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.
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.
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