It's getting to that time in the preseason where guys are starting to separate themselves. I think my roster reflects the guys that have done so. This is not an easy task folks. I used to think it was. But it is very difficult once you get down to around 60 players.
You have to consider so much - numbers at each position, if you cut a guy will he make it through waivers to your practice squad, do you cut a veteran for the week 1 game with the intent of bringing him back week 2 so that his salary isn't fully guaranteed... and I haven't even gotten into injuries to guys like Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Lawrence that you know will be back eventually, but you probably won't have the first few weeks of the season. Not to mention the suspension of Orlando Scandrick which just throws a wrench into everything.
So we've established the difficulty of a roster projection. Below is my best effort. And yes. If you do the math, I realize there are 54 players listed. Simply because of Scandrick's suspension. He will be on the team for the first 4 weeks but will not count against the roster during that time.
In keeping with the running roster projections by the staff during preseason, players added to this roster are denoted in red below.
Defense (28 players)
Safety – 5
Church and Wilcox are cemented as the starters. Jeff Heath is the coaching staff's pet cat and the new Danny McCray of the special teams unit. Ahmad Dixon put enough bulldozing hits on the Chargers that I don't think they can risk trying to get him to the practice squad. I'm sliding Jakar Hamilton in because, of all the safeties we have, I think he might be the best when it comes to pass coverage. There was a reason early in camp that he was dropping down and covering the slot. He's the only true single high safety we have on the roster.
Cornerback – 6
Same 6 as last week but I could definitely see it changing before San Fran. Webb was better in coverage against Baltimore but I just don't know if he has the physical toughness to play this type of defense. Rod has always had tough CBs that weren't afraid to hit, and I noticed a couple of times against the Ravens where Webb had a chance to get rough and make a play or two but flat-out avoided the contact instead. To B.W. Webb I say, "Sir, you are no Deion Sanders". He cannot afford to make business decisions. Tyler Patmon played very well last night and the coaches really seem to like him. You're on notice, Webb.
Outside Linebacker – 3
While I'm keeping the same guys here - this is starting to get a little tricky. First off, the neck injury that Holloman suffered this week could be serious. As I type this, no reports have surfaced yet on the seriousness of the injury. But it's the same injury that kept him out of 7 games last year. When you start to have multiple injuries to the same body part, there is a problem. When that body part is the neck then it's a HUGE problem. We will have to keep a close eye on this.
Also, while I know Bruce Carter is a lock to make the team - I'm not quite so sure that he is a lock to start on the weak-side anymore. While he definitely played better in coverage this week, he still missed a couple of assignments against the run-game and struggled to get off blocks that led to some big runs. It pains me to type this because Bruce is my man. I mean MY MAIN MAN. But if Rolando McClain continues to play as well as he did Saturday night, I could easily see a starting trio of McClain at MLB, Durant at WLB, and Wilber at SLB. It's all about getting the best 3 players on the field.
Inside Linebacker – 3
While nothing changes here, I sure do feel a lot better about this group than I did last week. Rolando McClain led the team in tackles against the Ravens and had a forced-fumble that rolled out of bounds. Most importantly he seemed to be having fun. Justin Durant also looked a lot better this week. Reports from camp have been that he's really playing well. But that didn't translate at all into the Chargers game. Well it did this week. He seemed to be exactly where he was supposed to be during his time on the field with the 1st team defense, which held the Ravens 1st string offense to 10 points.
Defensive Line – 11
Henry Melton DT
Nick Hayden DT
Terrell McClain DT
Davon Coleman DT
DeMarcus Lawrence DE
George Selvie DE
Jeremy Mincey DE
Tyrone Crawford DE/DT
Dartwan Bush DE
Ken Bishop DT
Anthony Spencer DE
Defensive Tackles: No, I did not forget about this weeks Flash Player of The Week Zach Minter. He was outstanding in the 4th quarter. But I have to see it more than once to justify putting him on the 53. I think the rest of the guys you see listed are pretty much locks. Devon Coleman shined once again against the Ravens. I think it's safe to say he has made the 53.
Defensive End: The new addition to the d-line this week is Mr. Dartwan Bush. Much like WR Jamar Newsome, he has combined a good training camp with good games as well. After re-watching the game, he was just everywhere. The strip sack that Minter got was in large part because Bush forced the QB right into his arms. He's earned his spot. That bumped Kenneth Boatright down to the practice squad. Boatright had back-to-back splash plays against the Chargers, but he really had zero impact Saturday and, while I'm not reporting live from training camp, I haven't read anything to suggest he is doing anything special. So shame on me for getting caught up in his flash plays last week.
Offense (23 Players)
Quarterback – 2
No changes here. Romo is obviously fine and while Weeden wasn't as sharp as he was against the Chargers - It's important to note that he was playing with the Cowboys 2's against the Ravens 1's. Despite Hanie looking much better than he did against the Chargers, I just can't fathom a way for the Cowboys to keep 3 QBs.
Running Back – 4
Last week I stated that Murray and Dunbar were the only locks. Well I think it's safe to say Randle can be added to that list after a great showing against the Chargers, and then backing that up with 5.9 YPC against the Ravens. The new addition this week is Ryan Williams. That means the exit of fullback Tyler Clutts. Neither Clutts nor J.C. Copeland have done anything to earn a spot on the 53 man roster. Ryan Williams has done the exact opposite. In both preseason games he has taken advantage of his opportunities. Jason Garrett has kept 4 RBs more than once (including last year), and as it stands right now, I think he does it again.
The first 5 - Bryant, Williams, Beasley, Harris, and Street - have been locks from day one. And if you would have asked me last week, or any week during training camp, I would have told you there was no way the Cowboys can keep 6 WRs. But Jamar Newsome has done exactly what an UDFA has to do to make a team. He's had a great training camp and now he's starting to carry that over into the actual games. He's going to make it very difficult for the coaches to cut him. So I decided to call him up from the Practice Squad.
Tight End – 3
No Changes here. The only thing that comes to my mind is if someone comes up on the waiver wire that can actually run-block. While Escobar and Hanna have both improved on their blocking - neither one of them make me feel all giggly inside when it comes to pushing people back in the run game.
The only change here this week is removing Darrion Weems and adding Uche Nwaneri. Simply put, I have to see you play. And I haven't seen Weems play. He's been injured and as old Parcells used to say, "You can't make the team on the trainers table." Nwaneri, on the other hand, has played. And he's played well enough to keep him on the 53 for extra depth. Also, as much junk as Parnell has taken - and rightfully so - he actually played pretty well against the Ravens. Every one will point to the one play where he almost got Weeden killed but, outside of that, he had a very solid night in both pass and run blocking. At one point, he pulled and was the lead man that led Joseph Randle to a 19-yard gain around the left side. And quite frankly, he's all we've got as a backup swing tackle.
Special Teams – 3
Dan MFN Baily K
LP French Canadian Daddy LS
Chris Jones P
Practice Squad – 8
Tyler Patmon CB
Will Smith LB
Caesar Rayford DE/DT
Kenneth Boatright DE
Dustin Vaughn QB
Chris Boyd WR
Ronald Patrick C/G
John Wetzel G/T
A few changes here. Ben Gardner was moved to IR. Jamar Newsome and Dartwan Bush were called up to the 53 which pushed Caesar Rayford and Kenneth Boatright down. I think the Cowboys risk losing both of these to other teams. They could both easily shine enough in these last 2 preseason games to force me into finding a way to get at least one of them back on the 53.
So there you have it. It's what I think is the best 53 players to take into week 1. Good God, I can't even imagine having to figure out which 46 to make active.
Could Loaded FA Safety Market Drive Down Earl Thomas’ Value?
It's no secret the Dallas Cowboys and Earl Thomas share a mutual interest in one another. Thomas has publicly stated his desire to join America's Team and the Cowboys did their darndest to make that happen last offseason. Nothing ever materialized a year ago, but it's looking as if the stars have finally aligned and a union between the two could merely be just weeks away.
Surprisingly enough, the Dallas Cowboys may have dodged a bullet last year when the Seattle Seahawks refused to part ways with their All-Pro safety. Not only would they have had to surrender a high draft pick, but they would've also had to extend Thomas' contract. Fortunately, timing is everything and now the Cowboys might just have to do the latter.
A potential contract between the Cowboys and Thomas is of course what I want to dive in today. I'm not going to get into numbers right now, because it's nearly impossible to project any kind of contract for any safety this offseason, especially for the former Seahawk, Earl Thomas.
Right now, it's a little difficult to know who might have the advantage in contract negotiations, Earl Thomas or the Dallas Cowboys. A lot of times the one that has the leverage, however slight, is the one that gets the better of the deal. As surprising as it may be, the Cowboys might just have the advantage here and I'll tell you why.
First off, this year's market for free agent safeties is pretty stacked with starting caliber players. See below:
- Earl Thomas
- Landon Collins
- Lamarcus Joyner
- Tyrann Mathieu
- Adrian Amos
- Clayton Geathers
- Ha-Ha Clinton Dix
- Glover Quinn
- Tre Boston
- Kenny Vaccaro
- George Iloka
- Jimmie Ward
- Adrian Phillips
Earl Thomas is obviously the headliner here amongst the free agent safeties, but having so many starting caliber players available could drive down Thomas' market value just a bit. This is especially true when you take into consideration the market for FA safeties just a year ago. It was almost a complete standstill last year, with only Kurt Coleman signing a three-year $16.5 million deal with the New Orleans Saints. Not even the "Honey Badger" Tyrann Mathieu could get more than a one-year deal.
With all of these safeties available in free agency, we could be looking at another stingy market. This of course could be good or bad news for the Dallas Cowboys, especially as it pertains to Earl Thomas. Since he is the top FA safety available, everything could once again be at a standstill until he is signed.
Of course, we all know this will ultimately come down to determining Earl Thomas' market value. There is no denying he is still arguably the best free safety in the game today, but there are concerns about his age (30) and the two lower leg injuries he's sustained in the past three years.
Even with the loaded free agent market of starting caliber safeties and Thomas' age and recent injury history, he's still likely to receive a contract that earns him $10 million annually, give or take. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he gets another four-year deal worth $40 million, $25.7 million guaranteed, with a $9.5 million signing bonus like he signed with the Seahawks back in 2014.
The Cowboys of course would probably find a four-year $40 million deal for Earl Thomas acceptable. They would more than likely frontload the contract with a lot of protection in the details. They have the cap space to make this happen and still be able to sign their own, so money shouldn't be a problem.
Now, whether or not Thomas' market value may dip a little due to all of the above mentioned reasons will be something we will have to wait and find out. Regardless, I'd be a little shocked if Earl Thomas doesn't finish his career with the Dallas Cowboys.
Do you think Earl Thomas' market value will take a little hit this offseason?
Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors
What a difference a receiver makes, right? As Dallas fans, we know the impact of a player who can shake coverage, get open, and catch the ball. How was the season going before the Cowboys pulled the trigger for Amari Cooper in the deal with the Raiders? Cooper proved to be the lightning rod and a turning point in a season that was growing increasingly dismal. Dak Prescott and Cooper went together like peanut butter and jelly, while the Cowboys stormed to a division title and a postseason berth.
Now, imagine all of that times two… maybe even two and a half if Antonio Brown could be had from the Steelers. Scary right? We understand there’s only one ball to go around but that didn’t stop Kevin Durant from joining the Warriors, did it?
As of this writing, the best online sportsbooks like Intertops, are dealing Dallas as the seventh of 16 choices to win the NFC championship at odds of 12-1. Imagine how those odds would shrink if Brown wore a Cowboys uniform next season, giving Prescott the luxury of not one upper echelon wideout but that plus an elite receiver. Hut, hut, hut and a few clouds of smoke later the Cowboys would be moving the chains or celebrating in the endzone.
Brown and Cooper would be a devastating combination with Ezekiel Elliott coming out of the backfield. Brown was made for Dallas, it gives him an even grander stage than the one he shared with Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh.
Despite the fact that the 'Boys haven’t won a Super Bowl since Barry Switzer was roaming the sidelines in the mid-90s, America’s Team still resides in Dallas. But we need a game-changer and Brown is just such an athlete. But what do we give in return and will that cost be worth whatever productive years Brown has left after this one? Let’s not forget that the mercurial Miami native will be 31 when the season begins and men who make a living with their legs don’t get better at that age. But Brown is so good and so unique that, even if he drops half a click, he's still amongst the best in the game.
That level of talent is hard to replicate and it could be the missing piece which allows Dallas to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender next season and the year after.
However, up to this point, we’ve been very good at dreaming of a Brown to Dallas trade but haven’t quite worked out the details. It takes two to tango and if we expect to get the Steelers’ attention we need to give them something valuable in return. Dallas surrendered their first-round pick (27th) this season when they traded for Cooper so that’s no longer an asset.
Pittsburgh would be vying for a first-round pick (and likely more) for Brown's services but some have speculated Dallas would consider dealing rookie-standout Leighton Vander Esch.
Wait... what? We know, you’re clutching your pearls, and the words are stuck in your gasp. We get it. The kid was a home run this past season, leading the Dallas defense in tackles and earning a Pro Bowl invitation in his inaugural NFL season. But this would be a Faustian deal.
The Cowboys give up a player who is poised to be a stud for years to come for a playmaker in Brown that could render a Super Bowl in the immediate future. Brown's expiration date will surely turn his milk sour sooner rather than later, but in the here and now, Antonio Brown could be the bell cow who leads the Cowboys to the promised land before he’s put out to pasture.
Just something to think about...
2018 In Review: CB Anthony Brown Bounces Back
To say it's been an up-and-down start to the career of young cornerback Anthony Brown would be an understatement.
As a sixth round pick in 2016, everything Brown contributed during his rookie season was a plus. Due to injury he was asked to step into a greater role as the season went on, and he performed well enough to make the front office comfortable allowing multiple veterans to walk for nothing in free agency the following Spring. Brown looked like a legitimate starting cornerback in the league, and when Dallas brought in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis during the next draft, the young secondary seemed set.
Then 2017 happened. And Anthony Brown struggled. Really struggled.
These struggles, coupled with the emergence of both Lewis and Awuzie during their own rookie seasons, made Brown's status heading into 2018 rather uncertain. Some wondered if they would trade him for a day three pick, others thought Brown could even end up being cut. Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown were slated to compete for the nickel cornerback job in training camp, and as it turned out, all Brown needed was that one extra chance to compete.
Brown won the job outright during the preseason, and began 2018 as the starting nickel. A fan favorite, most thought Lewis would reclaim his rightful spot on the depth chart sooner or later, but Anthony Brown's play (and Kris Richard's preferences) kept Lewis on the bench for much of the season.
Simply put, Anthony Brown balled in 2018, and was the Cowboys' second best corner for most of the year. By the end of the season Chidobe Awuzie had regained form, but Brown and Byron Jones were the most consistently reliable corners on the roster all of 2018.
Brown tallied 44 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception in 2018, and finished third on the team in pass breakups with 8. As the slot corner Brown had an excellent season, especially for a former sixth round pick.
Now he enters a contract year, and with the Cowboys having so many guys to pay over the next two offseasons, he could find himself as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. And if he can keep up his play from last year moving forward, he could be in for a nice payday that Spring.
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