With all the talks of contract extensions around the Dallas Cowboys, many thought the first to be signed would be either bell cow running back Ezekiel Elliott or darling quarterback Dak Prescott. Next in line may have been newcomer wide receiver Amari Cooper, or lockdown cornerback Byron Jones. However, Jerry Jones had different plans when he made the big-hitting inside linebacker Jaylon Smith an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Before we breakdown the contract, let’s look back at Jaylon’s interesting story as an NFL player. He finished junior season at Notre Dame by winning the Butkus Award (college football’s top linebacker) just before tearing his ACL & MCL with significant nerve damage in the Fiesta Bowl. A probable overall top 5 NFL draft choice, turned into a question mark of if he will ever be able to play the sport he grew up loving, ever again. Smith declared for the 2016 NFL Draft with scouts projecting him to go anywhere from the 2nd round to the 6th round with teams unsure how quick he could recover, if at all. The Dallas Cowboys selected him 34th overall. It was a gamble, but one that Jerry did not want to miss out on like he did with Randy Moss 18 years prior.
Once Jaylon became a Cowboy, he did everything he could to make it back on the football field. When he did, in 2017, he did not disappoint, recording 81 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and a sack. He only started 6 games, but played in all 16, a milestone in and of itself. The next season was a breakout year for both him and the Cowboys 1st round draft pick Leighton Vander Esch. They finished the season as one of the best linebacker duos in the NFL, all the while working as if they were given nothing and had to earn everything.
The overall numbers: $5 million signing bonus, $35.5 million guaranteed, for a total of $64 million over 6 years.
This seems to be a cap-friendly deal, Every. Single. Year. With the NFL salary cap steadily increasing $10 million a year since 2013, the $12-13 million cap hits from 2022-2025 will be a bargain for a quality starting linebacker and team leader, that wants to be a Dallas Cowboy for life.
Jaylon Smith’s goal was to allow his mom to retire, and he has definitely accomplished that. All the while, still giving the owner and team that took a chance on him 3 years ago, the ability to build a Super Bowl contending team around him.
Zeke and Dak did Jaylon a huge favor this preseason, by holding out and asking for a ridiculous $40 million/year deal, respectively. Zeke angered one of, if not the only person, that had his back through every personal issue on and off the field. Jerry Jones will treat a player he loves like family; but, turn on him, and he will do the same in return. It looks as if both agents will have to go back to the drawing board with the Cowboy’s front office, while Jaylon Smith slowly inches his way up the fan-favorite list in Cowboy Nation. Look to see a lot more #54 jerseys in the stands this year as Jaylon Smith just signed a contract to be in the Silver & Blue for at least 10 years.
Just one year removed from retirement, Jason Witten has decided to leave Monday Night Football to do what he was born to do, compete on the gridiron. The future Hall of Famer, second only to Tony Gonzalez in TE receptions and reception yards, will dust off his cleats for at least one more year with America’s Team.
The Dallas Cowboys have released the following statement from Witten, ” The fire inside of me to compete and play this game is just burning too strong. This team has a great group of rising young stars, and I want to help them make a run at a championship. This was completely my decision, and I am very comfortable with it. I’m looking forward to getting back in the dirt”.
Witten will be 37 when the regular season starts for his 16th season. In 2017, Witten was a Pro Bowl selection with 63 catches for 560 yards and 5 touchdowns, starting all 16 games. His retirement after the season left the Cowboys with a question mark at the tight end position for the first time in 15 years.
The response was a tight end by committee with 4 tight ends, only one of which even had an NFL stat sheet prior to the 2018 season, in Geoff Swaim. All four tight ends (Gathers, Jarwin, Schultz, and Swaim) started at least 4 games in 2018, and combined had only 5 more receptions than Witten in 2017, and one less touchdown. With Geoff Swaim being an unrestricted free agent, and the other 3 salaries combined being less than $2 million for the 2019 season, it seems unlikely to see Swaim back in a Cowboys uniform.
The contract details for Witten have not been released yet, but he qualifies for a very cap friendly figure with veteran minimum benefits. The 2019 veteran minimum salary for players with 10 or more years of service is $1.03 million, with only about $650k of that counting against the cap. It is not known if this is the route that Witten and the Cowboys will go, or if he will be getting paid a salary closer to his $7.4 million salary for 2017. Seeing as he appears to be coming back more for a championship run rather than for money to pay off debts, the former seems much more likely.
Assuming that #82 is healthy and ready for another grueling NFL season, this will make the Cowboys offseason that much easier by being able to focus on other positions in free agency and also with the several looming contract extensions of Lawrence, Jones, Zeke, and Dak. This may also convince Sean Lee to make his 2019 salary more cap friendly for a team desperate for its first Super Bowl in 24 years.
Welcome back 82!
The New Orleans Saints, fresh off a win against the formerly undefeated Los Angeles Rams, sign free agent WR Dez Bryant to a one-year deal. The terms of the deal have not yet been released, but the Saints have been looking for a reliable receiver ever since Ted Ginn, Jr. went down with a knee injury in October. The New Orleans Saints second and third leading receivers are RB Alvin Kamara and 37 year old TE Benjamin Watson. Dez should give Drew Brees a more than reliable second option at WR, although Bryant has not played since week 17 of last season.
Circle your calendars on Thursday, November 29 when the New Orleans Saints play the Cowboys in Dallas. It will definitely be an interesting homecoming for Dez after calling out many coaches, players and management after being released. He has since deleted many of those tweets and said that there is no bitterness or anger towards the Dallas Cowboys. However, look for an emotional game from Dez, and if he scores a touchdown, rest assured he will have a celebration ready.
Dez Bryant is the 5th among active player in receiving touchdowns with 73. Drew Brees is 1st in passing touchdowns of active QBs and 3rd in NFL history with 506, only 2 behind Brett Favre with 508. Dez Bryant has played all of his 8 years in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys. He has 531 receptions for 7,459 yards with 14 yards per reception.
The Cowboys’ offensive line has been considered one of the best in the NFL for the past few years. Most of this is due to the outstanding play of Pro Bowlers Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin. The problem is not that their play is declining or their talent is diminishing, but that their health may not be able to keep up.
Zack Martin left the second preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals with a knee injury. The good news is that there is no ligament damage; he was diagnosed with a hyperextended knee and bone. However, knee problems and offensive lineman have never been a good mix. Martin will not play in the last two preseason games, and aims to be back for week 1 against the Carolina Panthers.
Travis Frederick had been dealing with a ‘stinger’ since August 15th. He missed the preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals and has had several doctor’s appointments since then. A week later, on August 22nd he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder that affects the nerves. The Mayo Clinic says that for most people with GBS, the condition worsens for 2 weeks after the first signs and symptoms and plateaus within a month. Recovery usually lasts 6-12 months, but could take as long as three years. Jerry Jones was optimistic that Frederick would play week 1 before the diagnosis, but now Frederick says there is no timetable for his return.
The third and best of this trio, is Tyron Smith. He has looked like his future gold jacket wearing self in the first two preseason games, and says that he is “feeling great now” and is “in the best shape I’ve been in a while”. Unfortunately, that is coming from a 6’5″ 320 pound man who had bulging disk problems in 2016, and missed several games due to back, hip, groin and knee problems in 2017. If you had to think of injuries not to have as an NFL left tackle, at least 3 of those would be in the top 5. Dak Prescott would be the first to tell you Smith’s importance to the Dallas offense, considering Dak was sacked 8 times in the first game Tyron missed due to injury last year. It should be noted that 6 of those sacks were by Adrian Clayborn, the defensive end that Smith would have been responsible for blocking.
With Cameron Fleming added through free agency there is seemingly better depth at tackle than last year. He is a swing tackle that can fill in better than Chaz Green did in 2017. Second round draft pick Connor Williams will most likely be starting at left guard opposite Zack Martin (if healthy). Joe Looney started at center in the absence of Frederick against the Bengals, and looked as if he could benefit from a few more reps in the final two preseason games. La’el Collins is holding his own at the right tackle position, and seems to be feeling more comfortable with each snap.
All in all, the Cowboys offensive line is a force to be reckoned with…if healthy. But if injuries become an issue, especially with the three All-Pro lineman, Zeke will not be saying “feed me” as much and Dak will be running for his life. Jason Garrett better be praying for a healthy offensive line in 2018, or he may be finding himself getting his resume together in January.
UPDATE: La’el Collins limping with heavily taped ankle on 8/23/18. Yup, the only healthy Cowboys offensive lineman in rookie, Connor Williams.
The Dallas Cowboys have added to their receiver arsenal by getting Tavon Austin from the Los Angeles Rams for a 6th round pick (192 overall).
Tavon had promising beginnings in his first four years with the Rams, but had a down year last year with only 13 catches for 47 yards. He did, however, have his best rushing season with 59 carries for 270 yards and a touchdown.
At 5’9″ it is doubtful that Austin will be able to replace the hole in the Cowboys’ receiving core, caused by the loss of Dez Bryant. Austin has a 1 year contract that will count $7 million against the cap.
This is a peculiar addition, to say the least, considering the Cowboys already have two slot receivers in Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer.
According to a report from ESPN’s Chris Mortenson reported around 11:15am on April 27:
The Dallas Cowboys’ future Hall of Fame tight end, Jason Witten, is planning to retire after 15 years in the NFL. He will join the Monday Night Football broadcast team as a lead analyst.
Witten has not made a final decision yet, and plans to meet with Jerry Jones before he does.
Witten is an 11 time Pro Bowler, and 4 time All Pro. He was the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2012. He will retire at #4 on the NFL all-time catch list with 1,152 receptions.
Adam Schefter tweeted today around noon:
“Cowboys and DE DeMarcus Lawrence will not reach a long-term deal before Tuesday’s franchise deadline, per source. Dallas has said it will place franchise tag on Lawrence if no long-term deal reached. So tag coming for Lawrence.”
This will set Lawrence up for a $17.1 million dollar year in 2018. The deadline for the franchise tag is March 6 at 4pm EST., so it will be finalized before then. Demarcus had 14.5 in 2017 (tied for 2nd in the NFL), which is over 60% of his career sack total of 23.5.
It was rumored that Lawrence was looking for “Von Miller money”, which is 6 years, $114 million with $70 million guaranteed. The Cowboys were obviously not ready to pay that price after one great year of productivity. Lawrence will need to prove himself again this year to receive a contract similar to that.
The down side of this deal is that the Cowboys have $16.4 million in cap room as it stands now. This means that they will have to move some money around in order to make room for Lawrence’s 2018 salary. If, however, Lawrence decides to sign with another team and the Cowboys do not match the deal, they will be compensated with 2 first round picks.
One of the big issues on the NFL’s Competition Committee’s agenda this offseason was better defining what a catch is.
Kevin Seifert from ESPN’s NFL Nation tweeted the following this afternoon:
“The NFL competition committee appears to have unanimous agreement that controversial catch rulings involving Dez Bryant and Calvin Johnson should have been ruled complete, according to Giants owner John Mara. So the committee is working on changing the rule to relax the “going to the ground” requirement.”
Pittsburgh Steelers TE, Jesse James, was not mentioned in this tweet, but one can only imagine that the AFC may have played out differently had Pittsburgh beat New England in week 15.
This does very little to soothe the pain Cowboy Nation still feels from the overturned catch in the 2014 NFC Divisional Round against the Green Bay Packers. Tony Romo and the Cowboys could have been in position for their first NFC Championship appearance since the 1995-1996 season.
Hindsight may be 20/20, but ‘too little, too late’ rings more true with this ruling.
It seems this saga has finally come to an end as Ezekiel Elliott’s brief 1 game injunction of his suspension is now over, and Zeke will begin his 6 game suspension this week. The Cowboys go to Atlanta to play the 4-4 Falcons. If all goes as planned, Zeke should be ready to join his teammates at AT&T Stadium for the game against the Seattle Seahawks on Christmas Eve.
The Dallas Cowboys will have to play without Zeke for 3 away games against the Falcons, Giants, and Raiders. They will miss him at home against the Eagles, Chargers, and Redskins.
While the Cowboys running game got weakened for the next 6 weeks with the suspension of Ezekiel Elliott to be enforced starting week 9 against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Philadelphia Eagles have traded away a future 4th round pick to the Miami Dolphins in return for Pro Bowl running back, Jay Ajayi.
Ajayi is in his 3rd year out of Boise State, and experienced a breakout season in 2016 with over 1,200 yards rushing. This was noted by three 200+ yard games, two of which were back to back. Ajayi, 13th leading rusher in the NFL, will most likely split carries with current starter LaGarrette Blount, who is 11th. This will definitely help an Eagles running attack, which is 5th in the league in rushing yards per game, who lost All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters for the season.
Ajayi will make the Cowboys life even tougher on November 19, when they host the Eagles at AT&T Stadium. The defense gives up 4.5 yards per attempt, which is 24th in the NFL.
The first quarter of the 2017 NFL season is over; and while it’s still a very young season, there is much to be learned. These are my three largest concerns heading into week 5 of the season.