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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.



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

3 Comments

  1. Dan

    February 14, 2017 at 5:13 am

    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

      Jess Haynie

      February 14, 2017 at 7:13 am

      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

        February 14, 2017 at 5:14 pm

        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.

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys WR Cole Beasley Wants Bigger Role, Blames Front Office

Jess Haynie

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Cole Beasley

With free agency on the horizon, Cole Beasley isn't pulling any punches about his dissatisfaction with his role in the Dallas Cowboys offense. Could this have him wanting a change of scenery in 2019?

Today, Beasley made some big statements on his personal Twitter account. The first was only an appetizer.

Cole Beasley on Twitter

Utilization is more important than money. https://t.co/qP8XoR6uBu

One has to think that Cole sees the success players with his skills have had in a system like New England's, or even just other more proficient passing offenses, and thinks he could do even more elsewhere.

But even when it was suggested that the firing of Scott Linehan could bring some new opportunities for Beasley in Dallas, the receiver dropped this bomb.

Cole Beasley on Twitter

Honestly, the front office pushes who they want to get the ball to. I haven't been a huge priority in that regard. Maybe that will change but I'm not sure. More balls come my way in 2 minute drill where nothing is planned. https://t.co/ioih9BJJv1

Well, there's no denying his frustration there.

Some might be confused by this, given that Beasley was the most-targeted receiver or tight end in the 2018 offense. Only Ezekiel Elliott got more passes thrown his way.

However, Cole's role did diminish once Amari Cooper showed up. And in the Cowboys' playoff loss to the Rams, Beasley only got two targets the whole game. Cooper and Michael Gallup got nine targets each.

You could see where there was some executive agenda behind getting Cooper and Gallup the ball. Dallas wanted their trade of a first-round pick for Amari to be validated. They also are invested in Michael as a future starter. What Cole said isn't without merit.

Despite what he tweeted, though, Beasley did say that he was open to returning to the Cowboys.

Cole Beasley on Twitter

Doesn't mean I'm gone. I'll play anywhere where I can make more of an impact. I would love for that to be Dallas or anywhere else that will give me more pops to make an impact. I just wanna ball. It's hard with 3 to 4 opps a game. https://t.co/zImZKxkAvD

So no, it's not time to put your Beasley jerseys on eBay just yet. But given these comments, it's clear that Cole is looking for more than money in his contract.

Will the Cowboys have a satisfying answer for him? And if Beasley does want a bigger role, will he also want to be paid closer to what he thinks he's worth?

It's easy to say it's not about money, but the two really do go hand in hand.

Free agency may not open until March 13th, but Cole Beasley is already showing his cards. How will the Dallas Cowboys respond?



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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowlers Show Promise for Future

Sean Martin

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Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowlers Show Promise for Future

The next class of players to join the Dallas Cowboys may be on the field at Mobile, Alabama this week for the Senior Bowl, but their young core is well represented in front of the Cowboys coaching staff at the Pro Bowl.

With Left Tackle Tyron Smith and Right Guard Zack Martin not participating, the Cowboys have six Pro Bowl participants. The improved health of their offensive line is still one of the best things going for this team in the early part of the offseason, expecting four-time Pro Bowl Center Travis Frederick to rejoin Smith and Martin as soon as OTAs.

A compilation of the best linemen in the NFC will have to do for Quarterback Dak Prescott and Running Back Ezekiel Elliott - making their second Pro Bowl appearance together. It took the addition of Wide Receiver Amari Cooper for the Cowboys offense to find their expected form under Prescott and Elliott in their third season, as Cooper will appear in his fourth Pro Bowl in as many years.

Both times Elliott's made the Pro Bowl, he's done so as the league's rushing champion.

Hardly on track to reach Orlando with the Oakland Raiders, Cooper put up 725 yards and six touchdowns on 53 catches in nine regular season games for the Cowboys. He followed up this resurgent performance with seven catches for 106 yards in the Wild Card Round vs. the Seahawks and six for 65 and a touchdown at the Rams in the Divisional Round.

The Cowboys shouldn't be done adding talent at wide receiver, with Cooper serving as the bold reminder of what Prescott can do with dynamic talent on the outside. Moving on from Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan already this offseason, the next steps towards building the offense around Dak's strengths is yet to be determined.

Meanwhile, their established strengths will be on display, and not just on offense at the Pro Bowl. Making strides as one of the best young defenses in the league this season, Cowboys rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch will be joined by Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence and Cornerback Byron Jones.

Though its unlikely their coaching will match the intensity of the season, the best thing these three defenders have going for them is more time under Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard. One of Richard's first moves with the Cowboys was moving Jones to cornerback, where he became a first-time Pro Bowler.

Unable to reach his full athletic potential at safety, Jones was the elite corner the Cowboys needed at a position still in need of depth. His length and range should make him a fixture in Richard's secondary for a long time.

Vander Esch becomes the 11th Cowboys rookie to make a Pro Bowl, the third on the defensive side of the ball. Surely the Wolf Hunter will look forward to another week of football, going from eight man HS player to one-year starter at Boise State and finally a Cowboys fixture at linebacker.

The Cowboys did what was thought to be proved impossible this season by fielding a competent defense (mostly) without Sean Lee. Vander Esch and teammate Jaylon Smith deserve the credit here, with Leighton making a larger immediate impact than ever expected as the 19th overall pick.

Last but nowhere near least is DeMarcus Lawrence, much closer to the Cowboys top priority in free agency this offseason than an afterthought at his second Pro Bowl. Putting together consecutive seasons with at least ten sacks, the Cowboys don't have to see anything further from their top pass rusher to do whatever it takes to re-sign him.

The rest of the Cowboys "Hot Boyz" have a lot of potential and promise, but Lawrence is a rare proven commodity at defensive end with 25 sacks in his last 32 games. Rushing the passer in the Pro Bowl is a relatively futile task, but the Cowboys know Lawrence is capable of saving his best plays for the biggest moments. Also a dominant run defender, there simply shouldn't be a reality where the Cowboys are forced to field a defense without Lawrence at left end in 2019 and beyond.

The Cowboys at the Pro Bowl will tell you they'd prefer to be missing the game in preparation for the Super Bowl. Getting within two games of this feat after a 3-5 start is still impressive enough for the Cowboys to feel great about their future, in large part because of the six players representing America's Team this week.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowlers Show Promise for Future" 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

Handing out Hardware for the Dallas Cowboys 2018 Season

John Williams

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Resilience Earns Prescott's 1st Playoff Win, Trip to Divisional Round

The 2018 NFL season for the Dallas Cowboys was literally a roller coaster ride with as many ups and downs as the Texas Giant. Through the first seven games of the season the Cowboys alternated home wins with road losses to get to 3-4. They made as big of a personnel move as they've made in recent years when they traded for Amari Cooper only to all to 3-5 in his debut on Monday Night Football to the Tennessee Titans.

Then the team went on an improbably five game winning streak to put themselves in position to win the NFC East for the third time in five years by mid December. The Cowboys were able to pick up the win in the wild card round over the Seattle Seahawks before being ousted by Todd Gurley, C.J. Anderson, and the Los Angeles -- battering -- Rams' offensive line.

The season always ends with a little disappointment for 31 of the NFL's 32 teams, but this year felt different at the end because of where they were to start the season and after eight games. After the Tennessee game, this team was written off. They were Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant. They stormed back and made the 2018 season a memorable one, even if it didn't end with a sixth Lombardi Trophy.

Let's give out some post season awards to your Dallas Cowboys.

MVP

Dak Prescott, Quarterback

Many will scoff at this choice and think it could be Ezekiel Elliott, and I understand, but nobody had a greater impact on the Dallas Cowboys making the playoffs and winning their matchup with the Seattle Seahawks than Dak Prescott did.

Over the final eight games of the season, Dak averaged 278 passing yards per game, 2 total touchdowns, and threw only three interceptions. His numbers down the stretch over a 16 game pace were phenomenal. On 71.6% passing, he was on pace for 4,450 yards, 24 passing touchdowns, eight rushing touchdowns, only six interceptions on the season, with a passer rating of 103.4.

John Williams ✭ on Twitter

Not to make this about Dak, but I'm going to make this about Dak. 2nd in success rate, 3rd in EPA and EPA/play among playoff QBs. #CowboysNation https://t.co/Evyf73uzJ9

His play in the win over the Seattle Seahawks was instrumental in getting the victory to move on to the divisional round. Though they fell short against the Los Angeles Rams, Dak was able to bring them back from 16 down early in the second half to make it a one score game in the end.

Dak Prescott is still a developing player, and in reality, all players are trying to grow their game. Every season. Prescott is a good quarterback, who is on his way to being great and we saw this season the potential that he has.

He threw for a career high 455 yards against the Eagles and three touchdowns and then threw for 387 yards and four touchdowns against the New York Giants. There's evidence now that Dak can throw the ball, and that should scare teams.

In the playoffs, Prescott stepped up and was a big reason why the Cowboys beat the Seahawks and hung in there against the Rams.

Offensive Player of the Year

Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back

Three years, two rushing titles, and it almost seemed like a "meh" season for Ezekiel Elliott. Sure he had some big games, but only a couple times this season did it feel like Elliott took over the game. Some of that is due to the offensive line injuries and inconsistencies, but some of that may be due to Elliott who saw a much bigger workload than he had in his career to date.

He was much more actively involved in the passing game this season as he more than doubled his previous career high with 77 receptions for 567 yards. Though he won the rushing title, this was the lowest rushing yards per game he's had in his short three-year career. Elliott only scored nine touchdowns this season, which tied with his 2017 total that he accrued in only 10 games.

Elliott struggled some in the red zone because the team struggled in the red zone. Some of those issues related to the offensive line and some because of the play calling, but you'd hope that Elliott would be able to overcome some of that where it mattered most.

Defensive Player of the Year

DeMarcus Lawrence, Defensive End

No player on defense has a bigger impact for the Dallas Cowboys than Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence. Whether it's in the run game or the passing game, DeMarcus Lawrence is elite in both categories and makes life incredibly difficult on the opposing offense.

On the season he had 10.5 sacks, finishing with double-digit sacks for the second year in a row. While that may not be as impressive as his 2017 total of 14.5, he was doing his thing with much less help along the defensive line. There wasn't another player who flirted with double-digit sacks this season. Though Randy Gregory, Maliek Collins, and Tyrone Crawford performed well, teams gave all of their attention to Lawrence in both the run and pass game.

And he was still amazingly effective.

Lawrence finished fifth among EDGE players -- 4-3 defensive end and 3-4 outside linebackers -- in tackles, fourth in the NFL in Pro Football Focus' "stops" measure with 44, and 15th in total pressures. Pro Football Focus ranked Lawrence as the seventh best EDGE defender, ninth best pass rusher, and the 12th best run defender. J.J. Watt and Khalil Mack were the only other EDGE defenders who ranked in the top 12 as both a pass rusher and run defender per Pro Football Focus.

DeMarcus Lawrence is heading into the offseason looking to get a long-term deal done.

Rookie of the Year

Leighton Vander Esch, Linebacker

While Connor Williams and Michael Gallup had really good starts to their NFL career's no rookie for the Dallas Cowboys was as impressive as 19th overall pick Leighton Vander Esch. He led the Dallas Cowboys in tackles and "stops" and had the second highest grade of any defender as graded by Pro Football Focus.

In tackles, he was second only to future Hall of Fame inductee Luke Keuchly and fellow rookie Darius Leonard. Vander Esch did all this while playing a limited number of snaps as the Dallas Cowboys eased him in at the start of the season and then attempted to find a way to have Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, and Sean Lee on the field together.

It was an impressive year for the former Boise St. Bronco and the sky is the limit for Vander Esch. He's now played just his second season as a starter in 11-man football. If you remember, he didn't start for Boise St. till the 2017 season and had played 8-man football in high school.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what kind of progression Vander Esch can make to his game in 2019. He's going to be a great player.

Most Improved Player

Jaylon Smith, Linebacker

The 2017 season was not kind to Jaylon Smith. It was his first attempt at playing football since January of 2016 when he tore his ACL in the Fiesta Bowl. It was amazing that he was even playing, though he didn't play considerably well.

2018, however, was a different story.

Jaylon Smith could make a case for team MVP. He may not have had as many tackles as Vander Esch, or as many sacks, but by playmaking defensive EPA, he was nearly as effective at making big plays on defense as DeMarcus Lawrence.

Cowboys Stats & Graphics on Twitter

Overall playmaking EPA rank among all NFL defenders: 5. DeMarcus Lawrence 7. Jaylon Smith 58. Leighton Vander Esch

EPA measures the effect a play will have on the score. Not all plays are weighted the same, as some weigh heavier because of down and distance, turnovers, etc. Jaylon Smith had an excellent season for the Dallas Cowboys and looks to be the guy that they thought he would be when they selected him at the top of the second round in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Having Smith and Vander Esch roaming around the middle of the field for the Dallas Cowboys moving forward is huge. They're excellent at moving in space and are excellent definitions of "sideline to sideline" players.

Jaylon Smith is one of the players I'm already looking forward to watching again in the 2019 season.

Comeback Player of the Year

Randy Gregory, Defensive End

After sitting out all but two games of the 2016 season and all of last season, Randy Gregory came back this season and had a good year. With only one sack in his career heading into the 2018 season, Gregory had a nice comeback year with five sacks and finished tied for second on the team with 37 pressures according to Pro Football Focus. According to Pro Football Reference, Gregory was second on the team in tackles for loss.

The Cowboys have Randy Gregory under contract for the 2019 season for just under $1 million.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Dallas Cowboys have a lot to feel optimistic about as they look to roster build this offseason in preparation of the 2019 season. They have several ascending players playing key roles for them. This team looks primed to contend again in 2019.



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