Cowboys’ Byron Jones likely to command $16M per year; Eagles, Giants are expected suitors - Cody Benjamin and Patrik Walker, CBS Sports
While the Cowboys keep themselves busy trying to get deals in place for Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, the likelihood of moving on from top cornerback Byron Jones becomes more likely each day. But Jones could receive a huge payday while staying in the NFC East.
Byron Jones should be the top corner available in free agency, and CBS Sports contributor Joel Corry, a former agent and salary cap expert, anticipates he’ll be one of the top earners outside of the QB position — so much so that the 27-year-old defensive back is not only likely to price his way out of Dallas but become the NFL’s new highest-paid DB.
”Anything under $16 million per year with fewer than $50 million in overall guarantees would be surprising,” Corry said. “I doubt he’s back in Dallas. I’ve thought his long-term fate with the Cowboys was sealed when (right tackle) La’el Collins signed a contract extension at the end of last preseason.”
It’s entirely possible, if not likely, he lands with the rival Philadelphia Eagles. They won’t be the only team after him, but among potential suitors, they would not mind outbidding others to fill a desperate need for long-term CB help. They’ve been fans of his makeup since the 2015 draft. They have more money to spend than in years past, entering free agency with a projected $42.3 million in 2020 cap space, and are expected to part ways with impending free agent CB Ronald Darby. The Cowboys, meanwhile, won’t let the “who” wants Jones sway them one way or another in their own financial decision.
The Cowboys’ other rivals can’t be ruled out as suitors, either. The Washington Redskins will be looking for defensive upgrades under new coach Ron Rivera and are fresh off the release of CB Josh Norman. The New York Giants, meanwhile, have the Jason Garrett connection as well as a dire need for a shutdown cover man.
Jason Witten’s status for 2020 is still up in the air, although the future Hall of Fame tight end seems to have decided that he’s definitely going to play football instead of coaching it. And although Witten wants to stay in Dallas, it might not be in the cards for the veteran.
“I think I have to be,” Witten said when asked if he’s open to playing elsewhere. “Obviously, I’d love to finish it out here, but some of those things are not in your control.”
Witten said he met with Mike McCarthy not long after McCarthy was named Dallas’ head coach. He has had conversations with Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones.
While Witten said the talks with McCarthy and Jones were great, he added, “We didn’t get into the weeds of my role and what that would look like.”
Source: Cowboys add former special teams coach Keith O’Quinn as a scout - Michael Gehlken, Dallas Morning News
Keith O’Quinn oversaw a special teams unit that, for the last two years, was especially bad in Dallas. Naturally, he lost that job but the Cowboys still see some value for him to add to the team, specifically in the scouting department.
O’Quinn recently was hired as director of advance scouting, a source said. The former special teams coordinator will apply his cross-over experience as both a scout and coach to study upcoming opponents and help prepare game plans for Mike McCarthy and his new coaching staff.
O’Quinn worked as a Cowboys pro scout from 2006 to 2008. After a year as the Cleveland Browns’ director of pro personnel, he returned to Dallas as an offensive quality control coach, beginning a gradual ascent up the coaching ladder.
He spent two seasons as special teams coordinator before his contract expired in January following unit struggles and amid a staff overhaul. John Fassel, a long-time coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams, was hired to replace him.
Jeff Heath has often been the butt of many jokes among the Cowboys faithful, and with his contract expiring and a new coaching staff in place, he may be playing elsewhere next season. But Heath’s contributions to the team in his career cannot go overlooked.
In 2019, Heath lead the NFL in tackling efficiency per Pro Football Focus, which tracks the number of tackle attempts per missed tackles. Among players who played at least 219 snaps in 2019, Heath led all safeties in tackle efficiency with 30 attempts per missed tackle. The next player on this list was Minnesota Vikings Safety Anthony Harris who is expected to receive a big pay day in free agency this year as the top safety available.
It’s easy to look at Heath’s play and be left underwhelmed with what he brought to the table during his tenure with the Dallas Cowboys. Though he made plays for the Cowboys, he was generally limited in what he could do on the football field. Though, in a more limited role as a backup safety and special teams player, Heath brings a level of reliability to the table and a lot of experience.
If the Cowboys do invest in the safety position this offseason either in free agency or the draft, they’d still be smart to bring Heath back to playa reserve role. You can’t have too much solid depth on your roster. Having veterans like Heath and Sean Lee can be incredibly valuable when a starter is lost to injury. Jeff Heath shouldn’t cost a lot to bring back and that’s a move the Cowboys need to make.
2020 NFL strength of schedule: Cowboys, Ravens and Steelers have it easiest, Patriots face roughest ride - John Breech, CBS Sports
Perhaps the biggest indicator of success for an NFL team is their strength of schedule, as talented teams can crumble against an overly strong schedule or vice versa. It’s good news, then, that the Cowboys have one of the easiest schedules in 2020 so far.
If you’re looking for a team out of the NFC that could have a big 2020 season, don’t be surprised if the Cowboys put together a solid year. In his first year as coach in Dallas, Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys will be facing an SOS of .459, which is the least difficult in the NFC. Basically, now might be a good time to jump on the Cowboys bandwagon, and the good news is, if you do jump on now, you’ll be there before most actual Cowboys fans, who only jump on when the team is winning.
Now, before you complain about another team’s strength of schedule, keep in mind that the schedule is inherently the same for everyone, whether you’re playing a first place schedule or a last place schedule. Each team will play four games against a team that finished in first place in 2019, four games against teams that finished in second, four games against teams that finished in third and four games against teams that finished in last place (At the bottom of the page, you’ll be able to see the formula the NFL uses to put the schedule together each year).
This formula is why a team playing a “last place” schedule (like the Dolphins) can have the fourth-most difficult schedule overall (Since all schedules are inherently the same, the biggest difference in each schedule is the division that you get stuck playing each year, and this season, the AFC East is playing the NFC West).
The Jason Garrett era lasted so long that fans were able to gain some level of familiarity with how they liked to build their roster, especially when it came to their draft decisions. But with Mike McCarthy, there’s not as much to go off of.
Over the last two drafts in his final seasons in Green Bay, McCarthy’s old squad made a conscious effort to improve their secondary. In the 2017 and 2018 drafts, the team chose two defensive backs with each of their first two picks. Three cornerbacks (Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson, and Kevin King) and one safety (Josh Jones) were taken by the Packers. In fact, you would have to go all the way back to the 2011 NFL Draft to find McCarthy and the Packers grabbing an offensive player with their first pick (Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State).
Dallas has spread the wealth around more to both sides of the ball but the key difference in drafting philosophy here would be the fact that McCarthy’s Packers used a top 62 pick on a safety in three different drafts since 2014.
The Cowboys, on the opposite side of the spectrum, have used a top 62 pick on safety just once since they selected Roy Williams of Oklahoma with the eighth pick in the 2002 NFL Draft. The blatant dismissal of the importance of safety and the lack of talent invested into the position is a noticeable reason for why the Cowboys have struggled in coverage at times.
Will Greg Olsen’s deal with the Seahawks impact potential Jason Witten talks? We discuss on the latest episode of The Ocho.
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