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Cowboys news: Cowboys must weigh franchise tag options with Randy Gregory and Dalton Schultz

Your Wednesday edition of news on America’s Team.

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Cowboys must weigh franchise tag options with Randy Gregory, Dalton Schultz - Todd Archer, ESPN.com

It seems very unlikely the Cowboys will use the franchise tag this offseason.

The Cowboys’ decision regarding a franchise or transition tag this year is a little more unknown. They have 21 players set to become unrestricted free agents, but there are two true contenders for the tag: defensive end Randy Gregory and tight end Dalton Schultz. Because of cap constraints and question of value, it is no sure thing the Cowboys will use the tag.

The tag window opens Tuesday and closes March 8, and most teams wait until the end of the time frame to at least give themselves a chance to work out a multiyear deal. If teams don’t use the tag on a player, they then have until mid-June to work out a long-term deal or the player has to play the upcoming season on the tag. Defensive end Randy Gregory tied his career high with six sacks in 2021. Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

While the final numbers are not set, the franchise tag for a defensive end figures to be about $20 million. In 2018, the Cowboys used the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence, who was coming off a 14.5-sack season, at a cost of $17.7 million. They used it again in 2019 at a cost of $20.5 million after Lawrence put up 10 more sacks in 2018 but were able to reach a five-year, $105 million agreement on April 9, 2019. Gregory tied his career high with six sacks in 2021. The triumvirate of Gregory, Lawrence and Micah Parsons gave the Cowboys their best combination of pressure players in years.

Jayron Kearse: Keeping Dan Quinn “A Huge Win” - David Helman, DallasCowboys.com

Bringing Kearse back would be a great start to the offseason.

Obviously, with free agency still on the horizon, no one in the NFL has been able to do much. But at the very least, the Cowboys' breakout star from 2021 is pleased to see that defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will be back in 2022. "Getting Quinn back was a huge win, and it was one that was much needed, just to try your best to keep this group together," Kearse told 105.3 FM The Fan on Tuesday. "Because the strides we've made in Year 1, it can give us a lot of upside going into Year 2 with guys being together, guys having camaraderie with each other. That's the No. 1 win so far this offseason."

It's tempting to try to read into that comment. After all, re-signing Kearse would be a big step toward keeping last year's defense intact. Along with Randy Gregory, Kearse is one of the most crucial defensive free agents on this roster. He also played 88.1% of the Cowboys' snaps, third only to cornerbacks Trevon Diggs and Anthony Brown. Speaking on Tuesday, Kearse said that workload was the reason he was able to easily put up the best effort of his career, breaking out to the tune of 101 tackles, two interceptions, nine tackles for loss and a sack.

Kearse's 15 starts in Dallas were more than he managed in the other five years of his career, combined.

4 draft options for the Cowboys who could potentially replace Amari Cooper - Danny Phantom, Blogging The Boys

A look at some potential Amari Cooper replacements if the Cowboys cut the veteran wideout.

DRAKE LONDON, USC (cash in on the injury discount). The Trojan receiver was absolutely killing it this past season as he caught 88 passes for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns before a broken ankle ended his season. Injury aside, he’s the type of receiver who could end up being a star in the NFL and we’ll look back at his tape and it would’ve seemed totally obvious. What to love about him: This 6-foot-5, 210-pounder is going to be a matchup nightmare. On tape, he looks sensational. Not only does he have great size, but he’s an excellent leaper who knows how to position his body and high-point the ball. London is not losing 50/50 battles.

What not to like: It’s hard not to notice that there are so many instances where he is covered. While he’ll beat out defenders on contested passes, he’s just not gaining enough separation. His route-running is still a work in progress as his larger size hinders his lateral quickness.

How Jaylon Smith's Still Hurting the Cowboys in 2022 - Jess Haynie, Inside The Star

Jaylon Smith is still negatively affecting the Cowboys.

Despite all the good that dumping Nolan for Dan Quinn did for Dallas defense in 2021, Jaylon didn’t seem to catch the wave. His issues from the previous season were still there and quickly led to Micah Parsons, Keanu Neal, and others claiming the majority of the snaps. Smith slid far and fast, going from a former team captain to being released after Week 4. He only got significant playing time in Weeks 2 and 3 as Dallas suffered a huge rash of early-season COVID issues.

Whether it was the physical or the mental breakdowns or both, the Cowboys clearly saw Jaylon as a liability and progress stopper for other talent at linebacker. It was bad enough that Dallas was willing to eat a huge chunk of guaranteed money remaining on Smith’s contract; the damage from which will carry on in 2022.

Jaylon’s former contract continues to count $6.8 million against the Cowboys’ 2022 salary cap. In an offseason that finds Dallas dealing with over 20 free agents and needing to make some big moves to get under the cap and conduct business, this money still allotted to Smith is no small issue.

Keep ‘em or Leave ‘em: What should the Cowboys do with Randy Gregory, other top free agents to be? - Michael Gehlken, Dallas Morning News

Taking a look at Dallas’ pending free agents.

Experienced starters. LB Leighton Vander Esch: Playing all 18 games — regular season and postseason — cleared an important hurdle after two injury-mired years, and some of his better football came in pockets down the stretch. His man-coverage ability level is not a natural scheme fit. LB Keanu Neal: Missed three games to two COVID-19 bouts and didn’t distinguish himself consistently when on the field.

DL Brent Urban: A season-ending triceps injury in October dealt a blow to the Cowboys’ run defense. He does the dirty work, making life easier for the linebackers behind him.

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