Sunday, March 12, 2017

Dallas Cowboys Off-Season So Far

The Cowboys entered into the off-season with these needs:
2 CBs, DE, WR, DT, TE, 3rd down RB, LB (if Jaylon Smith can't return to form) and possibly KR/PR

Players added
 Players lost
WR Terrance Williams
RT Doug Free (retired)
WR Brice Butler
SS JJ Wilcox
CB Nolan Carroll
SS Barry Church
DE Damontre Moore
DT Terrell McClain
DT Stephen Paea
DL Jack Crawford
G Jonathan Cooper
 G Ron Leary

Dallas filled their needs at WR with Williams and Butler (though no upgrade) and at DT retaining Irving and signing Paea (though again no real upgrade). I don’t count Damontre Moore toward the DE need as I'm not even sure he makes the roster. Moore is a career underachiever with talent but has never shown it consistently in college or pro level and any contribution he gives should be counted as bonus.
However, losing both Church and Wilcox creates a new hole at SS. The Cowboys like last year’s 6th rounder S Kavon Frazier a lot but not I’m sure he's ready to start on a team that sees itself as a Super Bowl contender. Then the retirement of Doug Free creates depth at OT another hole. Chaz Green is ostensibly the starter but his health is a question with nothing behind him if La’el Collins is your LG given the Leary departure. Jonathan Cooper is intriguing depth at guard but washed out in NE and Ariz so that's not a good sign.

If Carr or Claiborne is resigned or a starter in free agency is found at another position, the Cowboys should be able to fill their remaining needs in the draft. Here’s a few other options left in Free Agency:

RT Austin Pasztor
SS Bradley McDouglad
RT Byron Bell
 SS Jarius Byrd
CB Brandon Flowers
SS TJ McDonald

It seems likely the Cowboys would be more inclined to resign their own (Carr or Claiborne, likely preferring Carr) so then going SS and DE in 1st-2nd rounds and then finding a swing OT, TE, RB and LB depth in the later rounds would be the strategy. Here are a few names to target in various rounds:

1st Round
S Jabrill Peppers
DE Takkarist McKinley
CB Adoree Jackson
S Obi Melifonwu
DE TJ Watt
TE David Njoku
S Budha Baker
DE Carl Lawson
RB Curtis Samuel

2nd Round
S Marcus Williams
DE Jordan Willis
DE Derek Rivers
S Quincy Wilson
DE Dawuane Smoot
TE Evan Engram
S Justin Evans
DE Trey Hendrickson
CB Ahkello Witherspoon

3rd Round
S Eddie Jackson
TE Jake Butt
DE Tarrell Basham
S Marcus Maye
TE Garrett Everett
DE Carroll Phillips
S Montae Nicholson
CB Kevin King
RB Kareem Hunt

My concern, privately, is that Cowboys go for Jerry Flash early like CB Adoree Jackson of USC to fill the CB and KR void in the 1st round. Jackson is pretty raw as a CB (though great as returner) and is likely the 3rd or 4th CB next year behind Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll and possibly Anthony Brown. With DE in the 2nd Round likely, that makes Frazier or Heath the starter at SS most likely and leaves other holes to be filled internally or with bargain free agents. In other words, this entire offseason would be about maintaining status quo not improving.

The Cowboys of the past have been guilty of this in the past (the infamous Sherman Williams draft or Special Teamers draft of 1995 and 2009 respectively come to mind), simply trying to retain rather than improve on a playoff roster. I'm worried 2017 is beginning to shape up in that same fashion. Look at what the Patriots are doing this offseason to witness how a championship team continues to improve as an example. As with most things in life, standing still usually is actually going backwards. However, this front office has earned some respect and credit over the past few years so perhaps things are truly different. I guess we shall wait and see . . .

P.S. On the Romo situation, a trade seems highly unlikely now and I fully expect his release with a June 1 designation and for Romo to sign in Houston. Here is how I think the chain of events might have occurred:
- The Broncos and Texans appeared to be in competition for Romo’s services, but both had little money against the cap.
- The trade rumors began as the Jets entered the mix, wishing to pry Trevor Simien away from Denver or perhaps even grab Romo for themselves.
- With trade talks underway, the Cowboys rescinded their idea of releasing Tony in the hopes of gaining a draft choice or something else.
- Then the Texans pulled off the Brock Osweiler trade to Cleveland, ostensibly giving up a 2nd round pick to dump that contract.
- With Osweiler gone, the Texans now had the cap space to sign Romo to the contract he wants and thus negating the need to trade for him.
- Romo, knowing he wants to sign in Houston now, is now said to possibly entertain retirement, taking an analyst job with Fox, and thereby giving him back the leverage in trade talks.
- With trade talks dead, it seems only wishful thinking by Dallas that keeps Tony Romo on the roster. In addition, Dallas could use that cap space in a shrinking free agent CB market.

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