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!
Cowboys OT La’el Collins Could Become Major Bargain
When you talk Cowboys offensive line, you always think of Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin first. Right Tackle La'el Collins still has to prove he belongs in the same sentence with his elite teammates. If he does that in 2018, Collins could become one of the best bargains on the roster.
Making the move from left guard to right tackle last year, Collins improved with time and was playing his best football at the end of the year. This was despite ongoing back issues that had him on the injury report most weeks.
La'el started all 16 games at right tackle and did enough that the Cowboys committed to keeping him there in 2018, even despite a big hole back at left guard. They are hoping consistency and stability will allow Collins to really blossom this season, building on the strong progress shown last year.
For 2018, Collins has a $5.76 million cap hit. According to Spotrac, that makes him the 13th-most expensive right tackle in the NFL this year.
That middle-of-the-pack expense is consistent with where La'el currently rates among NFL right tackles. Bleacher Report ranked Collins as the 16th-best RT in football last year.
But that ranking was based on the season as a whole. If La'el plays all of 2018 the way he was playing towards the end of last year, he will have emerged as one of the better right tackles in the game.
If Collins develops as we hope, that salary suddenly becomes a major bargain. The most expensive right tackles in the NFL are making $7-$9 million this season.
But this can go a couple of ways. With his 2019 cap hit rising to $7.9 million, La'el needs to next step forward.
If Collins were to struggle this year, it could make him a potential cap casualty next offseason. Dallas can save $6.5 million in cap space if Collins is released or traded in 2019.
Dallas could elect to give Connor Williams, their second-round pick this year, a look at right tackle next season. It's the position he played in college.
They could also consider veteran backup Cameron Fleming, who will still be just 26-year-old. Fleming has two Super Bowl rings and several starts, including in the postseason, from his time with the Patriots.
While we think of La'el Collins as a first-round talent, it's important to remember that he was ultimately an undrafted free agent. Dallas did not have to invest anything to acquire him, and ultimately that makes it easier to let him go.
Naturally, we prefer the other side of this coin. If Collins builds on 2017, he will join the upper echelon of right tackles in the league. And if the Cowboys' offensive line isn't already the best in the NFL, that would only cement them as the best unit in football.
If La'el makes the leap, it could mean huge things for the Cowboys' offense and team success this year.
How Cowboys Could Benefit From Randy Gregory’s Suspension
Randy Gregory is back! His suspension is officially over and he will be able to join the Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard, California when training camp gets underway less than a week from now.
Speculation has already started as to what this could mean for the Dallas Cowboys defense this season, and shockingly expectations are rather high for a player who hasn't stepped foot on the field in over a year. But, that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to focus on Gregory's mess of a contract, because it is rather interesting.
Randy Gregory was signed to a four-year contract after being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second-round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Gregory's rookie deal was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2018 season, but his multiple suspensions have now changed that expiration date.
You see, Gregory has only played in a total of 14 games in his career, 12 as a rookie and two in Year 2. His third year in the NFL was completely wiped out due to his year-long suspension. If you were to add that all up, it equates to just one accured season in the NFL. Remember that, because it could have a huge impact on his contract down the road.
What all of this means is that the Cowboys can pretty much stretch out Gregory's contract now that they are three years in on the deal and have only gotten one accured season out of the agreement. That basically means they can push his contract back a year, meaning his 2017 salary ($731,813) gets pushed back to 2018, his 2018 salary ($955,217) gets pushed to 2019. That would essentially make him a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) in 2020.
Or does it?
Depending on how the Dallas Cowboys handled paying Randy Gregory during his suspension could actually make him an Exclusive Rights Free Agent (EFA). This is a similar situation in which David Irving found himself in after the 2017 season. The Cowboys placed a second-round tender on him in order to secure his services for another season, albeit at a $2.91 million price tag.
As you can see, the Dallas Cowboys pretty much hold all the cards when it comes to Randy Gregory's contract situation. It's all a little confusing, but that's what makes it such a unique and interesting situation.
Of course, the Cowboys could decide to extend Gregory early if he completely dominates upon his return this season. It's highly doubtful though considering his past suspensions, but still technically a possibility. If it does happen, you can go ahead and ignore everything I've written previously.
Earl Thomas: Age is Just a Number Part II
Yesterday, I wrote a piece attempting to assuage the fears that many in Cowboys Nation have about handing a contract extension out to Earl Thomas, who is 29 years old as we enter the 2018 NFL season.
In the comment section, a reader posed a very good question that is the basis for the rest of this article:
It's a great question that certainly required some research, but Cowboys fans all across the world should be encouraged by my findings.
Just to refresh, here are the players we looked at as favorable comparisons to Earl Thomas at this point in his career. I searched Pro Football Reference for safeties who had at least three All-Pro First Team selections and at least six Pro Bowl appearances.
The average age of the players listed at the time when they reached their third All-Pro was 31 years old. I'm removing Deion Sanders and Roger Wehrli from the equation as most of their work was done at cornerback.
Let's look at a chart that outlines what these guys careers looked like at age 29 and beyond to get a better picture. Remember, Earl Thomas already has three All-Pro selections and six Pro Bowls. Many of these guys didn't reach those kind of accolades until their 30s.
The first thing I noticed as I looked into this question is that only two players had three or more All-Pro First Team selections prior to age 29, like Earl Thomas has. Those players were Rod Woodson and Ronnie Lott. Every other player on this list didn't hit their third All-Pro selection until age 29 or later.
Only one player reached his sixth Pro Bowl prior to his age 29 season, that player is Ronnie Lott, who many NFL Analysts consider to be the greatest safety of all-time. Most of the players didn't achieve their third All-Pro selection until their age 29 season or later. Earl Thomas reached his third All-Pro selection at age 25.
Here's a hot take for you: Earl Thomas, when it's all said and done could be considered the greatest safety of all-time. I'll just leave that there to marinate and if a trade does happen, we'll come back to that.
Back to the chart.
Another thing I want to point out is that none of these players were 100% healthy. Such is the life in the NFL, especially as you get older, but they were available for at least 14 games a majority of their seasons aged 29 or later. Health is an unpredictable animal in the NFL, but the safety position allows for much more longevity than many other positions. And as the chart depicts, it's a position that ages well.
So, as you can see in the chart, players who were highly productive prior to their age 29 season were also highly productive for several seasons after. These players went onto average almost seven more years in the league from their age 29 seasons.
Most players continued to average a healthy amount of interceptions. The player that saw the biggest decline from the early part of his career to the post-29 part of his career was Brian Dawkins. The former Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos safety went from three interceptions per season prior to 29 to 1.9 interceptions per season 29 and after.
When it comes to the safety position, the elite seem to be able to get the most of their bodies and their abilities and can prolong their prime. The position relies as much on intelligence and awareness as it does quickness and athleticism. Earl Thomas has the mental capacity to play the game for many more years and there's been zero evidence to suggest that he is experiencing any physical decline.
At the rate of his career that he's on, Earl Thomas is destined for the Hall of Fame. He's one of the faces of the Legion of Boom defense that propelled the Seattle Seahawks into the elite category of teams in the early part of this decade.
If and when an Earl Thomas trade does occur, don't sweat an extension for Thomas.
Thomas' credentials put him in an elite group of players who played the game for a very long time and there's no reason to believe he won't continue to do so.
The Dallas Cowboys aren't that far off from having a Super Bowl contending defense built in the image of the Seattle Seahawks. Going to get the All-Pro, future Hall of Fame safety is the final piece to the to the Dallas Cowboys completing construction on "Doomsday III."
Everything else is there for the Dallas Cowboys, now all they have to do is: Go. Get. Earl!
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