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Cowboys news: Dallas goes to work on its defensive line in free agency

Here it is, your Cowboys news, as ordered.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Updates: Cowboys Agree To Terms With DE Urban - Nick Eatman, Rob Phillips & David Helman, The Mothership

The Cowboys got a pretty god rotational player for the defensive line.

The Cowboys have agreed on a deal with defensive end Brent Urban, who had his best season of his career last year in Chicago.

Urban, listed at 6-7, 300 pounds, had 2.5 sacks last year with the Bears. He’s been a rotational player for the Ravens (2014-18) and then the Titans and Bears.

He’s started just 27 of 70 career games played, but eight of those starts occurred last year in Chicago.

The Cowboys like his versatility to rush from the edge, but also to slide inside on pass-rushing situations.

Urban is the second veteran defensive lineman the Cowboys have added to the team on Thursday. Earlier in the day, they agreed on a deal with Houston’s Carlos Watkins.

DL Carlos Watkins Agrees To Terms With Cowboys - Rob Phillips, The Mothership

The Cowboys added more to their defensive line with a free agent from the Texans.

As the first week of free agency continues, the Cowboys have added depth to the defensive line, agreeing to terms on a one-year contract with former Texans defensive lineman Carlos Watkins.

Watkins, a 2017 fourth-round pick out of Clemson, became an unrestricted free agent after finishing out his rookie contract with the Texans. He has appeared in 42 games, posting 69 tackles and 4 sacks. In 2020, Watkins started a career-high 11 games, playing just under 50% of the snaps, and posted a career-high 2 sacks.

Watkins (6-3, 297) was listed as a defensive end in the Texans’ base 3-4 scheme but played inside on passing downs in a four-man front. He could be a better fit at tackle in new Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s 4-3 system.

They have also added edge player Tarell Basham on a two-year deal.

Amazon gets Thursday night games as NFL nearly doubles TV deal - Associated Press

The money continues to flow for the NFL, meaning the salary cap will see a rise in the upcoming years.

The NFL will nearly double its media revenue to more than $10 billion a season with new rights agreements announced Thursday, including a deal with Amazon Prime Video that gives the streaming service exclusive rights to “Thursday Night Football” beginning in 2022.

The league took in $5.9 billion a year in its current contracts. It will get $113 billion over the 11 seasons of the new deals that begin in 2023, an increase of 80% over the previous such period, a person with direct knowledge of the contracts told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the money figures were not made public.

Amazon has partnered with the league to stream Thursday night games since 2017, but it will take over the entire package from Fox, which has had it since 2018 after CBS and NBC shared the package for two seasons. Amazon streamed a Week 16 Saturday game between the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals last year that was seen by an estimated 11.2 total viewers and had an average minute audience of 4.8 million. That was a record for the largest audience to stream an NFL game.

Games will continue to air on CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN, while ABC will have a limited schedule of games as well as returning to the Super Bowl rotation (two games) for the first time since the 2005 season. ESPN’s deal was scheduled to end after 2021, while the others expired a year later, but ESPN will have a bridge deal for 2022.

Source: 17-game season a done deal for 2021 - Mike Florio, PFT

And with a new revenue deal for TV, the inevitable 17th game is on the way.

For the first time since 1978, the NFL will expand the total number of games that count from 16 to 17. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the league will adopt 17 games for 2021.

Earlier today, Commissioner Roger Goodell said that a vote on a 17-game season is on the agenda for the league meetings set for later this month. The only question left to conclusively resolve is whether the league will have three or two preseason games.

The league most likely will stick with three preseason games, in order to retain the total 20-game season. Before the NFL played 16 regular-season games and four preseason games, the NFL had 14 regular-season games and six preseason games.

Dallas Cowboys’ NFL free-agent signings 2021: Building around Dak Prescott - Todd Archer, ESPN

Archer keeps a running tab on free agent signings by the Cowboys including each player’s biggest risk.

Jourdan Lewis, CB

The cornerback returns to Dallas on a three-year deal worth a max of $16.5 million, including $8 million guaranteed, per his agent.

What it means: A slot corner, he started 13 of 15 games in 2020 and had 60 tackles with two sacks, five tackles for loss, two pass deflections and a fumble recovery. The Cowboys like his instincts in playing the slot, but he had a team-high eight penalties last season. The re-signing of Lewis does not preclude the Cowboys from selecting a cornerback early in next month’s draft. They have been linked to Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II and Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley with the No. 10 overall pick in many mock drafts. The Cowboys also have last year’s second-round pick Trevon Diggs, who led the Cowboys with three interceptions in 2020, Lewis and Anthony Brown as their top corners at the moment.

What’s the risk: Since it will not take them out of the corner market in the draft, the risk is minimal. The $8 million guaranteed falls in line with what slot corners have made and the base value of the contract is $4.5 million a year. The Cowboys paid more to Brown last year as a free agent on an annual average value. Lewis has some fight to him, which the defense needs more of. He will be working with his fourth different defensive backs coach in his five seasons.

Andy Dalton: Many people don’t know much about me and will learn while I’m here - Myles Simmons, PFT

Andy Dalton discusses his mixed reception in Chicago.

After rumors of Chicago potentially trading for Russell Wilson, news of Dalton’s signing wasn’t met with ringing enthusiasm among the team’s fans.

Dalton addressed that during his introductory press conference on Thursday, and effectively just asked for folks to give him a chance.

“Obviously, I know there’s been a lot of talk, but I’m coming in from the outside,” Dalton said, via Colleen Kane and Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune. “A lot of people don’t know a ton about me and are going to get to learn a lot about me while I’m here. That’s all I’m worried about, and so I’m here now. Hopefully everybody gets a chance to see who I am as a player, as a person, see what we’re going to be able to do with this organization. I’m excited about the opportunity. Obviously there’s been a lot of talk, but I’m not worried about any of that.”

After nine years as a starter in Cincinnati with four postseason appearances, Dalton went to Dallas to backup Dak Prescott. Dalton was pressed into duty when Prescott suffered his fractured ankle early in the season. Dalton started nine games for Dallas, completing 65 percent of his passes for 2,170 yards with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Dallas Cowboys: Ty Nsekhe might be most important free agent addition - Cody Williams, Spin Zone

The importance of signing OT Ty Nsekhe.

However, the other outside addition the Cowboys made beyond McQuaide was signing veteran offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe to a one-year deal worth less than $2 million in base salary. Over the past few years, we’ve seen Dallas plug in swing tackles, signing guys like Cameron Fleming and Cam Erving most recently. Nsekhe undoubtedly fits into that mold.

This may look like a relatively mundane move but it’s actually one that Dallas needed to make and one that could be hugely important. After what happened on the offensive line last year, bringing in a player like Nsekhe could have a massive impact on the floor of the Cowboys offense.

Yes, Nsekhe is 36 years old and that is the biggest concern about the Cowboys adding him. But when we’ve seen the veteran as a backup in recent years, he’s not shown any signs of losing a step. He’s retained his athleticism to be a good pass-blocker and has remained a good-not-great run-blocker.

Last season when Tyron Smith and La’el Collins, both of whom Dallas has re-committed to long term, went down due to injuries, the Cowboys were forced to turn to young players Terrence Steele and Brandon Knight to play key roles. They struggled immensely and, though the organization likes their futures, both players have development ahead.

Nsekhe is a plug-and-play backup option that comes right in. Should injuries crop up once again, he could easily step up and allow the Dallas offense to not truly miss a beat. The importance of that can’t be overstated.

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