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.
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.
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; 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.
Despite Going Undrafted, Kameron Kelly A Welcome Addition to Cowboys Secondary
The Dallas Cowboys best move of the offseason may very well be hiring Kris Richard as their new passing game coordinator. Despite not signing any free agents or drafting added talent for Richard to work with in the secondary, the Cowboys have plenty of reasons to feel great about their current starters - along with an intriguing class of UDFAs.
The prospects of Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Byron Jones, and Xavier Woods working with Richard to sharpen their skills with Seattle's "Legion of Boom" fabricator is as good as it gets. In a very short period of time, the cornerback position has turned into one of the hardest spots for fringe players to make the Dallas Cowboys roster.
Don't tell this to San Diego State's Kameron Kelly. Neither Richard or Kelly may be household names around the NFL, but San Francisco 49ers Cornerback Richard Sherman certainly is. Sherman also happens to be the player the Cowboys are looking for Kelly -- an undrafted free agent that didn't receive a single college offer from "power five" schools -- to emulate.
Given all that Sherman meant to Richard's defenses since being drafted by his Seahawks in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, these feel like impossible expectations for Kelly to live up to.
The 6015 (6' 1 5/8") defender didn't even play the same position as Sherman until his final collegiate season, slowly making the transition from WR to DB at SDSU by starting as a Sophomore and Junior at safety.
Now just another player in a blue jersey with white numbers at The Star, Kelly is looking to earn the star on a team that may look to remain young, deep, and most importantly versatile in the secondary by keeping one or more UDFAs.
That is, if any of these long shot players deserve a spot on the final 53-man roster. Kelly already has an edge on this field, blessed with the length and daunting frame that allows Richard and the Cowboys to dream of featuring their own Richard Sherman.
"I think he’s trying to turn me into his next Richard Sherman or something". - Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Kameron Kelly
Kris Richard is going to coach everybody he comes across hard. He knows no other way. Kam Kelly is already embracing this, seeing the Cowboys vision for him and not backing down from the challenge.
Turn on the tape for this "diamond in the rough" prospect, and you'll see a player that carries this same competitive toughness onto the field.
Will a DB compete / tackle ? Top of screen- flat footed read on bubble- trusts eyes and goes ! Just checking boxes- I see you, kameron Kelly of SDSU.... https://t.co/fJM4s16Eq1
Kelly joins Charvarius Ward, Donovan Olumba, and Tyree Robinson as the Cowboys class of UDFAs at both cornerback and safety. An athletic DB out of Oregon, Robinson has made a strong initial impression with several plays on the ball in drills so far.
However, it was Kam Kelly that set up an interception for Jameill Showers in yesterday's practice by getting in the face of rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup.
Projecting anything that resembles a starting lineup for the Cowboys defense in the last week of May is silly. So too is realistically expecting Kelly, Ward, Olumba, or Robinson to ever crack this lineup.
The Cowboys could find themselves without enough practice snaps to go around for starting caliber players like Awuzie, Lewis, Jones, Anthony Brown, and even Marquez White. This does not bode well for Kam Kelly, who is only going to continue generating buzz from fans and the Dallas media.
For now, Kelly is getting his chance though. The Cowboys are ever-so-slowly getting back into form for 2018 - doing so with many familiar faces no longer on the roster. This team is going to look different on both sides of the ball come September, and Cowboys Nation can only hope it's for the better given the impressive amount of depth all over the field.
Kam Kelly won't back down from the depth the Cowboys have at CB, expecting to impress his new coach Kris Richard in the mold of three-time All-Pro Richard Sherman.
WR Terrell Owens Featured As A Cowboy On Madden 2019 Cover
It's been a tumultuous few years for former Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens, to say the least. Based on his numbers Owens deserved to be a first ballot Hall of Famer, but due to his off field "antics" and poor relationships with voters, Owens was kept out of the Hall of Fame until this year.
Now that he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this Summer, Terrell Owens has earned another honor: cover athlete for EA Sports' upcoming Madden video game.
Madden has become a staple of football culture over the years, and being placed on the cover of their Hall of Fame edition is pretty special.
What came as a surprise, however, is that Terrell Owens is featured as a Dallas Cowboy on the cover of the game.
@terrellowens will be on the cover of #Madden19 Hall of Fame edition
Terrell Owens played on a multitude of teams during his NFL career, spending 3 seasons with the Cowboys from 2006-2008. People tend to forget how great the Tony Romo-to-Terrell Owens connection was in Dallas, especially during their 13-3 2007 season.
That year, Owens caught 81 balls for 1,355 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also earned First Team All Pro honors during the same season.
This is the first time the Cowboys uniform has ever graced the cover of a Madden game, and the second time Terrell Owens will be on the cover of a professional football video game. The first time came as an Eagle on the cover of ESPN NFL 2K5, ironically just one year before Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was the cover athlete for Madden 2006.
Terrell Owens then announced the news himself on Twitter, by tweeting out the following video.
It's that time! I've made my decision to return to football. Madden 19 HOF #stayready https://t.co/pLL4lTAhD2
Terrell Owens is arguably the greatest (talent wise) receiver to ever play for the Cowboys, though he lacked the longevity to match any of the stat totals of guys like Michael Irvin and Dez Bryant. It's a shame the 2007 season ended the way it did, and that 2008 was such an utter disaster.
Those Cowboys teams were really talented, hence why they won 11 games and another division crown after Owens' departure in 2009.
QB Dak Prescott Is Taking Control Of The Dallas Cowboys
Heading into 2018 there is no question that the Dallas Cowboys are Dak Prescott's team. While some of the Cowboys fan base is skeptical of just how good Prescott is/can be, the franchise had placed all of their eggs in the Prescott-basket over the last two offseasons.
They've begun to build the "Dak-friendly offense," attempting to recreate the circumstances which surrounded him during his highly successful rookie season. By drafting offensive lineman Connor Williams, wide receiver Michael Gallup, and signing wide out Allen Hurns the Cowboys have made a conscious effort to help their young quarterback in his development.
But what do his fellow teammates think about him? Well, thus far during OTAs, the respect they have for Dak Prescott as a quarterback and a leader is clear.
Members of Prescott's wide receiver corps have been incredibly vocal about the respect they have for Dak Prescott, including two of their newest additions. Hurns told Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News that Dak "runs things" around the locker room, and that the Cowboys will have no problems with leadership as long as Dak is at the helm.
Allen Hurns: "When I first got here, what surprised me a lot was Dak's leadership. He's only in his third year, but he's a very vocal guy. He runs things. I was very surprised by that. ... I don't think we'll have a problem with leadership.
Tavon Austin chimed in as well, telling Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News that while he expected Prescott to have "some juice" to him, meeting him in person allowed him to realize that his leadership is on a different level than even he expected.
I asked Cowboys WR Tavon Austin on his impressions of Dak Prescott before his arrival in Dallas: "I always knew he had some juice to him, some swag to him and when I finally get here and meet him it's definitely a whole different ballgame because it was to even another level.
It's not only members of the offense which are showing their respect for Dak Prescott's leadership, however. Team sack leader DeMarcus Lawrence is noticing as well. This week Lawrence said that Dak is clearly taking control of the offense, and you can see it "every day in how he works."
DeMarcus Lawrence: "Dak is taking a lot of control over that offense. He's trying to take his game to the next level and be one of the elite quarterbacks in this league. You can see it every day in how he works.
There is an argument that can be made that the release of Dez Bryant and retirement of Jason Witten have allowed Dak Prescott to take that control. The veterans on offense from the Tony Romo-era have begun to disappear, and Prescott is now making the Dallas Cowboys "his team."
Of course, Prescott still has to do it on the field. While much of his first two seasons have been impressive, the final few weeks of 2017 featured some shaky play from Dak Prescott. But, the moves which were made this offseason combined with the full time return of running back Ezekiel Elliott should allow Prescott to take another step forward in 2018.
And if the Cowboys plan on being competitive as a team, they'll need Prescott to make those strides.
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