Dallas Cowboys Offseason Musings: 6 Thoughts On Free Agents, Draft Picks And Defensive Linemen

Quinn Rooney

Here are six random thoughts that have crossed my mind - or have crossed other people's minds, and I found interesting - over the last few days.

Which teams signed the most new players?

NFL.com has a ranking up showing that the Bucs (17), Giants (15) and Redskins (14) signed the most players from other rosters this offseason. The Cowboys, with four free agent signings (so far) are tied with the Packers, Ravens, Bengals and Rams near the bottom of the list. Only the Saints (3) and 49ers (2) signed fewer free agents.

The top seven teams on that ranking with the most free agent acquisitions combined for a 38-74 record last year, and not one of the teams had a winning season. The seven teams with the fewest free agent signings combined for a 65-46-1 record, and the Rams at 7-9 were the only team with a losing record.

Coincidence?

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Should the Cowboys trade up for Aaron Donald?

I had an interesting discussion with my fellow front page writers the other day: We were involved in a mock draft in which Aaron Donald had already been taken, and we eventually ended up selecting Zack Martin - after a 4-3 vote over Timmy Jernigan, my candidate. In the ensuing discussion, I asked rabble, Tom, and Dawn the following question:

Assuming Aaron Donald is on the board when the Cowboys pick at #16, which player would you pick over him?

Here's the surprisingly uniform and surprisingly short list of players (in no particular order) the four of us would choose over Donald:

Rabble (5): Clowney, Robinson, Watkins, Matthews, Mack
Tom (6): Clowney, Robinson, Watkins, Matthews, Mack, Barr
OCC (7): Clowney, Robinson, Watkins, Matthews, Mack, Barr, Evans
Dawn (10): Clowney, Robinson, Watkins, Matthews, Mack, Barr, Evans, Bortles, Manziel, Bridgewater

These lists of player names coincide remarkably well with what Mel Kiper calls his Super Seven: From Kiper's vantage point (and many scouts seem to agree), there are seven elite players in the draft. These are Kiper's "Super Seven":

Kiper (7): Clowney, Robinson, Watkins, Matthews, Mack, Evans, Lewan

Notice the complete absence of any QB on most of these lists.

Let's average it out and say there are six players you would take ahead of Donald, nine if you're high on QBs. That would probably mean that Donald is ranked somewhere between seventh and tenth on your draft board. He may share that spot with another player or two, but if Donald is rated that high, and he fits an obvious need, do you really sit there and hope that he falls all the way to the 16th spot, or do you pull a Claiborne and trade up to get him?

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Trade down and then trade up again?

I'm not generally a proponent of trading down - unless you're trading down not because it gives you an extra pick per se, but because you could use that pick to trade back up again. There are many scenarios that could work, but here's one:

The Cowboys trade their 16th and 78th (1,200 draft value points) for Arizona's 20th and 52nd (1,230). The Cowboys could then package their own 47th and the acquired 52nd (810) to move into the 21st spot (800). In this scenario, the Cowboys could potentially hold the 20th and 21st picks.

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Offseason favorites usually go the way of the Dodo.

According to SportsOddsHistory.com, only once in the past 13 years has the offseason or pre-season favorite ended up as Super Bowl Champs and only twice have teams with better than ten-to-one odds ended up on top.

Year Odds Date Team Odds NFL Rank
2013 April 1 Seahawks 10/1 5
2012 April 15 Ravens 14/1 6
2011 Feb 8 Giants 20/1 12
2010 Feb 8 Packers 16/1 8
2009 June 1 Saints 21/1 12
2008 Aug 29 Steelers 18/1 8
2007 Jul 15 Giants 30/1 16
2006 Jul 15 Colts 6/1 1
2005 Jul 15 Steelers 12/1 5
2004 Jul 15 Patriots 6/1 2
2003 Jul 15 Patriots 15/1 9
2002 Jul 15 Buccaneers 12/1 6
2001 Jul 15 Patriots 60/1 26

That's bad news for the Seahawks (11/2), Broncos (6/1), 49ers (7/1), and Patriots (8/1) this year.

On a related note, NFL.com crowned the Eagles and Bills offseason champs in 2012. The Eagles ended up with a 4-12 record, the Bills were not much better at 6-10.

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I worry about the Cowboys playing fast and loose with their picks

I've read suggestions that the Cowboys should use their three tradeable seventh-round picks to trade up. Some of the proposals made are far-fetched - specifically the assumptions of how far up in the draft three seventh-rounders could get you.

But I worry that the Cowboys, emboldened by their 11-pick total, would think the value of their haul of picks lies in their trade value. The purpose of the draft is not to maximize some hypothetical trade value. The purpose of the draft is to make sure you get the players you want; players that give you the best chance of winning. If you believe you have identified the players that will make a difference to your team, go get them. Make the deal. If you need to trade up a couple of spots to get your guy, do it. Do not get hung up on trade value. But don't trade away picks just to optimize some hypothetical draft value.

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Gap responsibility and techniques

Posted this as a comment in a FanPost by neithan20000 ("Busting the Meme: The Run Stuffing 1 Tech") a few weeks ago, but I think it's still very relevant:

I think with all the discussion about one-techniques and three-techniques, we may have gotten a little confused over what each role entails.

The techniques simply describe where a tackle is lined up. The three lines up between the offensive guard and tackle (the B gap), the one lines up between the center and the guard (the A gap). But the techniques do not describe what a tackle does.

In Marinelli’s scheme, both tackles have one-gap responsibility, so there is no need for a traditional nose-tackle type who clogs up the entire center of the field, keeping the center and at least one guard busy. Instead, both are rushmen, the difference being that the center will usually move to block the one-technique together with the guard, while the three-technique will often only have one guard to deal with, as the tackle will be busy with the defensive end.

Here are two nice images that illustrate one-gap and two-gap responsibilities:

One Gap Two Gap
1gapdefenders1_medium 2gapdefenders1_medium
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