Dallas Cowboys: The calm before the off-season storm

Nov 15, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones haves to fans before a football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 15, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones haves to fans before a football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

Dallas Cowboys fans should have a sense of calm regardless of what happens this off-season due to the team’s player development plans.

This off-season, I’ve taken a wait and see approach with our Dallas Cowboys. For example, I’m usually excited about the NFL combine. I used to enjoy watching offensive linemen sprint 40 yards with the greatest of intensity, but this year I passed. Usually, I could tell you every free agent available and if they were restricted or unrestricted. This year, something is different.

Usually, the Cowboys have one weakness that Cowboy Nation goes crazy about trying to fix. This off-season it was initially the backup quarterback position. Of course, that wouldn’t be a discussion if they had started my man, Kellen Moore earlier. We just have to wait and see if the front office agrees. Last year, the entire world assumed we’d use one of our eight picks on a running back. Had that been a prop bet in Vegas, most of us would be homeless.

Despite a 4 – 12 record, the Cowboys are still one of the most offensively talented teams in the league. Of course there’s always room for improvement. I would be surprised if they kept wide receiver Devin Street. With the fourth pick in this year’s draft, Laquon Treadwell would be an upgrade over Street and our number two receiver Terrance Williams.

I would love to grab either Ezekiel Elliott or Derrick Henry at the running back position. I’d go with Henry over Elliott because he is built to move the pile and fix our short yardage problems. The Cowboys’ converted 34.55% of their 3rd downs which ranked them 26th in the league. I’ll say that most of that was due to atrocious quarterback play from Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden. For comparison sake, the conversion rate was 47.09% for Dallas in 2014.

Our recognizable offensive free agents are mostly backups: Guards Ronald Leary and Mackenzy Bernadeau; running backs Lance Dunbar, Robert Turbin and Tyler Clutts; tight end James Hanna. Of the names listed, Hanna is the only guy I’d like to return and that’s due to Gavin Escobar‘s Achilles’ injury. Side note: Why offensive coordinator Scott Linehan fails to use this kid like Jimmy Graham was used in New Orleans is baffling!!!

The defensive side of the football should have a lot of new faces. Free agents include: Linebacker Rolando McClain and Kyle Wilber; defensive linemen Greg Hardy, Jeremy Mincey, Jack Crawford and Nick Hayden; cornerback Morris Claiborne; safeties Danny McCray and Jeff Heath. I’m good with letting them all walk.

I liked cornerback Deji Olatoye last year and corner Terrance Mitchell when he was at Oregon. I’d rather see defensive tackle David Irving over Hayden and Jack Crawford. The defense was serviceable without McClain and Hardy during their suspensions last year. Cowboy Nation has done nothing but call Claiborne a bust, I’m sure you don’t want him back. So, I see no need to panic because upgrades are always welcomed.

The Cowboys have been focusing on defense in the draft for years. Everyone calls last year’s draft a defensive one because they selected cornerback Byron Jones and defensive end Randy Gregory with their two two selections. Taking a closer look, Dallas has usually drafted more defensive players – 65% of their picks have been used for defense.

Cowboys Draft Breakdown


Total Picks

Defensive Picks
















The Cowboys usually have their pick of undrafted free agents. Many of their starters like quarterback Tony Romo, wide receiver Cole Beasley and strong safety Barry Church were undrafted free agents.

Players know if they come to Valley Ranch, they can truly compete for a roster spot. That means a lot when your career is built on athletic competition. If there’s doubt about a position after free agency and the draft, players should be attracted to Dallas. Every available running back likely called the Cowboys last year!

A main reason to be calm is our player development. Most of the positions with departures this year were selected in last year’s draft: Offensive tackle Chaz Green, defensive end Ryan Russell, linebackers Damien Wilson and Mark Nzeocha, tight end Geoff Swaim. Has the game slowed down for them? Have they added the muscular size, strength and stamina? Are their injuries healed? Basically, the main question is – Are they ready to contribute? I’m a big fan of younger, stronger, faster and in most cases – healthier & hungrier.

In my never humble opinion, that’s what great teams do. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ve been that good at it. We need more 2nd and 3rd year guys to get on the field and make plays. They should want to on their own to earn playing time and money!

If they do well for the last two or three years of their rookie contracts, they can get that valuable extension or big money free agency deals – like 2011 draft picks: running back DeMarco Murray, wide receiver/special teams ace Dwayne Harris and offensive left tackle Tyron Smith. Our free agents this year came from our 2012 draft class: Claiborne, Wilber and Hanna. Defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford got his big contract extension last year.

It can be fun to guess draft selections or free agency moves – Go for it. I might sit this round out, besides – I can’t be wrong if I don’t make any predictions! Overall, I have a weird sense of calm about this off-season. I can’t wait to see how it all shakes out.



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Next: The revenge of Tony Romo: 3 Reasons why 2016 is his year

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