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Cowboys news & notes: What’s the best way to handle DeMarcus Lawrence for 2018?

To franchise tag or not to franchise tag? That is the question.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Star Evaluation: Maliek Collins May Have Been A Victim Of His Own Success -David Helman- Dallas Cowboys
Maliek Collins didn't play badly in 2017 but many thought he was on his way to a Pro Bowl season at defensive tackle.

The undeniable flipside of this argument is that, although Collins’ career is off to a strong start, his sophomore season felt like a bit of a disappointment. That’s what happens when you post 5 sacks as a rookie and head into the 2017 season as a dark horse Pro Bowl candidate. Now, that’s obviously not from a lack of effort. Collins first appeared on the injury report with a foot problem in late October, after six games, and he battled that problem for the rest of the season. To his credit, he fought through it, but the stat split is telling. In the first six games of the season, Collins posted 14 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. In the remaining 10 games, he finished with eight tackles and no sacks. Fortunately, the injury isn’t expected to be a long-lasting problem. Stephen Jones said in January that Collins had surgery on his foot after the regular season, so there’s plenty of reason for optimism that he will return to his disruptive ways.

Dallas Cowboys 2018 Draft: Five under-the-radar running back targets for Dallas -Cole Patterson- Blogging The Boys
The Cowboys have Zeke, but there are quality options to add running back depth in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Jaylen Samuels was one of the more dynamic players in all of college football during his collegiate career for North Carolina State. Able to play running back, while also having the ability to line up at wide receiver, H-Back, and tight end, Samuels was a matchup nightmare each and every Saturday during college football season.

On night of first Jason Witten Award, TE has Jarrett Payton's support - Todd Archer- ESPN
Jason Witten has created an award for college football that is in the mold of what the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award stands for.

“It’s not kind of an honor, it is an honor,” Payton said. “The first time I got a chance to meet Jason, you could just tell he was cut from a different cloth and how big he is in stature. I think his heart is bigger than it looks when he’s in his jersey and shoulder pads and helmet. His ability to want to give back, it’s amazing to me. For me, all the years I’ve been doing this, you look at the winners of the Man of the Year Award, they all had certain qualities my dad had. The biggest is giving back in service, but they all had something. You watch [Witten] make the room and control the room and bring people together, he’s got something special about him. Our family is thrilled to get a chance to be able to see him hand over the award.”

Report: Cowboys hire Ken Amato as new defensive assistant-Patrik Walker-247Sports
It looks like the Cowboys are just about done finalizing their 2018 coaching staff with the hire of Ken Amato as a defensive assistant.

It’s not Amato’s first introduction to the team, as Archer further notes he’s been involved with helping to coach up the Cowboys’ special teams unit in 2017. He was also the long snapper for the Tennessee Titans for nearly a decade, hanging up his cleats in 2011 -- so there’s certainly game experience he can bring to the table.

Salary cap crunch: These Cowboys are the leading candidates to have their contracts restructured | SportsDay
Which Cowboys could see their contract restructured in order to give the Cowboys some cap relief?

This financial approach is built into every offseason plan for the Cowboys. It won’t change now. Left tackle Tyron Smith owns the largest cap hit of $17.545 million in 2018. The club has restructured his contract the last three seasons to create room. Will they do so again? Reluctantly. But expect them to look to others first and save another Smith restructure as a last resort. Center Travis Frederick is a prime target. The Cowboys can slice more than $7 million off his cap hit of $13.235 million. Linebacker Sean Lee and defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford are also considerations. And remember, the club isn’t limited to restructuring contracts to free up room. Some players are at risk of being cut or traded. Tight end James Hanna, defensive end Benson Mayowa and cornerback Orlando Scandrick are on that list. Releasing those players could generate anywhere from $6.9 million to $8.5 million in space.

Possible Pick: High Motor, Production Make Stanford's Phillips A Top DT -Rob Phillips- Dallas Cowboys
A lot of folks are talking defensive tackle for the Cowboys but not too many are mentioning Harrison Phillips.

Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is all about motor, and Phillips has it. The 300-pounder was extremely active on the Cardinal’s interior line, and not just against the run. He tallied 14 sacks over the past two seasons. Maliek Collinsplayed both defensive tackle spots for the Cowboys last season, and restricted free agent David Irving can play any spot on the line. A prospect like Phillips would offer more depth and position flexibility to a rotation that typically uses eight linemen throughout the game.

Report: DeMarcus Lawrence wants average of $17 million a year for long-term contract - Dave Halprin- Blogging The Boys
He wants how much?! Well, it looks the see-saw of negotiating has begun for DeMarcus Lawrence.

The Cowboys will try to back-load the contract if they can get away with it, but they still have their leverage with a franchise tag. Lawrence will get somewhere just north of $17 million in 2018 under the tag, so unless there is a way the Cowboys can get him long-term and get a low cap number early on, they could just sit back for a year and keep him under the tag. Then the process would start all over again but the Cowboys would have another year to see if they want to commit that kind of money. Ideally, though, they would really like to get a lower cap number this year to help with deals for guys like Zack Martin and possible free agents.

With combine looming, plenty of business awaits the Dallas Cowboys - Todd Archer- ESPN
The Combine is coming but there is always more fuel added to the rumor mill during that time that has nothing to do with workouts.

The Cowboys’ top two goals of the offseason are to get deals done with DeMarcus Lawrence and Zack Martin. They can use the franchise tag on Lawrence to secure him for at least 2018, and they already have the fifth-year option on Martin. I wonder how intense the talks will be at the combine with linebacker Anthony Hitchens. The Cowboys might not be able to compete with the type of deal Hitchens gets when the market opens. He brings a lot of value -- and skill -- to the Cowboys, especially considering the injury histories of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith. Hitchens could be this year’s version of Barry Church, whom the Cowboys wanted to keep last year but were unwilling to come up with a deal on par with the one he got from the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Former Cowboy Barry Church weighs in on Dallas' defense, Romo's potential as coach, whether Dez is elite | SportsDay
Former Cowboys safety and now Jaguars safety, Barry Church stopped by the Ben & Skin show to talk about the Cowboys.

“I would have to say one thing that I didn’t really understand why they do this is, but if you’re gonna start a secondary -- the corners and the safeties -- I don’t understand why they did a lot of rotating, especially like with the safeties back there. Sometimes I would see Byron in there for a couple snaps, and then I see Kavon [Frazier] in there a couple snaps, and then I would see Heath in there a couple snaps. As a safety, playing with the Jags, me and Tashaun, we never came off the field. We gotta get a feel for the game, especially being back there, a feel for how your other counterpart plays and how the secondary plays but, when you’re rotating every two series or every other series, it’s hard to get a feel for the game. That’s just one thing I just noticed that I was like, ‘Mmm, I don’t know if I would’ve did that,’ but hey, they don’t pay me to consult. [laughter] I just play the game.”

Mailbag: Franchise Tag Strategy? Importance Of A 1st Round Receiver? | Dallas Cowboys
The franchise tag seems like it was built for one-year wonders like DeMarcus Lawrence, am I right?

Bryan: You’re not incorrect about the lack of production when it comes to signing those defensive linemen. With that being said, I’d still do what they’re planning to do with Lawrence and make him play on that tag to earn that contract. I have no problem paying him more money if in fact he can do it once again. Hitchens is a good player but not franchise worthy.

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