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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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Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Free Agency: Week One Recap

Jess Haynie

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Tavon Austin

It's been just a week since NFL free agents could begin negotiating with other teams, but it feels like a lifetime for anxious Cowboys fans. Dallas' seemingly passive approach to 2019 free agency has left many disappointed. Still, there are some moves to recap.

As has become their strategy in recent years, the Cowboys have focused on filling up their depth chart and trying to avoid any glaring holes prior to next month's draft. They've re-signed several backups and added at least one likely rotation player.

It's still far too early to judge Dallas' activity. Comparing the 2019 roster to last year will depend heavily on the draft, growth from current players, and other factors. But with the "second wave" of free agency upon us, it's a good time to look at who's come, gone, and stuck around so far.

New Arrivals

  • TE Jason Witten (unretired)
  • TE Codey McElroy (Rams)
  • DT Christian Covington (Texans)

The biggest addition so far this offseason wasn't even a free agent, at least not in the purest sense of the term. Jason Witten's surprising return from retirement helped shore up one of Dallas' biggest needs, though it may not preclude them from drafting a tight end high in April.

Also at tight end, Dallas signed developmental project Codey McElroy. His experience is in baseball and basketball, having played just one year of college football. But at 6'6'" and 255 lbs., and having spent last year working with the Rams, the Cowboys must see something they're intrigued by.

Last week Dallas signed Christian Covington, who had 3.5 sacks for Houston in 2018 playing as a 3-4 defensive end. He should move to DT in the Cowboys' scheme and should be a solid addition to their rotation.

Dallas Cowboys 2019 Free Agency: Week One Recap

Former Cowboys WR Cole Beasley, now with the Buffalo Bills. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Departures

  • WR Cole Beasley (Bills)
  • TE Geoff Swaim (Jaguars)
  • DL David Irving (shenanigans)
  • LB Damien Wilson (Chiefs)

Beasley is heading to Buffalo on a four-year, $29 million deal. It appeared the relationship soured between Cole and Dallas over his playing time last year, and clearly the Cowboys didn't fight hard to keep him.

Damien Wilson followed Anthony Hitchens to Kansas City to help round out their linebacker corps. Once it was announced that Dallas was hanging on to Sean Lee in 2019, it was fairly certain that Wilson wouldn't be back.

Also not expected back was TE Geoff Swaim, who signed with Jacksonville. Even before Witten came back, Dallas appeared likely to stick with Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz for returning talent and then add an upgrade via free agency or the draft.

While still a free agent, nobody expects David Irving back in Dallas or even the NFL after recent activities. Irving appears focused on a Hollywood career and advocating for medical marijuana use at this point.

Keepers

  • FB Jamize Olawale
  • WR Tavon Austin
  • WR Allen Hurns (team option)
  • OT Cam Fleming
  • G/C Joe Looney (team option)
  • DE DeMarcus Lawrence (franchise tag)
  • DT Daniel Ross (ERFA)
  • LB Justin March-Lillard
  • S Darian Thompson

While Dallas put the franchise tag on prized pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, his return in 2019 is far from settled. Lawrence has previously sworn he wouldn't play under a second franchise tag this year, and last we heard the two sides are far apart on a long-term deal. Could a holdout be on the horizon?

The Cowboys doubled-down on WR depth by re-signing Tavon Austin and exercising their team option on Allen Hurns' contract. Both are able to play out of the slot, meaning we could see more of a rotation approach to replacing Cole Beasley next year.

Dallas also re-signed fullback Jamize Olawale, which was a surprise given his low usage rate last year. Perhaps the change to Kellen Moore at offensive coordinator was behind this one, hoping to take better advantage of Olawale's receiving skills going forward.

Joe Looney and Cam Fleming will also be back as valuable backups on the offensive line. Looney started 16 games last year at center and also helps at guard, while Fleming will be the swing tackle once again for his second season in Dallas.

On defense, Dallas kept Daniel Ross in their DT rotation after solid performance in 2018. Justin March-Lillard return at linebacker, particularly for his value on special teams. And Darian Thompson, a former third-round pick by the Giants, is back as an ongoing developmental player.

~ ~ ~

Today we're already seeing a flourish of free agent activity in Dallas. Reports this morning have them meeting with WR Randall Cobb and S Clayton Geathers, and we haven't even had lunch yet.

If this is any indication, next week's recap may have a lot more to discuss.



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REPORT: Cowboys Visiting With Free Agent S Clayton Geathers Today

Jess Haynie

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REPORT: Cowboys Visiting With Free Agent S Clayton Geathers Today

The Cowboys appear to be waking up in 2019 free agency. After a report earlier that they're meeting with WR Randall Cobb, now they're also visiting with Safety Clayton Geathers. He's spent the last four years with the Indianapolis Colts and was a starter and team captain in 2018.

Geathers missed four games last season with a neck injury but still had 89 tackles on the year. He has yet to get an interception since entering the league in 2015, but hasn't been a full-time starter for much of that time.

Field Yates on Twitter

Free agent S Clayton Geathers is visiting the Cowboys today, per source. He was a team captain for the Colts last season, starting 12 games and recording 89 tackles.

At 6'2" and 220 lbs., Geathers is every bit of a strong safety. He is likely being considered to compete with Jeff Heath for the starting role and otherwise provide depth.

Clayton's rookie contract expired this year, making him available as a free agent. He turns 27 in June and was a fourth-round pick in 2015.

This is still just a visit and a signing is hardly guaranteed. But at the least, the Cowboys seem to be becoming far more active in this second wave of free agency.



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REPORT: Cowboys Visiting With Free Agent WR Randall Cobb Today

Jess Haynie

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Randall Cobb

The Dallas Cowboys are hosting free agent Receiver Randall Cobb today at The Star, according to ESPN's Todd Archer. Cobb has spent all eight of his NFL season thus far with the Green Bay Packers.

After losing Cole Beasley to the Buffalo Bills in free agency, and with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup entrenched as starters, Dallas must be considering Cobb to help them at slot receiver.

Todd Archer on Twitter

The Cowboys are hosting free-agent wide receiver Randall Cobb at The Star today, according to a source. With the departure of Cole Beasley, the Cowboys are looking for help at slot receiver and Cobb can also play on the outside. In eight years in Green Bay, he had 470 catches...

This move is a bit surprising after Dallas chose to keep both Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns from last year. Both veterans are capable of playing out of the slot, as is Amari Cooper.

Cobb, however, may bring more upside. He's struggled injuries lately but was a key part of the Packers' offense for several years. He went to the Pro Bowl in 2014 with nearly 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Turning 29 in August, Randall's contract expired in Green Bay and he remains a free agent. The Cowboys are likely hoping to replace Cole Beasley's skill set at a discounted price.

It's been a slow free agency period for Dallas thus far, and Randall Cobb wouldn't be a glamorous addition. However, any activity would make anxious Cowboys fans happy at this point.



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