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Which 5 Dallas Cowboys Will Shine in Their Contract Years?

John Williams

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Cowboys at Raiders: La'el Collins Faces Toughest Test Yet In Khalil Mack

Every year a number of players will enter a contract year looking to put together a good 16 game season to boost their resume ahead of free agency. For many of the players on the Dallas Cowboys, they will be seeing their first opportunity to hit free agency.

The premise of a contract year comes with some negative connotations. Players are often dinged for performance that occurs in a contract year but hasn't occurred at any other time in their career. However, in a what have you done for me lately league like the NFL, recent performance can change the perspective on a player.

Let's look at five Dallas Cowboys who will make themselves very marketable with a good year in 2019.

Note: For the purpose of this piece, we're assuming that Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper get long-term deals this offseason. Ezekiel Elliott is under contract for the 2020 offseason, so he doesn't apply.

La'el Collins, Offensive Tackle

The Dallas Cowboys offensive line continues to be a strength for the team as they head into the 2019 season and a big reason for that is the play they've gotten from Right Tackle La'el Collins. He hasn't been as good as his left tackle counterpart Tyron Smith, but Collins has been good. His ability to hold up against some of the better pass rushers in the league has been a pleasant surprise.

Collins, going into his fifth year in the league, has started 46 games, including 32 straight at right tackle for the Cowboys. Collins will only turn 26 this year and has a lot of years of good football left in him. Given that offensive lineman are at a premium in the NFL, Collins should expect a market for his services when he comes free after the 2019 season.

In 2019, Collins played the third most snaps at right tackle in the NFL. Pro Football Focus credited him with 46 pressures allowed and eight sacks, tied for fifth most at the tackle position.

Collins has a ton of experience, but could use a really good 2019 to solidify himself as one of the top free agents in 2020.

Anthony Brown, Cornerback

The Dallas Cowboys found a gem of a player in the sixth round of the 2016 draft. Next to Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, Anthony Brown was the best pick of that draft. Based on value for draft capital spent, only Prescott would be seen as more valuable.

Brown has been an excellent corner for the Cowboys. Primarily playing in the slot, but flexing to the outside when injuries arose. He's played with an edge for the secondary and has been equally good against the run as he's been in coverage.

Brown will likely remain the starter in nickel situations, but will see some competition from Jourdan Lewis and rookie Michael Jackson.

If Anthony Brown is able to put together another solid to good year, he should be able to find a team willing to give him a multi-year contract in the 2020 offseason, the Dallas Cowboys included. With Byron Jones coming during the 2020 offseason, it's possible that they could opt to keep Brown over Jones as Byron would likely demand a larger contract.

Maliek Collins

Dallas Cowboys DT Maliek Collins

Maliek Collins, Defensive Tackle

Just like Anthony Brown, Maliek Collins was a nice find in the 2016 NFL draft.

Selected in the third round that season, Collins finished with 27 total pressures and five sacks. Though the pressure numbers have stayed similar -- 30 in 2017 and 27 in 2018 -- the sack numbers have dropped off considerably -- two in 2017 and three in 2018.

Collins has been a valuable member of the Cowboys interior defensive line and has played some solid 3-tech defensive tackle for the team. He's had to slide over and play some 1-tech defensive tackle at times, like he did in 2017 when David Irving was the primary 3-tech.

Now, Collins has some competition in the form of rookie Trysten Hill. Hill was the highest interior defensive line selection since they took Marcus Spears to play 3-4 defensive end in the 2005 draft. Prior to Hill, the Cowboys hadn't spent a pick higher than a third on an interior defensive lineman.

This only increases the competition and the pressure for Collins heading into his contract year. He'll need a good training camp to keep up his role. Some luck with health would help, as injuries have prevented him from having a full offseason since being in the league.

If Collins can put together a similar season to his rookie year, he'll find himself with a market heading into free agency.

Randall Cobb, Wide Receiver

The Dallas Cowboys brought in Randall Cobb to be the team's heir apparent at slot receiver after Cole Beasley signed in Buffalo. Coming in on a one-year deal, Cobb has a lot to prove as he enters the later stages of his career.

After being a mainstay in the Green Bay Packers offense, Cobb was allowed to walk in free agency as injuries had caught up with the soon to be 29-year-old receiver.

Cobb has to prove he can stay healthy for a full season as he's only played 16 games once in his career. If he can stay healthy, he'll be a weapon for Dak Prescott and the offense. In five of his eight seasons, he's caught more than 60 passes and three times caught more than 79 passes. In two of those seasons where he didn't catch at least 60 passes, he played fewer than 10 games. The other one was his rookie season. He played 15 games that year, but only saw 31 targets in 2011.

Wide receivers have shown that they can maintain production through the latter part of their careers, but for Cobb to continue to get opportunities, he'll need to continue to have good health. In this offense where Dak Prescott loves to target the slot receiver, Cobb should have plenty of opportunities to prove he's still a valuable commodity in the NFL.

Byron Jones, Cornerback

Amidst all the contract talk surrounding Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Ezekiel Elliott, it seems that Byron Jones might be the forgotten man in the Cowboys pay-day hierarchy. There hasn't been much talk of getting Jones an extension lately.

How the Cowboys handle Byron Jones could be similar to how they handled DeMarcus Lawrence. If you'll remember, after Lawrence had his break out year in 2017, the Dallas Cowboys opted to use the franchise tag on their elite edge rusher to make sure what he accomplished was repeatable.

Byron Jones finally experienced the breakout after finding a home at cornerback in Kris Richard's defense. The problem is, it only took him four years to find excellence. Most of that can be attributed to not having a home his first season and then playing out of position the following two when the Cowboys attempted to play him at safety.

Despite a lack of interceptions, Jones was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in 2018, but the Cowboys could be hedging their bets to see if he can do it again.

Jones is an incredible athlete with excellent coverage skills and if there's a weakness to his game, it's that he doesn't take the ball away. In Rod Marinelli's and Kris Richard's defenses, taking the ball away is of the utmost importance.

With a potentially big contract looming, Byron Jones may be forced to earn it in 2019 before getting paid in the 2020 offseason.

The Cowboys have a lot of contracts coming up at the end of this year that need to be taken care of, but these five are the most important contract years that will have the biggest impact on the success of the Dallas Cowboys.

Which Dallas Cowboys contract year player needs to have the best contract year?



Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could. Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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Guillain-Barre Syndrome: Travis Frederick’s Health Still a Concern?

Brian Martin

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Concerns About Travis Frederick's Health Still Justifiable
George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It's been nearly a year since Dallas Cowboys Center Travis Frederick was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), an autoimmune disease. And although all signs are pointing towards him making a full recovery and regaining his starting job, there are still some lingering concerns about his health.

Travis Frederick didn't miss a start in his previous five seasons with the Dallas Cowboys before being diagnosed with GBS. He was an Ironman and was the anchor for the Cowboys talented offensive line. But battling injuries and an autoimmune disease in which there is a lot of unknown about still are two different animals. It's the unknown here that still carries some concern.

What is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

According to the Mayo Clinic, Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) occurs when the body mistakenly attacks its own nerves, specifically the peripheral nervous system, which connects the brain and the spinal cord to the rest of the body. This can result in a wide range the nerve-related symptoms, including tingling, prickling, or pins and needles sensations; muscle weakness; difficulty walking, talking, chewing, or swallowing; pain; and, in severe cases paralysis, which can become life-threatening if breathing is affected.

As with many autoimmune diseases, experts don't fully understand what causes GBS. There is still a lot of unknown about this disease, and that includes how to treat it and recover from it. However, when diagnosed early, like in Frederick's case, the chances of stabilizing sooner rather than later are pretty good. Although, the recovery process can be a slow one, anywhere from a few weeks to a few years.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome Cure and Recovery Time?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for GBS at this current time. There are a couple of treatments which has shown some success, although patients respond differently which makes determining a person's recovery time nearly impossible.

According to the Mayo Clinic, most people recover within 6 to 12 months. However, about 30% of people still experience lingering weakness three years after a diagnosis, reports the Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and about 15% continue to have weakness long after that. Hence, the lingering concern about Travis Frederick and his future health.

Travis Frederick's Optimism

Despite all the unknown with GBS and how it's affected Travis Frederick's life, he sounds pretty optimistic his health is trending in the right direction.

"I feel really good about where I am at. Both in recovery from Guillain-Barre syndrome and the offseason surgeries that I had done. We are just starting to get to the end of the shoulder rehab. That will start to free up a little bit of my activities. But as far as (Guillain-Barre syndrome) goes, I feel really, really good. It's gonna be hard to tell whether I'm back exactly 100 percent until I can go against another player at full speed in full pads. I don't think we're actually going to know until training camp. But all signs are currently pointing to really good things."

As if we didn't already have enough to keep an eye on once the Dallas Cowboys start training, Travis Frederick certainly jumps to the top of the list. How he is able to respond in some "live-action" practices should help determine where he's at healthwise. Hopefully for his sake, and the sake of the Cowboys, he's back to 100% or as close to it as possible.

Are you concerned about Travis Frederick's health heading into 2019?



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Report: Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott Planning Training Camp Holdout?

John Williams

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Ezekiel Elliott: NFL's History with Domestic Violence Shows Inconsistency, Hypocrisy 2

All offseason, the possibility of a new contract for Dallas Cowboys Running Back Ezekiel Elliott has been a hot button issue among media and fans alike. Not because Ezekiel Elliott isn't a great player and worthy of top running back money, but because the idea of paying running backs north of $15 million a year isn't as simple as, "Is he worth it?"

There is significant evidence that the running back position experiences a significant decline in production around their age 28 season and few running backs play into their 30's with good to elite production. Ezekiel Elliott, though he's experienced heavy usage in his first three seasons, could be the exception to the rule.

Well, knowing his worth to the Dallas Cowboys he's expecting a heavy payday at some point in the next couple of seasons. Elliott is under contract through 2019 and the Cowboys picked up his rookie option for 2020. So, technically, Elliott wouldn't be a free agent until the 2021 offseason. However, much like in the case of Todd Gurley, Elliott's looking to get paid early to maximize his prime years as the Dallas Cowboys running back.

Within the last hour, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk released a report that Ezekiel Elliott is planning on holding out of training camp if he doesn't receive a new contract, per a "league source." It should be noted that Mike Florio has had some missteps in his reporting of Dallas Cowboys news, most notably the perpetuating a rumor that Dez Bryant was caught on videotape doing something at a Wal-Mart, that would have a "Ray Rice type of impact." A tape that has never been discovered or produced and a story that's completely died off since it was originally reported in 2015.

Given the recent news that Melvin Gordon is planning a training camp hold out, it should come as no surprise that Elliott is being mentioned similarly. ESPN even mentioned the idea of Elliott and a looming contractual holdout in a piece earlier today, but their prediction pointed to 2021 and wasn't a report based on fact or a source, but a prediction for next year.

The two-time NFL rushing champ is scheduled to count $7.9 million in 2019 and just over $9 million in 2020 against the salary cap. His salary for 2019 is only $3.8 million. Elliott certainly has earned the right to be paid like Todd Gurley ($14.37 million per year), Le'Veon Bell ($13.13 million per year), and David Johnson ($13 million per year) despite having two more years on his deal.

In looking at the long-term impact of Elliott's contract, I've advocated that if the Dallas Cowboys intend to pay Elliott, now's the time to do it. A contract extension now, that adds three or four more years onto his existing deal would get Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys to his age 28 or 29 season. In a well-structured contract, they'd have opportunities to get out at the back end if Elliott experienced a significant decline in production.

Ezekiel Elliott's contract is going to continue to be a hot button issue until he's either signed to an extension or it's made known that the Dallas Cowboys have no intention of extending him. Currently, there aren't any other sources confirming Elliott's plan to hold out of training camp, which starts July 27th, but it's a story that we'll continue to follow here on InsideTheStar.com.

Update: 7/16/2019 10:42 am.

Charles Robinson, Senior Reporter for Yahoo! Sports provided some insight into the thinking of Elliott and his representation.

It certainly seems like holding out is on the table for Ezekiel Elliott and his representation, but no decision has been made at this point.

Check back with us for updates on Ezekiel Elliott's contract extension. 



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Dallas Cowboys 2019 Training Camp Preview: Safety

Jess Haynie

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Xavier Woods

The Dallas Cowboys' safeties may have the been the team's most-talked-about position during the 2019 offseason. Dallas declined making a splashy free agent signing, or even a high draft pick, and that means safety is still a hot topic headed into this year's training camp.

Fans hoping for an Earl Thomas signing or a Juan Thornhill drafting have had to settle for veteran George Iloka and 6th-round rookie Donovan Wilson. These new arrivals don't bring the sizzle that many wanted, but they do add intrigue to the battle for roster spots and depth chart positioning.

Here's the projected safety depth chart right now for the 2019 season:

  1. Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath
  2. George Iloka, Kavon Frazier
  3. Darian Thompson, Donovan Wilson
  4. Jameill Showers

A big reason the Cowboys didn't spend big at safety is Xavier Woods, who is a rising star on defense entering just his third season. Dallas' strategy appears centered around Woods' development, hoping he will anchor the position and make everyone look better.

Woods' fellow starter could be Iloka or the returning Jeff Heath. It is assumed that these two veterans will battle it out for the strong safety job, with the loser being a versatile and experienced backup.

Heath has the advantage of experience with the Cowboys but Iloka has more starting experience overall with 79 games to just 41 for Jeff. You also have to think that Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard had a hand in selecting Iloka from the free agent pool, likely coveting his 6'4" size.

Even if Iloka does win the starting job Heath should remain a valued reserve and special teams leader. His $2.95 million cap hit for 2019 isn't that high for someone who fills those roles.

Regardless of starting jobs, we expect all three of those players to make the roster. It's below them where actual roster spots are on the line.

Cowboys Training Camp: 5 Fringe Players Fans Should Follow

Dallas Cowboys safety Kavon Frazier (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

After three years at backup safety, Kavon Frazier is facing some real competition for his job in 2019. Not only is there the aforementioned rookie Donovan Wilson, but reserve Darian Thompson may already be moving ahead of Frazier on the depth chart.

Thompson was a 3rd-round pick of the Giants in 2016, the same year that Dallas drafted Frazier in the 6th round. He was named a starter in Week 2 as a rookie, but got hurt that game and missed the rest of they ear. He started all 16 games in 2017, but then was injured again and released prior to the start of the 2018 season.

After less than a week on the Cardinals' practice squad, Thompson got signed to the Cowboys' roster last October as a reserve. They re-signed him this offseason, and reports from mini-camps and OTAs had Darian getting second-team reps in practice over Kavon Frazier and other prospects.

If Thompson has ascended, the biggest concern for Frazier and Donovan Wilson is just how many safeties the Cowboys keep. They've kept five before but could easily go with just four, and that might leave two talented players out in the cold.

If Frazier and Wilson do wind up battling for that fifth and final spot, the rookie may have the edge thanks to youth and his four-year contract. Kavon is a free agent next year, so Dallas might elect to keep the younger, cheaper option for further development.

From starting jobs to just keeping The Star on their helmets, these safeties have a lot to fight for in 2019. It's been one of our most interesting positions to watch all offseason, and that won't change when we head into training camp.

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OTHER 2019 CAMP PREVIEWS



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