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Cowboys news: Jayron Kearse loves Dan Quinn sticking around in Dallas

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Jayron Kearse speaks on Quinn’s return, alludes to Year 2 in Dallas - Cameron Burnett, Cowboys Wire

Jayron Kearse was a sensational free agency signing for the Cowboys in 2021, and someone they’ll absolutely want to bring back on a long-term deal. Aside from Kearse’s breakout year, the return of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn looks to be another strong motivator for the safety to return to Dallas.

When the Dallas Cowboys signed safety Jayron Kearse to a one-year, $1.1 million contract, it’s safe to say they had no clue he would turn into one of the best players on the entire defense. That’s exactly what happened for the sixth-year veteran.

Kearse had a breakthrough season in his first year as a full-time starter and playing a linebacker-safety hybrid role, chipping in with 101 total tackles, two interceptions and nine tackles for loss. Kearse may command good money in free agency after an impressive “prove-it” season, but his eyes seemingly are fixed on a return to Dallas.

His return would be welcomed and Kearse spoke to 105.3 FM The Fan about a fellow returner in defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

“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 said 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.”

DeMarcus Lawrence or Randy Gregory? Cowboys must decide which pass rusher is their top priority - Jean-Jacques Taylor, Dallas Morning News

With cap uncertainty ahead, do the Cowboys have to pick which pass rusher to prioritize? Is D-Law still the big dog in the locker room, or does Dallas need to bring Randy Gregory back on a new deal following a tumultuous, albeit at times brilliant 2021 campaign?

That’s because Gregory, who turns 30 in November, is an unrestricted free agent looking for his first huge payday.

Lawrence, who turns 30 in April, is supposed to earn $19 million and count $27 million against the cap.

No way, he has that cap number if he’s on the roster.

First, though, the Cowboys must decide which player is their top priority.

Gregory, who has missed two full seasons because of NFL suspensions for violating the league’s substance-abuse program, has played just 50 games since being taken in the second round of the 2015 draft.

He remains more potential than production.

Progress Report: Blake Jarwin Battled Injury Again - Rob Phillips, DallasCowboys.com

After receiving a second contract a couple of years ago, Blake Jarwin was supposed to be TE1 in Dallas. Injuries, along with Dalton Schutlz’s rise, undermined that expectation. Now, with Schultz a free agent, the team has to decide whether Jarwin can be counted on in 2022 or if it must invest considerable draft capital in a new starting tight end.

The Good: Jarwin showed once again that he’s a reliable target and red zone threat for quarterback Dak Prescott when healthy. The 27-year-old tight end worked hard with the athletic training staff to return from an ACL tear suffered in the 2020 season opener. He had 11 catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns in eight regular-season games — both Cowboys victories — and both TDs came from inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.

The Bad: Jarwin hasn’t had much injury luck since signing a three-year, $22 million extension two years ago. He’s missed 24 regular-season games over the past two seasons: 15 with the ACL tear in 2020 and nine last season with a hip injury suffered in the Cowboys’ win at Minnesota on Halloween night. He did return for the regular-season finale at Philadelphia and the wild-card playoff loss to San Francisco.

Best Of 2021: Let’s go with Jarwin’s first TD of the season — a precise slant route that split the Panthers’ secondary for an 18-yard score in the second quarter of a 36-28 Cowboys victory. He also had a season-high 37 receiving yards in Dallas’ grind-it-out road win over the Chargers in Week 2.

Contract Consideration: Jarwin has a $4.5 million base salary for 2022, according to Spotrac — part of the extension he signed in 2020. He’s signed through 2023.

2022 Free Agency: Should Dallas Re-Sign LB Leighton Vander Esch? - Jess Haynie, Inside The Star

LVE’s selection in 2018 was met with great dismay among Cowboys fans. Reports of a deteriorating neck injury led many to question the logic of taking a battered linebacker in the first round. For one year, LVE was brilliant. In the years that followed, he ranged anywhere from below average to just above. Now Dallas needs to decide whether a team-friendly deal is worthwhile as they buy themselves time to find and develop LVE’s eventual replacement.

The last four years haven’t been great for Vander Esch. After a brilliant rookie season in which he made the Pro Bowl, injuries held Leighton to just 19 games over the next two years. Even when on the field, Vander Esch looked hesitant and nothing like the budding star we enjoyed in 2018.

The struggles from 2019-2020 led the Cowboys to decline their 5th-year option on Leighton’s contract. They could’ve secured his rights for 2022, albeit with a significant raise, but instead decided to let him prove himself in 2021 and then see where things stood.

Well now we’re here and Vander Esch is still a big question mark. 2021 was a mixed bag and didn’t definitively answer the question of his future with the team.

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

Jaylon Smith may not be a Cowboy anymore but his contract continues to haunt a team already strapped in the salary cap department. Some mistakes you can’t take back. Your only choice is to ride it out and try not to repeat it elsewhere.

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.

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