For a few years, the Dallas Cowboys have taken the approach of resigning their key players, and building the team through the draft. This has upset many, as it hasn’t led to any playoff success, and the Cowboys still manage to have little cap space come March each year.
The Cowboys have a plethora of free agents this offseason, and plenty of decisions to make in key positions such as WR and CB. However, there are a few key players the Cowboys must do their best to resign this March to hold the team together.
1. Barry Church
Barry Church has been one of the most consistent players on the defense in years past, and rivaled Sean Lee as the best player on the defense in 2016. Church tallied 2 interceptions, a forced fumble, and 85 total tackles this past season, third on the team. On top of this, he had a sack in the divisional round against Green Bay, showing he can produce numbers outside of his positional norms. Church graded out as the best DB for the Cowboys from Pro Focus Football , and is the most important player in the secondary for the Cowboys to resign. Unfortunately, Barry is about to reach his third contract, and is 29 years old. The Cowboys resigning him would be outside of their comfort zone, and seems unlikely. He’s the best safety available in free agency, which might lead to another team paying him a pretty penny that the Cowboys just couldn’t match.
2. Ron Leary
When La’el Collins went down earlier this year, many saw the offensive line as taking a major loss. Fortunately for everyone, Collins’ backup is just as good, if not better than him. Ron Leary was the starter for the Cowboys until Collins outperformed him in training camps and OTAs. The Cowboys will either be losing Ron Leary or Doug Free, and with Free’s age and penalties being of a major concern, the smarter option is to resign Leary. Doing so can allow the Cowboys to move Collins to RT, and have the most dominant offensive line in the NFL for the fourth year in a row.
3. David Irving
Now, Irving isn’t actually a free agent this year. He’s an Exclusive Rights Free Agent, meaning the only way he can sign with any other team is if the Cowboys don’t extend an offer. If they don’t, he becomes an unrestricted free agent, with no compensation picks. With only 2 starts in 2016, David Irving led the team in forced fumbles, and finished in third for sacks. Irving doesn’t have an awful lot of experience, but he sacked Aaron Rodgers, and who doesn’t love a defensive end who can accomplish that?? With Charles Tapper and Jaylon Smith coming back from injury, this trio of young players could anchor the Cowboys pass rush for years to come, if Dallas is smart enough to offer an extension to Irving.
4. Terrance Williams/Brice Butler
This one is a little different from the rest. The Cowboys don’t have enough cap space to keep both, and with a deep WR class in this years draft, they might be tempted to use a first or second round pick on one. However, if the Cowboys let both of these players slip, then Andy Jones becomes your starting Z receiver, and that’s a scary thought. Both bring their own benefits: TWill has put up some decent numbers as a Number 2 receiver, and some of his catches have been absolutely outstanding, and Butler has shown off his speed and catching ability splendidly over the past two seasons. Personally, I think the Cowboys should keep Butler, and look to add a receiver such as DeDe Westbrook or JuJu Smith-Schuster in April to complete the receiving core.
This is an extremely important year for the Cowboys. Every year it seems like the talent and potential grows, just to be shut down by injuries or Aaron Rodgers. Hopefully, through resigning their own key players, and building through the draft, we can all see Dak Prescott and Jerry Jones hoisting the Lombardi Trophy next February.
I was wrong about Leighton Vander Esch
On Thursday, April 26, 2018, I sat inside my friend’s dorm in Commerce, TX, and stared anxiously at his television while the NFL Draft played.
Every year since 2014, Draft Day has been a holiday of sorts for me. I request the day off from my job, find a couple of friends, get some food together and enjoy watching 32 NFL franchises attempt to build the future of their team.
The Dallas Cowboys had just come off a disappointing 9-7 season that had fans and analysts across the country pushing for the firing of head coach Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
America’s Team held the 19th overall pick in the first round. Several names flew through my head as I thought about which rookie I wanted to don the Star in 2018: Vita Vea, Derwin James, Calvin Ridley and Harold Landry just to name a few.
These players all filled glaring needs for the Cowboys. Vea and Landry would cement the defensive line that had seen major improvements in 2017. Derwin James would allow Byron Jones to move back to cornerback and would give new defensive backs coach Kris Richard an amazing slew of talent to use. Calvin Ridley would give the offense a tall, powerful receiver that could learn alongside Dez – prior to his eventual release from the team over the summer.
Vea and James both went before Dallas was on the clock, leading to those of us in the room to argue over whether Ridley or Landry would get their name called. I was pulling for Landry, as I knew he was one of the best defensive talents in the game and our offense would be fine without a cat like Ridley.
One name did not come to mind, however, and that was the name that was announced by Roger Goodell.
“With the 19th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys select Leighton Vander Esch, linebacker, Boise State,” Goodell said.
First, there was shock. Then, there was disgust. Finally, there was sadness. Over the course of the next hour, I ignored the television and instead went to Twitter to let everyone know how upset I was.
I wasn’t alone, either. Most Cowboys writers, fans and analysts were upset with the pick. It seemed like a stretch.
Surely Vander Esch could’ve been drafted at a lower spot, right? What if they traded back a few spots and grabbed another second rounder? This was the third year in a row I was disappointed with Dallas’ first-round draft pick.
I didn’t like the Ezekiel Elliott pick at the time, but he proved me wrong very quickly, leading the Cowboys to a 13-3 regular season record alongside fellow rookie Dak Prescott.
I still don’t like the Taco Charlton pick. His production has been disgustingly low for a first-round draft pick, tallying four sacks, 25 tackles and a forced fumble in 24 games.
And now Leighton.
I didn’t want to blindly hate the guy, so I went to watch some film, and I found one glaring constant – he played softly. He couldn’t get off blocks, and if he did, he got trucked by the ball carrier. Exactly what the Cowboys needed: another soft defender.
I was unhappy about the pick for the next 5 months. When the season came around, he didn’t start, which I expected as much. Vander Esch’s first start came in Week 4 against the Detroit Lions. The Cowboys were 1-2 heading into the game and were without starting linebacker Sean Lee.
Prior to this game, Dallas was 1-7 in the past three years when playing without defensive captain Lee. That’s how big of an impact he has on this defense. Vander Esch’s six-tackle stat line wasn’t jaw-dropping, but it got the job done. The Cowboys won the game 26-24 and improved to .500 on the season.
In the following week’s loss to the Houston Texans, Vander Esch led the team in tackles with 14. This caught my eye. In Dallas’ second straight game without Lee, Vander Esch balled out.
Through the Washington Redskins game on Thanksgiving, Vander Esch has tallied 93 total tackles, two interceptions with 56 return yards, six pass deflections and two stuffs. He currently leads the Cowboys in tackles, 15 ahead of fellow linebacker Jaylon Smith. He is the NFL’s leader in solo tackles with 72. According to @BobbyBeltTX on Twitter, Vander Esch has only played 73.6% of Dallas’ snaps, making this even more impressive.
He is tied for the lead with safety Xavier Woods in interceptions AS A LINEBACKER. His two interceptions lead safety Jeff Heath, cornerback Anthony Brown and defensive lineman Demarcus Lawrence.
But, the stat lines don’t reflect just how well Vander Esch has played this season. His ability to recognize the play, change directions and make the tackle in open space is incredible. He’s much more powerful than his college film showed, stopping offensive players running full speed in their tracks.
Vander Esch has the potential to be the next General Lee, but hopefully with better hamstring and ACL health. If he can stay on the field, Vander Esch could be the best player wearing the Star for years to come.
So, this is my official statement on the matter.
I was wrong about Leighton Vander Esch.
Troy Aikman Rips Cowboys Organization, Calls for Overhaul of Organization
Former Dallas Cowboys signal caller, Hall of Famer, and current color commentator Troy Aikman has seen enough of the Cowboys ineptitude following Monday night’s embarrassing loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Aikman, who won 3 Super Bowl titles with the Cowboys, is calling for a major organizational overhaul in order to get things right.
“Go through the list and this team, over a long period of time, has been what it’s been,” Aikman said Tuesday on 1310 The Ticket, according to ESPN’s Todd Archer. “It hasn’t always mattered who the head coach has been. So to me, if you’re asking me, I’d say there has to be a complete overhaul of the entire organization.”
Aikman is probably like a lot of fans, and even analysts, who believe that changes are needed in Dallas, particularly along the sidelines that head coach Jason Garrett currently roams.
Change beyond that seems unlikely as Jerry Jones still rules supreme and has since the late 1980s.
Cowboys Cut Dan Bailey From Team
Over the weekend, when teams are finalizing their 53-man roster, the Dallas Cowboys makes Cowboys fans say… why? Why did you cut Dan Bailey?
Eight-year veteran kicker out of Oklahoma State Dan Bailey was released from the Dallas Cowboys. When Bailey arrived in 2011 as an undrafted free-agent, he became the highest scoring Cowboys player in multiple games. Also, during those six seasons, he has made at least 95 percent of his kicks becoming the second most accurate kicker in the NFL.
In 2017 during the San Francisco 49ers game, Bailey injured his groin and had to miss four games. When he returned he would miss at least one kick dropping his accuracy to about 70 percent.
During the 2018 off-season, the Cowboys cautiously signed Kicker Brett Maher. Maher kicked for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa Redblacks from 2014-2017. Since he is the only kicker on the roster, he is expected to start in week 1 when the Cowboys travel to Charlotte, NC to battle against the Carolina Panthers.
Now that Bailey is on the market and has cleared waivers, he is on the free-agent market. With that, he is expected to work out with the New York Jets this week.
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