Your Monday morning links.
DeMarcus Lawrence became a very wealthy man last week, and the star defensive end is preparing for surgery to be ready in time for the upcoming season.
It’s worth wondering if Lawrence’s level of play will improve (a scary thought) once he’s fully healthy. It’s also worth wondering how he would’ve handled the injury if contract negotiations with the Cowboys had stalled.
His shoulder injury is likely one significant reason why the team felt compelled to address his contract sooner rather than later a year after he played under the franchise tag. They couldn’t afford to be without Lawrence when the season begins (and beyond). At some point, they were going to need to pay him. With good reason, they just did it a bit earlier than anyone really expected.
With DLaw already locked up, will Dak or Zeke be next?
On the type of contract extension Dak Prescott should receive?
Woodson: I think there’s a number. I couldn’t tell you the exact number. Especially when things might change. You might see Dak Prescott play outside of himself this year and he leads you to a Super Bowl. What are you going to pay him then? It is what it is. Right now they have some leverage. They’ll probably go in a little lower than the market rate. But they also want to make their guy happy. If this is the guy you firmly believe is going to be the quarterback of your future, you’re going to have to make him happy.
I firmly believe Dak Prescott is a guy who wants to be a Dallas Cowboy. He’s a guy that wants to lead this them to multiple Super Bowls and he wants to be a part of it. And I’m sure they’ll be some inner workings between the two sides.
The draft is just around the corner, so let’s look back at a successful draft in recent Cowboys history. I think Dak, Zeke, and Jaylon deserve an A.
Overall grade: A
The Cowboys’ 2016 draft class could end up being one of the best in the franchise’s history, starting with the cornerstone running back and quarterback. Dallas has benefited from players throughout the nine-player class, from defensive tackle Maliek Collins to cornerback Anthony Brown to reserve safety Kavon Frazier. Every member of the draft class but one, fourth-round pick Charles Tapper, was on the roster at the end of the 2018 season.
Speaking of Jaylon, let’s talk about his contract.
Because he’ll have just three accrued seasons from 2017-2019, Jaylon will only be a restricted free agent next year. That gives the Cowboys nearly all the power, and they likely intend to use it.
The projected first-round RFA tender next year is around $4.7 million. If Smith keeps playing at his 2018 level then that will make him an absolute steal in 2020.
Some might think it a little cruel of the Cowboys to take advantage of this situation, but this is their reward for taking a chance on Jaylon three years ago. There was a chance he might have never returned to football, which would’ve wasted a 34th-overall draft pick. Dallas took a significant risk.
Also, remember that the Cowboys didn’t have Jaylon at all in 2016. They knew what they were getting into and are getting four years of bargain play like any other team does with it rookies, just through a little different means.
The Cowboys locked up Tank and added Robert Quinn, but you can never have too many pass rushers on your roster.
Time will tell whether or not Lawrence will live up to this deal, or whether or on the shares a good chunk of that $65 million in guaranteed money with the 2nd-round draft choice taken the very next year as the Cowboys were still trying to cover their bases in finally securing a franchise replacement for franchise sack-leader DeMarcus Ware. On the fact that Randy Gregory is such an unreliable question mark are we even talking about Lawrence signing this contract.
But that’s another story.
The real question for the Cowboys is who lines up to book-end Lawrence on the defensive line in 2019 and beyond?
I loved Robert Quinn coming out of North Carolina in 2011 and can prove as much, but that was eight long years ago and this once awesome prospect might not be with the Dallas Cowboys for too long.
What prospects are being overlooked in this year’s draft class?
Defensive Line: Anthony Nelson, Iowa
Some NFL teams find a way to extract production from a prospect that doesn’t meet typical position measurements or traits; others simply decide to pass on those players.
At the combine, Anthony Nelson stood 6’7” at 271 pounds, but he’s willing to bulk or shed weight based on his prospective role, per Hawk Central’s Mark Emmert. “I can lose 10 pounds and stand up, or I can gain 10 pounds and play the 4 or 5 (technique),” Nelson explained. “My ability to do it on three downs is one of those things that separate me from a lot of guys in this class.”
Although Nelson anticipates lining up over the tackle or shading the perimeter blocker, he hasn’t shown the ability to set the edge with consistency. The Athletic’s Jeff Cavanaugh took notice in a film study: “For a guy with the measurable athleticism that he has, he doesn’t win the corner against blockers with bend,” he wrote. “His 3-cone time hints that the ability is in there for it to happen, it’s not on tape often.”
Could the Cowboys target a playmaker from Memphis in the draft?
Ezekiel Elliot deserves to have his name thrown in the hat when discussing who is the best running back in the NFL. Considering he has two rushing titles in just three NFL seasons — and has won it both times that he played a full year — Zeke even has a strong argument to be No. 1 overall.
He’s also a complete back who helps out in the passing game. This isn’t only proven in his route running or pass-catching skills, but Elliott is also an adequate blocker who excels at picking up the blitz and buying time for Dak Prescott to make his throws.
The problem is, Dallas is very thin behind Zeke. They still haven’t re-signed Rod Smith which means the top backup before the draft is Darius Jackson, a former sixth-round pick who has bounced around a few teams before returning to the franchise that selected him in 2016.
This could very well lead to Dallas adding someone at the position in the 2019 NFL Draft. With more pressing needs elsewhere, they could look to a late-round sleeper like Tony Pollard. Limited in touches as he was a reserve running back, Pollard enters the NFL with limited wear on his legs. He has just 139 career rushes for 941 yards. However, he shines in other areas.
Is it possible that the Cowboys are not done making moves?
There is perhaps no trade that Cowboys fans are more of a fan of at the moment than the move to acquire Robert Quinn. Dallas did what many have wanted in that they acquired a legitimate veteran player for a low price tag and have the potential to cash in with a compensatory pick if/when Quinn leaves.
It’s unlikely that we’ll see a move with the pizzazz of acquiring Amari Cooper, but we’re talking about a team that made five trades last year alone, two of which that happened during the draft (Tavon and Jihad Ward).
The Cowboys have done an excellent job of shoring up their needs ahead of the draft, but there are still certainly ways that they can improve. They only have six selections in this upcoming draft (plus they’re now done their sixth-rounder next year), but creativity is a team’s best friend in these sort of situations.