Here’s the latest updates on the Dallas Cowboys players involved in NFL free agency this season. Six players have been lost while six have been added. Eight players have been retained from the Dallas Cowboys 2014-2015 squad. Nine players remain in limbo. Continue reading →
DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH POST DRAFT: Dallas Cowboys scramble to sign priority undrafted free agents | 2014 NFL Draft Prospects
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys added more pieces in the hours and minutes following the conclusion of the 2014 NFL Draft than they did in the three days of the actual event.
No time can be wasted as teams attempt to sign priority undrafted prospects, and the quicker all the players can arrive, the better.
“It’s really pretty interesting logistically…we didn’t know who we drafted until two hours ago,” head coach Jason Garrett said immediately after the draft. “Now we go through the process, what’re the rules of the school, have you finished your exam, have you graduated, you guys on trimester system…We just felt like it’s important to get those guys in here, if we can, to have three bonus days with them before we go into that minicamp next weekend.”
First-round pick Zack Martin and fifth-round pick Devin Street were both at Valley Ranch on Monday. Garrett said fourth-round pick Anthony Hitchens had exams Monday and Tuesday and would arrive after those, while he expected second-round pick Demarcus Lawrence today (Thursday).
“The benefit is simply getting in a meeting room,” Garrett said. “We start there, introduce stuff to them, then on Tuesday and Thursday, they’ll go out with our veteran players on the field, they’ll get an orientation to our strength and conditioning program. These days are valuable. If you have time with them, 45 minutes in the morning, an hour and a half in the afternoon, a couple-three days, you can really learn a lot of football in a short period of time, and we feel like our rookie minicamp will be so much better as a result of that.”
Garrett said with a week in between the draft and the rookie minicamp, players arriving early can be three or four days ahead of where they would be otherwise before taking the field. Coaches also get a better idea of where the player is at physically.
The conditioning of rookies generally pales in comparison to the veterans, who’ve been in the Dallas Cowboys offseason program.
“That’s something we’ve got to be really careful about, really on Tuesday when they go out with our veteran players,” Garrett said. “Our veteran players have been here, and they’re working out and they’re in shape and they’re in our program, so we feel like it’s important to acclimate them to that, but we have to do it very carefully to make sure they’re ready to handle the work.”
The days leading into the rookie minicamp can be valuable. And while it may be unfair, coaches and personnel evaluators may be less inclined to bring in undrafted players with extenuating circumstances forcing them to arrive late.
“I think it impacts that, because it’s always so tight,” Garrett said. “There’s usually a couple guys you’re thinking about, and if the logistics are right with one guy and everything else is even, you’ll probably take that guy. But for the most part, you’re trying to take the best guys, and you can kind of work your way through some of those situations.”
HURRY UP AND WAIT BIG D: Dallas Cowboys (and fans) awaiting decisions from NFL free agents Jared Allen and Henry Melton
IRVING, Texas – The visits are finished for the time being, and now the Dallas Cowboys will wait for further news from free agent targets Henry Melton and Jared Allen.
Allen commanded headlines today with a scheduled visit of Valley Ranch. The five-time Pro Bowler arrived in Dallas last night and spent today at the facility with Dallas Cowboys coaches and executives.
Familial obligations with his wife, who is expecting the couple’s second child, called Allen back to Minnesota, where he played six seasons with the Vikings. The visit reportedly went well, however.
Melton made his visit with the Cowboys, including his old defensive coordinator in Chicago, Rod Marinelli, yesterday. The 2012 Pro Bowler has been the most widely-discussed possibility to replace Jason Hatcher as the Cowboys’ three-technique defensive tackle since Hatcher signed a four-year deal with Washington last Thursday.
The former Bears defensive tackle moved on to a meeting with the St. Louis Rams today after spending Monday at Valley Ranch. All indications are that the visit went well, but it remains to be seen where or when Melton – widely considered the best defensive tackle left on the market – will decide to sign.
It’s expected that Melton’s availability would be one of the storylines of the offseason for a Cowboys defensive line that has been ravaged by injuries and departures. Melton tore his ACL in October of last season and has been preparing for free agency ever since. His connection to Marinelli’s time in Chicago, combined with the potential for a lower price tag because of the injury, made him a no-brainer for free agency speculation.
The courtship of Allen comes as a bit of a more surprising development – at least up until the past week. The 2004 fourth-round draft pick is one of the bigger names on the free agent market, and reports indicate he has been in contact with several teams. Given Allen’s pedigree, it seemed like too high of a price tag when the Cowboys already had an All-Pro in DeMarcus Ware.
Ware’s release and subsequent signing with the Broncos added even greater need for pass rushers on an already-thin defensive line, bringing Allen into the forefront.
The Cowboys have roughly $7 million in salary cap room following Ware’s release, which should give them the space to strike a deal with one or potentially both Pro Bowlers. The team has only added three free agents to this point in 2014 – journeymen defensive linemen Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain, as well as quarterback Brandon Weeden, who was a first-round pick by Cleveland in 2012 before being released last week.
RELATED: Dallas Cowboys remain in play for Jared Allen and Henry Melton
Two days ago, this was considered a big week for the Dallas Cowboys.
With visits on tap with defensive tackle Henry Melton and defensive end Jared Allen, it was considered a golden opportunity for the Dallas Cowboys to gain some off-season momentum and an improve their team for next year with free agents at key need positions.
Now that the visits are over, Melton and Allen both left without deals. The Cowboys remain unfulfilled though still clinging to a hard line they established last week when they cut defensive end DeMarcus Ware and let Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jason Hatcher bolt in free agency.
Signing guys at their price would come first and foremost over being fiscally irresponsible and possibly costing them against the cap in future years.
The visits went well, with Melton and Allen, and the Cowboys remain in play for both players.
Melton left his visit with the Cowboys and flew to St. Louis for a visit with the Rams. He visited the Vikings and Seahawks before coming to Dallas and is weighing offers from several teams.
Allen returned home to discuss the decision over with his wife. He visited the Seahawks before coming to Dallas. He must decide if he will take an offer with Dallas or Seattle, visit other teams or continue to wait.
The Cowboys remain interested in both players and made pitches how each would fit in defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli’s scheme.
The remaining question is at what price.
Melton, a Pro Bowler in 2012 with the Bears, is coming off season-ending knee surgery. His knee checked out fine with the Cowboys and he will be ready for the start of the season but not the start of training camp in late July. The latter is not considered something that would preclude the Cowboys from signing him, but it is something to consider when talking contracts.
Allen, an 11-year veteran, has averaged 14.5 sacks over the past seven seasons. But he will be 32 next season and is reportedly looking for a contract similar to the three-year, $30 million deal the Ware signed with Denver after being cut from the Dallas Cowboys last week.
IT’S PAYDAY FOR DANNY MCCRAY: Now former Dallas Cowboys special teams ace signs one-year deal with Bears
IRVING, Texas – Former Dallas Cowboys safety and special teams ace Danny McCray has agreed to a deal with the Chicago Bears.
McCray was an unrestricted free agent this year after being with the Cowboys since 2010. McCray and Barry Church both made the team as undrafted safeties that season, and McCray would go on to be one of the Dallas Cowboys top special teams stars.
He’ll rejoin former Cowboys special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis in Chicago. DeCamillis quickly had an affinity for McCray after watching the safety’s special teams abilities at LSU and seeing them translate to the field in Dallas.
McCray didn’t waste any time demonstrating his skills as a special teams player with the Cowboys. He finished his rookie season with a team-high 28 tackles on special teams, which marked the third-most in a season for the Dallas Cowboys since the club began recording special teams tackles in 1988.
He also led the Cowboys in special teams tackles with 19 in 2011. McCray’s the first player since Bill Bates in 1989-90 to lead the Cowboys in special teams tackles in consecutive years.
McCray still managed to finish second on the team with 18 special teams stops in 2012, despite his increased role as a safety after Church went out for the season with an Achilles injury. McCray started the first and only 10 games of his career in 2012, notching 87 tackles and an interception.
His production lessened in 2013, particularly with the rise of Dwayne Harris as both a returner and cover player, along with Jeff Heath’s emergence on special teams. Heath led the team with 13 total special teams tackles, while Harris, Cameron Lawrence and Kyle Bosworth each had 12.
THIS WEEKS FREE AGENCY FRENZY: The dollars n’ sense of the Dallas Cowboys NFL Salary Cap | 2014 NFL Free Agent Review
IRVING, Texas – First the good news.
As expected the Dallas Cowboys successfully ducked under the NFL salary cap last week despite all the consternation being made out there.
By this afternoon they still had roughly $7 million of cap space, and by June 1 they will add another $5.5 million when the release of Miles Austin takes effect, basically a savings fund to absorb this year’s rookie pool, projected to cost them roughly $5.3 million for their eight draft choices.
Oh, and this may be a reach, but the current Dallas Cowboys Top 51 cap figure for 2015 is only $108 million, but then that doesn’t account for Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith’s option ($10.5 million), Doug Free, DeMarco Murray, Bruce Carter, Ronald Leary, and Miles Austin’s $5 million more of dead money that rolls over into next year. But still, that’s better than this year right, when the Cowboys were projected to be nearly $25 million over the cap heading toward March 11 before the cap increased nearly $7 million (to $133 million).
Now the bad news, and be forewarned, you might not have the stomach for all this.
As you know, after the Dallas Cowboys released DeMarcus Ware the Broncos signed him in the blink of an eye to a three-year deal too rich for the Cowboys’ cap blood to match. Then it took Washington all of two full days to sign unrestricted free agent Jason Hatcher to a four-year deal, another one too rich for the Cowboys’ salary cap constitution, and the Redskins seem to also be flirting with Cowboys unrestricted free agent Anthony Spencer, although with his knee condition there should be a buyer-beware tag on him. And the Cowboys no longer own the rights to wide receiver Miles Austin, designating him a June 1 release.
Now the Cowboys did ink a couple of guys, defensive end Jeremy Mincey and defensive tackle Terrell McClain, but remember, Denver didn’t even attempt to re-sign Mincey and the Texans didn’t even offer McClain a minimum restricted free-agent tender ($1.4 million). At least the Dallas Cowboys didn’t commit a lot of cap dough to them.
MEET YOUR NEWEST DALLAS COWBOYS: Scouting Reports on both new defensive linemen | McClain is a mountain | Mincey is versatile | Free Agents signed
Terrell McClain | Defensive Tackle, South Florida | Height/Weight: 6-2/291
Drafted: Third round, No. 65 overall, 2011 NFL Draft by Carolina
Games Studied: 2013 Seattle, San Francisco, New England and Denver
McClain lined up as a nose tackle in the Texans’ 3-4 defensive scheme last season, but I think he is a much better fit to play as a one-technique in a 4-3. He played some defensive end in the 49ers game as a reduced end, which allowed him to line up as a three-technique.
The first thing you notice about the player is his ability to sit down at the point of attack. He’s a hard guy to move, knows how to fire his hands inside and control the blocker — really quick hands. This guy plays with some lower body power, as well.
He’s able to control the down blocks from the guard, or deal with the center one-on-one. I like how he is able to fire those hands, then you see him quickly look for the ball carrier — active. Another thing is that he’s always working to get to the ball. He will play down the line and outside the tackle box. For the limited amount of snaps he got, it was rare that you saw him on the ground or stuck on a block. He makes a big effort and hustle plays.
McClain gets away with playing upright at times because of his leverage and upper body strength, but there are also snaps where you see his pad level down and he’s dealing with the blockers. I really like the way he sees the play develop and gets over to the ball.
Against the Broncos, he was able to run down a middle screen because he read the play. The only game where he played a little late off the ball was against the Patriots, and they were able to get on him. He plays with balance to handle the low block. I could see his work as a pass rusher in the Broncos game when Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips played his nickel package the majority of the game. He’s quick off the ball to rush and when he becomes engaged, will use a spin move to try and free himself as he is going up the field.
He showed some athletic ability coming around the edge on the twist stunt — didn’t have a sack against Peyton Manning but did pressure him into throwing the ball away. If you look at his career, McClain has been with two teams that play outstanding defense in Houston and New England, so that tells me that at some point, coaches liked what they saw in his potential value.
Jeremy Mincey | Defensive End, Florida | Height/Weight: 6-4/265
Drafted: Sixth round, No. 191 overall, 2006 NFL Draft by New England
Games Studied: 2013 Denver vs. San Diego, New England (Playoff); 2013 Jacksonville vs. Seattle, Indianapolis.
Mincey was drafted by the Patriots in the 2006 NFL Draft out of Florida and made stops in San Francisco, Jacksonville and Denver. The Broncos used him as a defensive end and three-technique tackle in nickel situations. He played mainly as an end for the Jaguars on either side with some snaps at tackle as well, and that’s where he started the season.
I thought his tape for the Jaguars was a much better indicator of the type of player he is than what he showed in Denver. He did have a sack in the Chargers game with a quick swim move that beat tackle D.J. Fluker to the inside and Philip Rivers had no chance to escape. That was the best quickness that he showed in those playoff games.
He was outstanding in the Jaguars’ game against the Colts that was played in Jacksonville. He was disruptive at end with some quickness off the edge, attacking the up field shoulder of both Anthony Castonzo and Cherilus Gosder at tackle, then moving inside and going to work on guard Donald Thomas.
Bottom line: Mincey showed more consistent pass rush moves while he was with the Jaguars than with the Broncos — rip moves with power and was able to beat the double team. He has some stiffness when he has to come around the corner or adjust in the pocket, when Andrew Luck stepped up in the pocket. Other than the sack against the Chargers, he was a down the middle rusher, that tried to use power instead of quick moves for the Broncos — he had a better combination in Jacksonville.
I thought there was some power in his hands. He snatched Seattle guard J.R. Sweezy out of his stance on a rush, which put Sweezy in a terrible blocking position. I thought he played with better awareness against the run while with the Jaguars, as well. He was more assignment-sure in what his role and responsibilities were.
Mincey struggled when he was on the edge, then the ball went inside of him. In Jacksonville, he played better with his eyes — especially against the Seahawks — when it came to defending the read-option and Russell Wilson.
I liked him chasing the ball earlier in the season; he looked sluggish and lacking a burst when he was trying to run Philip Rivers down to the sideline. It’s not that he didn’t give the effort, but it was like he was running in sand.
To Mincey’s credit, he plays all over the place and my feeling is he will do the same in Dallas. I can see him as a left defensive end, strong against the run with some pass rush traits and kicking inside as that three-technique in the nickel and working from there. He appears to be that wave (rotation) type of player that they are looking for on their front.
Special Thanks: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Professional Scout
BACK TO THE 3-4 DEFENSE: Jason Hatcher departs 4-3 system; signs 4-year deal with rival Redskins | Dallas Cowboys Free Agency 2014
IRVING, Texas – A third Pro Bowl player has now departed Valley Ranch in as many days, as defensive tackle Jason Hatcher signed with the Washington Redskins on Thursday afternoon.
Hatcher, who was the NFL’s sack leader among defensive tackles with 11 last season, signed a four-year deal worth roughly $27.5 million with the Washington Redskins – the Dallas Cowboys oldest rival.
The news ends days (actually months) of speculation about the veteran’s future, as Hatcher made several visits around the NFL to potential suitors. Hatcher visited with the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders earlier in the week, and he reportedly had visits with the Redskins and the Tennessee Titans lined up.
“My hard work paid off. I just left a great organization and now I’m with a great organization,” Hatcher said. “Things change. I just have to take it all in stride.”
Hatcher said he didn’t close the door on returning to the Dallas Cowboys, but said it was clear to him he wouldn’t be returning.
“Once me and my agent met and they didn’t show no signs they wanted me back,” Hatcher told 105.3 The Fan Thursday afternoon. “So I know the fans are upset, they should be. But I made the right decision for me. If we could’ve made it work out, we could’ve, but I’m in a great place with the Redskins, a great organization.”
Hatcher was a third round pick by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2006 NFL Draft, going No. 92 overall out of Grambling State. He played in at least 13 games in every year of his career, from 2006 to 2013. He didn’t start his first game until 2010, and he didn’t become a regular starter until 2011.
In 2012 and 2013, Hatcher became a full-time starter for the Cowboys, starting in 31 of a possible 32 games. He featured primarily as a 3-4 defensive end in the final year of Rob Ryan’s tenure as defensive coordinator. Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli made Hatcher the three-technique defensive tackle in their 4-3 scheme upon arriving in Dallas last spring.
It’s safe to say Hatcher flourished in that role.
Prior to 2013, Hatcher had 16 career sacks with his career highs being 4.5 in 2011 and 4.0 in 2012. He nearly tripled that during the 2013 campaign, earning his first-ever Pro Bowl selection in the process. He posted two-sack performances in three different divisional games – Oct. 13 against Washington, Nov. 24 against New York, and Dec. 29 against Philadelphia.
Hatcher said during the season he planned to test the market when the NFL’s free agency window opened in March. He played the final years of his Cowboys career on a three-year $6 million contract he signed following the 2011 NFL lockout.
“I’m going to test the market – I’m going to test the market. But you guys just leave me alone about my contract. I just once to focus on – I’m a Cowboy,” Hatcher said in December. “I’ve got a star on my helmet. I’m not trying to think about that. I’ll let it take care of itself when it happens. I’ve got four games to play, to be the best three-technique in the league and help my team go to the playoffs. That’s my approach.”
That clearly won’t be the case going forward, as the Dallas Cowboys have now parted ways with their all-time sack leader in DeMarcus Ware and their 2013 sack leader in Hatcher. New free agent acquisition Jeremy Mincey is now the team’s sack leader with 20 career sacks. George Selvie is behind him with 10 career sacks, seven of those coming last season.
RELATED: Career stats for former Dallas Cowboys DE Jason Hatcher
The worst defensive team in the NFL just parted ways with its most dynamic player.
The post-DeMarcus Ware era is upon us, and don’t believe for a minute that he and his agent will simply test the free-agent waters.
Ware will get the offer he wants. Ware is likely gone.
How can this possibly be a good thing for the league’s 32nd-ranked defense, given that Ware is only 31-years-old?
It’s mostly — but not entirely — a case of money.
We applaud the forward thinking teams of this league that use the unique status of NFL contracts, cutting players when they are simply starting to leave the prime of their careers in order to make room for newer, younger, cheaper talent.
New England has been doing this for a decade. The New York Giants do it. The New Orleans Saints just cast off about half their defense (it seemed) to retool and invest in the future.
The Cowboys? That’s the team that always keeping the salary cap at bay by re-working contracts and moving today’s problems into tomorrow land.
In large part, those past re-workings caught up with the Dallas Cowboys today. DeMarcus Ware was never supposed to count more than $16 million against the cap, but the club had shifted his money and his cap figure down the line until this crossroads was reached.
We don’t know what sort of reduction (if any) that Ware and his agent, Pat Dye, were willing to take in order to stay in Dallas. It sounds as if they were against any sort of pay cut.
They needed a decision by the time free-agency arrived at 3 p.m. They got their wish. The Dallas Cowboys cut a Ring of Honor candidate. See the press release below.
Given that no one really knows the answer to how much Ware was in decline last year or how much injuries contributed.
Jerry Jones chose not to shove today’s worries into next year’s cap. It’s possible that Ware signs with a 3-4 team, returns to his old outside linebacker position and goes to the 2014 Pro Bowl.
After all, someone drafted Ware in 2005 when head coach Bill Parcells was pushing for another outside linebacker, Shawne Merriman, who began his pro career with three straight Pro Bowl trips for San Diego. Merriman faded quickly after that. He retired from the NFL a year ago.
Ware, undoubtedly, has football left in him, but his decline in sacks the last two seasons (from 19.5 to 11.5 to 6) is a good indicator of which way he’s most likely headed.
The pertinent question now is: What do the Cowboys do?
They suddenly find themselves with $9 million in cap room, a figure that will grow beyond $14 million if wide receiver Miles Austin gets his official walking papers in June.
It’s almost certain Dallas will remain on the sidelines as the big free-agency dollars are passed out. That’s a good thing. The Cowboys’ plays as big spenders have almost never panned out, and the same goes for other clubs.
But they have to do something. And they have to absolutely nail their first two picks in a May draft that is filled with defensive linemen.
In hindsight, many Dallas Cowboys fans wish Jones has learned this lesson a year ago when he was giving all that money to Jay Ratliff, a failed attempt to placate the recalcitrant tackle.
Dallas Cowboys press release announcing release of DeMarcus Ware:
The Dallas Cowboys released defensive end DeMarcus Ware Tuesday. Ware, who was Dallas’ first first-round draft pick in 2005 (11th overall), is the club’s all-time sack leader (117.0). In his nine years with the team, Ware earned seven consecutive Pro Bowl appearances — tied for the fourth-longest streak in team history — and racked up seven straight seasons with 10 or more sacks (2006-12). Jared Allen (2007-13) is the only other league defender with seven consecutive 10-sack seasons since 2006.
A decision like this, involving a man who is a cornerstone player in the history of your franchise, is extremely difficult,” said Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones.
“After meeting this afternoon, DeMarcus and I agreed on an understanding that would allow him to explore the options he will have for the 2014 season and beyond. We were also in very strong agreement that playing for the Dallas Cowboys would be one of the options we would both be exploring.
“DeMarcus Ware, through his performance on the field and his outstanding character, is someone who is held in the highest regard within the Dallas Cowboys family. He is worthy of our greatest respect, and we want what is best for him and his family.”
In 2008 Ware established a club record and league-high 20.0 sacks, becoming only the seventh league defender to reach 20.0 in a season at the time and was named the 2008 NFC Defensive Player of the Year. En route to his 20.0 sacks in 2008, Ware put together a streak of 10 straight games (beginning in 2007) with at least one full sack, tying Simon Fletcher (1992-93) for the longest sack streak in NFL history.
In 2010 Ware led the league with 15.5 sacks to become only the fifth league defender to lead the NFL in sacks multiple times (Mark Gastineau, Reggie White, Kevin Greene and Michael Strahan). The very next season, Ware racked up 19.5 sacks to join Gastineau as the only league defenders with two seasons of 19.0-or-more sacks.
Through his nine seasons in Dallas, Ware posted the top-four single-season sack figures by a club linebacker – prior to making the switch to defensive end in 2013 – and four of the top-five single-season figures by any club defender.
Ware was a two-time winner of the Dick Butkus Award (honoring the league’s top linebackers). He won the first ever professional Butkus Award in 2008 and was a co-winner with Terrell Suggs in 2011. Ware was named All-Pro seven times, All-NFC three times, NFC Defensive Player of the Week four times, won the club’s Bob Lilly Award two times and was the team’s Man of the Year once.
Ware leaves Dallas with 710 tackles (ninth in club history), his club-best 117.0 sacks, 58 tackles for losses, 259 quarterback pressures and 32 forced fumbles – the most in club history since 1994 when the stat was first tracked.”
DALLAS COWBOYS ROSTER 2014: Team waives four players as Free Agency nears | Defensive End Everette Brown released
IRVING, Texas – After a quiet few weeks of the offseason, the Dallas Cowboys made a few roster moves, cutting four players from the roster.
The most notable was defensive end Everette Brown, who played in seven games during the second half of the season.
The team also waived defensive tackle Corvey Irvin, guard Ray Dominguez and guard Jeff Olson, who was only with the team for a week in training camp and suffered a concussion. He was on the team’s reserved/injured list. Dominguez was on the practice squad all last season, while Irvin was a late-season addition at defensive tackle.
Brown garnered more attention about where he came from than when he was actually in uniform. The defensive end was just a few days away from opening up a Smoothie shop in Charlotte when he got the call to come help the Cowboys’ injury-plagued defensive line.
Brown finished the year with seven tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss and four pressures. His sack and forced fumble against the Vikings helped the Cowboys halt a late-Minnesota rally.
Free agency officially begins March 11 although teams can negotiate with their own unrestricted and restricted free agents. Some of the key free agents for the Dallas Cowboys include defensive tackle Jason Hatcher and defensive end Anthony Spencer.
2014-2015 Dallas Cowboys Free Agents
Jon Kitna, QB
Brian Waters, OL
Ryan Cook, OL
Anthony Spencer, DE/LB
Jarius Wynn, DE
Jason Hatcher, DT
Edgar Jones, LB
Ernie Sims, LB
Danny McCray, S
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.
“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.
TOP NFL FREE AGENTS 2014: Pro Bowl bound Dallas Cowboys DT Jason Hatcher among NFL’s top 25 Free Agents
As the NFL’s 2013-2014 season comes to a close, let’s take a first glance at the 2014 NFL free-agent market.
It’s early in the offseason process. Franchise tags have yet to be discussed. There’s still time for clubs to lock up young stars to long-term contracts. Many of these names will be removed from consideration by the time the upcoming 2014 NFL free agents list is compiled in early March.
This list places the highest value on ascendant players with little or no reason to expect a dropoff in production over the next few years.
Here’s the Top-25 NFL Free Agents for 2014:
1. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints tight end
2. Greg Hardy, Carolina Panthers defensive end
3. Brian Orakpo, Washington Redskins linebacker
4. Jairus Byrd, Buffalo Bills safety
5. T.J. Ward, Cleveland Browns safety
6. Alterraun Verner, Tennessee Titans cornerback
7. Branden Albert, Kansas City Chiefs left tackle
8. Michael Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals defensive end
9. Lamarr Houston, Oakland Raiders defensive end
10. Brent Grimes, Miami Dolphins cornerback
11. Eugene Monroe, Baltimore Ravens left tackle
12. Vontae Davis, Indianapolis Colts cornerback
13. Linval Joseph, New York Giants defensive tackle
14. Jason Hatcher, Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle
15. Jared Veldheer, Oakland Raiders left tackle
16. Aqib Talib, New England Patriots cornerback
17. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Denver Broncos cornerback
18. Alex Mack, Cleveland Browns center
19. Eric Decker, Denver Broncos wide receiver
20. Michael Bennett, Seattle Seahawks defensive end
21. B.J. Raji, Green Bay Packers defensive tackle
22. Sam Shields, Green Bay Packers cornerback
23. Walter Thurmond, Seattle Seahawks cornerback
24. Donald Butler, San Diego Chargers linebacker
25. Randy Starks, Miami Dolphins defensive tackle
RELATED: Jason Hatcher added to NFL’s Pro Bowl 2013-2014 Roster
IRVING, Texas – And now the Dallas Cowboys have three Pro Bowlers. And once again, it’s a first-timer headed to Hawaii.
Jason Hatcher has been added to the Pro Bowl roster, replacing the spot of Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata, who will not play for injury reasons.
Hatcher led all NFL defensive tackles in sacks last year with a career-high 11 as just edged out Tennessee’s Jurrell Casey with 10.5.
Hatcher had the most sacks by a Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle since Randy White had 12.5 in 1984.
He was the first player other than DeMarcus Ware to have the team’s outright sack title since 2004 when Greg Ellis had nine. Hatcher’s 11 sacks was the first double-digit finish other than Ware since Tony Tolbert’s 12 in 1996.
Along with his team-high in sacks, Hatcher was second on the team with 33 quarterback pressures, just behind Ware’s 35. Hatcher and George Selvie tied for the team lead with seven tackles for loss and his 48 tackles ranked eighth on the defense.
Hatcher, who is an unrestricted free agent, has openly said he will test the free-agent market come March, so it’s very likely this game in Hawaii could be his last in a Dallas Cowboys helmet. However, he also said he thought he wouldn’t return to the Cowboys in 2011, but signed a three-year deal to remain in Dallas.
THE BUDGET IN REVIEW: Managing the Dallas Cowboys roster and contracts 2014 2015 NFL season | Roster tweaks, restructuring, and salary cap
The Dallas Cowboys (and most NFL teams) will be handcuffed this off-season while trying to upgrade their roster while maneuvering through the NFL’s salary cap restraints.
They won’t have much money to work with in free agency, similar to last season when they were only able to add complementary pieces at the right price — like linebacker Justin Durant and safety Brodney Pool.
That means the Dallas Cowboys must draft well. They did for the most part in 2012, highlighted by key additions in center Travis Frederick (first round) and receiver Terrance Williams (third round).
A fourth consecutive year with no playoff game leaves the Cowboys facing another long off-season. Below, we take a look at some of the key issues the Dallas Cowboys must address before training camp begins in late July:
Getting under the salary cap
The NFL’s 2014 salary cap is projected to be $126.3 million. The Cowboys are projected to be a league-high $31 million over the cap.
But the club’s salary cap woes aren’t anything new. They’ve pushed off their problems year after year as they try to cash in on their aging core before it’s too late.
Teams continue to restructure veterans’ contracts each off-season. They reduce players’ salaries down to or near the veteran minimum and turn the rest into bonus money to create more cap space. The downside, however, is that it increases the players’ cap figures in future years.
It’s a common practice around the league and makes the salary cap more of a charade because of the way NFL executives can manipulate contracts.
Executive vice president Stephen Jones is in charge of the Dallas Cowboys salary cap. When it comes to free agency, the Cowboys believe they will be able to do what they need.
The NFL free agency period opens March 11, which is when the Dallas Cowboys have to be under the 2014 salary cap.
Free agent strategy will include bargain hunting
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett says the most important task his staff has each off-season is to evaluate the players Dallas already has. The coaches and scouting department will also be busy looking for new faces to upgrade the roster.
That process begins in earnest with the start of Senior Bowl practices Jan. 20 in Mobile, Ala., and continues at the NFL Scouting Combine Feb. 19-25 in Indianapolis.
The Cowboys will need to draft well considering their tight salary cap. The Cowboys will have to decide who they re-sign among their free agents and be bargain shoppers in pursuing other free agents across the league.
Starting defensive linemen Anthony Spencer and Jason Hatcher aren’t likely to be re-signed by the Cowboys unless they come at the right price.
The Cowboys used their franchise tag on Spencer for a second consecutive season but he played in only one game. Spencer underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee Oct. 1 and is still recovering.
Hatcher is coming off of his best season with the Cowboys, recording a career- and team-high 11 sacks, but he said a week ago he’ll go to the highest bidder this off-season as he tests the market for likely the last time in his career.
The Cowboys obviously won’t be in great position to outbid teams in free agency, especially for defensive linemen in their 30s.
Drafting soundly will be critical
The Cowboys will have a few extra weeks to prepare for what will be an important draft for them as they look to upgrade their roster.
The NFL draft has been pushed back this year from late April to May 8-10.
Over the next few weeks, the Cowboys will evaluate their biggest needs for 2014 before the front office, coaching staff and scouting department heads to Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 20 for the start of Senior Bowl practices.
The No. 1 need area for the Cowboys is clearly their defensive line. Three of the team’s four projected defensive line starters in 2013 aren’t likely to return, leaving end DeMarcus Ware as the lone man standing.
At minimum, the Cowboys will need to add potential starters at defensive end and tackle. The Cowboys’ defense, which finished last in the NFL this season, also needs help at outside linebacker, safety and cornerback.
Some would like to see the Cowboys draft a quarterback to begin developing, Dallas defense is flawed in several areas and needs immediate help.
On offense, the Cowboys could look to draft a receiver if they part ways with veteran Miles Austin this off-season. Considering the Cowboys’ youth at receiver, perhaps a veteran receiver via free agency would be a better fit if Austin doesn’t return.
Adding depth along the offensive line would also be smart for the Cowboys, especially if six-time Pro Bowl right guard Brian Waters decides to retire.
The Cowboys were one of six teams that finished 8-8 this season. They will draft either 16th or 17th overall based on a coin flip with Baltimore that will take place in February at the NFL scouting combine. The Dallas Cowboys selected 14th overall in last year’s draft.
Cleaning up contracts — a vicious cycle
The Cowboys have some difficult decisions ahead of them with how to handle the current contracts of some aging veterans.
Though getting under the salary cap by March 11 looks daunting now, the Cowboys can make it happen with relative ease.
They can cut more than $35 million off of their 2014 salary cap by restructuring the contracts of quarterback Tony Romo, defensive end DeMarcus Ware, linebacker Sean Lee, tight end Jason Witten, cornerback Brandon Carr and cornerback Orlando Scandrick and making wide receiver Miles Austin a post-June 1 cut.
The Cowboys would save $5.5 million in cap space by making Austin a post-June 1 cut. Austin and Ware both restructured their contracts last off-season, but the Cowboys could ask each to take a pay cut this off-season to save money, the same way right tackle Doug Free did in 2013.
Austin, who will be 30 this summer, is coming off of his worst season as a starter with the Cowboys. He again struggled to stay healthy, finishing with only 24 catches for 244 yards and no touchdowns. His base salary in 2014 is scheduled to be $5.5 million with a salary cap hit of $8.25 million.
Ware said Monday he’s not interested in taking a pay cut but would again restructure his contract to help the Cowboys’ free up some cap space. Ware, who will be 32 next season and finished with a career-low six sacks in 2013, is scheduled to make $12.2 million in 2014 and has a cap hit of $16 million.
Key off-season dates – NFL Dallas Cowboys calendar 2014
Jan. 20 — Week of Senior Bowl practices begin in Mobile, Ala.
Jan. 26 — Pro Bowl in Honolulu, Hawaii
Feb. 17 — First day for clubs to designate franchise or transition players
Feb. 19-25 — NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis
March 3 — Deadline for clubs to designate franchise or transition players
March 11 — First day of the 2014 league year; all clubs must be under the 2014 salary cap; 2014 free agency period begins.
April 21 — Clubs with returning head coaches may begin off-season workouts
May 8-10 — 2014 NFL Draft in New York City, N.Y.
Dallas Cowboys free agents
Here’s a look at the 2014 Dallas Cowboys free agents:
Exclusive rights (Two years of experience; can’t negotiate with other teams)
Chris Jones – punter
Restricted (3 years of experience, can negotiate with other teams; Cowboys right to match)
Dan Bailey – kicker
Phillip Tanner – running back
Unrestricted (can negotiate with any team, Cowboys don’t have right to match)
Ryan Cook – center
Jason Hatcher – defensive tackle
Edgar Jones – defensive end
Jon Kitna – quarterback
Danny McCray – safety
Ernie Sims – linebacker
Anthony Spencer – defensive end
Brian Waters – right guard
Jarius Wynn – defensive end