Dallas enters the stretch run with the NFC East there for the taking. Again. Fourth time’s a charm….?
It’s all so familiar. Cowboys fans have sat tied and blindfolded in darkness for much of the past decade, not knowing when, or how often, a two-by-four to the knees would strike. Football torture can be a cruel, cruel thing.
So forgive our Pavlovian flinch each time someone utters “playoffs” or implications involving January football. Such is the result of the constant hope and disappointment that regurgitated 8-8s brings. Season after season of flawed squads in win-or-go-home finales has calloused and conditioned this fan base to expect the worst. It’s just been too long.
(Good gosh what it must be like to be a Guantanamo Eagles fan.)
This certainly isn’t the first time Dallas has sat in decent shape heading into Thanksgiving, but it’s been an annual striptease that ends in a $300 bar tab. But this go at it should be from 8-3, rather than the 6-4, 5-5, and 6-5 in recent seasons.
Football logic, if there is such a thing, says that this time is different. The group is far more fundamentally sound, balanced, constructed, and focused for a stretch run. It’s not all Romo-or-else as it was before, with Murray running wild and a transformed defense that looks the part of a real NFL unit. And health, dare I say it, seems hauntingly on the Cowboys’ side.
But…..I don’t know. Squeamishness is setting in as we file into the shadows of December, where orcs and gremlins normally ruin the holidays. That damned Pavlov and his wicked ways.
Tony Romo’s back has to hold up for Thanksgiving, just a few hours after a Sunday nighter in New York. His health going forward is paramount, as the alternative against Arizona proved beyond doubt. True, the run game and defense make this a much more December-worthy team, and far less codependent on Romo, especially in the cold, wet, and wind that awaits. Winning low-scoring affairs is not laughable anymore because this is thankfully not like recent Dallas teams.
Over there in the far corner sits Philadelphia. The Eagles, too, have their demons to exorcise, despite the national fawning over Chip Kelly and his hocus-pocus offense. One game, they’re tearing through opponents like high schoolers, then another, they can’t score an offensive touchdown. Their running game is disappointing, as is their red zone offense. Mark Sanchez is apparently the next Joe Montana in this offense by all reports, butt fumble and years of prior failures conveniently pushed aside. They lead the league by a mile with nine defensive/special team scores, which isn’t sustainable.
So how will the NFC East end? Here’s my week-by-week take.
Week 11: The Packers drop the Eagles to 7-3 this weekend while the Cowboys heal. It’s a dead heat with both head-to-head matchups looming soon.
Week 12: A healthy Dallas squad rolls over a Giants team that is giving up massive rushing totals and is basically already in offseason mode. The Eagles pound Tennessee, also done for this season already. Both teams are 8-3 heading into the Thanksgiving showdown.
Week 13: Mark Sanchez is not one for the bright lights of the national stage. His history says so, and Dallas, thanks to an easy win in New York and quick exit for Romo, has a healthy quarterback despite short rest. Nothing is easy about this classic all-timer, but Dallas manages a 27-24 win to take a one game lead in the division.
Week 14: Dallas gets another team that’s imploding from within in Chicago the following Thursday. The coach and quarterback are on the hot seat, and Jay Cutler is in full pout mode. Dallas wins to put the pressure on Philadelphia to keep pace, and the Eagles have Seattle coming to town fighting for their own season. This is the critical game for Philadelphia because a loss here is devastating for them. Cowboys fans will be riveted to this game, but will be disappointed as the Eagles get this done at home. Dallas maintains a one-game lead.
Week 15: The rematch at Philly brings a few days extra rest for Dallas, thanks to back-to-back Thursday games, and that could bode well, as could nighttime temperatures that favor the better running team. However, a road gremlin bites Dallas, and they drop a close one to the Eagles, which brings the race back even at 10-4 each. Could have ended this there, but didn’t. Ouch.
Week 16: From here, the schedule appears to benefit Philadelphia. However, the Eagles get surprised by a feisty Redskins team that is under pressure by the home fans and owner, and the Eagles drop one unexpectedly to their bitter rival from just down the road. Unfortunately, the Cowboys home woes continue, and they drop a close one to Indianapolis and fail to take advantage again. Both are now 10-5.
Week 17: With the division hanging in the balance, both teams step forward and finish strong. The Eagles beat New York, and Dallas wins in Washington with a much better plan against Jim Haslett’s blitz scheme. Dallas and Philadelphia finish with identical 11-5 records.
So now what? This is where it gets really crazy as it takes the fourth tiebreaker to determine a winner.
Dallas and Philly split the head-to-head, both teams finish 4-2 in the division, and both teams are 10-4 against common opponents. Dallas wins the NFC East based on conference record with a one-game advantage (10-4) over Philly (9-5). Both teams are playoff bound, but Dallas doesn’t earn a bye.
All that is to say, whether I’ve pegged it or I’ve got it all out-of-order, we’re all still bound and blindfolded, hoping we don’t get another whack across our knees. Let’s hope Dr. Pavlov took December off this year.
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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