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Cowboys news: NFL analyst explains why “you can pencil Dallas in as a threat to win the NFC every year.”

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NFL: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The signing that sets up the Cowboys for prime contention in the coming years - Bucky Brooks, NFL.com
Brooks explains why signing Zack Martin should make the Cowboys contenders for years to come.

Dallas hasn't been discussed as a legitimate title contender in 2018, but the Cowboys' commitment to the offensive line will make them viable players for the crown for the years to come. Now, I know that I've called this time of year "proclamation season," due to the bold and outlandish claims that we hear from coaches, players and observers, but the 'Boys are building a championship-caliber house on a rock-solid foundation that's helped them claim a pair of division titles in recent years (2014 and '16) despite having flawed squads.

Simply put, the Cowboys are sitting pretty with a loaded offensive line that can crush opponents at the point of attack.

Now, I know the naysayers will point out the flaws of the Cowboys' young QB1 or the suspect nature of the defense, but I must remind you that Dallas' ball-control offense built around a rugged running game has always been able to mask the team's deficiencies -- and the keep-away strategy should work well with Ezekiel Elliott poised to carry a heavy workload.

Remember, the last two times the Cowboys won the NFC East and emerged as viable contenders, they featured the NFL's rushing champ (Elliott in 2016; DeMarco Murray in 2014) running behind the best O-line in football. The 'Boys reeled off double-digit wins during those seasons and entered the tournament well-positioned to make a run at the Lombardi Trophy. Although they didn't get it done, the presence of a rock-solid offensive line got them into the VIP section. With Martin joining Smith and Frederick as long-term players on that front line, you can pencil Dallas in as a threat to win the NFC every year.

Cowboys lock down Zack Martin through 2024, cementing continuity of offensive line – Bob Sturm, The Athletic
Make sure you take moment to bask in the glory of locking down Martin for the next several years. If you need help, Bob Sturm is here for you.

Martin has been better than good. He has exceeded all expectations from when he was drafted by the Cowboys in the 2014 draft at pick #16. Those of us who were massively concerned with a guy who had been a left tackle at Notre Dame moving seamlessly to right guard and not only converting, but instantly becoming one of the very best guards in the NFL now look a bit silly. I had no idea he could do what he has done. He has dominated.

Martin has been at the top of the position since his first day on the job. Here are the All-Pro guards for all 4 years Martin has been a professional. Please note there is only one name to appear all four seasons.


Don't forget about this Cowboy in the middle of the team's flirtation with Earl Thomas - Brandon George, SportsDay
Does the lingering flirtation with Earl Thomas leave Xavier Woods as the forgotten man in the safety room?

Standing in the back end of the Cowboys' defense, Xavier Woods seemingly needs to be jumping in the air and waving his arms these days to make sure he's not forgotten.

If Thomas remains in Seattle, Woods is in line to be the Cowboys' starting free safety. He's being trained by new defensive backs coach Kris Richard, the Seahawks' ex-defensive coordinator who coached Thomas in Seattle.

Woods isn't in the dark about the Cowboys' flirtation with Thomas. He's well aware of the mutual interest, although he doesn't let it bother him.

"I just block it out," Woods said. "I've learned this is a business at the end of the day. The job is based on yourself. You have to be irreplaceable. It's all on you.

"I just control what I can control. I'm trying every day to give them a reason not to want anybody else."

Woods believes he and Heath can excel next season.

"We're both rangy. We both can hit. We both can get our hands on the ball and we both can play in the box or on the back end," Woods said. "I believe we can be one of the best tandems in the league."

Agent's Take: Are Earl Thomas and Seahawks headed for a divorce? - Joel Corry, CBSSports.com
Corry thinks it may be time for the Seahawks to more aggressively pursue a trade for Thomas.

Kris Richard, who was Seattle's defensive coordinator the last three seasons, becoming the Cowboys' secondary coach only fueled speculation that Thomas could join him in Dallas. According to the Fort Worth Star Telegram's Clarence Hill, the Seahawks wanted first- and third-round picks for Thomas leading up to and during late April's NFL draft. Teams reportedly weren't willing to part with more than a third-round pick.

It may become time for to Seattle to aggressively pursue a trade, assuming the parties become firmly entrenched in their respective positions. Thomas becoming more vocal as the holdout progresses where he is increasingly critical of the Seahawks could be a signal that he would rather have a change of scenery than a new contract in Seattle. If the relationship between Thomas and the Seahawks becomes acrimonious, a trade may wind up being the most viable option. Seattle would need to lower its asking price to below a first-round pick. Any team seriously interested in Thomas would likely want permission to discuss a new contract with his representatives, if not reach an agreement in principle, before acquiring him.

The Earl Thomas Contract Standoff Reveals Seattle Is at a Crossroads - Robert Mays, The Ringer
Mays writes that the Cowboys may not be the only suitor for Thomas - if the Seahwaks decide to deal.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported in late April that the Cowboys had refused to give up a second-round pick in a deal for Thomas, an indication that the Seahawks are willing to talk trade. Dallas has been repeatedly mentioned as a potential trade partner, and it’s easy to see why. Thomas hails from Orange, Texas, and hasn’t been shy about expressing his desire to play in his home state. More than that, Thomas’s former position coach, Kris Richard, is now a key member of the Cowboys’ defensive staff.

The list of possible suitors shouldn’t begin and end with Dallas, though. Houston, now facing an uncertain future with safety Andre Hal, may be another candidate. And a team like the Chargers should think long and hard about parting with a second-round pick if it means acquiring Thomas in exchange. Pairing Thomas with 2018 first-round pick Derwin James and Jahleel Addae would provide the back end of Los Angeles’s defense with a multifaceted look that could complement a ferocious pass rush to give the Chargers the best unit in the AFC. Oh, and L.A. defensive coordinator Gus Bradley may be familiar with Thomas’s work; they spent three years together when Bradley held the same position in Seattle.


Some reactions to the David Irving suspension:

No, Cowboys Shouldn't Cut David Irving - Mauricio Rodriguez, Inside The Star
Many fans are calling for the team to cut him loose, but that wouldn't make any sense.

Whether we're mad at Irving's actions or not, the truth is letting him go wouldn't be wise at all. The Cowboys are not paying him big-time money, he's young and he'll be productive on the field when the defense needs him to.

We're talking about a football team that wants to make a run for the Lombardi Trophy. They can't be letting starting-caliber players go just like that. They need all the help they can get and even though his situation is far from ideal, David Irving will play a big role on defense.

Cowboys’ David Irving will miss Week 2 game against the Giants - Chris Plum, Big Blue View
With Irving out the first four games, he'll miss contests against Carolina, New York, Seattle, and Detroit. It will be the third-straight game the Giants will luck out not having to face Irving as he missed both games last year due to a suspension (early) and concussion (late).

From the Giants’ perspective, the news might mean a bit of a respite after facing the fearsome Jacksonville front in week one. The Giants’ offensive line may need time to gel and come together after being (potentially — pending the battle for center) completely rebuilt from a year ago. Irving might have issues getting on the field (playing in 35 of 48 possible games and starting just 10), but he is dangerous once on it.

Speaking of time to gel for the Giants offensive line. Newcomer and former Cowboys draft pet-cat, Will Hernandez, is having a hard time fitting in with his new team.

Seahawks chances versus Cowboys in week 3 just got big lift - Lee Vowell, 12th Man Rising
The Giants aren't the only team to benefit from Irving's absence... again. Last season, the Seahawks dodged a bullet not having to deal with Irving and they'll catch another break this year.

Seattle ideally wants to remake the offense. The Seahawks drafted Rashaad Penny to help get back to a run heavy offense. Chris Carson’s return from injury will help. But Seattle needs to rely on Wilson as he makes the offense difficult to defend. If he can roam around and make the Wilson magic happen, good things follow.

Irving's first big splash play of his NFL career came in 2015 against Seattle where he used his great wingspan to reach up and block a field goal (VIDEO, 3:00 mark).

10 things to know about David Irving: From growing up in Compton to a Dikembe Mutombo comparison - Staff, SportsDay
How well do we really know David Irving? Well, here are 10 things about him that are rather fascinating, including how the rainy conditions of FedEx field doesn't mix well with his hair product, causing it to run down into his eyes, forcing him to come out of the game. Allow Irving to explain.

"In the third quarter I had to come out the game. I had some hair product in my hair, and the rain came through and it was all in my eyes," Irving told Bruce Murray and Brady Quinn on SiriusXM radio on. "I couldn't see anything. I had to take a little break from that."

Luckily the issue was solved quickly and easily.

"I got a little Gatorade bottle, sprayed out my hair, dried it off and got back out there," he said. "Thank god we kept it [the reason for his exit] to ourselves on the sideline.

"You live and you learn. Won't have that problem anymore."

Cowboys’ Irving cost himself over $650K now, possibly millions later - K.D.Drummond, Cowboys Wire
After learning how much he hated working at Home Depot, you'd think Irving would embrace his second chance and take this football thing serious. His suspension will cost him $685k, which is more than his entire 2017 salary. But as K.D. explains, he's cost himself a lot more than that.

A four-game suspension in the NFL comes with no pay, meaning the player is forfeiting 4/17th of his salary. For Irving, playing under the second-round tender of $2.914 million, that means he’s giving up $685,647 and won’t see a regular season paycheck until the month of October.

In addition to the tangible loss of current-year salary, Irving’s suspension may cost him down the line in larger terms. After his second suspension for drugs, his earning power decreases.


What can the Cowboys expect from their new offensive weapon they got in the trade with the Rams?

Tavon Austin could be in for big 2018 with new team - Nick Fox, Ramblin Fan
Austin's career has been an odd one. First, he had to deal with the quarterback shuffle after Sam Bradford got hurt, catching passes from Shaun Hill, Austin Davis, Nick Foles, and Case Keenum. Then, when Jared Goff finally started playing well, the Rams had a receiving group of Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp. While he might not be the #1 guy the Rams were hoping for when he was drafted, he could still help out the offense.

Austin’s best year was 2015, when he had over 900 yards from scrimmage (receiving and rushing) with 10 total touchdowns and was a significant contributor on special teams. He did this while being a swiss army knife at best, and a gadget player at worst. He did not become the NFL wideout the team expected him to be when they traded up for him

As luck would have it, his flexibility as a WR/RB/PR is exactly how he'll be used in Dallas.

NFL trope season is here! The finest in recycled themes - Dan Hanzus, NFL.com
Hanzus says we've entered trope season, where recycled storylines show up more and more in the headlines:

Writers often grab well-received storylines from earlier seasons and repurpose them with different characters and slightly varied circumstances. If it works, everyone wins: The audience doesn't notice (or mind) this recycling of ideas, and the writers, cast and crew get another couple years of paychecks.

Unfortunately, two of his (otherwise excellent) selection of tropes hit a little bit too close to home:

Tavon Austin Will Be A Weapon in Team X's Offense

Recent example: Dak Prescott on Cowboys' Tavon Austin: 'He's a steal'

Nah.

Soft-Spoken Star Ready To Take On Vacant Leadership Role

Recent example: Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott adopting vocal leadership role

This storyline is popular around teams that have seen roster turnover remove established vets from the mix. In the case of the Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliott will step into the shoes of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten because ... um, he's super good at running back? Anyone who's been watching "All or Nothing" knows Zeke is hardly a lock to deliver a Pacino monologue for the ages.


How Can QB Dak Prescott "Prove It" In 2018 - Kevin Brady, Inside The Star
Kevin Brady asks the question, what does Dak need to do in 2018 to prove his the guy for the Cowboys?

Is it by traditional raw statistics? Because if that's the case, Dak Prescott will have a difficult time proving it in the Cowboys' run first and ball control scheme. He'll rarely throw for over 300 yards if the Cowboys offense is working efficiently.

Is it by team success? Because, once again, that can be a dangerous way to evaluate quarterback play. As we learned during the Tony Romo era, even a great quarterback can have difficulty winning games if the people around him fail to perform.

Is it by controlling and leading the locker room? Because by those standards, it sounds like Dak Prescott has already proven he belongs.

When the dust settles, it's all about the W. Just win, baby.

Every NFL Team's Biggest Minicamp Winner and Loser - Gary Davenport, Bleacher Report
Bleacher Report identifies the biggest winner and loser for the three-day minicamp for each team. Who did they select for the Cowboys? It’s like Chidobe Awuzie and David Irving don’t exist.

Winner: Offensive Guard Zack Martin

It's a good time to be Zack Martin. Or his agent. Or his accountant. After skipping OTAs in the hopes of landing a new contract, Martin has done just that. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport (via Herbie Teope of NFL.com), Martin signed a six-year, $84 million extension with $40 million in guarantees that makes the four-time Pro Bowler the highest-paid guard in NFL history. Sounds like a good reason to show up for minicamp.

Loser: Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch

This has been a theme with the Cowboys in recent years—highly drafted defensive players missing time in camp with injuries. This year, it's first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch, who rolled his ankle at OTAs. It's not an apocalyptic development by any stretch, but with rookies, every rep matters. Especially when that rookie is expected to play a substantial role in 2018.

Top 30 NFL players 30 and over: Sean Lee makes the list - Sean Wagner-McGough, CBSSports.com
CBS ranks the top players 30 and over, and The General comes in at No. 21.

21. Sean Lee, LB, Cowboys (31)

Here's the thing about Lee: He's the quarterback of the Cowboys' defense in the sense that when he's out of the lineup, the Cowboys' defense usually collapses, but when he's in the lineup, the Cowboys' defense is competent. The problem is, of course, Lee is almost never fully healthy. He stayed on the field for 11 games last year and in that time, he managed to become PFF's seventh-highest graded linebacker. In 2016, when he appeared in 15 games, he was named First-Team All Pro. It's also worth noting that he's gotten healthier over the past three years, appearing in 40 of 48 possible games. Still, his injury woes prevent him from making the top half of this list.

5 things you may not know about Sanjay Lal - SportsDay Staff
Among those five things is this take on route running.

While with the Colts, he told the Indy Star that he likened route running to being a professional dancer.

"They spend hours and hours and hours practicing their footwork," Lal told the Indy Star. "If they're on Broadway, someone's paid $500 to come watch them. They expect perfection. It's no different for us. We're at the highest stage on Sunday. So, if I have to get from here to there, my footwork better be perfect. And I can't be thinking about it on game day. That performer on Broadway goes from A to B and hits his mark, sings what he has to sing, without even thinking. And that's like us. We have to go A to B with perfection and the ball is going to be there for us. No detail in route running is too small."


Odds say Dez Bryant plays for Titans, Texans - Peter Dawson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Oddsmakers currently put the Texans and Titans as the two most likely landing spots for Bryant, closely followed by two NFC East teams.

Here are the teams the oddsmakers feel are mostly likely to land him, courtesy of Sportsline.com.

Tennessee Titans: -200

Houston Texans: +200

New York Giants: +300

Green Bay Packers: +400

Washington Redskins: +500