The Dallas Cowboys continue to work at finding free agents to fill the holes on the roster to get ready for the draft. Things are a little awkward at the moment with most of the top management in Boca Raton for the annual NFL Owners' Meeting, but that hasn't stopped things from progressing. Here is the latest on that, and all the rest of the news you can use about the Cowboys.
It looks like Alfred Morris is just beginning his search for a new home with Dallas, but Patrick Robinson, the third cornerback to visit Dallas after Nolan Carroll and Leon Hall, both of whom left without deals (Carroll later re-signed with the Eagles). But it looks like the third time may be the charm.
The persistence Dallas is showing in trying to find a free agent corner may be mostly about the high cost of Brandon Carr's contract and trying to have a way to reduce or eliminate that. Robinson may be the best option at this point.
Is he better than Carr? Was Carroll? Is Hall? The emotional and quick answer from those who see Carr without a pick in his past 36 games is yes.
Clearly the Cowboys believe otherwise. At least so far. Or they would have cut Carr by now and signed one of these corners. All of them will be cheaper than Carr.
But have the Cowboys' forays into free agency been about creating leverage on Carr?
Since Will McClay became the head of scouting activities for the Cowboys, he has done very well with the first round picks. Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and Byron Jones have all been successful. But he has also found many gems in other places. Not all are stars, but Nick Hayden, Jeremy Mincey, and Rolando McClain, among others, have been important pieces.
But what separates teams is finding players at all different levels.
That is what the team thinks McClay has done, and they are hoping Benson Mayowa will be another success story. We will know soon if the Cowboys will get him.
Per a source, the Raiders will have a decision on Benson Mayowa tomorrow if not tonight. They admit it's a tough contract to match— Clarence Hill (@clarencehilljr) March 21, 2016
Here is a quick take on what the Cowboys have picked up with Cedric Thornton, their one outside free agent acquisition to date.
The Eagles also of course lost Cedric Thornton to the Cowboys. Had he returned to the Eagles this season, he likely would have been a backup to Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan at DT. Cowboys fans should expect Thornton to be a quality run stuffer in a rotational role.
With the lack of progress on finding pass rushers in free agency, many have wondered if the Cowboys might reconsider bringing Greg Hardy back. When asked about him, Stephen Jones didn't sound like that was back on the table, at all.
"He's a free agent,'' Jones responded.
A free agent the Cowboys have yet to enter into discussions about returing.
"A free agent we haven't had discussions with, if you want to say that,'' Jones said.
Jones also added some clarification to the situation with Eric Weddle. Persistent rumors had the Cowboys as being a second team that was very interested in him before he signed with the Ravens.
"I guess you could say he's high profile, but we weren't close to the numbers he signed at,'' executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "We weren't.''
Now some draft stuff.
First, if you haven't read OCC's first installment in his excellent series about what makes a good draft pick, go do so. Now.
Eric Galko, a good draftnik, writes this article mainly to build a case that Ezekiel Elliott is indeed a name that should be considered at the very top of the first round. Of even more interest is this.
Based on film evaluation and speaking with those in the league, there are five or six elite talents in the 2016 class: Laremy Tunsil, Jalen Ramsey, Joey Bosa, Myles Jack, DeForest Buckner and Ezekiel Elliott.
Lately, Joey Bosa has been a popular name for Dallas in mock drafts. There is still a lot of debate about how he fits, and if he is worth a top five pick, but part of that may be that he plays like someone from decades ago.
But nobody else entering this year's NFL Draft does the things Bosa does and how he does them, with such reckless abandon and seeming unawareness of the magnitude. It makes you wonder why the film you're watching isn't in black and white.
"I think he's significantly ahead of the rest of the pack in that he has been the most consistent throughout his career in terms of size, strength and athleticism," CBS Sports draft analyst Rob Rang says. "The knock on him is that he's not such an extraordinary athlete that you feel like he can come into the NFL and he's necessarily going to be a 10-plus sack kind of a guy. He's every bit as effective against the run as he is the pass. Kind of an old-school defensive end that way."
This is a very long and detailed breakdown of DeForest Buckner, who may be in the mix for Dallas. One paragraph leaped out. This guy may be a Rod Marinelli special.
Other than that, I see Buckner as a top 10 type player on the field. Good defensive line coaches across the league have to be looking at his film and drooling over the possibilities. With Buckner's size, power, athleticism, technique level and motor, he is basically a big ball of clay just waiting to be molded into whatever they want him to be. That's the kind of guy who can take over every game if he reaches his potential, and make some GM look like a genius for drafting him.
The debate on whether the Cowboys would take Ezekiel Elliott rages on, and there are certainly some arguments to be made against the team taking him there (which, sadly, may see him winding up in Philadelphia). The Cowboys will still be in the market for a running back later in the draft, and the Sturminator looks at one possibility, C.J. Prosise.
I have reservations because I see a lot of Felix Jones in him when you examine his frame (although he is a bit taller), speed skills, his work-rate in college, and his highlight film. Prosise likely has more use as a RB because of his receiving skills and ability to pick up blitzes, but I do see him as a project that interests me at a certain price. I am just not sure the price I would put on him is the price it would take to get to him on draft day. I think this team needs more of a horse that is comfortable both inside and outside the tackles, and Prosise may grow into that, but projections at this position are always tricky.
Everyone is focused on that fourth overall pick, but being so high in the draft order means that the second round pick, the 34th overall selection, give the Cowboys a chance to grab a fringe first round level talent. But their history in the second has not been all that great.
The second-round pick is just as important because it gives the Cowboys an opportunity to add a second impact player to a team that's one season removed from going 12-4 and winning the NFC East.
They can't afford to botch this pick the way they have so many others.
Out old friend KD Drummond (with some inspiration from our own OCC, no doubt) takes a look at the top SPARQ athletes in this year's draft. Some names from his list of likely interest to the Cowboys: DB Jalen Ramsey (duh), DB Vernon Hargreaves (although he may be a bit too small to fit the preferred profile for Dallas), S Justin Simmons (watch this one), FB Dan Vitale (because, Redball), WR Josh Doctson, LB Darron Lee, and DT Robert Nkemdiche.
There are also some interesting bits of news coming out of the actual business of the owner's meeting.
In addition to the two player safety-related issues mentioned in the title, it is expected that the touchback on kickoffs is going to be moved to the 25 yard line, as it is in college, as the league continues to try and cut down on runbacks.
With the return of the NFL to Los Angeles, what better way to spark some excitement than having their first pre-season game against America's Team?
In the never-ending quest to expand the market for its product, the NFL is playing a game in Mexico City this year (between the Texans and Raiders), looking to hold one in Germany in 2017, and get into the most populous country in the world in 2018. "Road trip" is taking on a whole new meaning in the league.