowboys offense into the best rushing team in the entire league. That would really play into their blueprint of controlling the time possession with the rushing attack, all the while keeping their defense as fresh as possible to dominate. How exciting would it be to see Zeke and Ingram punishing opposing defenses down after down?

Which free agents do you think would be on the Dallas Cowboys wish list?

Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.


Dallas Cowboys

LB Justin Phillips Making a Case to Become a Roster Lock With Cowboys

Brian Martin



LB Justin Phillips Making a Case to Become a Roster Lock With Cowboys

In Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, the Dallas Cowboys arguably have the best linebacker duo in the entire NFL. They also have some pretty solid backups in Sean Lee and Joe Thomas, but the depth behind those four is completely up in the air. That is excellent news for an undrafted LB like Justin Phillips.

The former Oklahoma State Cowboy LB signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent after the completion of the 2019 NFL Draft. To go from being an Oklahoma State Cowboy to a Dallas Cowboy must've been a dream come true, especially for a kid from Pearland, Texas who rooted for America's Team growing up. The dream probably won't be complete though unless a roster spot comes with it.

Surprisingly, Justin Phillips has put himself into contention to earn one of those coveted roster spots. The way he has played in the first two preseason games has caught the attention of quite a few people, which should make it extremely difficult for the Cowboys coaching staff when it comes to making roster cut decisions. Dallas Cowboys Staff Writer and former Scout Bryan Broaddus agrees…

"Justin Phillips is going to make it hard on this staff to put him on the street. Not only is his finish impressive, but the awareness he plays with in pass coverage is impressive. There is no way I thought he had a chance for that interception, especially with this initial step into the line, but his ability to turn and run to a spot saved him."

Here is the play/interception Broaddus is referring to:

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The Dallas Cowboys have typically only carried six linebackers on their 53-man roster these past few years. With four spots already spoken for, Justin Phillips is doing his damnedest to lock down one of those final two up for grabs. That, of course, is easier said than done.

Phillips is likely competing with Justin March-Lillard, who led the team in tackles against the Los Angeles Rams last week and fellow undrafted rookie LB Luke Gifford. Gifford, of course, missed the game against the Rams with an ankle injury he sustained in Week 1 of the preseason against the 49ers. It was actually that injury that resulted in more playing time for Justin Phillips.

If you're doing the math here, that's three linebackers competing for two roster spots. March-Lillard probably has the upper hand right now over the two rookies, but I wouldn't say he's secured a job just yet. That leaves the door open for No. 44 (Phillips) and No. 57 (Gifford).

As much as I like Luke Gifford, and I do, I think the stars could be aligning for Justin Phillips to make it through roster cuts. He's playing really well right now, while all Gifford can do is watch from the sideline until he can get back on the field. Regardless though, it's a position battle worth keeping an eye on.

Do you think LB Justin Phillips has done enough to secure a roster spot?

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Dallas Cowboys

How Kris Richard May Help CB Michael Jackson Make Cowboys Roster

Jess Haynie



Michael Jackson, 49ers

Cornerback Michael Jackson, one of the Dallas Cowboys' 5th-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, has not been standing out so far in training camp or preseason. But despite the slow start, the influence of Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard could help keep Jackson on the 53-man roster this year.

While no team likes parting with their drafted rookies, it certainly happens. That's especially true for Day 3 players, even 5th rounders, and particularly when a team is as deep with talent right now as the 2019 Cowboys.

The cornerback position is one of Dallas' most loaded. They go four-deep with starting talent in Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis, which leaves just one or two roster spots for the remaining prospects.

Michael Jackson is in competition with veteran C.J. Goodwin and the intriguing Donovan Olumba. Both were with the team last year; Goodwin was a special teams contributor and Olumba was a valuable developmental asset on the practice squad.

So far this preseason, we've seen Goodwin shining on special teams and Olumba making plays at cornerback. Jackson hasn't stood out, unless you count jokes about thin he looks on the field.

In contrast, fellow 5th-round rookie Joe Jackson has been showing up at defensive end. Even if there were no suspension concerns with Robert Quinn and Randy Gregory, Joe Jackson has made himself very difficult to cut.

But despite not having that same momentum or energy around him yet, Michael Jackson may still find his way onto the 53-man roster. And that may have something to do with his position coach.

Kris Richard

Dallas Cowboys DB Coach Kris Richard

Since arriving in Dallas during the 2018 offseason, Kris Richard has quickly gained prominence beyond just his official role as the Defensive Backs Coach. He was working as the defensive play-caller last year and is expected to take over fully in 2020, assuming Rod Marinelli retires and Richard doesn't leave for a head coaching opportunity.

When Dallas selected Michael Jackson in the last draft, Jackson became the first cornerback or safety drafted by the Cowboys since Richard arrived. Given that it happened this year, with Richard's influence clearly high on the defense, one would assume that Kris had a big say in the decision to draft Jackson.

No, Richard certainly can't veto any decision made by the Joneses, Will McClay, Jason Garrett, or even Marinelli when it comes to roster management. But if he has any bias towards Jackson as his first draft pick in Dallas, Kris may fight for the rookie more than someone else.

We're all human; agendas come into play. Kris Richard may be more passionate about seeing Michael Jackson succeeding for a variety of reasons. He may pound the table for the team to keep Jackson louder than anyone else in the room.

That doesn't necessarily mean keeping Jackson over some other cornerback, either. The argument could be to go long at CB at the expense of another position; maybe only keeing two quarterbacks or eight offensive linemen to free up a roster spot.

This is purely speculative, of course. For all we know, Richard could be the first one who loses faith and votes to let Jackson go.

But given the situation and all factors involved, it's more likely that Kris Richard will be invested in seeing Michael Jackson succeed and sticking with the Cowboys in 2019. Hopefully, it's in the best interest of the team overall.

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Game Notes

DL Kerry Hyder Impressive In Cowboys Week 2 Preseason Win

Kevin Brady



Kerry Hyder

Kerry Hyder joined the Cowboys this offseason on a one year deal, and while the four-year NFL veteran has put up some solid tape in his time around the league, it was hard to project just what he could bring to the Cowboys defense.

Listed at 6'2" 270 pounds, Hyder is a bit of a tweener on the defensive line. Though the answer to "will he play tackle or end" seems to be "both" to this point in the preseason.

As he fights for his life on this deep defensive line, Kerry Hyder had himself a day in the Cowboys 14-10 victory over the Rams last weekend.

Hyder made an excellent play defending a screen pass in the first quarter, reading the play perfectly and reacting quickly to running back Darrell Henderson coming out of the backfield. Hyder also created some pressure on the quarterback, and finished with 3 combined tackles in very limited playing time.

Hyder's versatility is working well for him as he looks to make the final roster. Like a Tyrone Crawford type player, Hyder will be able to move inside and out depending on the situation. This allows the Cowboys to be flexible in how they structure their depth chart on defense, and in how they decide to rush the passer on third down.

A pass rushing package involving Robert Quinn and DeMarcus Lawrence on the edge with the combination of Hyder and Maliek Collins on the inside could turn out to be a very dangerous one for opposing offenses to deal with.

Rod Marinelli spoke to this versatility a couple of months ago, showing just how much he values what Kerry Hyder can bring to this team.

"Maybe you adjust him sometime, once in a while – in a one-on-one pass rush situation, stick him over a guard and start to get a feel for it.” - Rod Marinelli

Earlier this offseason, I wrote that Kerry Hyder could end up being Rod Marinelli's next great under-the-radar find on the defensive line. And if he continues to play with the hustle and awareness that he had on Saturday, he's going to make Rod look very smart in his evaluation.

Kerry Hyder is making it very difficult for the front office to let him go. And, at the end of the preseason, I do expect Kerry Hyder to find himself on the Cowboys' active roster. Especially considering how Mike White is playing at quarterback, and how his release could open up an extra spot at a different position group.

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