DALLAS’ DREADED DEAD-MONEY DEALS: Winds of change–The Dallas Cowboys transition of power is shifting | Stephen Jones Era–From Texas Hold’em 2 Texas Fold’em | NFL salary cap leads to philosophy shift
2015-2016 DALLAS COWBOYS: Racing the clock with that heavy rock–The Murray age factor | Running Back options without DeMarco | Young bucks on the NFL Draft board | Free Agent RBs on the market
2015 DALLAS COWBOYS: Tagged, not bagged–Diamond Dez deal delayed in Big D | Top-50 NFL Draft Board–Post-Combine revision 2.0
THE SAFETY VALVE IS OPEN: Dallas Cowboys firmly support young J.J. Wilcox following the 2014 NFL Draft | Dallas Cowboys defense
IRVING, Texas – Perhaps rookie safety Ahmad Dixon will turn into something truly special, but the numbers speak for themselves.
The Dallas Cowboys drafted Dixon No. 248 overall, eight picks away from the end of the 2014 NFL Draft on Saturday. The fact that they took him means they see something promising in his play, but his position on the draft board doesn’t inspire much in the way of expectations.
That’s by design, to hear it from Dallas Cowboys executives. The safety spot is a position some consider to be a dire need for Dallas, but it’s hardly evident based on the draft strategy. With the No. 16 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys had a shot at any of this year’s premier prospects – Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor and Jimmie Ward – not to mention a slew of other safeties drafted behind them.
Despite that perception, though, Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said he was “pretty comfortable” with the outlook at safety going forward with Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox, Jeff Heath, and Matt Johnson.
“I think I was always pretty upfront about that. You can obviously upgrade it if you take them one – I’m not going to deny that. To some degree there was one in the second there we liked a lot, the Northern Illinois safety,” he said. “But after that, we kind of felt like we were getting a lot of what we had. We like J.J., we like Church and we like Heath. We’ll just see how these guys play out.”
That’s an attitude both Stephen Jones and Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones repeated several times throughout the weekend. Specifically, it seems the offseason optimism is for Wilcox to grab hold of the starting role he briefly held in 2013.
The Georgia Southern standout was taken No. 80 overall just last season and endured plenty of ups and downs — from losing his mother in training camp to being named the starter to a knee injury that forced him out of the lineup – during a rollercoaster rookie year.
“We thought we had really hit on a big one right up until he lost his mother – we were naming him the starter the day he left,” Stephen Jones said on Friday night. “Obviously, we couldn’t do that because he’d have to miss quite a bit of time.”
Dixon, Johnson and Heath should provide plenty of competition for Wilcox, not to mention fellow second-year safety Jakar Hamilton. The Cowboys also signed three undrafted safeties in free agency.
In the meantime before training camp, however, hopes remain high for Wilcox.
“We feel good about him – that’s saying a lot,” Jerry Jones said. “But, boy, he looks good out here and we have high expectations for him.”
SMARTIN’ MARTIN OVER MANZIEL: Dallas Cowboys season ticket holders conference call with Stephen Jones | Team commitment to Tony Romo
It’s been five days since the Dallas Cowboys chose to pass on Johnny Manziel and draft Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin, but it’s still a topic among Cowboys fans.
Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones was asked about the move today during a conference call (see below) with Dallas Cowboys season ticket holders.
“We just felt like at the end of the day, as talented as he was, and we had him high on our board in the first round, but we have a quarterback, a great one, in place in Tony Romo,” Jones said. “We had enough confidence to guarantee him almost $50 million on an almost $20 million extension. And that extension starts this year. We really made the ultimate decision, Jerry [Jones] did, that it was in our best interest to put players around Tony to make him even better and give him a shot to go win a Super Bowl, which is what everybody’s goal is in this organization. We certainly felt like we did that in Zack Martin.”
Jones views Manziel as an immediate starter in the NFL, adding that he doesn’t think the Heisman Trophy winner has the patients that Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers displayed, sitting behind Brett Favre for three years before becoming the Packers’ full-time starter.
Jones compared passing on Manziel to the 1998 draft when the Cowboys passed on Randy Moss. Nineteen other teams also passed on the seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, but the Cowboys are the team that’s remembered most.
“I’m sure Johnny Manziel is going to have a great career,” Jones said. “We wish him nothing but the best, but there’s no doubt in my mind, we made the very best decision we could for the Cowboys in terms of what is going to help us get to a Super Bowl the soonest.”
RELATED: Tony Romo ‘ready to take the next big step’
Tony Romo has been throwing at Valley Ranch during voluntary workouts. He’s also on schedule to take part in organized team activities this month.
During the conference call with season ticket holders (see below), Dallas Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones said he’s confident that Romo will be fully healed by the start of the season.
“He’s actually progressing great,” Jones said. “He’s on schedule, if not ahead of schedule. He’s throwing the ball around. We think he not only will he be ready for opening week, he’ll start up at training camp and be ready to go.
“He’s obviously a tremendous competitor and in our mind, he kept us in it all season long with a defense that was obviously depleted with injuries, and he had us playing to win the NFC East in the last game of the year. Had he been playing in that game, I think that game may have gone a different direction. We’re certainly fired up about him.”
“We got a great quarterback in Tony Romo, who I think is ready to take the next big step,” Jones said. “Get him hot and get us in the playoffs and anything can happen.”
Dallas Cowboys Season Ticket Holders Conference Call
Season Ticket Holders Conference Call with VP Stephen Jones | 57:49 | Every year Dallas Cowboys season ticket holders get the opportunity to join in on a conference call with a Cowboys coach or executive. Listen in as they had a chance to sit down with Cowboys VP/COO/Director of Player Personnel Stephen Jones just shortly after the Dallas Cowboys 2014 NFL Draft.
POST-DRAFT PRESS CONFERENCE: DeMarcus Lawrence will help Dallas Cowboys bolster defensive trenches | Secret Call from War Room | 2nd round NFL Draft 2014
IRVING — A Dallas Cowboys team that patiently sat and let talent come to them to open the 2014 NFL Draft took a much different approach on the second night.
While the selection of guard Zack Martin in the first round was hailed as a sound approach, it increased the urgency to come out of Friday night’s proceedings with a defensive lineman who could make an immediate impact.
The Dallas Cowboys wasted no time addressing what owner Jerry Jones called an acute need. The team jumped from the middle of the second round to take Boise State defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence at No. 34.
“This was a need pick,” Jones said. “The need to have a player that either could put some pressure on the outside or a unique complement, give us two players that have to be blocked.
“He was the only one left on the board we saw that could draw two blocks. The question, in my mind, was just how much you pay for it.”
The team traded its second- and third-round picks (Nos. 47 and 78) to Washington to jump up 13 spots to select Lawrence. Washington responded by taking Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy and Nebraska guard Spencer Long with the two picks.
The Cowboys could have held those picks and had their choice of defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan or left defensive ends Kony Ealy or Scott Crichton in the third round. Defensive tackle Will Sutton and defensive end Kareem Martin were still available in the third round after Long was taken by Washington.
All of those players visited Valley Ranch and would have addressed the team’s defensive line deficiencies.
But none of those players line up at right defensive end. The Dallas Cowboys had Lawrence rated as the third-best pass rushing end in this draft behind Jadeveon Clowney and Anthony Barr. They gave him a first-round grade as a pass rusher and a high second-round grade overall.
That’s why they were willing to give up a third-round pick to acquire him, a price chief operating officer Stephen Jones concedes is higher than the draft value chart states.
“We really like him,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s a right end candidate for us. There are only a handful of right end guys in this draft. We felt like we needed to come up with an impact player in the front seven in this draft, and those impact players are high. They are the first- and second-round players.
“He’s got very good pass rush ability. He has a quick get-off. He can bend. He shows that he can get after the quarterback and make plays when you combine his sacks and tackles for loss. He’s just a very productive player over a two-year career over there in Boise.”
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is an advocate. The Dallas Cowboys need him to provide the edge rush that was lacking last season.
“What we’re looking for is somebody that has first and foremost natural pass rushing instinct,” Jerry Jones said. “Not necessarily speed. Speed alone doesn’t get it. It’s got to be somebody that has a knack of bending, maybe a way a couple of techniques.
“Rod is high on this guy. Real high on this guy.”
Jones notes the irony of replacing one DeMarcus (Ware) with another. Lawrence isn’t as fast as Ware. But he’s stronger.
“It’s unfair to compare players,” Garrett said. “That’s not what we’re in the business of doing. We want to choose players who are our kinds of guys.
“He was the guy on the board who best did that for us. This was a way to improve in the front seven.”
No one expects Lawrence to come in and duplicate the kind of production Ware gave the Cowboys before his release this off-season. But Lawrence knows the comparisons are inevitable.
“I know it’s some big shoes to fill, but I’m going to work my butt off,” Lawrence said. “I’m going to do all I can to become the best and fill their shoes.
“I’m my own Demarcus. I don’t like this trying to be nobody else. I’m going to be me.
“I’m going to do it well.”
Courtesy: David Moore | DMN staff
IN THE KNOW
DeMarcus Lawrence | Position: Defensive end | College: Boise State
Pick: No. 34 overall (second pick in the second round) | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 251
Notable: Lawrence, one of the Dallas Cowboys predraft visitors, is an exceptional athlete who projects to be a right defensive end, replacing seven-time Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware. In two seasons at Boise State, Lawrence recorded 20 sacks and 34 tackles for loss. Following high school, he played one season at Butler Community College, where he finished with 12 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. The Cowboys had Lawrence ranked as the third pass rusher on the their board, Jerry Jones said.
Quote: Lawrence on filling DeMarcus Ware’s shoes: “I know it’s some big shoes to fill, but I’m going to work my butt off and give it my all. I’m going to do all I can to become the best and fill those shoes.”
Courtesy: Jon Machota | DMN staff
Related Videos …
2nd/3rd Round Post-Draft Press Conference | 16:45 | Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, and Jason Garrett discuss their move to trade up and selection of DeMarcus Lawrence, defensive end from Boise State. (Watch | Listen)
Secret Audio: DeMarcus Lawrence Selection Call | 2:17 | Listen in as the Dallas Cowboys executives call their second round 2014 NFL Draft selection DeMarcus Lawrence. (Watch | Listen)
POST-DRAFT PRESS CONFERENCE: Zack Martin will help Dallas Cowboys bolster offensive trenches | Secret Call from War Room | 1st round NFL Draft 2014
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys could’ve grabbed the most polarizing, high-profile quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft. Instead, they protected the franchise quarterback that Johnny Manziel would have sat behind to start his career.
Tony Romo can breathe a little easier coming off back surgery knowing the Cowboys stayed put with the No. 16 pick and continued to bolster the offensive line, selecting Notre Dame’s Zack Martin.
“It means everything,” Martin said. “I couldn’t be happier to come down to Dallas and be a part of the great organization, this great storied organization. I’m very excited to come down there and start competing.”
Martin, a 52-game starter in college, gives Dallas three first-round picks on the offensive line and adds another youthful piece to a completely revamped part of the team. A part of the team considered a weakness a few years ago is now rebuilt with Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Martin.
Head coach Jason Garrett said the best teams in the league can control the line of scrimmage by building their infrastructure. He believes the Cowboys have done that with their recent first-round picks.
“We had a great start with that by drafting Tyron Smith, added to that last year by drafting Travis Frederick,” Garrett said. “We feel like Zack Martin’s in the same mold of those kinds of guys. We just think he’s a darn good football player. We evaluated him against some of the other guys all across our draft board. He consistently came up as one of the best players in this draft.”
That doesn’t mean the Cowboys refused to listen to offers.
Each team gets 10 minutes to make their selection in the first round, and Jones said the Cowboys spent around eight or nine minutes evaluating offers on the phone.
At first, Jones described them more as “semi-offers.” He came back to say there were technically some firm offers, but none the Cowboys were willing to bite on. Eventually, Jones and the Cowboys decided to add to their strong presence on the line with Martin.
He’s the third first-round pick the Cowboys have used on an offensive lineman in the past four years, and his ability to play both guard and tackle gives Dallas options now and in the future.He’ll begin his career as a guard, according to Garrett.
For Martin to start on the interior, he’ll have to beat out one of last year’s starters in Mackenzy Bernadeau or Ronald Leary. Garrett didn’t want to declare whether Martin will begin as a right or left guard, but believes he has the instincts and intellect to play across the line.
Martin, a tackle at Notre Dame, demonstrated his ability to bump inside with ease at the Senior Bowl.
“A lot of people argue he can play all five spots on the offensive line,” Garrett said. “So, initially we’ll give him a chance to work inside as an offensive guard and see how he holds up there.”
After last year’s struggles on defense, that side of the ball’s been hailed as the priority heading into the draft. But many of the Cowboys’ prime targets fell off the board prior to the selection, including Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, UCLA pass rusher Anthony Barr and Ohio State outside linebacker Ryan Shazier.
Jones said those three defenders, along with Martin, were their top targeted players at No. 16.
All the safeties in the draft were still on the board when the Cowboys picked, as well as the most dazzling quarterback prospect on the board. Speculation started to build as Manziel, a player some believed would be too intriguing for the Dallas Cowboys to pass on, began to fall down the board.
But Jones and the Cowboys didn’t want a quarterback.
Jones said Romo, by contract and the Cowboys commitment, will be the quarterback in Dallas for years to come.
“There’s no way any quarterback comes in here and beats out Tony Romo,” Jones said. “We were strong in the quarterback position, in our minds. The fact that Martin was there mitigated any consideration of a lot of things.”
That doesn’t mean Manziel’s presence at No. 16 didn’t come as a bit of a surprise.
“I was surprised, yes,” Jones said. “But what I was even more surprised is the fact that he was there didn’t bring on a bonanza of offers that would have given us, maybe, more options. I was also surprised, frankly, that we had the option to take Martin.”
As the draft shifts to Day 2 and the second and third rounds, the biggest needs remain on defense. Jones wouldn’t eliminate the possibility of another offensive pick, but after finishing last in the league on defense, he admitted the team needs a defensive player more than an offensive player.
Garrett’s also aware of the needs, but he’s glad the Cowboys were able to snag Martin.
“You want to address your needs, but you want to address your needs with the best players available,” Garrett said. “We felt like we did that today.”
1st Round Post-Draft Press Conference | 15:59 | Stephen Jones, Jerry Jones, and Jason Garrett field questions from the media about Zack Martin. (Watch | Listen)
Secret Audio: Zack Martin Selection Call | 2:08 | Listen in as the Dallas Cowboys executives call their first round 2014 NFL Draft selection Zack Martin. (Watch | Listen)
KEEPIN’ UP WITH THE JONES’: Dallas Cowboys pre-draft press conference with Jason Garrett | NFL Draft 2014
IRVING, Texas – If all goes according to plan, the Dallas Cowboys will be welcoming more than just new rookies to their practices this summer.
The Dallas Cowboys pre-draft press conference was called with the intention of discussing the approaching NFL draft, but it served as a perfect opportunity for Cowboys brass to address the rehabs and availability of several prominent veterans returning from injury.
DALLAS COWBOYS NFL SALARY CAP: Tony Romo contract restructured | Sean Lee and Orlando Scandrick help team move closer to 2014 budget
IRVING, Texas – When the Dallas Cowboys signed Tony Romo to a $108 million contract last March, they knew exactly what would happen about 11 months later.
That time is now, and so it’s no surprise the club has exercised a restructure clause that was placed in the deal that frees up about $10 million in cap space. It reverts his scheduled $21.7 million base salary down to $11.7 million, and more importantly for the club, helps the Cowboys get closer to the projected $134 million salary cap.
Romo becomes the third player in two days to have his contract restructured for salary-cap relief (see below). The Cowboys did the same with cornerback Orlando Scandrick and linebacker Sean Lee. Those moves saved about $7.5 million.
With free agency set to begin on March 11, which is the start of the new league calendar year, the Dallas Cowboys and all teams must be under the cap.
Last year, the Cowboys found a way to shave about $30 million in cap space to not only get under the cap, but also clear enough room to pay Anthony Spencer his $10.63 million franchise tag. The Cowboys did not issue the franchise tag this year and Spencer is one of nine unrestricted free agents, along with defensive tackle Jason Hatcher.
To try and sign either player, the Cowboys will need to get more room under the cap, but they can do that by cutting a few more veterans.
Wide receiver Miles Austin is expected to be one of them, but it likely won’t happen until March 11. If the Cowboys make Austin a post-June 1 cut, they cannot do that before the new league year. Cutting him now only saves the team about $450,000 in cap space but they can save $5.5 million by designating him a June 1 cut. However, while Austin would be released and free to sign with any team, that money won’t be off the Cowboys’ books until June 1.
Of course, DeMarcus Ware’s future has been cloudy as team owner and GM Jerry Jones said a decision needs to be made on the club’s all-time sack leader. If Ware is released, the Cowboys would save about $7.5 million, but it appears the two sides will first attempt to either restructure his deal or come to an agreement on a lower base salary, possibly one with incentives that can get Ware close to his scheduled $12 million base salary if he performs at a high level. Ware, who underwent elbow surgery last month, has battled through various injuries the last two years, but the three games he missed in 2013 with a quad injury are the only three he’s missed in his career.
Other veterans who could be waived for salary-cap reasons are linebacker Justin Durant, which would save $1.2 million, and center Phil Costa, which would free up about $1.5 million.
RELATED: Defenders Sean Lee and Orlando Scandrick provide salary-cap relief
IRVING, Texas – As expected, the Dallas Cowboys have started the process to get themselves under the salary cap, which is now projected to be around $133 million.
The increased cap of nearly $10 million will help the Cowboys, but they’ve still get work to do. It has started with the scheduled restructures of both linebacker Sean Lee and cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Both players signed new deals and/or extensions last season. But the Cowboys put these scheduled restructures in the language of the contract, knowing they could and likely would, be utilized this offseason.
The moves save the Cowboys nearly $7.8 million in space, by turning the base salaries into signing bonuses and pushing back the bulk of the contract into later years. The same procedure will likely be done with Tony Romo, who also signed a new deal last March. The restructure will probably net another $10 million in cap room, which would put them close to the $133 million.
The Cowboys can still create more room by cutting veteran players such as Miles Austin ($5.5 million if he’s a post June 1 cut) and center Phil Costa, who will save them about $1.5 million. Justin Durant could get released and save the team another $1.2 million.
And it’s likely DeMarcus Ware won’t be playing for that $16 million cap charge. Either he agrees to a lower base or simply a new contract, or Ware could be outright released, in a move that saves the team about $7.5 million.
Restructuring Brandon Carr’s contact is another option but the team did the same last year and after a down season from the veteran cornerback, it’s not a procedure the Dallas Cowboys will be comfortable in making. Pushing back money only makes him tougher to release should he have another season in 2014 similar to last year, when he gave up too many big plays, including a 329-yard performance to Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
The Cowboys need to get under the cap by March 11 and will certainly get there in time, like they’ve done every year.
DALLAS COWBOYS COACHES ROSTER: Jason Garrett on new roles throughout his coaching staff | Stephen Jones on why team retained Bill Callahan
INDIANAPOLIS – Head coach Jason Garrett doesn’t expect discourse among coaches, nor does he worry about having too many voices offensively after the various changes this offseason.
Garrett spoke at length today (Watch Video | Play Audio) at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine about the new roles throughout his coaching staff, and he said he values the input each coach can bring.
“We feel really good about that,” Garrett said. “We believe in having good coaches. We have a philosophy on offense, we have a philosophy on defense we believe in. We have good coaches to implement that. We expect them all to work together like we have. We emphasize team so much with our players, it’s the same thing with our coaches. If you have the right kind of guys, they will certainly do that.”
Bill Callahan was stripped of the play-calling duties and will move back to his original role with the team, helping out with the offensive game-plan and coaching the offensive line. The Cowboys made room for Scott Linehan, who will call the plays and move into a role similar to Garrett’s before delegating the play-calling duties last year.
Garrett said the circumstances aren’t much different from how the Cowboys or other teams have operated in the past.
“Scott’s role will probably be very similar to the role I had for a number of years – passing game coordinator, play caller, working with the run game coordinator and offensive line coach,” Garrett said. “It’s been Tony Sparano. It’s been Hudson Houck. It’s been Bill Callahan.
“The situation on offense will be probably very similar to the first year Bill Callahan was here. It’s very conventional and something our guys understand.”
Callahan wasn’t let go, despite other teams’ interest in him as an offensive coordinator and play-caller. Garrett said he values what Callahan can bring as a football coach and said he’s as good a coach as he’s been around. Callahan will move back to working more closely with assistant offensive line coach Frank Pollack.
Garrett said every decision is made in the best interest of the team and that everyone understands that. Callahan’s coached the offensive line for most of his career, and he thinks that’s a great role for him working alongside assistant offensive line coach Frank Pollack.
“We’re going to back to the structure that Bill was comfortable with originally when he was hired,” Garrett said. “That’s just something we all have to embrace. It’s going to take a little time to work through that and that’s what this offseason is for. You work through the things we did well last year, the things we’ve got to improve upon and everybody has their role and the responsibility to embrace it and try to become a really close staff and a really close football team.”
The addition of Linehan gave Garrett a coach he was familiar with from their time together in Miami in 2005. Garrett said he learned a great deal from Linehan during that time and that the two share a similar offensive philosophy. In addition to his role as play-caller and passing game coordinator, Linehan will also be asked to work with Callahan and the rest of the offensive staff in putting the running game and the whole package together in preparation.
“His quarterbacks have always played well,” Garrett said. “He’s had teams where his runners…They’ve been a top five rushing team. He seems to always get a big-play receiver to play very well for him. So we feel like philosophically we are on the same page. We’ve worked together. I understand what he’s trying to get accomplished, how he works day to day, how he calls a game. So for a lot of reasons, we felt this was a really good fit for us.”
It doesn’t sound like the roles will evolve much throughout the year. Garrett said he expects the transition from Monte Kiffin to Rod Marinelli to be a smooth one, given their shared philosophies, and he believes he has the right people in the building on the coaching staff.
“We feel like we have a good idea of what we want to do. we have outlined those by title and by responsibility. We have a clear idea of that. Guys are working together throughout the spring, implementing the plan is an important thing for us. We are in midst of that plan right now.
Here are some other notes Garrett touched on Thursday in Indianapolis.
- Garrett still anticipates Tony Romo to be ready for the spring and be involved in “a lot of the stuff we do in the spring with OTAs and on field work.” He said Romo looks good in his rehab.
- Most of Tony Romo’s energy and attention has gone into rehabbing his back, according to Garrett, but Romo has met with Linehan and had conversations about the season. Linehan’s spending more of his time getting acclimated with the coaches.
- The future of Jason Hatcher remains in the balance, but Garrett’s not giving up hope in getting the defensive lineman back next year. He praised the work Hatcher did last season and said when NFL free agency starts, he wants the Cowboys to be there for him.
- Garrett raved about the addition of Mike Pope as the tight ends coach and said he’s as good a coach he’s been around in his career after spending time with him in New York. He also said Jason Witten’s excited about the addition.
- The head coach reiterated that he was happy with the team’s decision to move back in the first round and believes every one of their 2013 draft picks has a bright future with the team.
- Linehan also favored the pass in his previous stops, but Garrett said Linehan’s also been around teams that have run well, particularly in Minnesota. He said the offense is stronger up front and the Cowboys have to play to that advantage, giving the team a chance to control the line of scrimmage.
RELATED: Cowboys VP Stephen Jones explains why team retained Bill Callahan
INDIANAPOLIS — When it was announced that Scott Linehan would be the new offensive play-caller last month, many wondered how Bill Callahan would take the news.
After all, this past season Callahan had handled the role Linehan would now assume. Outsiders saw the move as a demotion, and some wondered why the Cowboys were reluctant to allow Callahan to pursue other opportunities. Requests made by Baltimore and Cleveland to interview Callahan were denied.
“Everybody thinks the world of Bill,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “It’s an unfortunate situation that he gets caught up in the, well, he got something taken away from him or whatever it’s going to be portrayed as. But Bill Callahan is an unbelievable football coach. We just weren’t going to give him up and Jerry [Jones] and I have a great relationship and the coaches have a great relationship with him.
“Everybody wants to go sometimes and try to do what they were doing or whatever. But when we signed him, contracts are two-way streets. They are not just for us to deal with if it doesn’t work out. And Bill is a professional;. Are you kidding me? He is working his butt off. Was he disappointed? Everybody has disappointments. I have had it. I’m sure you have had disappointments. Everybody has them.”
Jones views Callahan as an asset who helped transform the offensive line — the position group he oversees — from a weakness into a strength.
“That offensive line really shaped up and came our way,” he said.
Jones now feels similarly about the staff head coach Jason Garrett has assembled, which now features three men — Garrett, Linehan and Callahan — who have been play-callers in the NFL.
“As I think Jason used the words, I think you have to make sure everybody is in the right seat on the bus to really make the team hum,” Jones said. “I think that’s what we ended up doing. I think we got everyone in the right seat. And obviously added a big one in Linehan. But I really think we have given ourselves, with our staff, a great opportunity to improve.”
2014 NFL COMBINE REPORT: Dallas Cowboys VP Stephen Jones discusses team draft needs, salary cap, and contracts
INDIANAPOLIS – Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones doesn’t want to focus on just one spot in the 2014 NFL Draft.
He didn’t deny the Cowboys’ obvious wants and needs on the defensive line, but he said Wednesday that teams get in a lot of trouble by narrowing their scope to just one position when it comes time to draft.
“You start targeting something and drafting for need, we all know that’ll get you in trouble,” Jones said. “It’ll be nice to come out of the draft at some point with a defensive front guy, defensive lineman or two. But no, I don’t think we can just say, ‘Hey, we’re going to take the first two picks and it’s got to be defensive linemen.’ I think you get in trouble that way.”
Jones said he wants players to be graded based on what they deserve, and he’s talked to the scouts about not grading players a certain way based entirely off team needs. He said the team has to fight that natural urge of grading by need.
He also isn’t worried about getting under the cap, and he doesn’t believe the cap situation makes it impossible to sign Tyron Smith and Dez Bryant to longer deals.
“In some cases, it can help to do deals,” Jones said. “I’d read where someone didn’t understand it, because they said, ‘How did they do (Dan) Bailey? That hurts them this year.’ Well, it didn’t hurt us, it helped us.”
Jones talked at length Wednesday about a variety of other offseason topics as well, from possible restructures to extensions to injuries and scouting. Here’s some notes from those comments.
- Anthony Spencer’s free agency leaves questions about his future with the Dallas Cowboys, but there’s also questions about his health going into 2014 coming off microfracture knee surgery. Jones said it still remains to be seen how healthy Spencer will be at the start of the year as he works the injury and goes through rehab, but he knows Spencer wants to play.
- Jones said the biggest misconception about the draft room is that owner/general manager Jerry Jones just “sits up there and out of the clear blue just grabs a guy and says we’re going to take him.” He said that’s not how it works, and generally there’s a consensus about a player.
“We spend millions of dollars in our scouting department and we spend a lot of money on our coaches and everybody has tremendous input,” Stephen Jones said. “I think it’s a good system.”
- The Dallas Cowboys got a boost earlier in the day by winning the No. 16 pick in a coin flip with the Baltimore Ravens, which Jones said can be valuable when trading back based off of trade charts.
- Jones wouldn’t go into details about specific players’ restructures this offseason, but he said every player must be looked at to see the resources being allocated. He said there are still several scenarios, but he’s comfortable with where the team’s at and knows he still has time to get everything settled.
- The fifth-year option on Tyron Smith’s contract has to be made by the spring, but Jones said that won’t take any urgency away from potentially getting a longer deal done with the left tackle.
- Jones said he thought Sharrif Floyd was graded right (2013 NFL Draft) based on his talent, but it’s debatable if he was graded the right way based on the team’s system. The Dallas Cowboys ended up trading back and grabbing Travis Frederick in the first round rather than taking Floyd, who had a first-round grade. Jones said it can be tricky when a team changes a system, and the Floyd circumstances won’t happen again. He knows the team got criticized by some for the move, but he believes they ended up making the right decision based on their defensive system.
- The Dallas Cowboys are looking at their hamstring problems and how to deal with the situation. He said no one’s happy with what occurred, and the team is looking internally to see how to improve the Dallas Cowboys injury problems. They’re also looking at how past teams have stayed healthy and are considering the age of players, their work habits and the shape they’re in.
HURRY UP AND WAIT MODE: A slight chance for the Dallas Cowboys to keep defensive linemen Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer
IRVING, Texas – From a Dallas Cowboys-centric point of view, here is the good and bad just a little less than two months away from the start of free agency.
First, the bad.
As we all know by now, the Cowboys once again will have to engage in their yearly fat-trimming to get under the salary cap by the March 11 start to the new NFL year. While many seem to have their own ideas about how the Cowboys get to that NFL maximum, some quite wild I might add, Cowboys COO Stephen Jones does not seem quite as perplexed.
In a recent conversation, though, Jones said, “I don’t think there are any Houdini-type things we need to do to make the salary cap work in terms of being efficient and ultimately improve our roster. Obviously the focus still is with our cap situation, the draft and young players.
“But you don’t ever rule out trying to improve with one or two guys from the free-agent market who can help us.”
Then there is this: Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer, two mainstays on the defensive front over the past several years, are free agents, and the one thing the Dallas Cowboys have always seemingly accomplished since free agency began in 1994 is retaining their own free agents of choice.
Your chances of doing so considerably decrease with limited available salary cap dollars.
Doubly not good when it comes to Hatcher this year – as if it wasn’t going to be tough enough to even attempt to re-sign him, what with his breakout, career-high 11-sack season playing for the first time from the defensive tackle position in a 4-3 defense – is what took place on Thursday. Hatch has been named a replacement to the Pro Bowl team, and any time you are out there in free agency trying to market yourself – in other words, get the best offer possible – just returning from a Pro Bowl appearance in Hawaii is like a slot machine going ding, ding, ding.
No matter what you say, the Dallas Cowboys certainly would hate to write off the defensive tackle who led the NFL in sacks this past season. Double-digit sacks from inside is rather remarkable, and in fact Hatcher recorded the most sacks for a Cowboys defensive tackle since Randy White racked up 12.5 in 1984.
Good for Hatcher, who hit the personal mother lode, being named to the Pro Bowl team while his wife was in the process of giving birth to their baby girl.
For the Cowboys, bad, bad, bad.
Now, the good …
OK, let’s move on to what might become a couple of good breaks for Dallas. Let it be known the Cowboys certainly have not washed their hands of either player, but will be forced to sit back and see what the market might bear. Theirs must be a wait-and-see approach, knowing they can’t be the ones to set market value for either player.
“With our cap situation, that’s pretty much the way we have to go,” Jones said, “and that has nothing to do with the respect we have for Jason Hatcher or Anthony Spencer. They’ve obviously had great careers here in Dallas. We hope they continue to. But at the same time we certainly respect they have to take care of their families and do what’s best for them individually, and we fully expect that to happen.
“But hopefully they can do that and still be a Cowboy. We’ll just have to see. We’ll certainly be watching that. We don’t burn any bridges. I think Darren Woodson and Jay Novacek went into free agency without any contracts and they came home. … We certainly want to be in the mix.”
Let’s start with Spencer. This may play out in the Dallas Cowboys favor, since most figure no way the team can afford to re-sign their two-time franchised player. Well, not so fast.
Last time anyone saw Anthony Spencer following his Oct. 1 microfracture knee surgery he was still on crutches. That was in December. His recovery from the surgery that tries to promote the regrowth of missing cartilage under the kneecap is not going as well as expected. Chances are, because there was a pretty big divot of cartilage missing, there is no way he’ll be fully recovered when free agency begins on March 11. That means some team would have to take a leap of faith to sign an otherwise healthy Spencer to one of those five-year, $40 million deals with like $20 million guaranteed if he’s still limping around.
That will kill your market value faster than anything, and why players normally squawk when getting franchised as he was the past two seasons, knowing all they have is a one-year guarantee and any sort of long-term injury can kill your market value the coming offseason.
So who knows, maybe teams will take a hands-off approach to Spencer, and if that happens and if his knee doesn’t come around until like May or June, Spencer might be a prime candidate for one of those one-year minimum deals laced with some incentives, but without any guaranteed money.
That might be right up the Dallas Cowboys cap-depleted alley, and what better place to take a chance on yourself than by staying put. Now this all is unfortunate for Spencer, but let’s remember he’s made roughly $20 million over the past two seasons with the Cowboys while playing but one game this past season to collect half the sum.
Guys have been known to sign one year deals for a chance to re-establish their market value – that is, if that knee ever does come around – rather than sign some longer-term deal for far below what you might think your worth might be. Sort of like betting on yourself.
And as for Jason Hatcher, turning 32 in July? Well, you know how the many know-it-all’s keep saying no way the Cowboys should “pay age,” meaning don’t sign an aging player to one of these lucrative long-term deals that will outlive his productivity even if you have the funds, which the Cowboys really don’t.
Well, if you’re thinking that, maybe decision-makers for teams around the league are thinking the same thing. If they are, maybe that drives down his market value. Maybe Hatcher isn’t offered what he richly deserves. Just maybe then that means the going rate for a 32-year-old Pro Bowl defensive tackle becomes something more palatable for the Cowboys budget.
Who knows? We’ll see. Only time will tell for both guys.
But without Jason Hatcher and/or a healthy and affordable Anthony Spencer, a Dallas Cowboys defensive front already in bad need of refurbishing will need an even more intensive re-do. Any success doing so then rests at the mercy of the upcoming NFL draft.
TWO-GAME TURNING POINT: Some believe Jason Garrett’s job at risk if Dallas Cowboys miss playoffs
Owner Jerry Jones does not want to discuss the future of coach Jason Garrett while the Dallas Cowboys remain in the playoff hunt. That much is abundantly clear.
If the Cowboys fail on national television with a chance to win the division for the third consecutive season finale, though, all bets are off.
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Media columnist Michael Silver reported on Monday’s edition of NFL Network’s “NFL Total Access” that jobs are indeed on the line in Dallas.
Executive vice president Stephen Jones told Silver that everybody in the organization is under pressure to perform for their jobs over the next two weeks. That includes “players, coaches, executives — everybody.”
Although ownership has given Garrett a vote of confidence regardless of the season’s outcome, that sentiment appears to have changed after the younger Jones referred to Sunday’s loss as one of the top-five most “brutal moments” in the 25 years he and his father have run the Cowboys.
Several people inside the Cowboys’ building have told Rapoport that nobody believes Jerry’s pledge to keep Garrett on board. In fact, the consensus is that it’s now “playoffs or bust” for Garrett’s livelihood in Dallas.
The front office changed defensive coordinators and play callers after the last two 8-8 seasons. If there’s a third, Garrett is expected to be the “next domino to fall,” per Silver.
There is an understanding at Valley Ranch that the talent level isn’t up to par, especially on defense. There’s also frustration among teammates that Romo has continued to audible from the run to the pass.
Those two factors aren’t enough to give Garrett a pass considering the ongoing struggles with game planning, play calling and time management in close games. The Week 17 showdown versus the Eagles might very well decide this coaching staff’s fate for the 2014 season.
POSTGAME INJURY UPDATE: Sean Lee and Justin Durant expected to miss 3-4 weeks with hamstring injuries | Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints
IRVING, Texas – As banged up as this Dallas Cowboys team is right now, the bye week can’t come at a better time.
Vice President Stephen Jones said Tuesday that he is expected a lot of players back from injury, but one guy who likely won’t be included in that mix is middle linebacker Sean Lee.
The Cowboys’ leading tackler and interception leader will likely miss next week’s game against the Giants, and possible the Thanksgiving Day game with the Raiders as well.
Lee sustained a hamstring in the second quarter against the Saints Sunday night in the 49-17 loss to New Orleans.
“He’s got a hamstring issue,” Jones said on his weekly radio show on the 105.3 “The Fan” in Dallas. “To what extent, it’ll bear out here between the MRIs and his rehab. We’ll see how he progresses. I don’t think it’s going to be anything that’s a long time, but it’s probably going to be more than a week or two, and we’ll go from there.”
The Dallas Cowboys will welcome the bye week with open arms, considering how many injuries they’ve suffered in the past few weeks.
But missing Lee, will certainly be a big blow to the defense.
“He’s a great player and he’s done a real nice job for us,” defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. “But we’ve just got to plug some other guys in there and keep going. That’s the only thing you can do.”
The problem with that, however, is that Lee’s backup Justin Durant also suffered a hamstring injury in the second half, playing for Lee in the middle.
Durant starts at outside linebacker in the base 4-3 defense, but has been Lee’s backup in the middle. Once he went down, the Cowboys used Kyle Bosworth inside.
Look for the Cowboys to explore all options concerning the middle linebacker position, perhaps even using Ernie Sims or Bruce Carter inside. They could also try to find an available linebacker on the street, like they’ve done with the defensive end position.
Lee, who signed a six-year, $42 million extension back in late August, has had his share of injury issues in his career. In fact, Lee has a chance to earn as much as $51 million in this contract if he can stay relatively healthy and earn playing-time incentives.
He missed two games his rookie season in 2010 with a hamstring injury and most of a game later that year with a concussion. He also had a wrist injury in 2011 that forced him to wear a club on his hand for about a month.
Last year, Lee went on IR in late October with a toe injury that required surgery, forcing him to miss the last 10 games.
Other than Lee’s injury, the Cowboys are hopeful to get a few more starters and key players back for the Nov. 24 game with the Giants. Jason Hatcher (shoulder/neck), Morris Claiborne (hamstring), Miles Austin (hamstring) and J.J. Wilcox (knee) are expected to return after each missing some games here in the last month.
Also, DeMarcus Ware (quad), Nick Hayden (ribs), Dez Bryant (back), DeMarco Murray (knee) and various other players have been battling through injuries that have slowed them down considerably and forced them to miss practice time.
Obviously this is the time the Cowboys can get healthy again and get the majority of their players back. But unfortunately for them, Sean Lee is not expected to be one of them.
POSTGAME INJURY UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys vs. Detroit Lions | MO down; Church praying; and we’re wondering about Waters
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne and safety Barry Church both left with hamstring injuries Sunday. Executive vice president Stephen Jones said today that Church’s isn’t serious, and he should be back this week.
But Jones was more pessimistic about Claiborne’s injury. He said Claiborne could miss a couple of games, which would point toward Claiborne’s return after the bye week in a Nov. 24 game at the Giants.
“Church, his injuries kept him out there a little bit at the end,” Stephen Jones said on KRLD-FM 105.3. “I do think he can recover and get back for the Vikings. Claiborne, on the other hand, has a soft tissue injury there with his hamstring that is a real deal, and probably more than likely we’re looking at him missing the next couple of weeks.”
Claiborne has had a tough season. He dislocated his shoulder in the season opener against the Giants and has played with a harness. He temporarily lost his starting job to Orlando Scandrick, though the Cowboys have started several games in the nickel, including Sunday’s at Detroit, with three cornerbacks in the starting lineup.
In three games, Claiborne has come off the bench. He played 33 of 80 plays Sunday, missing the end of the game with his hamstring injury. Church played 64 of 80 plays, with Jakar Hamilton replacing him late in the game because of his hamstring injury.
Jones was not asked about Brian Waters‘ injury, but a source said the Cowboys do not have an update on the offensive guard yet. Waters left with knee, rib and triceps injuries, playing 32 of 57 snaps.
NFL TRADE DEALINE APPROACHING: Dallas Cowboys VP Stephen Jones open to a trade, but it’s got to fit salary cap
The Dallas Cowboys are open to making a trade before the Tuesday deadline, but making it work with their salary-cap situation is another matter entirely.
Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the defensive line is the obvious spot the Cowboys would be willing to listen to offers.
“We’re certainly open to it,” Jones said Friday. “I know our guys are working back there. I’m working. If the right situation presented itself, we would certainly do something. I mean, it’s no secret we’re moving a lot of guys in and out in our defensive line and that will probably continue to be the case. I think we already have some workouts scheduled for Monday. We’re just taking a look at guys. [Defensive line coach] Rod [Marinelli] is doing a heck of a job. I admire our young guys that are in there playing hard. To some degree, it’s a good situation. The guys know it’s week to week, and they’ve got to play hard and give it their best and play the right style of defense. You’ve got to admire what that group is getting accomplished. But we certainly would look at any type of situation there if the right deal was there, but we also can’t, for a quick fix, do something that would hurt long term.”
The Dallas Cowboys are only $2 million under the $123 million salary cap. They are projected to be $31 million over next year’s cap.
“At the end of the day it’s got to fit our cap, and that’s another thing,” Jones said. “It would have to really just fit right to sacrifice our cap some, because it will be an issue for us next year, and we certainly manage our salary cap hand in hand with ’13, ’14 and ’15 all side by side as we manage and we see how that affects each year.”
The player also would have to be the right fit on the field. A new player, no matter how talented and experienced, enters as a rookie in terms of his knowledge of the team’s playbook.
The Colts recently made a splash by trading for former first-round pick Trent Richardson, but in four games with Indianapolis, Richardson has rushed for 228 yards on 75 carries and has lost a fumble.
“You have to measure everything,” Jones said. “You have to measure the cap but I think people are getting more and more skilled at that in terms of how they look at it and know that if you trade for a guy he’s got to fit. He’s got to fit under the cap. He’s got to fit under improving your team and I think teams are understanding that and that’s why you’re probably seeing more trades but it’s certainly not as easy as it would be if you didn’t have a salary cap but I don’t think we’re ever going to have to worry about that again. As far as I’m concerned it looks like we’re going to have a salary cap for a long time.”
(Watch Video | Play Audio)
Stephen Jones on NFL Trade Deadline options and Jay Ratliff
Stephen Jones spoke with the media about the legal issues involving Jay Ratliff, and what the team is looking at heading into the NFL Trade Deadline.
DALLAS PUP RECOVERING: Cowboys DT Jay Ratliff rehab continues to linger
The Dallas Cowboys are holding out hope Jay Ratliff will be on the field at some point this year, but there’s still no set date for the defensive tackle’s return.
Ratliff may not be ready to play when he’s eligible to come off the Physically Unable to Perform list next week. He’s also not rehabbing with the Dallas Cowboys, according to executive vice president Stephen Jones.
Jones told 105.3 FM “The Fan” that Ratliff has “had his frustrations in terms of his medical situation,” and the Cowboys gave him the opportunity to explore different avenues in his rehab, though the team didn’t prefer it.
“This is rare, but we felt like if it mentally helped him and gave him a better chance to get back to where he thinks he needs to be, we were up for him doing that,” Jones said. “As far as knowing where he is, we get reports daily and understand how he’s progressing, so we’re aware of what’s going on.”
Ratliff only played in six games last season before getting sports hernia surgery at the end of the year. He injured his hamstring during the conditioning test at the beginning of training camp this year and hasn’t played since.
“Any time you reward a player, you hope he plays at a high level,” Jones said. “Any time it doesn’t work out, it’s frustrating, obviously. But that’s a part of the business we’re in.
“I’m sure Jay wishes it were different. I know we wish it was different. We could use him, but that’s not the way it is.”
Editors comment: Monte Kiffin’s Texas-2 Defense was predicated on having both Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff in the rotation. As you know, Spencer is out for the rest of the season and Ratliff has had lingering issues for months. Dallas Cowboys DL coach Rod Marinelli has managed to make the best of a bad situation. Let’s hope we see Ratliff in the rotation at some point in the 2013-2014 season. The standout still needs to get into ‘football shape” before Jason Garrett can put him on the field. Doesn’t look like Dallas will have this dog in the fight anytime soon.
SOPHOMORE SLUMP: Dallas Cowboys insist on patients regarding Morris Claiborne
IRVING – Citing the difficulty of playing cornerback in the NFL, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, owner Jerry Jones and others in the organization continue to preach patience when it comes to struggling second-year pro Morris Claiborne.
San Diego’s Philip Rivers picked on the sixth overall pick of the 2012 draft repeatedly in Sunday’s 30-21 win over the Cowboys. Rivers finished with 401 yards and three touchdowns on 35-of-42 accuracy, including a 31-yard strike to rookie Keenan Allen on third-and-long early in the game that victimized Claiborne and set the tone for the day.
Allen finished with five catches for 80 yards, most of which came against Claiborne, who termed his day “frustrating.”
“They hit a couple of plays all over the field,” said Claiborne, who also gave up a 28-yard catch, “but obviously they found more over there on the right side.”
Orlando Scandrick has started the last three games after Claiborne dislocated a shoulder in the opener. Team vice president Stephen Jones suggested the injury has nothing to do with Claiborne’s poor play.
“It’s time for the injury thing to leave the scene, Jones told Dallas’ KRLD-FM on Monday. “He needs to step up and make plays. I think he will.”
On Tuesday, Jerry Jones was asked about Claiborne during his weekly radio show on KRLD-FM.
“He’s just got to get his confidence up,” the owner said. “We know what kind of player he is, what kind of athlete he is.”
Like the Joneses, Garrett believes a dip in confidence plagues Claiborne, who Pro Football Focus ranks 99th out of 101 corners who have played at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps.
But the coach pointed out that poor technique is also a factor in the former LSU standout’s decline.
“It’s a challenging position,” Garrett said. “You’re out there on an island and your best friend is your technique. Your best friend is the system, and oftentimes a young player like him is inconsistent in how he’s using his technique and his belief in the system.”
Garrett said young pro corners are often surprised to learn they can’t rely solely on the athleticism that served them so well in college.
“Guys at the college level don’t face the expertise or just the level of play, the level of skill that (NFL quarterbacks and receivers) have,” Garrett said.
“(In college), if you are a more talented player, you can get away with being a little late to the ball because you can (recover quickly). The ball’s not really where it’s supposed to be. But guys in this league throw the ball on time. They throw it where they want to throw it. The route running is good. So, technically, you just have to be really sound to give yourself a chance to succeed out there.”
Cornerback Brandon Carr said it’s clear on film teams are targeting Claiborne. But unlike others, Carr believes Claiborne remains confident. Still, Carr said he’s pulled Claiborne aside to offer him guidance and encouragement.
“He is going to take some bumps and bruises,” Carr said. “He hasn’t seen it all yet. I told him it took me four years to get it all out of my system and get my confidence level where it should be.
“The only thing you can tell him is keep battling, keep being positive.”
With that said, Carr supports the decision to start Scandrick.
“It’s not time for feelings or anything political,” Carr said of Claiborne’s demotion. “It’s all just business. We are trying to put the best 11 out there to win ball games.”
DOUBLE DOWN ON DEZ: Jones’ agree on Bryant’s ability to beat coverages
Dez Bryant has been targeted 36 times, more than any Dallas Cowboys player this season. But Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and his son, Stephen, the team’s executive vice president, believe Bryant should get more opportunities even when he’s covered by more than one defender.
“I do think sometimes he’s going to win the battle even if he’s doubled,” Stephen Jones said Monday on KRLD-FM. “He deserves those shots.”
His father echoed thoughts on Tuesday during his KRLD-FM radio segment.
“He can make that catch with two people on him,” Jerry Jones said.
As for Bryant, he professes he doesn’t care about the number of chances he gets each week.
“It’s not about me,” said Bryant, who has made 23 catches for 282 yards and four touchdowns. “We got too much talent on this team. That’s the great thing about it. Everybody can make a play.”
Editors comment: Defenders paranoia over Dez Bryant’s playmaking ability should be tested occasionally. That type of mental pressure could lead to one or two DPI (defensive pass interference) calls … which is as good as a catch! If the flag is thrown, the only thing it risks is the RAC (run, after catch) factor. If the result is an INT, it’s generally in the range of punt/kickoff territory … which is manageable. Not suggesting that Dallas forces the issue constantly, but it should be tested at opportune or strategic moments. The advantages of a run game threat can be duplicated with a Deep to Dez threat. Keep these defenses off balance and guessing! The Jones’ are right … Dez can win those match-ups … if it’s timed properly and the ball is thrown accurately.
TALKIN’ TEXAS TRENCHES: Veteran Brian Waters gives Dallas’ young linemen a solid mentor
IRVING, Texas – If the phrase “perception is reality” holds true to form, the Dallas Cowboys are certainly hoping for that in regards to their new-look offensive line.
Recently, the perception of the offensive line hasn’t been that good. In reality, they weren’t, especially in the running game.
Now, with the addition of veteran Brian Waters, who practiced for the first time today, teamed with a first-round pick at center and an emerging young guard in Ron Leary, the perception of the entire offensive line is one that is vastly improved.
The Cowboys can only hope that becomes a reality.
Vice president Stephen Jones, who is the Cowboys’ director of player personnel, said he is hopeful the offensive line will go from one of the team’s weaknesses, to possibly a strength with the added experience and depth.
“Getting Waters obviously takes it from being a big, big question mark, but from not only being a question mark on the front end, but now we’ve got good depth,” Jones said. “You take a starter in Mackenzy Bernadeau and he may ultimately be a backup here. I’m sure he’s not going to give the job away. He’s been competing well. You know what we think about Phil Costa and Jermey Parnell gives you a solid eight there. We’re pleased.”
And that’s not something the Cowboys have been able to say about the line in the last few years – even the last few weeks. There have been several questions, ones that still haven’t been fully answered.
While Travis Frederick looks the part and has played well in the preseason, Sunday night will be his NFL debut. The same goes for Ronald Leary, who has been battling to get back from a knee scope he had in mid-August. Leary practiced in full Wednesday and said he’s “definitely” playing Sunday against the Giants. However, it’ll also be his NFL debut.
Tyron Smith has been solid at left tackle and Doug Free has played well on the right side this preseason. But he certainly benefitted from Anthony Spencer’s camp-long knee injury that often had him battling the likes of Kyle Wilber and George Selvie, instead of a 2012 Pro Bowler who had 11 sacks.
So the question marks remain along the line. And they likely won’t go away with one game – regardless if Waters plays or not. From the sound of things, the 11-year veteran is not expected to suit up against the Giants. While he practiced some early with the second-team offense, the bulk of his afternoon was spent with trainers working on his conditioning.
It appears the goal with Waters is to have him ready for Week 2, which just so happens to be in Kansas City, a place he spent the first 10 seasons of his career, earning five Pro Bowls. Waters picked up a sixth Pro Bowl trip in 2011 when he signed a one-year deal with the Patriots. Similar to this situation, Waters joined New England on Sept. 3, 2011, eight days before the opener in Miami, where he played 85 percent of the offensive snaps. Waters was able to get five practices in before that first game, compared to just three this week. So getting him ready for the Chiefs makes more sense, although the savvy veteran in Waters wouldn’t let him look that far ahead.
“I’m just going to think about the Giants right now, take it one game at a time,” Waters said (video | audio). “Obviously, I have a great amount of affection for the Kansas City program and organization, but right now our focus is on the Giants.”
Despite his experience, Waters said he can learn a lot from Frederick, who was eight years old when Waters completed his first training camp.
“I have a lot of experience, a lot of game-time experience,” Waters said. “If those guys need me, in any way, form or fashion, I think I can offer some insight on different ways to do things and different players that I’ve played against. But this center is young and smart. He’s not going to need much help from me. I’m probably going to need more help from him than he’s going to need from me.”
While Frederick seemed to appreciate the compliment, it sounded like (video | audio) he’s prepared to do the bulk of the learning in this new-formed relationship.
“I don’t think I’m teaching him anything. Really all I’m doing is helping facilitate the switching of terminology and things like that, and even at that, it’s not a whole lot,” Frederick said. “He obviously knows what he’s doing. He’s got the playbook and will have probably by (Thursday), have it all done. The things you learn from playing in the NFL for 10 years, I have no idea. But those are the things that I can learn from him, and I think those are harder to learn and they take more time and they take somebody that’s been through it all to help you if you want to get it faster than they got it or faster than it takes you 10 years down the road. I think the things that he’s teaching me are more important.”
Whether Frederick is helping Waters learn the system, or Waters is helping Frederick learn the ropes of being an NFL lineman, they’re going to lean on each other.
More importantly, they’re likely going to give this offensive line a possible edge that we haven’t seen around here in a while.
Now that would be quite a reality check.
2013-2014 ROSTER BATTLE: Predicting who will make the Dallas Cowboys final 53
IRVING, Texas – As I write this story, there is a personnel meeting going on down the hall from me.
Having sat in that room for a number of years, the feelings I had never changed. Along with the draft, this was the most important day of a scout’s year. In this meeting with Jerry and Stephen Jones, there is going to be a healthy debate on how this roster is going to be shaped.
For five weeks there have been meetings, practices and games to evaluate to put together the best 53 players for the upcoming season. There is going to be a time where a coach is not going to agree with a scout and vice versa, but in the end, both parties have to put their feelings aside and do what is right for this organization.
I no longer sit in those meetings, but I still have a strong enough feeling of what this team might try and do in selecting its best 53 players. So with that being said, here is my crack at the roster.
Tony Romo and Kyle Orton
I understand the thoughts of trying to keep Alex Tanney as the third quarterback on this roster but I need his spot on the roster to help me try and win games now. This club is too banged up injury wise to carry him on this roster. My hope is to get him to the practice squad. If it works out great, if not I am moving on. That’s just part of the NFL you deal with.
Wide Receivers: 5
Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Terrence Williams, Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley
There was a side of me that was trying to get Anthony Armstrong on this squad as the fifth receiver but Beasley is just too valuable to the offense to put him on the street. Another position that you would like to carry an extra player but numbers play a factor here.
Tight Ends: 4
Jason Witten, James Hanna, Gavin Escobar, Dante Rosario
Andre Smith would be an option here but he doesn’t play all the positions on the offense and the coaches have confidence in Rosario on special teams even though I thought he had a rough night against the Texans. Just a gut feeling but Smith has played well enough to be a guy that you would consider claiming.
Offensive Line: 10
Tyron Smith, Ronald Leary, Travis Frederick, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Doug Free, Jermey Parnell, Phil Costa, Nate Livings, David Arkin, Darrion Weems
I am not totally comfortable with that final spot because they could decide they still want to work with Demetress Bell but I am going with the younger Weems, who I believe has more to work with. That last spot could also come down to a waiver claim. But we need to remember is that if Free plays at guard, this club is going to need a swing tackle. I kept Livings because his salary is guaranteed. However, he could be a candidate for IR, which would give the Cowboys an open spot.
Running Backs: 4
DeMarco Murray, Lance Dunbar, Phillip Tanner, Joseph Randle
Two of the four backs play major roles on the special teams. There is a side of me that believes that we might not see Dunbar in this opening game against the Giants, so Tanner and Randle will be asked to help Murray get through this game.
Defensive Line: 9
Demarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, Nick Hayden, Anthony Spencer, Kyle Wilber, George Selvie, Ben Bass, Landon Cohen, Jason Vega
I feel better about the starting four with Spencer in the lineup over Selvie. Hayden will give the defense nice effort inside and if Bass can continue to play like he did against the Texans, then the nickel pass rush will be better. My surprise in this group is that the front office decides to keep Jason Vega which means that Sean Lissemore is out of the mix. Like Cohen, there is something to Vega’s game that interests me. In Lissemore’s spot you can play Cohen at the one behind Hayden. Like the offensive line, this is a position that you could see a waiver claim or two.
Sean Lee, Justin Durant, Bruce Carter, DeVonte Holloman, Ernie Sims, Cameron Lawrence
I had no trouble with five of the six that I wanted to keep, it was that sixth spot that had me thinking. As much as I thought that Brandon Magee could have been a factor on this roster after the draft, it just hasn’t been the case. I didn’t see that nose for the ball until they played against Arizona then he suffered a concussion in practice the following Monday after the Arizona game. I really believed that he was going to be more active but that just wasn’t the case. Cameron Lawrence has made plays and when he has been asked to play snaps, he has done a nice job. I believe he gives you something as a backup linebacker and potential core special teamer. He gets my last spot over Magee.
Defensive Backs: 10
Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Will Allen, Barry Church, B.W. Webb, Sterling Moore, J.J. Wilcox, Orlando Scandrick, Jeff Heath, Eric Frampton
At that this position, I kept Frampton over McCray because I know that he can be a core special teamer but I also felt like that he could play snaps in the secondary and be productive doing it. With two rookie safeties behind Allen and Church, I needed that veteran player and I just felt better about Frampton doing that job. There also might be a consideration of savings between the two that I have to measure.
Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, L.P. Ladouceur
No questions with this group. Solid.
Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Scout
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KEEPING UP WITH THE JONES’: Cowboys Super Bowl quest includes the fountain of youth and secret sauce
ARLINGTON – Jerry Jones will outlive us all. Some wonder if Jerry Jones is slowing down. He’s 70 years old. But the Dallas Cowboys owner insists he is as mentally sharp as he was when he bought the team in 1989.
This has always been a working theory around these parts, admittedly rooted in a gut feeling rather than tangible medical evidence.
But now … now we have something to work off. The Dallas Cowboys owner received some very unusual news during a recent visit to the doctor. He shared said unusual news with the media.
The doctor convinced him he has the perspicacity of someone nearly half his age.
“I’ve been told that I have, by CAT Scans, that it’s like the brain of a 40-year-old,” Jones crowed. “…The guy really did not know it was me. I was there anonymously. He said, ‘And so I just wanted to come down. I saw your chart. I know how old you are. That part is really impressive.’”
Jones remains confident in his abilities to manage the organization and earn another Super Bowl title.
“I know more about what I’m doing than hopefully I did 25 years ago,” he said, referring to the time he entered the NFL as an owner.
Jones’ comments came, of course, one day after his son, Stephen, the team’s executive vice president, declared, “We’re convinced we’ve got the secret sauce to put this thing back together again and win championships.” (see below)
By promoting Jerry’s 40-year-old brain and Stephen’s secret sauce this week, the Jones Family seems to think the Dallas Cowboys have what it takes to return to glory.
RELATED: Stephen Jones says Cowboys have the ‘secret sauce’ to win championships again
IRVING — What’s going to make the Cowboys better than 8-8 this year? The “secret sauce,” says executive vice president Stephen Jones.
Answering a question from reporters about whether his father, owner Jerry Jones, hears criticism, Stephen said it is motivation.
“Obviously we feel like we have a great organization in the Cowboys, but we can always be better. We look for ways to be better,” Stephen said. “We do that both on the field and off the field. We’re convinced we’ve got the quote-unquote ‘secret sauce’ to ultimately put this thing back together again and win championships.”
The sauce includes making the playoffs, and Stephen was asked if the Cowboys’ record will be better than 8-8.
“We certainly expect it to be,” he said. “We want people to be accountable. Our commitment when we started was no more 8-8s. I think we’ve got good personnel. I think we’ve got a great staff. I think we can do that. We need to stay healthy. We need to stay focused. We need to get better every day. And I think we’ll be better than 8-8.”
Stephen said his father still has a drive to work and succeed, even at age 70.
“You don’t run across many people like him that are driven to be successful, not only in business, but I think he’s equally driven for the Cowboys to win championships,” Stephen said. “We’ve won them. He certainly doesn’t want to think we’re through winning them. I don’t think we’re through winning them. … I think it’s still out there for us to go get. We just have to keep working hard and keep holding everyone accountable to one another. I think good things will come.”
IRVING ERA ENDING: Dallas Cowboys moving world headquarters to Frisco, Texas
FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys formally announced Tuesday they are moving their headquarters from suburban Irving to suburban Frisco after winning overwhelming approval for a $115 million development that includes an indoor stadium for practice and use by area prep teams.
Accompanied by cheerleaders and city officials, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and his son, executive vice president Stephen Jones, made a quick trip home from training camp in Oxnard, Calif., to celebrate Frisco officials. The multi-use sports facilities, which will be shared with Frisco Independent School District’s sports teams, are expected to open in 2016.
“Frisco is a city (that) they think big and they act bold. They have a vision and they act on it,” Stephen Jones said. “It gives us great comfort to do business with people who think like this.”
The stadium will be paid for mostly through a city sales tax, with the school district funding part of the construction. The deal, which was approved late Monday, calls for the Cowboys to manage the facilities and pay operating costs.
School district officials said they already were planning on building a football stadium before singing onto this private-public deal.
“We could in no way duplicate a stadium of this caliber on our own, spending the same amount for construction,” said Jeremy Lyon, Frisco ISD’s superintendent.
Lyon said the partnership will save taxpayers money in the long run by splitting costs after the stadium is open.
Frisco is already the home of the FC Dallas of Major League Soccer, a minor league affiliate of baseball’s Texas Rangers and the training facility for hockey’s Dallas Stars. It is about 30 miles north of Dallas and about 45 miles from AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
John Classe, a board member with the city who voted for the deal, said FC Dallas had a similar deal to what the Cowboys are getting, with the city funding its stadium but leaving leasing and management costs to the team.
“Just like that deal, it’s anticipated that the Cowboys will put more money into the facility above and beyond the city’s commitment,” Classe said. “Therefore we will end up with a nicer facility.”
The 91-acre development includes 25 acres for the Cowboys’ facilities, while the remaining 66 acres will be used for stores, restaurants and a luxury hotel. According to city officials, the development will generate $1.26 billion in tax revenue with an estimated economic impact of $23.4 billion over the next 30 years.
This deal ends a four-decade relationship between the Cowboys and the City of Irving.
VACATING VALLEY RANCH: Dallas Cowboys in negotiations to move practice facility
As the Dallas Cowboys players and coaches prepare in Southern California for the upcoming season, club officials are in the final stages of negotiations to move their practice facility to Frisco.
Work remains before the team severs ties with its home of 28 years to travel north. It’s doubtful an announcement will be made in the next few days or weeks.
But those who privately acknowledge the discussions speak in terms of when, not if, the club departs Valley Ranch.
It appears the new facility could be part of the Frisco Station project, located on the Northwest corner of Warren and the Dallas North Tollway. Houston-based Hines recently unveiled plans to develop office, shopping and residential space on the 317-acre site.
Preliminary indications are the Cowboys would make the move before the start of the 2016 season.
Frisco officials had no comment.
The Dallas Cowboys stance has been to explore all options. But the deal Frisco officials have put in place and their persistence to get something done have left competitors Irving and Arlington in their wake.
Irving mayor Beth Van Duyne said Monday that city negotiators have suggested several locations for a new facility, including the land where Texas Stadium once stood. When she last spoke to club officials two weeks ago, she said the organization was seriously eyeing the Frisco deal.
“It’s hundreds of millions of dollars in brand new infrastructure, brand new product, that the Cowboys are basically going to fit into,” Van Duyne said.
There have been discussions of building an indoor facility the Cowboys would share with the Frisco Independent School District. The Cowboys have been without one at their current site since their practice bubble collapsed during a storm more than four years ago.