The Cowboys aren’t done adding players in free agency, and they obviously still have the draft as well, but an early look at a 53-man roster projection reveals how much work they’ve already done this offseason.
Prospects like Dorance Armstrong, Luke Gifford, Darian Thompson, and other names could easily be replaced by the next crop of rookie talent. These are all players who we’ve waited to see deliver on potential and it just hasn’t happened yet. A fresher face with a cheap four-year contract tends to become the more attractive option.
If young talent like Hill, Gallimore, Diggs, and Wilson all progress in 2021 then this defensive unit has some hope. Reclaiming Vander Esch and Smith at linebacker will be crucial to success and hopefully free agent additions like Neal, Kazee, and Urban will prove more fruitful than last year’s attempted upgrades.
Thankfully, with cap dollars left to spend and plenty of draft picks in their pocket, the Cowboys have all the resources needed to fix the defense. Unlike last year, they need to make better choices on who they add and hopefully get much more out of the man hired to coach them.
Mike McCarthy may have let the cat out of the bag a bit at his press conference last week, but Tyrone Crawford officially announced his retirement on Tuesday. Among other things, the longtime Cowboy is looking forward to being considered young again.
“I just came to the decision that it’s probably best for me to hang it up,” Crawford told ESPN. “I don’t think I’ll be able to perform the way I want to perform on the field, and that was important to me. I thought it was time. I don’t want those things to mess up my future as a father.”
A funny thing happens when an NFL player retires. At 31 and nine years into his career, Crawford was starting to be considered old. Now that he’s retired, he is young again.
“I’m just trying to bring my body back to match with my age,” he said. “Me and my wife, we are focusing on our health and bodies and minds right now. We’re at the lake house with our daughters, spending life together. I’ll get back to the grind, which I know will be soon, but I’m just trying to enjoy this and get my body back to 31 years old because those [Rod] Marinelli years, those are like dog years.”
The change has seemed like a foregone conclusion for months now, but on Tuesday it became official. The NFL will now have a 17th game in the regular season. And based on their formula, that means the Cowboys will play the Patriots.
The league approved the 17th game during a virtual spring meeting. It’s the first time since 1978 that the league has expanded the number of regular-season games (14 to 16 that year).
What does this mean for the Cowboys?
They’re now slated to face the New England Patriots on the road next season — date and time TBD. The full NFL schedule will be announced in the coming weeks.
Each year, the additional 17th game will feature teams from opposing conferences that finished in the same place within their division the previous season. The AFC was determined to be the home conference for the 17th game in 2021.
For Patrick Surtain, the possibility of joining the Cowboys, reuniting with Trevon Diggs offers a unique dynamic - Michael Gehlken, Dallas Morning News
Patrick Surtain II is arguably the most popular projection to the Cowboys in the first round right now. On Tuesday, he talked about what it would mean to go to Dallas and reunite with Trevon Diggs, his former college teammate.
The Cowboys, he acknowledged, offer a unique dynamic.
Surtain is a strong candidate to become the Cowboys’ first-round draft selection if available April 29 with the No. 10 overall pick. Here, he’d reunite with former college teammate Trevon Diggs, forming a cornerback duo that’d be expected to flourish for years to come.
Nearly two weeks into free agency, who will start across Diggs next season remains a question mark, one that likely won’t be answered until the draft. The Cowboys haven’t signed a veteran replacement since Chidobe Awuzie signed with the Cincinnati Bengals on March 17.
“Diggs, he’s my brother for life,” Surtain said. “Just lining up with him again, it would be a special feeling. It would be like college again, of course. We understand each other a lot, just going through our years through college. It’d just be like another day here in Alabama.”
Mock drafts are going to keep flying around as the actual draft gets closer, and in this latest mock Dallas goes heavy on fixing up their defense, including Patrick Surtain II and Syracuse safety Andre Cisco.
Round 3, pick 75, Andre Cisco, Safety- Syracuse
The Dallas Cowboys made what was arguably their biggest move yet (at the time of this writing) of the offseason when they signed safety Damontae Kazee. Kazee led the league in interceptions with seven back in 2018 and established himself as a playmaker for the Atlanta Falcons before suffering a season-ending torn Achilles injury last season.
Hopefully, he can return to form with Dallas where he will be reunited with his former head coach Dan Quinn, the current defensive coordinator for the team. However, even with the signing of Kazee and the signing of safety Jayron Kearse the team still needs a long-term answer at the safety position, a position the team has often ignored recently.
The Cowboys try to address this need in the third-round by selecting Syracuse safety Andre Cisco. The 21-year old established himself as a ball-hawking safety early in his collegiate career by nabbing a jaw-dropping 12 interceptions in his first two years in college football. Like Kazee, he led his league (NCAA) in interceptions in 2018 with seven.
The man who computerized the Cowboys — and revolutionized the NFL Draft - Jayson Jenks, The Athletic
The draft, and all of the processes leading up to it, are all so commonplace by now that we often take it for granted. But it wasn’t always this technologically advanced and intuitive, and the story of how it became that way ties into Cowboys history.
Right away Brandt knew Salam was smart, a problem-solver, even if Salam didn’t know if a football was “stuffed or pumped.” Brandt’s role was to guide Salam through the complicated world of player evaluation. Brandt too had begun as an outsider, scouting players as a hobby while working as a baby photographer in Milwaukee. He caught the eye of NFL teams, and the Cowboys hired him to head up their scouting department. When Brandt started, some NFL decision makers would show up with little more than Street and Smith’s football yearbooks. Even the more advanced teams would come armed with hundreds of pages of notes, all written down, scattered and nearly impossible to sort. To Brandt’s frustration, usually the loudest yeller in the room won the day.
Brandt believed it was fairly easy to pick the best players and worst players in a draft. But the vast middle pool intrigued him. That’s where he wanted Salam’s help.
But first they had a problem. After talking with scouts and coaches, they compiled a list of nearly 300 phrases that described a good football player. But Salam’s computer couldn’t process nearly that much information. They had to simplify, so they chiseled the phrases down to eight characteristics.
The 49ers made an aggressive move up in the draft last week, and the overwhelming assumption is that they did it to get a quarterback. If that is indeed the case, it could end up being a huge plus for the Cowboys.
The move means that San Francisco will be adding a quarterback with the selection. As of now, scouts believe that Alabama’s Mac Jones could be the front-runner due to Kyle Shanahan’s system of quarterbacks possessing the trait of high accuracy.
If that’s the case, multiple teams will inquire of moving up for either Ohio State’s Justin Fields or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, both of which have as much — if not more — upside than the former Crimson Tide commander. Should that happen, talented receivers and tackles will move down the draft board.
If the run of quarterbacks ensues early, Dallas could have their pick for one of the top three names. One pick though won’t be able to fix an entire defense for 2021. Moving back a few selections, the Cowboys would be able to garner an extra mid-round selection and still be in line for one of the top cornerbacks.
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