The Cowboys make another move in free agency by signing George Iloka.
Iloka, who turns 29 on March 31, has started 79 of 99 games, including 76 during a six-year span with the Cincinnati Bengals. After his release from the Bengals last year, he joined the Minnesota Vikings and started three of 16 games in 2018.
He recently visited the Oakland Raiders before coming to The Star for a visit on Friday.
For his career, Iloka has nine interceptions, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Why Cowboys’ free agency moves haven’t necessarily changed their draft needs - Kate Hairopoulos, SportsDay
The Cowboys use free agency to fill holes, but it shouldn’t change the team’s approach in the draft, which is just collect as many good players as they can...regardless of need.
The signings allow Dallas to cover its bases while entering the draft without feeling forced to take a player because of a conspicuous need at a particular spot. The Cowboys have protected themselves with the additions. And the short-term deals mean they can move freely to select players who can be part of the plan for the long-term. If Dallas continues its recent trend of picking well in the draft, it can let free agents signed now leave next spring knowing replacements are in place and on budget-friendly four-year rookie deals at that.
But the free agent signings could give us a clue as to what to expect in the upcoming draft.
The makeup of the Cowboys’ free agency list could, in a way, foreshadow their priorities when it comes to the draft. Take what they did in March and April of 2018, adding receivers Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson, offensive linemen Cameron Fleming and Marcus Martin, linebacker Joe Thomas and defensive end Kony Ealy. When the draft rolled around, they still took a linebacker, offensive guard, receiver and defensive end in rounds 1-4.
Cowboys Draft Digest, Volume 7: No Earl Thomas among them, but a deep and talented safety group - Bob Sturm, The Athletic
Bob Sturm gives a nice scouting report of five different safeties, including a couple of favorites among Cowboys Nation. Even with the signing of Iloka, the Cowboys could still draft one.
Taylor Rapp — Washington— 5’11 — 208
Overall: When you get an athlete like this who gets high marks for effort and determination as well as being the smartest guy in the huddle who puts in time off the field, you start to understand why some team will run up to the podium to have him run their secondary for the next decade. A FIRST-ROUNDgrade here is easy to award; I am a big fan of what I have seen.
Johnathan Abram — Mississippi State — 5’11 — 205
Overall: Abram can play free safety, strong safety or slot corner, but I do think his best fit will be in that strong safety/linebacker hybrid that is all the rage these days. You will have to figure out how best to use him, but if you are looking for a real chaos-causing playmaker who the locker room really admires, Johnathan Abram sure seems to fit all of those descriptions and I don’t see a coverage liability at all. I like him a lot and would put a SECOND-ROUND grade on him.
Marcus Mosher identifies the eight best value-signings so far in free agency, including a new edge rusher who has plenty of upside.
Defensive End Kerry Hyder, Dallas Cowboys
Former Detroit Lions pass-rusher Kerry Hyder was a forgotten player during free agency. After a breakout season in 2016, he tore his Achilles tendon before the 2017 campaign even started and missed the entire year. In 2018, new head coach Matt Patricia turned him into an interior rusher, and his statistics and quality of play both suffered. Hyder totaled just one sack and six tackles during his final year with the Lions—a disappointing season for a player two calendars removed from showing so much promise.
However, the Cowboys signed him during the second week of free agency on a team-friendly deal. Hyder’s one-year contract is worth up to $1.5 million, and he’ll receive just $200,000 in guaranteed money. With a low base salary, he’s not a lock to make the roster. But if Hyder can prove he’s fully recovered from his Achilles tear, he could make a significant impact for the Cowboys—maybe even as a starter. Expect him to find a way into Dallas’ defensive line rotation as coordinator Rod Marinelli turns him back into a productive player.
The recent interest in Miami’s edge rusher Robert Quinn has caused fans to wonder who they’re trying to replace. Is this partly because the front office hasn’t signed DeMarcus Lawrence long term? Is the Randy Gregory uncertainty the culprit? Or maybe the team is having their doubts about former first-round pick Taco Charlton?
It’s hard not to feel discouraged at this point. Charlton looked like such a potential stud coming out of Michigan. Put him under the guidance of Rod Marinelli and there’s no telling what he could accomplish. Yet through 27 career games, he has just four sacks. It certainly doesn’t look good for his future in Dallas. Hence why the team is active in pursuit of Quinn. They need somebody who is at least reliable if no longer a stud opposite Lawrence.
Maybe Charlton can still turn things around. He’s only 24-years old so it’s not like the clock is working against him. This is probably the best opportunity he’ll have to seize the moment. The team has basically thrown him a softball with Gregory out of the picture. Quinn will be competition if the Cowboys are able to secure the trade, but not somebody who’s impossible to overcome. This would definitely be a welcome piece of good news for a defense in crisis.
Is it possible one of the top safeties fall all the way to 58? Sean Martin provides his scouting report of Mississippi State’s Jonathan Abram.
Abram is a natural magnet for the football, effortlessly using short, comfortable strides to cover ground and arrive ready to lower the shoulder. When coming downhill against the run, Abram takes pride in putting runners on the ground, something he does at a high rate in space by running his legs through tackles. Abram plays with exceptional spatial awareness, using the sideline as an extra defender in coverage. Not the most vertically explosive athlete, Abram doesn’t shy away from attacking the ball at its highest point to separate it from the receiver. Understanding the routes developing in front of him, Abram consistently gets to the proper depth in his drops while remaining in position to break down and come up for shorter throws.
There are few plays this safety will leave on the field throughout the course of the game. Asked to line up in the box occasionally, Abram is quick to shoot gaps with the speed to outrun linemen and stay clean as he picks through the line. Finding plays where opponents completely got the best of Abram is difficult. This is a composed player whose next team will need a clear plan for him. Once given this sense of direction, the untapped potential in Abram’s game is high.
In case you missed it...
Our own David Howman pumps the brakes a little bit on Abram in his scouting report.
Abram channels that aggression into top-notch hustle and punishing run defense. This is where he excels the most, so much so that some have floated the possibility of moving Abram to linebacker in nickel packages. He does a great job of flowing to the runner and navigating through traffic to make a big hit that brings the ball-carrier down. There are times where Abram’s willingness and desire to be so aggressive and physical gets him in trouble, with him taking poor angles because of how rushed he is to hit. Refining his patience and flexibility will aid in this area.
For how monstrous Abram can be in run defense, he is lacking in pass coverage. Like most other safety prospects I’ve covered as potential Cowboys targets, Abram doesn’t have elite athleticism. He’s good at changing direction and his footwork is better than most, but when it comes to burst and quick reactions, Abram is less than ideal. Because of this, Abram can’t be trusted as a single-high safety and putting him back there in Cover 2 concepts might even be too risky depending on the competition.
The Cowboys don’t have a pick until 58, which means a few of the top safety talents won’t be in play for them.
The Cowboys owner shares his thoughts on a few topics, including how he’s not bothered by not having a first-round pick in the upcoming draft.
Jones Excited About Cooper’s 2019 Role
Amari Cooper’s impact on the Cowboys last season was well documented – and significant. In the nine games after Dallas dealt their first-round pick to Oakland for Cooper, the Pro Bowl wideout piled up 53 catches and 6 touchdowns in 9 games and the Cowboys went 7-2 to clinch the NFC East. But Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones believes there’s more in store for Cooper on offense next season.
“Our coaches have had a chance to sit back and see what he can do, how he can improve in many areas of his game, because he’s going to be multifaceted for us,” Jones said earlier this month at the NFL Scouting Combine. “He can have a lot of position flex for us. There are some things that he does, his ability to run routes, his ability to get out of routes, his size, his difficulty in bringing down. “That anticipation of how he’s going to fit in in the future really keeps me excited and doesn’t make me miss that No. 1 pick.”
This week the Cowboys have tweaked their receiver rotation by signing Randall Cobb, yet another slot option, as a replacement for free-agent departure Cole Beasley. Cooper is signed through 2019 and the Cowboys have every intention of extending him long term.
The Cowboys don’t have a first-round pick so they’ll miss out on the elite talent early in the draft so why not just trade back and stockpile picks? John Williams puts on his fancy pants and turns pick 58 into three third-round picks (four total), allowing them to have extra shots at finding starter talent at several different positions.
76 - Gerald Willis III, DL, Miami Via Trade with the Washington Redskins
This year’s edition of the NFL Draft features a really deep class of defensive lineman. The Dallas Cowboys, though they’ve shored up their defensive interior with the signings of Christian Covington and Kerry Hyder (who can play on the edge or inside), the Cowboys will still look for long-term answers at the 3-tech position on the defensive line.
Maliek Collins likely pencils in as the starter heading into 2019 at the 3-tech spot, but is only under contract through the 2019 season and has struggled with consistency while battling offseason injuries that have limited his preparation. Gerald Willis III is a player that profiles as a 3-tech with his athleticism and strength. He had four sacks and 18 tackles for loss for the Miami Hurricanes. He’s a raw player that only played one full season at division one, but under the wings of defensive line guru Rod Marinelli, could be the solution to the Cowboys interior pass rush.
There’s always a chance that a talented player at a position of need falls to them at 58? The noble Drummond constructs one of my favorite mock drafts so far that could instantly wipe away some concerns and set them up nicely for the future.
2.23 TE Irv Smith, Jr. Alabama
44 receptions, 710 yards, 7 TDs
Would get to learn under Jason Witten for a year.
Better seam threat than blocker, but Jarwin/Schultz can do that.
Could the Cowboys sneak an upgrade at tight end using their third-round pick?
Round 3: Jace Sternberger
When you’re a team that has to pull a tight end out of the Monday Night Football both it’s clear you have a need at the position. With all due respect to Jason Witten, he’s at best a short-term solution for the Cowboys. It would be an excellent idea for Dallas to draft Witten’s successor this year. Providing a talented prospect like Sternberger a year to learn under the future Hall of Famer could pay big dividends for the Cowboys down the line.
The former Texas A&M star is never going to be a great blocker like Witten was in his prime, but he’s got a chance to be a real weapon in the passing game. He’s a natural receiver who can flex out and make plays in the slot as well. Sternberger doesn’t have world-class speed, but he makes up for it with a really big catch radius. Some might consider taking Sternberger in the third round as a bit of a reach, but the Cowboys should have enjoyed plenty of chances to scout the in-state prospect. Dallas might double down and take another defensive lineman here, but going with a tight end with real upside would be a good choice as well.