Today marks the beginning of the rest of Miles Austin's career as he awaits an imminent offer from the Jets, and as we wait along with him to see just how determined the Jets are to acquire him, there are some things to consider in Dallas.
First and foremost on the agenda for the Cowboys should Austin depart for New Jersey is wide receiver depth and lineup since Austin is projected as the second starter opposite Williams if he stays. The release of Owens was a clear sign that the team is moving in a younger direction that is hopefully more team oriented than Owens' has ever been.
But if Austin leaves, and that is definitely possible, it would remain Sam Hurd and Isaiah Stanback as the only youth amongst our wide outs. The problem is that both Hurd and Stanback have had issues being productive on the field, when either can stay healthy enough to get on the field.
Should Austin sign with New York, the Cowboys would receive a second round 2009 draft pick in compensation; the Jets pick #52 behind the Cowboys' second round pick of #51.
Many see the class of receivers in this draft as very talented, spearheaded by the likes of Michael Crabtree, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jeremy Maclin, and Percy Harvin. The Cowboys have a great shot of finding a quality receiver in the second round that can be expected to contribute this season, but many doubts exist that any receiver available in the second round of this years draft will be able to take on the kind of role that Austin is expected to occupy in Dallas for 2009.
With rookie wide receivers it is often not a matter of talent, but of experience that determines success, and very few beyond the top 15 - 20 picks have been able to be effective in their rookie season as a starter. Even in more limited roles many of these receivers have trouble adjusting to life at the pro level, see DeSean Jackson in 2008 as he celebrated early and tossed a ball behind him before he broke the plane of the goal line.
So the question becomes what exactly will the Cowboys do to replace Austin? Having veteran receiver Patrick Crayton does help to ease concerns as he held the number 2 slot until Williams arrived in 2008, but Crayton has always been most effective playing in the slot. It's possible that Hurd or Stanback can step up and produce, and stay healthy enough to assume that starting role, but after two off-seasons to evaluate each, that possibility is seeming unlikely.
At this point, it is even hard to say if any receiver in this years draft would be any better than Hurd or Stanback, though gems have been found at worse positions than day one of the draft.
So many fans are asking about the possibility of Dallas bringing in a veteran receiver in free agency to fill the hole. I suppose it's a sign of desperation and panic that anyone has suggested the troubled Matt Jones, which again makes me happy that some fans aren't coaches or executives on this team. Signing Matt Jones would be tantamount to signing Adam Jones, and we all know how well that worked out for us.
Jones was a solid player for us early in 2008, filling in due to injuries, but before he could get into his own rhythm he was again barred from playing because of his immature actions away from the game. The guy may be able to play at a Pro Bowl caliber, but so long as he continues to butt heads with the NFL's personal conduct policy, he'll never be anything more than a good backup.
Matt Jones hasn't had as many issues as Pacman did, but neither has former Giants receiver Plaxico Burress and nobody seems to be in a hurry to bring him here. Given the way the Giants' offense suffered after Burress was suspended/injured, it's a fair bet that he was on his way to a hall of fame career. But with so many players experiencing legal difficulties of their own doing, the trend in the league this year seems to be finding better character.
There is also some better tamed veteran help out there in Marvin Harrison, who maybe has a year or two left of decent production, and Torry Holt, who while getting up there in age, still has a few years of a production that we could closely match with Patrick Crayton.
None of the options seem to be at the top of anyone's list, though there are several available to us. Another option is for Jerry Jones to make another of his now infamous draft-day trades to move up and grab better talent, but Jones has stated that he likes not having a first round pick this year because of the potential for next year to be uncapped. It's a sentiment that he backed up by trading his 2009 first round pick to Detroit in order to secure first round talent without dealing with the cap numbers associated with a rookie first round pick.
And now we have news out there that the Bills, since acquiring Terrell Owens in free agency, are shopping fifth year receiver Roscoe Parrish around the league. Parrish has not been a huge contributor for the bills since being drafted by the Bills in the second round of the 2005 draft, but his numbers have been solid by the Cowboys standards.
Parrish has averaged 263 yards and 24.25 receptions over each year he's played in the NFL, and has five receiving touchdowns. Compare that to Miles Austin (118 yards, 4.5 receptions, 3 touchdowns) and it actually seems as though Parrish would be the better guy to have. Parrish will be 27 when the season starts, and Austin will be 26, but the big difference seems to be that Parrish actually started all 16 games in each of 2006 and 2007, and 13 games in 2008 while Austin only started 16 games in 2007 and 12 in 2008.
Experience, as I've said, seems to be worth as much as talent with wide receivers anymore and Parrish has more of it to offer. To make it even sweeter, the only reason Parrish didn't start all 16 games in 2008 was a torn ligament in his thumb, which has been surgically repaired.
Looking at their combine stats, Parrish and Austin have very similar speed, if Parrish isn't faster than Austin, but Austin is bigger than Parrish all around.
So maybe I've got it all wrong, but it looks like there might be some hidden talent out there to replace Austin if the Jets do decide to get tricky with their offer, which would leave the Cowboys an extra second round pick to either draft a good receiver to groom, or fill another need for the 2009 season.
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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