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Cowboys News & Notes: Can 2016 Cowboys Pick Up Where They Left Off In 2014?

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Latest Cowboys headlines for your Sunday reading pleasure.

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Cowboys quiet in free agency; why they are OK with status quo - David Moore, SportsDay
For once this was a headline I clicked on with much anticipation. So tell us, why have the Cowboys been relatively quiet in free agency this year?

The early emphasis on keeping their own is telling. It indicates when management and coaches got together to assess what went wrong in 2015, they determined injuries to Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Orlando Scandrick and Lance Dunbar played a larger role than officials have been willing to concede publicly.

Can the Cowboys pick up where they left off in 2014?

The Cowboys biggest miscalculation in 2015 was not the Backup QB - Babe Laufenberg, SportsDay
Laufenberg explains what the Cowboys need to address if they really want to pick up where they left off in 2014.

The biggest miscalculation the Cowboys made last year was not the backup QB position or Greg Hardy or fill in the blank. They let DeMarco Murray go, and their identity left with him. It seemed pretty simple to me. Franchise Murray and sign Dez Bryant long term. Instead, they let Dez get to the 11th hour, and it turned out to be a lost year.

Culture primer here (with a nod to my friend Kevin Sherrington.) After getting hammered by SF in the 2014 opener, with Romo throwing it around the lot 37 times, they came back the next week and with a 6 point lead in the second half against Tennessee, pounded the ball on the ground for a 12 play TD drive. The following week, they fell behind St. Louis 21-0, but kept the ball on the ground and overcame their largest deficit in franchise history in a non-overtime game.

They found an identity, which is hard to do. But they let it get away.

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"The Cowboys got a very good player" in Cedric Thornton - Andy Benoit, The MMQB
Benoit evaluates the opening free agency moves, and lists the best bang-for-buck signings, where Cedric Thornton ranks No. 2 overall.

The former Eagle has only four sacks in four NFL seasons, so there’s a perception that he’s a lower-tier signing. Not true. On first and second down, Thornton is as good as almost any NFL D-lineman. He has brute strength, lateral mobility and a knack for locating the ball. He can also penetrate against the run.

The only hesitation with him in Dallas is, Where does he play along the 4-3 front? As a 3-4 end with the Eagles, Thornton was great because he could two-gap or one-gap, depending on the formation. The only position that calls for two-gapping in a 4-3 scheme such as Rod Marinelli’s is the nose shade. Thornton has never played there full-time, and at 6-3, he might be a tad tall for the role. The other option: playing him at 3-technique, where he’d rotate with Tyrone Crawford on base downs and maybe get a few more nickel pass-rushing opportunities than he did in Philadelphia.

However Thornton winds up being used, let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture: The Cowboys got a very good player.

Cowboys plan at cornerback includes a pay cut for Brandon Carr - David Moore, SportsDay
In our second take from the same article, Moore explains the plan at cornerback.

Morris Claiborne will be back. Scandrick returns from an injury. The club had Nolan Carroll in for a visit Thursday. The Cowboys also have some interest in Green Bay cornerback Casey Hayward, although no visit has been scheduled.

If the Cowboys sign Carroll or Hayward, the next move will be to go to Carr and request a pay cut. The club did this last year and Carr didn't blink, recognizing the Cowboys didn't have the leverage.

That has changed. Claiborne's performed at a high enough level that keeping him and adding another corner in free agency will turn the financial screws on Carr. The club is intent on reducing his $13.8 million cap hit. There are signs that Carr is amendable to reducing his salary.

Don't Panic: Big Free Agent Signings Ahead For Dallas - Ian Kaplowitz, Inside The Star
One of the side effects of drafting well, particularly in the first round, is that those players will command top-of-the-market free agent deals once their rookie contracts expire. Kaplowitz explains:

Travis Frederick is going into the final year of his rookie deal. At some point within the next two years, he’s going to need to be re-signed. Alex Mack just signed a 5-year, $45 million contract. Zack Martin, a two time pro-bowler and rookie all-pro is going to have to be signed around the same time Frederick is, with likely a year in between. Kelechi Osemele just signed a 5 year, 58.5 million dollar contract with the Raiders, with 25.4 million in guarantees. La’el Collins will be coming down the pipeline soon after him.

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Four-round mock 4.0: Cowboys land Joey Bosa, Derrick Henry - NFL.com
The Cowboys land big-name players with their first two picks in Chad Reuter's mock draft. Here's how his four-round projection shakes out for the Cowboys now that teams have started to fill holes in free agency.

4. Joey Bosa - DE, Ohio State.
34. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
67. Austin Johnson, DT, Penn State
101. T.J. Green, S, Clemson

Ex-Mississippi State Bulldogs QB Dak Prescott arrested, charged with DUI - FOX Sports
Prescott had been getting some mentions as a potential Cowboys prospect and has a private workout scheduled with the Cowboys later this month.

Former Mississippi State quarterback and NFL draft prospect Dak Prescott was arrested and charged with driving under the influence early Saturday.

The Starkville Police Department confirmed Prescott's arrest on Twitter late Saturday night. The post said he was arrested around 12:45 a.m. and that there is "no further information from SPD in this incident."

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DeMarcus Ware reduces compensation, can earn it back with sacks | ProFootballTalk
The Ware-to-Dallas speculation never moved beyond the wishful thinking stage, and now even that is over. Ware restructured his deal in Denver, but the incentive-laden deal gives him the possibility of earning his entire original contract regardless.

Ware agreed to reduce his compensation from $10 million to $6.5 million. Of the amount, $4 million is fully guaranteed, which means he most likely won’t have to worry about being cut on the eve of the start of the regular season.

Ware, who turns 34 in July, can earn the $3.5 million back by registering sacks, in a formula that starts with eight and ends at 13. Specifically, he gets $1.25 million for eight sacks, $2.5 million for nine, $3 million for 11, and $3.5 million for 13.

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What Giants must do to snap doomed history of huge splurges - Paul Schwartz, New York Post
The Giants lead all teams in free agency spend so far. Can they avoid the pitfalls that historically have come with that?

It always looks good when these names are typed into the depth chart, but a team assembled this way usually is fool’s gold. In the past 10 years, the six teams (Dolphins, Jaguars, Eagles, Redskins, Buccaneers and Browns) that have spent the most money in free agency have cashed in with a total of just four playoff victories — three by the Eagles and one by the Jaguars. The moral of the story: You cannot buy your way out of playing lousy football.

Perhaps their opening-week haul will prove to be the catalyst of a new awakening, a return to the days when the Giants forged their identity with defense, with toughness, with a frenzy to get to the quarterback with bad intentions.