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Tyrone Crawford Has Unclear Role, Bad Contract for 2017

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Headlines - Tyrone Crawford Could Help Cowboys at DE

Defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford’s contract is becoming a hindrance while his role on the team is in question, a dangerous combination for Crawford’s job security.

What position will Tyrone Crawford play in 2017?

How will the Cowboys try to get the most value out of one their highest-priced players? Is there a chance that Crawford could become a salary cap casualty?

Before we look to the future, let’s do a brief recap of how the Cowboys and Tyrone Crawford reached this point in their relationship.

Tyrone Crawford

Cowboys Gamble, Lose on Tyrone Crawford’s Contract

Before the 2015 season the Cowboys thought that Tyrone Crawford was about to become a breakout star. He’d spent two years learning the 4-3 scheme and started to blossom late in 2014, taking reps away from Henry Melton as the 3-technique defensive tackle. Melton had been a star in Chicago under Rod Marinelli, much like Tommie Harris before him. Dallas projected a similar role and performance level for Tyrone Crawford going forward.

Dallas tried to get ahead of the market, and help their future salary cap, by extending Crawford before his rookie deal expired. They gave him a five-year, $45 million extension based on perceived potential over proven performance. Considering that guys like Ndamukong Suh and Fletcher Cox make between $17-$19 million per year, this could have been a tremendous bargain.

Unfortunately, Tyrone Crawford has yet to live up to even the discounted amount he’s been paid. He is still among the Top 10 in defensive tackle salaries but doesn’t have nearly that level of impact.

Tyrone Crawford

Is Tyrone Crawford a Defensive End or Tackle?

When a guy counts a little over $10 million against your salary cap, you would like to think that he is a foundation piece for your team. Tyrone Crawford not only isn’t leading the defense in production but it’s unclear what his role will be in 2017.

With DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory suspended and Charles Tapper injured to start 2016, the Cowboys were low on bodies at defensive end. In an effort to have the most talent on the field as possible, Tyrone Crawford was moved to the strong-side DE spot while Terrell McClain and Maliek Collins started at defensive tackle.

Before we move on, it’s important to make sure you understand some of the terminology I’m about to use:

  • “3-tech DT” – Generally the more athletic DT who lines up between the guard and offensive tackle. He is expected to cause more disruptive plays in the opponent’s backfield.
  • “1-tech DT” –  Usually the larger, stronger player who lines up between the center and guard with the goal of eating up space and occupying blockers.
  • LDE” – The left, or strong-side, defensive end who goes up against opposing team’s right offensive tackles. Traditionally relies more on power than quickness.
  • RDE” – The right, or weak-side, DE who goes against the left offensive tackle. Generally a faster, more agile player than the LDE.

Maliek Collins had a strong rookie season as the 3-tech, getting five sacks despite his rotational role. David Irving also had a breakout year, playing both LDE and 3-tech at times. These young players deserve big roles in 2017 but occupy the same space as Tyrone Crawford. Is there enough playing time to go around?

Further complicating things is DeMarcus Lawrence, who played as the RDE last year but is better suited to play on the left. If Dallas pursues a weak-side pass rusher this offseason as many expect, that should push Lawrence back over into competition with Crawford and Irving.

Dallas will likely experiment with Maliek Collins as the 1-tech DT this offseason. If Maliek can make the adjustment then it would allow Tyrone Crawford to get back to the 3-tech role. The Cowboys don’t want to hurt Collins’ development, though, so they won’t make this move lightly.

Tyrone Crawford

Tyrone Crawford; Cap Casualty?

If the Cowboys want to focus on their younger players and can’t justify Crawford’s cap hit, could he possibly be released? If they use the June-1st provision, it’s not out of the question.

It would be pointless to cut Tyrone Crawford outright. His $10 million 2017 cap hit would basically be the same, giving you no relief and taking a versatile, solid player off the team. However, Dallas could designate Crawford as a June-1st release and only be responsible for about $3 million in dead money now, creating $7 million in cap space.

That other $7 million would be pushed to 2018, which is a lot of dead money. However, if the Cowboys are cut or trade Tony Romo then they will have $19 million in dead money coming off the books in 2018. You could absorb Crawford’s dead money into that and still have $12 million in space leftover.

If Dallas were to use this escape route, it’s important to remember that the $7 million in 2017 savings isn’t available until June 1st. That means you can’t use it to sign free agents this March. However, it can be use to sign rookies and perhaps work on Zack Martin‘s contract extension.

~ ~ ~

While you can never have enough good players at any position, the NFL’s salary cap doesn’t allow you to just horde talent. The Cowboys will have to weigh Tyrone Crawford’s on-field value versus his cap hit and decide what’s in the best interests of the team.

Right now I would expect Crawford to return. Perhaps the Cowboys will try to negotiate a salary reduction, using the possibility of a June-1st release as leverage. But Tyrone has his own leverage; a 27-year-old who can play multiple positions in the 4-3 scheme or be a 3-4 defensive end. He wouldn’t have any trouble finding work, though not at his current salary.

However it shakes out, Tyrone Crawford and his contract certainly add intrigue to Dallas’ 2017 offseason. He’s a guy that could go from being a full-time starter to not even on the roster; just one of many challenging decisions waiting for the Cowboys in the coming months.

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Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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3 Comments
  • Dan

    Tyrone Crawford’s contract is guaranteed on the 13th of March. He won’t be June 1st cut.

    http://www.spotrac.com/nfl/dallas-cowboys/tyrone-crawford-9891/

    • Jess Haynie

      Interesting! I wasn’t aware of that provision. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

      I wonder if using one of their two “early June-1st designations” on him negates that 3/13 clause. You’d have to get into the fine print of his contract to know for sure.

      • Dan

        The June 1st designation is a good point. Obviously it would have to happen in the next few weeks which is unfortunately because it’d be nice to see what options we had before making the decision but I suppose that was kind of the point of the clause from Crawford’s perspective. I think it would be possible.

Dallas Cowboys

Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach

Sean Martin

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Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach

After hiring Paul Alexander to fill their vacant OL coaching position, the Dallas Cowboys are continuing to retool their offensive staff below Scott Linehan. Sanjay Lal has been hired to coach the Cowboys’ wide receivers, replacing Derek Dooley.

Lal has experience as a WR coach with four different teams, dating back to 2009 with the Oakland Raiders. He was promoted up to this position after serving as the Raiders’ quality control coach from 2007-08.

David Moore on Twitter

Sources: Cowboys have reached an agreement with Sanjay Lal to become the team’s WR coach. Lal was with Indianapolis last season and replaces Derek Dooley on the staff.

Most recently, Sanjay Lal coached the receivers for the Indianapolis Colts in 2017. He has also been with the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.

In this interview with the Colts, Lal mentions being very detail-oriented with a focus on the technical aspects of playing receiver.

Lal beats out former Cowboys WR Miles Austin for this position, earning the right to lead a room of receivers in desperate need of fresh talent. In an offseason that’s been about finding fresh ideas with the coaching staff so far though, the Cowboys have a new voice on offense.

Tell us what you think about “Sanjay Lal Hired As Cowboys WR Coach” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Losing Linebackers Coach Matt Eberflus to Colts

Jess Haynie

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Matt Eberflus, Sean Lee

Multiple sources are reporting Matt Eberflus — who has been the linebackers coach and passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys — will leave to join the Indianapolis Colts as the new defensive coordinator. Eberflus has been with Dallas since 2011, having joined Rob Ryan’s staff when Ryan become the coordinator for the Cowboys’ defense.

He has been the linebackers coach during his entire Dallas tenure and was also named passing game coordinator in 2016.

Tom Pelissero on Twitter

With Josh McDaniels ticketed for the #Colts, former #Cowboys assistant Matt Eberflus is expected to come along as defensive coordinator, I’m told. Lot of parts falling in place now.

If not the Colts, some thought Matt Eberflus might end up replacing Matt Patricia as the defensive coordinator in New England. Either way, it does not appear Dallas could have kept him around while Rod Marinelli remains in his current position.

Eberflus’ work in Dallas speaks for itself, and primarily through LB Sean Lee.

He has been Lee’s position coach for all but his rookie season, and in that time Lee has been one of the top defensive players in all of football.

Beyond Lee, Eberflus has also been able to get quality play out of mid-round picks like Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson. We also saw Jaylon Smith make significant progress this season.

Given Matt Eberflus has never worked with Josh McDaniels before, the fact he was on the Colts’ radar says a lot.

Make no mistake; the Cowboys lost a good one here.

Don’t panic, however. Coach Marinelli has cast a very wide net during his time in the NFL and there are a lot of potential guys, some with plenty of experience, that Dallas might look to.

It’s entirely possible that Eberflus’ replacement will be someone who Marinelli spends 2018 grooming to take over as the defensive coordinator.

Still, of all the coaching changes so far for Dallas, this one hurts most.

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Thus far the 2018 offseason has brought a plethora of change to the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Now it is being reported the Cowboys have hired a brand new offensive line coach, former Cincinnati Bengals’ Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander.

Alex Marvez on Twitter

Source tells @sportingnews that Paul Alexander hired as new @dallascowboys offensive line coach

Alexander coached with the Bengals for over 20 years, and replaces the same man in Dallas who replaces him in Cincinnati, Frank Pollack. Alexander has also been the Bengals assistant head coach since 2003.

The Cowboys recently lost an assistant head coach when Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia left for Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders.

Per usual, the hire has been met with mixed reactions from Cowboys Nation.

Joey Ickes on Twitter

Since 2003, CIN has had only one season where they finished top-10 in Yards per attempt on the ground… They’ve been bottom-5 in the league 5 times in that span… That’s the OL Coach DAL just hired.

The hiring of an offensive line coach who’s rushing attack finished bottom five in the league in rushing yards per attempt five times since 2003 doesn’t look too great on paper. He will also teach with different techniques and styles than previous Cowboys OL coaches, which could potentially set back the offensive line early in the season.

Plus, respected Bengals’ writer Joe Goodberry did not exactly love the hire for the Cowboys.

Goodberry on Twitter

Pretty bad https://t.co/fysjZqCQ6l

Regardless, this is still a very talented offensive line and one which should lead an effective ground attack based on their talent alone. 2017 proved further that coaching matters a lot in the NFL however, and the wrong hire could set back even the most talented of units.

We will just have to wait and see how this 2018 season ends up playing out.

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