QUICK OUT: Dead Zone (Pre-Combine) Notes on the Dallas Cowboys


If there exists a barrel which holds all of the interesting information and stories about the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL, then we’ve reached the bottom of that barrel.  Once the NFL Scouting Combine kicks into gear, the free agent signing period starts on March 13th, and then the draft in April, there will be a lot of interesting topics.  For a writer, it will be a “target rich environment”.  But, that’s not this week.  So, here is a collection of thoughts or ideas to help get you through this NFL death valley period.

1.  GM Kudos (Not) – Although the Cowboys have somewhere around $20 million in cap space in 2012, they also reportedly enter this league year with $24.5 million in “dead money”.  That is money that counts toward the salary cap for players that are no longer on the team and is by and large a measure of the number of “mistakes” that have been made managing personnel and the salary cap.  The league average this year is somewhere around $4.65 million per team – the Cowboys are 5 times that.  Ouch!  Nice job Jerry!

2.  Check For Nicks? – There has been a lot of talk among fans about how the Cowboys should pay whatever it costs to sign free agent guard Carl Nicks.  That would be a very positive move but don’t get your hopes up.  Just my opinion, but I think the Saints are smart enough to get Drew Brees signed to a multi-year deal prior to the end of the franchise tag period.  That will allow them to use the tag on Nicks and keep him in New Orleans at least one more year.  Marques Colston is the other big name free agent they need to sign on the offensive side of the ball, but with Drew Brees at QB and an offensive line that can keep him upright, I think they can potentially find a replacement for Colston if he leaves in free agency.

3.  DeMarco Getting Healthy – I heard a great interview this week on Sirius XM NFL Radio with DeMarco Murray.  His rehab is reportedly going well and he is already running on his ankle.  Despite what looked like a terrible injury, his doctors described it as a fairly simple surgery and expect him to recover fully.  That’s great news if he can get back to the kind of production we saw in an all too short portion of the 2011 season.  He should miss a minimal amount of off season work and will be there at the start of training camp according to DM himself (and barring any setbacks).

4.  Jason Who? – Much has been said already (probably too much) about Jason Hatcher’s comments in a recent interview about there not being any leaders on the Dallas Cowboys.  While most fans would agree they don’t see much “Ray Lewis” type leadership among the players, I’m not sure that was the time or place to express it.  Nor am I sure that Jason Hatcher is the guy to call it out.  Besides, if he thinks the team needs a vocal leader, why doesn’t he step up and do it?

5.  NFL Regional Combines – One player I will be watching with some curiousity because he is such a long shot is Portland State’s Myles Wade.  I read an article recently by Aaron Wilson of ScoutNFLNetwork.com about Wade.  The 6-1, 310 pound defensive tackle has come through a ton of adversity to stay in college much less have a chance to play in the NFL.  He was not invited to Indianapolis but had an impressive workout at the NFL Regional combine in Houston on February 4th and was invited to the super regional taking place at Ford Field in Detroit on March 30-31.  NFL scouts and player personnel directors will attend the super regional and Wade has already been contacted by a few teams (not the Cowboys yet).    At one time he was a highly sought after recruit with offers from D1 schools like Oregon, Oregon State, USC, and Florida but did not have the grades to make it through the NCAA clearinghouse.  He ended up at Arizona Western College instead where he was voted a JC All American.  He then went to Texas Tech but both his mother and his grandmother died while he was there and he decided to come home to help out his father.  Everyone loves an underdog – would like to see things work out for this kid.

6.  One To Watch – I’m reading some interesting pre-combine buzz on Amini Silatolu, a small school tackle out of  Midwestern State (Wichita Falls, Texas).  At 6-3, 320 pounds he is plenty big but will move to guard in the NFL.  Don’t let the small school scare you – Jhari Evans, the Saints pro bowl guard came from Bloomsburg University for example – and Silatolu has been impressive in pre-combine workouts.  There is some talk with an equally impressive combine he could work his way into the early rounds (Evans was a 4th round steal for the Saints in 2006).  With the Cowboys need to strengthen their offensive line, he could be a great 3rd or 4th round pick up if they go defense with the first couple of picks as projected.

7.  NFL Combine History – The National Invitational Camp (NIC) more commonly known as the NFL Scouting Combine was started in 1982 as a way for NFL teams to share the cost of medically evaluating players eligible for the upcoming draft (they “combine” their resources and evaluate a player once instead of each team having to do it separately).  Medical exams are still the main priority but what gets all the attention are the physical and psychological tests each player goes through.  It also gives teams a chance to sit down face to face and interview potential players prior to draft day.

8.  Redskins Go Shopping – Although Dan Snyder has rarely seen an overpriced free agent he couldn’t resist overpaying, I’m not sure we can count on “Little Jerry” Snyder meddling like he has.  Unlike our own Jerry Jones, he was at least wise enough to hire an actual GM and step back a little.  Thanks to the new CBA rules that allow teams to roll over unused cap space from one year to the next, the Redskins have somewhere in the neighborhood of $48 million in cap space heading into this year.  That’s the most in the NFC East with the Cowboys and Eagles somewhere in the $20-$25 million dollar range and the Giants scrambling to just get under the cap ($7 million over right now).  Spent wisely that cap space could make the Redskins competitive again for a number of years.  Their needs are many but they can certainly afford to trade up to get their franchise QB if they decide to go after RG III as anticipated.  If Griffin is half the QB experts project he will be, that spells trouble for our Cowboys.  We would be wise to start thinking about our life after Romo too, but the Jones brain trust doesn’t even appear to have that on the radar screen.

9.  Draft experts – Predicting the NFL draft with any accuracy is a lot like herding cats.  But, you would think that guys like Mel Kiper and Todd McShay who basically exist solely to study and decipher the NFL draft would at least be able to get a handle on the top 5 picks of the draft barring any wild, draft day trades.  It is of course easy to play “Monday morning QB” but it is interesting to note the difference between whatever mock drafts you look at this early and how the draft actually unfolds.  Even the best experts probably have a low percentage of accuracy right now.  Look at Mel Kiper’s mock draft from January 19, 2011 (pre Combine) and the actual draft.

PickTeamProjected PickActual Pick
1Carolina PanthersNick Fairley, DT, AuburnCam Newton, QB, Auburn
2Denver BroncosPatrick Petersen, CB, LSUVon Miller, LB, Texas A&M
3Buffalo BillsMarcel Dareus, DE, AlabamaMarcel Dareus, DE, Alabama
4Cincinnati BengalsDa’Quan Bowers, DE, ClemsonAJ Green, WR, Georgia
5Arizona CardinalsBlaine Gabbert, QB, MissouriPatrick Petersen, CB, LSU

Well, that’s about it for now.  Have a great week and enjoy the Combine!  Go Cowboys!

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