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Cowboys News & Notes: Will Randy Gregory's Suspension Force Cowboys' Draft Hand?

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Latest Cowboys headlines: Randy Gregory is suspended for four games; pass rush remains high on the Cowboys' to-do list; Tony Romo's defining moment in his Cowboys career.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Nobody can complain about a lack of Cowboys-related headlines today. Except the headlines all sound the same.

Dallas Cowboys' Randy Gregory suspended four games - NFL.com

Dallas Cowboys' Randy Gregory suspended four games - FOX Sports

Cowboys' Randy Gregory suspended first four games of 2016 season - Yahoo Sports

NFL suspends Cowboys' Randy Gregory four games - SI.com

Cowboys' Gregory suspended four games for substance abuse violation - CBSSports.com

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Beyond the pure headlines, here are a few articles offering some specifics about the Randy Gregory situation.

Randy Gregory of Dallas Cowboys suspended by NFL for four games for violating substance-abuse policy - Todd Archer, ESPN
Archer looks at the financial impact of Gergory's habit.

Gregory signed a four-year deal worth roughly $3.8 million after the draft, including $1.4 million guaranteed. It is possible Gregory could lose the $370,000 guaranteed on his 2016 base salary as a result of the suspension.

Randy Gregory Suspended For Substance Abuse Violation - KD Drummond, CowboysHQ
Drummond delivers the goods in explaining exactly how the NFL's drug policy works, where the first failed test puts an offender into the substance abuse program, the second and third flunked tests result in fines and the fourth in a four-game suspension.

The NFL Substance Abuse policy is set up in stages. A player is placed in Stage One for up to 90 days after their first violation, leaving them subject to a fine and additional testing. If they come out clean, a player is "discharged" from the program. If they fail a test in Stage One, they are fined and moved to Stage Two.

A Stage Two violation results in additonal fines and a four-game suspension. This would indicate that including the Scouting Combine test, this is, at least, Gregory's third failed drug test in under a year. With this violation, Gregory may not be able to be discharged from the program after 24 months of testing clean.

Another infraction will result in a suspension of four-to-six games and moving to Stage Three, where a player can face a 10-game ban for marijuana, or a one-year ban for other banned substances.

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Here's a bunch of articles that actually look at the impact Gregory's suspension might have on the Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys' gamble on Randy Gregory takes hit but shouldn't end - Todd Archer, ESPN
Archer writes that the Cowboys' faith in Gregory is being tested, but they shouldn't turn their back on him now.

A lot of people across the league will snicker at the Cowboys for taking a chance on Gregory and getting burned. The holier-than-thou attitude is off-putting when every team takes chances on players. Every team.

The Cowboys took a chance on Gregory last year. They don't need to turn their backs on him now. The right thing is to help Gregory and hope he can develop into the pass-rusher they need so badly.

With his suspension, vindication comes for every NFL franchise that passed on Randy Gregory - Rick Gosselin, SportsDay
Classic example of the holier-than-though attitude mentioned above.

Gregory News Emphasizes Pass Rush As Cowboys' Biggest Need - David Helman, Dallas Cowboys
Gregory's suspension doesn't suddenly create a gaping hole in the Cowboys' pass rush. It's been there all along, Helman argues.

It’s anybody’s guess what the Cowboys decide to do, and just to reiterate: it would be a mistake to overreact to the four-game suspension of a second-year defensive end.

The point still stands, though. The Cowboys have their work cut out for them if they’re going to make their pass rush viable in 2016. That much was true before Randy Gregory got suspended, but as it stands right now it just might be the biggest problem facing this team.

With Gregory suspension, Hardy's likely exit, Cowboys must question DE depth; will their draft hand be forced? - David Moore, SportsDay
Gregory's suspension forces the Cowboys to take a long, hard look at who it can trust in the defensive line, but that would have been the case without the suspension too, Moore argues.

The bottom line: Upgrading the pass rush remains as much of a priority for the Cowboys this offseason as it was one year ago. That keeps a quality pass rusher in play at the No. 4 pick of the first round in April's draft.

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And now on to our regularly scheduled news coverage.

Failed Completions 2015 - Football Outsiders
If you were frustrated last year by 7-yard completions on 3rd-and-8, then "Failed Completions" is the perfect Checkdown Charly stat for you: Failed completions are completed passes that fail to gain 45 percent of needed yards on first down; 60 percent on second down; or 100 percent on third or fourth down. And the third-worst QB in the league last year? None other than Matt Cassel. By contrast, Romo had the fifth best rate in the league in 2014.

But there's also a nugget of good news here: The Dallas defense is ranked 9th overall in creating those failed completions.

Quarterbacks' quicker releases a product of subpar protection - Sheil Kapadia, ESPN
More and more offenses are emphasizing the quick passing game. Why? Teams are struggling to field an offensive line they're happy with.

Leaguewide, quarterbacks took 2.48 seconds to get rid of the ball in 2015. That number has gone down for four consecutive years. And there does appear to be the makings of a trend. Twenty quarterbacks were at 2.5 seconds or quicker last season; only seven hit that mark 2012.

The Risky Case of Drafting Linebackers Early – Marcus Mosher, Footbology
Mosher has compiled a sobering statistic about off-the-ball linebackers drafted in the first round recently.

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5 running backs I think Cowboys could draft after 1st round to pair with Darren McFadden - Jon Machota, SportsDay
I understand that many people feel the Cowboys should draft a running back. But five?

Dallas Cowboys & NY Jets looking hard at tight end AJ Williams/Michigan - Tony Pauline, Draftinsider.net
James Hanna is a free agent, Gavin Escobar has a torn Achilles, and Jason Witten isn't getting younger. Cowboys fans may not want to hear this, but the Cowboys have a need at tight end, and Pauline has a name for the Cowboys:

One non-combine tight end prospect that’s always intrigued me is Michigan’s A.J. Williams. The senior was not rated by teams entering the season but has garnered a lot of interest from both the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys recently. Williams has offensive tackle size at 6-feet/5-inches and almost 270-pounds but moves well about the field and is a solid short range passing catching target. Expect him to time in the 4.8’s during Michigan pro-day and though Williams may not be selected in the draft, he’ll have an opportunity next season as a third tight end brought onto the field during short yardage situations or in the red zone.

What's the point of collecting all those sixth-round comp picks if you're not going to use them?

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Tony Romo explains one of the 'defining moments' in his Cowboys career - Jon Machota, SportsDay
That defining moment happened during his second season in Dallas, when he entered training camp No. 4 on the quarterback depth chart and experienced a crisis of confidence.

I can't sum this one up in just a few words and a quote, you'll have to read the entire article. It'll be well worth your while.

Tony Romo's outlook on 2016 Cowboys - Jon Machota, SportsDay
Romo recently participated in a podcast interview with The Village Church and talked about his expectation for 2016.

"We got to get better. We're a 4-12 ballclub. That's not up to anyone's standard. I like to think that I would have helped us in some key situations last year that would have allowed us to be better than that. But these seasons will make everyone look at themselves and make it, when you have a 4-12 year, everyone's on notice. Jobs are on the line.

I think you'll find you'll get the best version of everybody from here on out. Now, we need some more players to improve. At the same time, I got to be better. I got to be healthy, and I think I will be. I'm feeling real good right now, so I think this will be the best offseason I've had in a long time, my back's getting stronger and stronger. We just got to get some people that can help our team and some of our guys just have to get better."

Sean Lee: Cowboys' locker-room culture not to blame for 2015 struggles; 'It was never because we weren't all-in' - Jon Machota, SportsDay
Lee explains that the Cowboys' issues last year had more to do with key injuries and failing to make plays late in games than any anything in the locker room. Locker room issues of course make for juicy, clickable headlines, the other stuff not so much.

"I thought if you watch our effort throughout games, we played extremely hard," Lee said Thursday on SiriusXM NFL Radio. "The issue with us was when we lost some of our best players -- Tony [Romo], Dez [Bryant] -- the margin for error became smaller. We weren't able to overcome adversity. We didn't make the critical plays, game-changing plays all the time. We didn't cause enough turnovers. Defensively, we didn't make the plays down the stretch in the fourth quarter.

"That's why we lost football games. It was never because we weren't all-in. It was never because of effort. It was all because of execution, especially in critical times."

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How $1 billion in cap space could alter NFL free agency - Kevin Seifert, ESPN
Seifert argues that the NFL has yet to fully catch on to what the recent increases in the cap mean for teams down the road.

Here's the bottom line: Give or take, there will be $1 billion in salary-cap space available when the market opens on March 9. That's a massive and unprecedented number, enough to pay the rosters of six full teams and an amount that will gift market-blowing contracts to the second- and third-tier players typically available.

These annual salary-cap increases wouldn't just make a few players disproportionately richer. They could alter the NFL's basic team-building model as well, if the industry catches on. Imagine big-time free agency as a way to truly improve a cap-rich team, rather than being simply a vehicle for overpaying another team's discards. Stay tuned.

Will Cowboys retain Brandon Carr? They will if this happens ... - David Moore, SportsDay
Moore with a solid take on Carr's potential in Dallas.

Carr is a solid corner. I'd argue he's more than a mediocre player, but no one can argue that his pay exceeds his production. Carr is dependable. He doesn't miss games. But he also hasn't intercepted a pass in more than two seasons. In my mind, he's a second corner who's being paid like a lead corner, which happens when you have to jump into the free agent market to upgrade a position.

The Cowboys tried to get Carr to take a pay cut last year and he balked. He had leverage. I believe that leverage is gone. I believe if he agrees to take a pay cut this season, he'll be back. If not, the Cowboys will move on.

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Redskins Add Former Cowboys Assistant Kevin Carberry To Coaching Staff - Redskins.com
The Redskins announced earlier this week that they had hired Kevin Carberry as their assistant offensive line coach. Carberry's contract had expired in Dallas, where he had been an offensive assistant for the last two years. And now that he left, the Redskins explain what he was actually doing the last two years.

During his time in Dallas, he coordinated the daily practice schedule and scripts, assisted with the weekly run game installation, broke down film of each week’s opponent and coordinated self-scouting both in-season and during the offseason. During practices, he coached the offensive scout teams and assisted with the offensive line.

The Rams are creeping in on the Cowboys' Oxnard turf with minicamp, OTAs - SportsDay Staff
The city of Oxnard has reached a tentative deal to host Rams’ OTAs and mini camp in April on same fields Cowboys use for training camp. This may actually be good news for Cowboys fans as having two teams in Oxnard could result in the city investing to upgrade the facilities there. After all, The Cowboys will be in Oxnard for at least three more years, and perhaps more beyond that.

Just last year, the Cowboys signed a three-year agreement with Oxnard to hold their training camp practices in Southern California. The agreement may be extended for an additional three years upon mutual agreement by both parties.