Dallas Cowboys Nation is a site dedicated to the fans. We care what you think and we want to you to have a platform to voice what you have to say. This installment of "Voice of the Nation" asks who fans view as the top-5 current Dallas Cowboys.
Here are their responses:
Todd Cory (Twitter: @TDC331)
5. Tyron Smith
Left tackle Tyron Smith provides a pro-bowl caliber, blind side protective anchor for the quarterback. He also possesses a tremendous amount of upside to go along with youth. His athleticism and increasing experience are valuable assets.
4. Jason Witten
One of the best tight ends to ever play in the NFL. Reliable, consistent and as tough as they come. His influence and work ethic both on and off the field helps this team immensely.
3. Tony Romo
The Dallas Cowboys always have the chance to win any game with Tony Romo leading the charge at quarterback. The team is never counted out with him in the lineup. An extremely exciting player to watch every single down as he will always try to capitalize on the team's opportunities with big plays.
2. Demarcus Ware
Quite possibly the best pass rusher in the game. Demarcus Ware is a constant, major threat to opposing offenses. A high character player/fan favorite, who piles up sacks and forced fumbles. An absolute iconic force for the Dallas Cowboys.
1. Sean Lee
With Sean Lee in the lineup, the defense is awarded with a tremendous presence of swagger. A linebacker who is at the peak of his career. Sean Lee plays with a magical instinct for the football and greatly lifts the Cowboys defense.
Dan Flannigan (Twitter: @Dan_Flannigan)
The Penn State second round pick is the leader of the defense and is a tackle machine. He is also injury prone and needs to stay on the field a whole season. Lee is the future at MLB in the NFL and there should be no transition period for the move to the 4-3 since the guy is an absolute genius. If Lee never got hurt this past season the Cowboys win the division in my opinion, he is that important. He can cover TEs and RBs and is obviously a force in the run game. Health will always be his question mark but once he gets rid of the bug he will only get better.
4) Jason Witten
To me Witten is the best all-around TE in the league with his route running, hands and blocking. He will set the Cowboys record for most receptions in team history and he is the only one who could catch Tony Gonzalez for most all time for a TE at the moment. Witten is a great leader on and off the field and always seems to be there when Romo cannot find anyone open down field. The window is closing on his prime years which is why Dallas went with a TE in back to back drafts even though none block like Witten. He will have a few more good seasons before passing the torch down to the young guys but there is no one better to learn from, save Gonzalez, than Witten for Hanna and Escobar.
3) Dez Bryant
"The Big 88"- Hot Hands Hannon for all you Little Giants 90's kids out there. Dez has finally grown up and is making all those teams that passed on him in the draft regret it with every catch he makes. There is a reason Jerry gave him the number made famous by the likes of Drew Pearson and Michael Irvin and if Dez keeps up his pace he will be right up there with them as one of the best Cowboy wide outs ever. That 2,000 yard, 20 TD goal he said he could get most likely will not happen and not because of skill but because Romo has too many mouths to feed and with the additions of Terrance Williams and Gavin Escobar to add to it. Dez will warrant some attention from DBs but they cannot focus too much on him with Miles "String Cheese Hamy" Austin, Williams, Witten, and the backups Hanna and Escobar on the field. I expect another big year but not the record breaker the media will talk about all season.
2) DeMarcus Ware
Beast. I really do not have to say any more about Ware but for the instructions given for this post....I will. Ware has the most sacks since coming into the league in 2005 out of Troy with 111 and was the second fastest to 100 behind only the late great Reggie White. Ware's health and numbers have declined over the years but like Romo he is out there doing it by himself. He was and still is the only threat Dallas has in the pass rush and that will take its toll on anyone. The move to the Tampa 2 4-3 will allow Ware to be in more one on one match ups where he can once again dominate left and right tackles while returning to the position he played in college. If this team is going to make noise this year Ware needs to get at least return to the range of 16-18 sacks which should be achieved.
1) Tony Romo
Ladies and gentlemen I do not want to hear the man is not clutch or the man cannot win. Tony Romo can play quarterback and play it pretty well considering what he has to put up with every Sunday. The man puts up serious numbers folks and puts this team into position to win games. Now, yes I am aware he tries too hard sometimes but give him a break he is running for his life for most of the game. In his career he has a 177 to 91 touchdown too interception ratio....Eli has a 211 to 144 and played two more seasons than Romo. If Jerry would give this man an offensive line the Lombardi would be in Dallas period. He is the captain and leader of this team and will be here at least three more years pending when the contract can be voided so if you do not support him find another team to root for, but I suggest you stay put if an o-line is created.
Eric Hoenig (Twitter: @DFWSportsFan)
Whether it’s because of the poor quality of the offensive line as a unit the past two seasons, the fact that the Cowboys passed on JJ Watt in the 2011 draft in favor of Tyron Smith, or that we just don’t hear that much from Smith, he is often overlooked. Smith has performed quite well starting 31 games for America’s Team in his first two seasons in the league, and he is still only 22 years old. 22 years old. Let that sink in for a minute. Smith has the size and athleticism to excel at one of the most important positions in football for the next decade. Smith has already become the Cowboy’s best o-lineman (I know that’s not saying much), and his best football is still ahead of him.
4. Sean Lee
Lee is the heart and soul of the defense, and his athleticism and instincts make him one of the best inside linebackers in all of football. Lee has demonstrated a knack for causing turnovers which is something that the Cowboys have been lacking in recent years. He is a difference maker in the middle, and he will thrive in Kiffin’s 4-3 defense where he will patrol the middle. The only thing keeping Lee from being rated even higher on this list is his inability to stay healthy. For the Cowboys to reach their full potential in 2013, they’re going to need Mr. Lee to stay healthy.
3. DeMarcus Ware
The Cowboys have one of the game’s best defenders on their roster with Ware, and D-Ware’s ability to get to the QB has been second to none over the course of his career. Opposing coaches and QBs have to scheme around him and know where he is at all times, and Ware can take over a game. He is one of the classiest guys in the NFL, but I do have some concerns about his age finally catching up to him and the injuries that slowed him down last season.
2. Tony Romo
Say what you want about Tony Romo, but he is a darn good QB. This team can only go as far as he will take them. Unfortunately for Cowboy fans, he has fallen short in crunch time throughout his career, and he has yet to play his best football at the end of the season. However, Romo is an immensely talented player, and he has shown that he is definitely capable of playing the most important position in the game at a very high level. To be able to play as well as he has behind such a poor offensive line has actually been quite remarkable. I was very happy to see the Cowboys take a “Romo –Friendly” approach in the draft and get him some much needed help. If this list was about who is most important to the Cowboys, Romo would come in at number one, and without him, the Cowboys have no shot at making the playoffs.
1. Dez Bryant
Dez is the most talented player on this roster. Period. Other than Calvin Johnson, there isn’t anybody else in the NFL that I would rather have at wide receiver for the Cowboys. Dez finally put it all together in 2012 as his knowledge of the game has improved drastically. He has the size, speed and hands to dominate the game, but his most important characteristic is his heart and passion. Dez brings a much needed attitude and fire to this team, and if he continues learning more about the game of football, he will become an unstoppable force on the field.
It’s impossible to make a list of the top 5 Cowboys without mentioning Ware’s name. It’s probably incredibly stupid for me to have him this low, and I admit that. It’s just that I’m an offensive kind of guy (get it, ha…nevermind). Ware is the best pass-rusher and easily the pass-rusher on the team when he was on the field last year. People say that Anthony Spencer is more important to this team, and I laugh in their faces. I’ve heard it mentioned too many times that Ware lacks heart, or Ware isn’t mean enough. All I say to that is Saints 2009. From what I’ve heard Ware always battles through injuries, so it’s tough that he missed so much time last year, but I fully expect him to have 2 or 3 more good-great seasons before he starts regressing. This guy is amazing, and besides: I just like shouting “Beware of D-Ware!”
4. Dez Bryant
I hate to keep going offense here, but what’s not to like about Dez Bryant… ok I’ll admit that there were some things in the past, but everything I hear from the guy on the radio or that he tweets sounds like he’s really matured and accepts that he’s a role model. Dez Bryant is a guy that can do it all: he’s strong, he’s quick, and he’s got great hands. He’s got the playbook down and fights for every yard on every play. I get that some of you out there hate that, but I love it. This kid bleeds Football. His string of 7 games with TD receptions is amazing and with Terrence Williams and Gavin Escobar to stretch the field, he has a shot at being something special this year. It was criminal that he didn’t make the pro bowl last year. Although, let’s forget his disappearance at the end of the season.
3. Jason Witten
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Senator. Drafted in the third round out of Tennessee (The other UT) in 2003, he has been a stalwart for the Cowboys ever since. I’ll admit I wasn’t around for a lot of Witten’s biggest plays, mainly because I wasn’t watching at the time. But anyone whose helmet gets ripped off and keeps running head-first into traffic is a legend in my opinion. If the Cowboys never win a Super Bowl with Romo and Witten at the helm, it’s Witten I’ll feel the most sorry for. This guy gives his heart and soul for this team, playing through a spleen laceration and being criticized for losing a step because of it. He’s a blocker and a pass-catcher, a rarity in Today’s NFL. Plus, I swear he and Romo have a telepathic connection going on.
2. Tony Romo
Like it or not, Tony Romo is the Dallas Cowboys. Look no further than the 2013 NFL draft. If that isn’t a Romo-friendly draft I don’t know what is. It is my personal opinion that Romo has done more with less than any other current big-time quarterback in the NFL right now. Certainly there are better quarterbacks; I don’t think anyone would deny that. However his career touchdown-to-interception ratio is 2:1; the NY/A of the Dallas Cowboys passing offense with him at the helm has averaged 7.19. Compare that to a league leading 7.4 by the Denver Broncos offense last year. His running game and offensive line take turns being in shambles. He’s the national media’s number one piñata. And he’s just a really likeable guy; I can’t help but want him to succeed. Roll out right, Tony!
1. Sean Lee
2010 was my first NFL draft. I’m not a really young fan (I’d be old enough to remember the 1996 Super Bowl if I actually cared about Football at the time). It’s just that I wasn’t that big into sports until the 2009 season. Anyway the 2010 draft sticks out in my memory for two reasons: general anger at picking Dez Bryant, and drafting the injured Sean Lee out of Penn State. The anger at pick-up of an injury-prone linebacker (who we didn’t need: I’m noticing a trend here) was palpable everywhere I looked: “There goes Jerry again.” However, I truly believed he would be great. When it was announced in 2011 that he would be taking 1/3 of the snaps from Brookings and James, it wasn’t long before rumors came out he would take the majority of the snaps. What more is there to say? He picked off Peyton Manning in his first year. He played with a club over his hand for half a season in 2011. Finally, he’s the best MLB you’ve never heard of. And he’s only going to get better.
A special thanks to everyone who contributed to this installment of "Voice of the Nation". Please be sure to check these guys out on Twitter and let them know what you think!
Did DC Rod Marinelli Have Increased Role in Cowboys Loss at Rams?
The Dallas Cowboys Divisional Round loss at the Los Angeles Rams is still fresh on the minds of their players, staff, and front office. So much so that the team had to fan the flames on a Jason Garrett comment expecting Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan to return. Garrett himself walked back this "report" once Stephen Jones noted it's still too early for any coaching staff changes. The focus will remain on Linehan's post until it's removed or the Cowboys OC is retained, but one coordinator the Cowboys now expect to keep is Rod Marinelli on defense.
Marinelli himself disputed the season-long belief that this was likely his last as the Cowboys defensive coordinator. With Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard not taking any of the three HC positions he interviewed for, Marinelli doesn't have to worry about shuffling his title to accommodate Richard - who called the plays from week one this season anyway.
Rod's title does include his specialty as defensive line coach though, a unit that the Rams dominated with their offensive line to a historic degree. The Rams' season-high 273 rushing yards was provided by both Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson surpassing 100 yards on the ground, the first time in team history they've had two backs reach this mark in a single playoff game.
Rams HC Sean McVay hardly had to reach into his vaunted 'bag of tricks' to expose the Cowboys defense in a way they hadn't been all year, but there was still an element of brilliance in his offensive game plan. It came out after the game that the Rams picked up on the keys the Dallas defensive linemen used to signal stunts and twists before the snap. While this is nothing more than just great scouting yielding an unforeseen advantage, it's left the Cowboys with more than enough time to ponder what went wrong in the Coliseum.
The Rams offensive line knew what the Cowboys defensive line was going to do before the snap on Saturday. https://t.co/oGo6Eiz4av
The answer to this may be nothing other than the coaching questions the Cowboys are already considering. With Richard's interviews in Tampa Bay, Miami, and New York coming at the beginning of the week leading up to game day, it's possible Marinelli had a larger say in the Cowboys preparation on defense.
It was Marinelli's defense that conceded 412 yards to the Rams in 2017 in a loss at AT&T Stadium. Matching him up with McVay leaves a lot to be desired, while Richard helps bridge this gap - something he was seen desperately trying to do on the sideline with a battered Cowboys defense.
As each day of the offseason passes, a change at either coordinator position becomes less likely in Dallas. On offense, the play caller has more than a season's worth of evidence showing the deficiencies of the Cowboys attack. In a league fueled by recency bias however, Marinelli certainly didn't leave his best performance on the field in Los Angeles.
Somewhere in the middle of this is Jason Garrett, safely in place as the head coach that should be personally trying to upgrade his top two assistants however possible. Marinelli signing up for another year makes this hard on defense, though Richard should resume play calling duties next season.
Again, this leaves the onus of the Cowboys improvements for 2019 on the offensive side of the ball, something that'll be realized when the shock of their defense letting them down in the biggest game of the season is gone.
Cowboys Getting Over $30 Million Cap Space from Expiring Dead Money
You may have already heard that the Dallas Cowboys will be flush with salary cap space in 2019, and that's very accurate. A huge portion of it comes from over $30 million in expiring cap penalties, otherwise known as "dead money."
Quick explanation; dead money occurs when a player is released or retires prior to the expiration of their contract. Any guaranteed money, such as the original signing bonus or money converted in a restructuring, that has not yet been paid out according to the contract schedule is accelerated.
For example, when Tony Romo retired after 2016, he still had $19.6 million in guaranteed money owed to him. Dallas chose to split this dead money over two years, and thus had a $10.7 cap penalty in 2017 and $8.9 million last season.
But now Romo's dead money, along with Dez Bryant's and several other players, is coming off the Cowboys' books. The result is a roughly $30 million infusion of salary cap space for 2019.
Here were the major culprits for last year's dead money:
(All cap figures are taken from Spotrac.com)
- QB Tony Romo - $8.9 million
- WR Dez Bryant - $8 million
- DT Cedric Thornton - $2.5 million
- CB Orlando Scandrick - $2.3 million
- CB Nolan Carroll - $2 million
- WR Deonte Thompson - $1.8 million
- DE Benson Mayowa - $1.1 million
- K Dan Bailey - $800 thousand
- TE James Hanna - $750 thousand
Those players alone make up a little over $28 million. Another $4 million or so came from over 30 players with lesser penalties that still added up.
Right now, the Cowboys have only $1.76 million in dead money on their 2019 salary cap. Nearly all of that is the $1.6 million still owed to Orlando Scandrick.
That difference is where the cap space comes from, and it will be of tremendous help to Dallas as they have major financial moves coming. They need to re-sign DeMarcus Lawrence, deal with a major salary bump for Amari Cooper, and consider a contract extension for Dak Prescott.
The 2019 number will change, of course, as the offseason rolls on. If Dallas elects to release players like Sean Lee, Tyrone Crawford, or others, some dead money will appear. But that will be offset by whatever cap savings motivated the move in the first place.
This is a good reminder of why the Cowboys' new era of fiscal conservatism is a good thing. After years of what felt like perpetual "salary cap hell," they are finally getting out from under those penalties and have complete flexibility this offseason. They may not even need to cut a guy like Crawford, who they almost would have been forced to in past seasons.
We'll be talking a lot more about individual players and their contracts in the weeks ahead, but this summary helps us see that Dallas isn't nearly up against the financial wall as they have been. We still miss guys like Romo and Dez, but we won't miss that awful dead money in 2019.
Cowboys Expect C Travis Frederick Back for Offseason Program
Lost in yesterday's hoopla over Scott Linehan's return was a positive report about Center Travis Frederick. In his comments to the media, Jason Garrett said that Frederick's recovery timetable should allow him to a full participant in the team's offseason program.
After never missing a start in his first five years, Travis missed all of 2018 dealing with the effects of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The disease attacked his neurological system and required immediate and intensive treatment.
Jason Garrett says the team anticipates Travis Frederick being involved in the offseason program right from the start this spring if he continues on the same positive track in recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome. #cowboyswire
While Joe Looney performed admirably in Frederick's absence, he's not an elite talent. Travis has been arguably the best center in the NFL since entering the league in 2013.
It's hard to qualify what effect not having Frederick had on the Cowboys offense in 2018. Ezekiel Elliott still led the league in rushing, but short-yardage plays weren't as automatic as we've seen in past years. A 4th-and-1 stuff was part of what led to the Cowboys' loss this past Saturday.
Dak Prescott was the second-most sacked QB in the NFL in 2018. After being sacked just 25 and 32 times in his first two seasons, the number skyrocketed to 56 sacks.
That's not all on Frederick, of course. Tyron Smith had some health issues and there were was turnover at left guard.
But having your All-Pro veteran center out there to help with the pre-snap reads, and help the rookie guard on his left, might have helped avoid some of those issues.
Indeed, Travis Frederick's return is just one of many reasons for optimism with the 2019 season. One of the best players on the team, he was sorely missed this year and can only help as Dallas looks to build on their division title and playoff appearance.
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