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Cowboys news: Maybe this is the year Darren Woodson gets into the Hall of Fame

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Pro Football HOF: A look at 2024′s finalists, including Cowboys great Darren Woodson - Calvin Watkins, Dallas Morning News

The leading tackler in franchise history could finally be enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame will announce its Class of 2024 on Thursday during the NFL Honors show (8 p.m., Ch. 11) in Las Vegas. Five modern-era selections and two or three from the seniors committee will be voted into Canton.

Former Cowboys safety Darren Woodson is eligible for the 16th year and is a finalist for the second consecutive year. A player with Cowboys ties has been voted into the Hall of Fame in two of the last three years, with outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (modern era) and inside linebacker Zack Thomas (modern era) and linebacker Chuck Howley (senior) voted in last year and Drew Pearson (senior) voted in with the 2021 class.

There are 15 finalists and four seniors to look at this year. Here are some of the factors that could decide the Class of 2024:

Woodson and the safeties

Woodson and former Patriots and Chargers safety Rodney Harrison are finalists. The resumes of both players speak for themselves. Woodson is a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro. He’s the Cowboys’ all-time leading tackler, based on team stats, with 1,350. Woodson also played special teams where he compiled 134 tackles. Woodson’s ability to cover receivers such as Jerry Rice, Cris Carter and Andre Reed during his career makes him unique.

Harrison compiled 1,206 tackles, based on team statistics, and he was named to two Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams. Harrison also had 34 interceptions compared to 23 for Woodson. What hurts both players is neither were named to an all-decade team. Though it could be argued Woodson should have been named to the all-decade team for the 1990s. Ronnie Lott was named to the team in the 1990s and Ed Reed made it in 2000s over Harrison. Lott and Reed are Hall of Famers.

Jesse Holley on Cowboys, “People Aren’t Beating Down the Door to Get to Dallas Anymore” - Ricardo Sandoval, Bleav Fan Nation

Have the Dallas Cowboys lost their touch to be a desirable destination?

Former Cowboys WR Jesse Holley alludes to just that on the latest “Bleav in The Dallas Cowboys,” Holley doesn’t believe the Cowboys hold the same traction toward coaches and players as they once did.

“The Dallas Cowboys, I don’t believe are the once coveted team, place, destination, that coaches and players want to come to. People may still believe that and I know that it’s ‘America’s team.’ The ratings are always there to watch the games because of the fan base, but I don’t believe that Dallas is still any longer the destination or place where people covet, coaches and/or players.”

The Cowboys are still popular because of the fan base they’ve garnered throughout the years, but they don’t have the hardware to back it up. It’s been almost 30 years since their last title, and there’s a sense younger people in this century view them as a ‘has-been.’

Holley believes there is a substantial reason players and coaches aren’t jumping at the opportunity to come to Dallas as a free agent or when a coaching position opens any longer.

“I think they use the name for leverage and contract situations, but I mean look over the last couple of years. People aren’t beating down the door to get to Dallas anymore. This place isn’t a hot destination where players are like ‘as soon as my contract is over I’m trying to get to Dallas.”

What’s Next? Nothing concrete for Cowboys at RB - Patrik Walker, Dallascowboys.com

The running back room for the Cowboys could look different in 2024.

Past: This is one position the Cowboys have almost always thrown capital toward, the glaring exception being when they instead flipped a running back for a historic amount of capital. That guy was Herschel Walker, and the team that got flee- … who agreed to the NFL trade that set the world on fire resides in Minnesota, in a deal that literally (and I do mean literally) launched the Cowboys into orbit as the dynasty team to beat in the early- to mid-1990s.

But, generally speaking, what an embarrassment of riches the Cowboys have had at RB in their organizational lifetime.

From Don Perkins and Walt Garrison to Calvin Hill, from Tony Dorsett to NFL all-time rushing leader Emmitt Smith, from the late Marion “The Barbarian” Barber to Julius Jones, from DeMarco Murray to Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard — with plenty of solid backs in between — if it’s one thing Dallas knows how to do, it’s draft and develop at this position (hell, they even turned Darren McFadden into a 1,000-yard rusher again in 2015).

Present: Speaking of Elliott, well, he’s not running out of the tunnel for the Cowboys in 2024 — presumably, at least. The team opted to release their former fourth-overall pick and record-setting halfback in 2023 to clear the way for the youth movement, and that thrust Pollard and Rico Dowdle onto center stage along with eventual rookies Deuce Vaughn and Hunter Luepke.

Things didn’t work out the way they’d hoped, though.

Pollard was able to produce a 1,000-yard season but it was felt “quiet” and lacking the usual home-run ability he’d become known for heading into last season. Dowdle looked great in spelling Pollard but was never truly unleashed to make it a true 1-2 combo in Dallas, despite the success that came with the Sledgehammer-Sword approach during the Elliott-Pollard days.

Dowdle played in a career-high number of games and produced a career-best number of rushing yards, but the latter amounted to only 361 yards with 505 yards from scrimmage with only four touchdowns in 16 regular season tries.

Cowboys Could Lose Pass Rusher to Commanders After Dan Quinn Hire - Evan Reier, Heavy on Cowboys

The Cowboys could lose a few free agents to Washington if they follow Dan Quinn.

“From college to the pros, Dante Fowler has a long history with Quinn and could follow him to Washington like he did in Dallas,” Martin wrote on February 6. “Like Dorance Armstrong, he’s been a key rotational piece for the Cowboys the last two seasons, registering 4.0 and 6.0 QB sacks in that two-year span. He’d add much-needed depth for the Commanders and would come relatively cheap considering the contracts he signed recently.”

Martin mentions Armstrong as a potential departure as well. But between the two DEs, Armstrong has been a more versatile and consistent producer. If the Cowboys had to keep one, Armstrong makes more sense as a player who was drafted by the organization and has been a solid piece over the past six years.

Dante Fowler Jr.’s Time in Dallas

Arriving in the NFL as the third overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft, Fowler has been around the block. It’s safe to say that he’s never hit “star” billing in the NFL. But he has been a useful pass rushing tool for several teams, including the Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons.

Entering the 2020 season, Fowler was looking for a team. Quinn, who coached Fowler at Florida, was then the head coach of the Falcons and signed him up. And when Quinn was fired ahead of the 2021 offseason and subsequently hired by Dallas, Fowler followed him again in 2022.

Over two years in Dallas, Fowler totaled 10 sacks and three forced fumbles. He never made a start, but he also never missed a game in 2022 or 2023. For a rotational player, that’s an ideal situation.

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