Ranking the best and worst NFL offseasons of 2022: Which teams improved and declined, plus what went right, wrong and what’s next - Bill Barnwell, ESPN
Another voice added to the Cowboys poor offseason perception.
What went right: Facing a difficult offseason, the Cowboys were able to bring back several key players. They re-signed Michael Gallup and retained Dalton Schultz on the franchise tag before making a nice low-cost addition in James Washington. They were able to restructure DeMarcus Lawrence’s deal, although they had to guarantee their defensive end $30 million to do so. Jayron Kearse hit the market and came back on what amounts to a one-year, $5 million contract. Leighton Vander Esch returned for one year and $2 million.
I liked their economical move for Dante Fowler Jr., who signed a one-year deal for $3 million. They then used their first-round pick on offensive lineman Tyler Smith, a position and draft status that have typically delivered great results for the organization in previous years.
It’s clear the Cowboys wanted to sign Randy Gregory to a significant extension, but given his lengthy history of suspensions and modest track record of success, they might have lucked out by failing to finalize terms with him. Fowler was anonymous in two years with the Falcons, but I’d rather have his services at $3 million than Gregory’s at $28 million over the next two seasons.
What went wrong: It’s clear the Cowboys wanted to sign Gregory, and it’s never a good look when you announce a deal, only for the player to then head elsewhere. Reports have suggested they tried to add language into the deal after the fact, so it seems fair to blame them for the Gregory deal falling apart. Gregory looked like a superstar for stretches in 2021, so it’s not going to look great if he continues to keep that up in Denver.
Dallas’ cap gymnastics forced the team to part with Amari Cooper in a salary dump, trading him to the Browns for a fifth-round pick. My preference would have been to keep Cooper, whose numbers fell a year ago in part because the Cowboys simply had too many weapons on offense, but they didn’t have the leverage to extract meaningful value in exchange for the 27-year-old’s services. He’s not on the same level as Davante Adams or Tyreek Hill, but acquiring him didn’t cost close to as much as those two did in terms of draft capital, while his contract isn’t as expensive and has more flexibility.
Chauncey Golston is preparing for more time on the interior of the line.
This time around, during the first OTA practices, Golston is trending in a completely different direction - Inside.
Golston says he enters practice nearly 20-pounds heavier than his playing weight last season and took early snaps with both the edge rushers and interior defensive lineman. Even with the added weight, he appeared quick off the snap and was moving better than he ever did last season.
But why would he be working with a crowded room of defensive tackles with Neville Gallimore, Osa Odighizuwa, and Trysten Hill all in the fold?
Simply enough, it’s a size mismatch.
“It’s something that Coach Quinn has talked about since last year,” Golston said. “With my long arms, it’ll be tougher for inside lineman to get their hands off of me.”
Coach McCarthy talked about UDFA Markquese Bell and his ability to stand out so far. (Transcription from our own Mark Lane).
MARKQUESE BELL INTERCEPTION!
“I love your question because you’re making a great point there [standing out to coaches]. He’s been impressive He’s jumped out at the rookie camp. So, he was very impressive in the Zoom calls leading up and coming in here. That’s all about younger guys just keep stacking success and then they start making plays like that, too. That definitely helps.”
EXCLUSIVE. EXCLUSIVE. BE HYBRID GUY
“Good point. That was part of our attraction to him, too. I think you’ve seen what we’ve done with J.K. [Kearse] and the ability of the safeties to play nickel and dime and he definitely has that ability. That was the conversation we had in the draft room when we were talking about him.”
More of McCarthy’s press conference, here talking about the Cowboys run blocking. (H/T to our own Mark Lane for the transcription).
DALTON SCHULTZ TALKED ABOUT BEING A BETTER BLOCKER IN THE RUN GAME. HOW DO YOU UTILIZE THAT?
“I mean, just I think that’s part of the evaluation topic that I hit on earlier. We had a chance to look at it and it’s definitely an area where we feel we can be better. Not just talking about the tight ends, I’m talking about blocking the C-gap and D-gap area. Just the ability to, whether capture the contain element, regardless of the defense they line up in, you’re seeing a lot more five-man spacing, five-man line where defenses are setting edges and met immediately by alignment. So, the stress on the tight end position, whether it’s a back or blocking that C-gap area, it’s something that we need to be better at. It’s something that’s been identified. So, I think that just shows you where Dalton’s focus is.”
Cowboys 2022 OTA News: Cowboys Already Getting Hit with The Injury Bug - Rocky Garza, Jr, Inside the Star
In a tweet by Dallas Cowboys reporter Michael Gehlken, Gehlken said All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith experienced back tightness Wednesday morning, and out of precaution, the coaches decided to hold him out. Additionally, newly-signed WR James Washington was wearing a walking boot on his left, but the reason why was not found.
While it’s not ideal to have two of your starters already hit with the injury bug so early in the offseason, HC Mike McCarthy calmed fans’ nerves somewhat when he said Washington should be ready by mini-camp, and there was no long-term concern.
However, fans went back into panic mode when they heard no in-depth update provided on Smith since they have lived through Smith constantly being unavailable since 2015.
Other players that didn’t practice on Wednesday included WR Jalen Tolbert (who was rehabbing on the sideline, but no report was found on what he was working through), WR Michael Gallup (who’s still recovering from his ACL injury), RB Rico Dowdle (hip), RB JaQuan Hardy, LB Jabril Cox (ACL recovery), LB Damone Clark, C Alec Lindstrom, DT Carlos Watkins, and DT Osa Odighizuwa (quad contusion).
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