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Dallas Cowboys News & Notes: Questions At Corner, Linebacker, And Defensive Line

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Latest Cowboys headlines: Claiborne's health complicating entire cornerback spot; Decisions looming at linebacker; Free agency pass rusher update.

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Cowboys "Comfortable" Operating On A Five-Year Timeframe For Tony Romo | Dallas Cowboys
Jerry Jones is planning with Tony Romo for the next five years, which could have far-reaching consequences for the draft strategy, the free agent strategy, and the salary cap.

"I feel very comfortable, to the main part of your question, with a five-year timeframe. I feel very comfortable with that," Jones said on Saturday morning. "When I say comfortable: I’m ready to make decisions based on him being our quarterback that far into the future."

"I’m not going to look into the crystal ball with you and tell you he’s not going to have down days over the next five years – I can’t do that," he said. "But I can tell you I’m comfortable, and I’m going to make decisions based on him being here."

Mo Claiborne's health complicating entire cornerback spot - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
The Cowboys questions at cornerback in large part because of Mo Claiborne, who is a candidate to start training camp on the PUP list as he recovers from a torn patellar tendon. Additionally, Sterling Moore is a restricted free agent, and the Cowboys want Brandon Carr to take a pay cut. Lots of moving pieces.

New substance-abuse policy could trigger investigation of McClain confidentiality breach | ProFootballTalk
The new substance abuse policy places a premium on confidentiality, even allowing the retention of an independent investigator, stiff fines, and termination of employment should that confidentiality be breached. Somewhat awkwardly for the NFL, Ian Rapoport, and NFL employee, first "broke the news" - or leaked the confidential information.

The leak didn’t come from McClain’s camp. Sources close to the situation tell PFT that some members of the media got wind of the fine before McClain’s representatives even knew about it.

If the confidentiality provision of the substance-abuse policy is to have any validity or credibility, an investigation will occur. And that investigation necessarily will include an interview of any and all relevant NFL employees. While other reporters are beyond the scope of the NFL’s ability to compel them to disclose sources, NFL Media reporters work for the league. Which gives the league the right to press them for information in the same way any other employer would press an employee for information when conducting an internal investigation.

If report is true, Rolando McClain may have made Cowboys' linebacker decision for them | Kevin Sherrington, DMN
Sherrington argues that the Cowboys might be better served by keeping Bruce Carter over Rolando McClain.

If the Cowboys went with linebackers based solely on skill, they could do worse than McClain flanked by Carter and Lee. But if you listened to Jerry Jones talk Saturday about how much he’d like to keep both Dez and DeMarco - a thought I’d second - there’s no guarantee he’ll have room under the salary cap to sign two of his free-agent linebackers.

And as well as McClain played, Carter led the team in interceptions and is probably the defense’s best athlete, while Durant graded out as the Cowboys’ best defensive player when healthy.

So when it’s a close call among so many, you look for reasons to narrow the field. Failed drug tests and a sketchy history in general are pretty good check marks.

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Sunday's best performances from the NFL Scouting Combine - NFL.com
Clemson's Vic Beasley was among the standouts at the NFL Scouting Combine on Sunday, as was Kentucky's Bud Dupree and Florida's Dante Fowler. Chase Goodbread runs through the top performances of the day from Lucas Oil Stadium.

NFL combine Day 3: Vic Beasley impresses - NFL - SI.com
Vic Beasley, Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Preston Smith, and Bud Dupree impressed.

2015 NFL Combine: Day 5 News and Notes - Optimum Scouting
More summaries from yesterday's events at Indianapolis.

Some of the best sights and sounds Sunday at the 2015 NFL Combine - CBSSports.com
Missed the action yesterday? This is a look back at some of the funnier things that happened in Indy.

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Free agency pass rusher update:

Pass rusher Pernell McPhee expected to leave Baltimore Ravens, cash in as a free agent - Baltimore Sun
It looks like McPhee will leave the Ravens and try to cash in as a free agent, though he'll likely be a little too pricey for the Cowboys.

McPhee, 26, is considered a luxury item the Ravens probably can't afford to retain as his four-year, $2.2 million rookie contract expires. The Ravens are dealing with a tight salary cap situation and have pressing needs at other positions.

McPhee is expected to command an annual salary between $8 million and $10 million when free agency begins March 10, according to NFL sources. Among the teams regarded as potential fits for McPhee: the Oakland Raiders, Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts.

Giants using non-exclusive franchise tag on Jason Pierre-Paul - SI.com
If you had your hopes up for JPP in a Cowboys uniform, now is the time to look for other options. The Giants will use the non-exclusive tag on the defensive end to keep him in New York. While this doesn't prevent teams from signing Pierre-Paul, it becomes highly unlikely as the signing team would have to give up 2 first round picks to the Giants in order to sign him. JPP is effectively off the market.

Brandon Graham is heading out the door in Philly | Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia
Free agent DE/OLB Brandon Graham is reportedly seeking a four-year contract in the neighborhood of $30M, with $20M guaranteed.

The Eagles tried to extend Graham during the season, but the sides were far apart and nothing has since evolved, which means the 2010 first-round pick is one step closer toward hitting the open market.

Steelers willing to let linebacker Worilds test open market | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said the team will let Jason Worilds hit free agency.

"He understands that if he doesn’t get tagged, which we could still do, he will explore the market and see what is out there," Colbert said at the NFL combine. "We will stay in communication. Maybe he comes back. Maybe he moves on. But he’s been a good player for us and we would love to have him back if it all fits."

Browns 2014 position review: Defensive line and linebackers - ESPN Cleveland
Looks like the Browns will let Jabaal Sheard hit free agency.

The realization may have hit Sheard – and the club -- that after two years as an outside linebacker, Sheard is surely a bigger force as a 4-3 end, and he most likely will leave in free agency.

Agent: TE Julius Thomas getting pushed from Broncos - NFL.com
Interesting insight into what free agent contracts boil down to. It appears that the Broncos offered Thomas a five-year, $40 million pact that would have made him the third-highest-paid tight end behind Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. But that didn't work out, according to agent Frank Bauer:

"The main thing was the structure," Bauer said. "In any contract in the National Football League, it all has to do with how the guarantees are written. Are there full skill/injury/cap guarantees? Or are they conditional? There are clubs that do it the old way. And they're getting their players done and keeping their own. In this case, the guarantees were too low. The guarantees were conditional."

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