Cowboys Rumors

East Notes: Cowboys, Prescott, Patriots

As a former fourth-round pick who is still on his rookie contract, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has one of the most team-friendly deals in the NFL. He has taken notice of the big money deals given to Matt Ryan ($30MM/year), Jimmy Garoppolo ($27.5MM/year) and Matthew Stafford ($27MM/year), but he says he’s staying patient at the same time.

I know if I play well, they’ll take care of me,” said Prescott on SiriusXM (via the Dallas News). “It’s just part of it. All these guys out here getting these contracts, they’re getting them deservedly so because of the way that they’ve been playing. My [focus] this year is just winning games. That’s my main goal. That’s really my only goal, not any individual success or numbers or worry about the contract. It’s about going in and winning enough games to get us to the playoffs and then winning one game at a time at that point. The rest of the stuff will come.”

Prescott is entering the third year of a four-year rookie contract that pays him $681K annually. The fifth-year option will not be available to the Cowboys when his deal expires after the 2019 season, but the team – in theory – could control him for at least another two years via the franchise tag. Both sides, ideally, would like to hammer out an extension between now and ’19 that would provide security to Prescott while giving the Cowboys cost certainty.

Here’s more from the East divisions:

  • The Patriots trading for Seahawks safety Earl Thomas doesn’t seem terribly likely, but Mike Reiss of ESPN.com notes that the Pats often utilize the “Big Nickel” package, which could lead them to at least consider a deal. The Big Nickel allows a defense to add an extra defensive back who can support the passing game while also helping out against the run as a linebacker type. The Pats already have a solid top three at safety with Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, and Duron Harmon, but adding Thomas to the mix would give them additional depth and more options to work with as they look to keep up with the league’s best aerial attacks.
  • Dolphins wide receiver Leonte Carroo could be on the roster bubble after having just seven catches for 69 yards last season, ESPN.com’s Mike Rodak writes. The departure of Jarvis Landry, in theory, could open up an opportunity for him, but he’ll have to stand out in a group that now includes free agent pickups Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson. Meanwhile, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills are also in line for playing time and 2017 seventh-round pick Isaiah Ford has impressed this offseason, which could push Carroo out of the picture.

Cowboys' Kris Richard In Line For HC Job?

  • New Cowboys assistant Kris Richard is drawing rave reviews in Dallas and he could become one of the league’s hottest head coaching candidates next year. “No question,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said when asked if the 38-year-old could coach his own team in 2019 (via Charean Williams of PFT). “He’ll be like a Mike Tomlin, Lovie Smith, guys I’ve been around who became head coaches. He’s got the right stuff.”

Aqib Talib On Blocking Trade To 49ers

In March, Broncos GM John Elway reached agreement on a deal to send Aqib Talib to the 49ers for a fourth-round pick in the 2019 draft. Or, so he thought. Talib blocked the deal, forcing Elway to instead send the cornerback to the Rams for a 2018 fifth-round choice. In an interview with Andy Benoit of SI.com, Talib said the notion of going to San Francisco was a non-starter for him. 

I told [Elway], ‘I ain’t even gonna take no physical in San Fran, so there won’t be no trade,’” Talib said.

Ultimately, Talib was willing to play for only three teams – the Rams, Patriots, and Cowboys. The veteran cited familiarity – both on-and off-the-field – as the reason for his three-team list.

I’m going on year 11, man. I’m not trying to go learn a whole new system. I wanted to go somewhere I’d be comfortable.” Talib said. “I’m comfortable if I can live at my house in Dallas and go just around the corner to work. I cut my bills in half. Or if I can go play in a defensive scheme that I’ve played in before. So I told him Dallas, New England or L.A.

Ultimately, Talib got his way as he reunited with Wade Phillips in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the Rams assumed his contract, which calls for $11MM in 2018 and $8MM in 2019. Talib reportedly would have also been okay with an outright release, but he has no complaints after landing with one of his preferred teams – a Rams club that has gone to great lengths to improve its defense.

In addition to Talib, the Rams have also added defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters. On the other side of the Ball, the Rams brought in Brandin Cooks to offset the loss of Sammy Watkins.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Examining Key 2018 Holdouts

The 2014 first round produced some of the NFL’s best players, and they comprise part of an extensive group of that skipped minicamp and could well be training camp holdouts. But several other standout players didn’t show for their respective teams’ mandatory workouts either. Here’s a look on where things stand with this absent contingent.

Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams: The reigning defensive player of the year is holding out for a second straight summer. He skipped the Rams’ minicamp, as expected, and remains focused on a landscape-changing deal. Both Donald and Khalil Mack are in line to eclipse Von Miller‘s $19MM annual salary, but the California-based franchises may be hesitant to be the first to authorize a $20MM-per-year pact for a defender. However, Les Snead‘s already conceded the Rams will have to finalize a Donald deal that makes him the league’s highest-paid defender. But with the Broncos superstar having signed his extension in a $155MM cap year, it’s likely Donald’s camp — particularly on the heels of a season where the all-world interior defender won DPOY honors after his holdout induced a two-game absence — is targeting a figure well north of Miller’s, with the cap now at $177.2MM.

The Rams see this process unfolding in a less contentious fashion this year, but a Donald deal — one that’s putting other priorities on hold — isn’t imminent.

David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals: Unlike Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers, this process features no immediate deadline. But Johnson’s contract expires after this season, with no fifth-year option available to the franchise. Johnson and the Cards are engaging in extension discussions, and Steve Keim said this week — as his All-Pro back skipped minicamp — the team looks forward to signing Johnson long-term.

This has not proven to be an acrimonious situation, but Johnson is on a slightly different timetable than Bell. Despite being a fourth-year player compared to Pittsburgh’s All-Pro entering his sixth season, Johnson is a few months older than Bell and will turn 27 in December. However, it may be in his best interests to wait and see what happens with Bell by the July 16 franchise tag extension deadline.

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons: The NFL’s seen its wide receiver salary landscape shift since Jones signed his extension in August 2015. That contract made Jones the NFL’s highest-paid wideout, but seven receivers have since surpassed him. This includes Sammy Watkins and slot target Jarvis Landry, who respectively signed 2018 deals for $16MM and $15.1MM annually. Atlanta’s top weapon wants a revised contract and skipped OTAs and minicamp, and the Falcons are discussing such an amendment.

Jones has three seasons and minimal guarantees remaining on his deal, which averages $14.25MM per year. The team’s response a Jones camp proposal did not meet with the group’s approval, but the sides continue to negotiate. The 29-year-old pass-catcher said recently he has no intentions of forcing his way out of Atlanta.

Taylor Lewan, Tennessee Titans: The left tackle is part of the 2014 first-round contingent entering fifth-year option seasons, and he joined some of the group’s higher-profile players in skipping mandatory June workouts. Jon Robinson said upon being informed of Lewan’s impending minicamp absence that the parties are participating in ongoing re-up dialogue, but as recently as late May, no reports indicated this was the case.

A two-time Pro Bowler, Lewan is entering his age-27 season and is now shooting for Nate Solder‘s $15.5MM-AAV standard. That’s $2MM-plus more than any other left tackle makes, and the Giants authorized that contract amid free agency circumstances. This will complicate matters for Lewan and other extension-seeking tackles. Lewan’s option season is set to be worth $9.341MM.

Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders: After not joining Donald in a 2017 holdout, despite being in essentially the same situation, Mack is doing so this year. He has not reported to the Raiders this offseason. The 2016 defensive player of the year saw 2014 draftee teammates Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson sign lucrative extensions, only to see the Raiders put his on hold — mirroring other teams’ processes with ’14 first-rounders — because of the franchise-friendly fifth-year option. Reggie McKenzie‘s maintained the franchise intends to extend Mack in 2018 and said other players’ situations aren’t factoring into these discussions. Though, it’d be hard to believe Donald’s process isn’t impacting Mack’s at all.

The Raiders and Mack weren’t close on terms in April, but both Carr and Jackson signed their extensions in June of last year, perhaps pointing to a near-future resolution. Unlike the Rams, however, the Raiders have a top-tier quarterback salary on their books. That could cause issues elsewhere on the roster. Although, the cap’s perpetual rise negates some of those potential problems.

Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks: Perhaps the most interesting of these situations, the Seahawks have dangled Thomas in trades but expect him to report for training camp. Like Jones, Thomas saw several at his position usurp him in the salary hierarchy since signing an extension. Thomas signed a $10MM-AAV contract to make him the highest-paid safety in 2014. Again in a contract year, he’s threatened a holdout for months and is following through. The Cowboys and Seahawks discussed a draft-weekend deal for the three-time All-Pro. While Dallas balked about sending a second-round pick for the 29-year-old defender, the teams may well revisit these talks.

Either way, Thomas is going to want Eric Berry money ($13MM AAV) on his third contract. With Richard Sherman in San Francisco and Kam Chancellor‘s career in doubt, Thomas is the last remaining member of the Legion of Boom. It’s just uncertain if he’ll finish out his second contract in Seattle or be shipped elsewhere and end that dominant era.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys’ David Irving Suspended By NFL

Cowboys defensive lineman David Irving is being suspended four games for violating the NFL’s policy on substances of abuse, sources tell Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). 

Unfortunately, this isn’t Irving’s first time running afoul of league rules. Last June, he hit with a four game suspension for a PED violation.

Irving will miss the team’s first four games of the year against the Panthers, Giants, Seahawks, and Lions. He’ll be eligible to return for the club’s Week 5 contest against the Texans.

The Cowboys could be at a serious disadvantage to start the year between Irving’s four-game ban and the foot injury plaguing defensive tackle Maliek Collins. The Cowboys did not draft a defensive tackle this year, so they’ll use some combination of Brian Price, Richard Ash, Jihad Ward, and Datone Jones to fill the void.

The suspension may affect Irving’s bank account on multiple levels. For starters, he’ll lose out on four game checks from his a one-year, $2.9MM restricted tender. The four-game suspension – his second in two years – may also hurt his stock as he approaches unrestricted free agency.

Irving emerged as a playmaker in limited action in 2016 by logging four sacks and four forced fumbles. His 2017 season was cut short due to a concussion and a four-game suspension at the season’s outset, but he still managed seven sacks in eight games. That was good for the second-highest total on the team, trailing only Demarcus Lawrence.

On paper, the Cowboys boast one of the better defensive line units in the NFL, but suspensions and injuries have put everything in flux. The Cowboys are still waiting to hear about the status of former second-round pick Randy Gregory, who formally applied for reinstatement earlier this month.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys Notes: Hurns, WRs, Bean

Many are fretting about the Cowboys‘ lack of a true No. 1 wide receiver, but newcomer Allen Hurns is not among them.

Hurns is the Cowboys’ only receiver with a 1,000-yard campaign to his credit, and that was back in 2015. Many see that as cause for concern, but then again, quarterback Dak Prescott has been known to move the ball around in his offense.

  • The Cowboys worked out defensive end Jimmy Bean this week, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Bean was on the Raiders’ practice squad in 2016 and recovering from an injury last year. This marked the second time Dallas has worked him out, though he has been reached just yet.

Broncos Notes: Ware, Ray, Lynch

DeMarcus Ware will return to Denver and work with some of his former teammates. After months of trying, the Broncos hired the future Hall of Famer as a part-time coach, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic reports (subscription required). Ware will work with the Broncos around 40 or 50 days this year, Mike Klis of 9News reports (Twitter link). Klis adds that Ware will work with the defensive assistants, some of whom were around during his final Broncos seasons. Ware received interest from the Cowboys for a similar consulting-type role but opted for the Denver job.

I wish I could help out both teams, but with the league, you can’t do that,” Ware said, via Klis (on Twitter). “You’ve just got to choose your battles and this right here was my choice.”

Jhabvala notes Ware will work with Broncos outside linebackers and defensive ends, with Bradley Chubb likely his chief assignment, and will be at various practices and spend time in meetings with coaches.

It’s great for Von (Miller),” Vance Joseph said, via Jhabvala. “D-Ware is the guy that Von followed. He became a great player under D-Ware’s watch, along with the coaches also obviously. But it’s great to have him here for all of our guys — for (Derek) Wolfe, for (Domata) Peko, for Von, for all of those guys. Rushing the passer in this league is a premium. You have to rush the passer, and our scheme is built around rushing the passer.”

Here’s the latest out of Denver, moving to one of Ware’s charges.

  • Shane Ray‘s wrist surgery will involve bone fusion, Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post tweets. Ray said Wednesday he’s still hoping to be on the field for Week 1. The former first-round pick began last season on IR because of a wrist injury, and after extensive medical counsel, he will undergo another wrist procedure. Ray was available during the Broncos’ 2017 offseason before suffering an injury during training camp. But he wasn’t the same upon return, failing to live up to his 2016 standards. The Broncos are better equipped to handle a Ray absence this year, with Chubb in the fold alongside Shaquil Barrett.
  • Ray’s surgery might open the door for UDFA Jeff Holland. The Auburn product left school early only to go undrafted, but DC Joe Woods lavished high praise upon the rookie Wednesday. “We record all of the positive that guys make, and right now he’s blowing people away,” Woods said, via O’Halloran (Twitter link). Holland could be in line to make the Broncos as a backup outside linebacker. During their return to a 3-4 look, the Broncos have usually kept four outside linebackers — peaking with a Miller/Ware/Barrett/Ray setup in 2015-16. But with Ray sidelined, it’s possible Holland could forge a path to the 53-man roster — possibly as a fifth outside ‘backer due to the unique circumstances Denver’s dealing with at this spot.
  • Paxton Lynch has looked like a more dedicated player this offseason, Arnie Stapleton of the Associated Press writes. However, the third-year quarterback has yet to consistently wow observers on the practice field. Joseph attempted to shed additional light on why the franchise stuck with Lynch rather than using a draft pick on competition. “I think Paxton is really motivated to show everyone that he can be a No. 1 quarterback in this league, and watching him work this entire offseason he is different because I’ve seen him a lot more up in the halls here,” Joseph said, adding the Broncos having three offensive coordinators in three years has stunted the young passer’s progress. “And that takes time to find your comfort zone with coaches, with your organization.”

Details On Zack Martin’s New Deal

The Cowboys and Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin finalized the terms of his new contract on Wednesday, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. As previously reported, it’s a six-year deal that will keep him in the fold through 2024. The new portion of the contract is worth a whopping $84MM with $40MM guaranteed. 

The new pact makes Martin the new highest-paid guard in the NFL as his $14MM/year tops Andrew Norwell‘s $13.3MM annual average value. Among offensive linemen, only Giants tackle Nate Solder has a higher per year average at $15.5MM. It’s a sign that the guard market is nipping at the heels of the tackle market and also an indication of just how valuable Martin is Dallas’ front five. His total guarantee is also the highest of any guard in the NFL.

Martin’s streak of 64 consecutive starts is the longest active streak by a guard in the entire league. Martin is also one of just four offensive linemen earn Pro Bowl selections in each of their first four NFL seasons since 1970 (Twitter link via ESPN).

The Cowboys have their excellent O-Line locked up for the foreseeable future. Martin is signed through 2024, left tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick are under contract through through 2023, and right tackle La’el Collins is signed through 2019.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys “Holding Out Hope” Of Acquiring Earl Thomas?

While there has been no recent movement in talks regarding a trade that would send Seahawks safety Earl Thomas to the Cowboys, Dallas has “quietly held out hope” that it may acquire the All-Pro defensive back, according to Clarence Hill of the Star-Telegram.

The Cowboys have made no secret in their interest in Thomas, and the club reportedly had talks with the Seahawks near the draft. However, Dallas balked at sending a second-round pick (which would have been the 50th overall selection) to Seattle in exchange for Thomas. Since that time, Seahawks general manager John Schneider acknowledged that while his team did have discussions involving Thomas, no deal was “remotely close to happening.”

However, Thomas has since continued his holdout: he did not report to mandatory minicamp earlier this week, and indicated he’ll continue to stay away from the Seahawks until his contract is “resolved.” Thomas’ absence isn’t major news in and of itself, but Seattle reportedly hadn’t had any conversations about Thomas’ deal — which expires after the 2018 season — as of late May. As such, there may not be a clear resolution in sight.

Thomas is scheduled to earn a base salary of $8.5MM in 2018, so the Cowboys — who have roughly $11.5MM in cap space — would be able to fit him on their books. Given that Thomas’ is clearly unhappy with his current contract, Dallas would likely need to extend the 29-year-old. Seattle, meanwhile, would incur a dead money charge of $1.9MM as a result of a Thomas trade.

Arguably the most consistent safety in the NFL since 2010, Thomas graded as the league’s No. 9 safety in 2018, per Pro Football Focus. In Dallas, Thomas would not only give the Cowboys over either Jeff Heath or Xavier Woods, but reunite with former Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard, who is now Dallas’ defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys’ Randy Gregory To Meet With NFL

Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory is set to meet with the NFL this week, sources tell ESPN.com’s Todd Archer. Gregory is expected to speak with several NFL officials, potentially including commissioner Roger Goodell, in New York to discuss his reinstatement. 

Gregory is being represented by Daniel Moskowitz, who also represented former Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington as he gained reinstatement last year. Teammates Tyrone Crawford, Sean Lee, and Jeff Heath also wrote letters in support of Gregory to the NFL. The support of Cowboys players and brass may help his efforts to get back into the league.

He is one the smartest people to have played this game,” owner Jerry Jones said recently. “This is a tremendous step. He has had that same IQ since he has had these issues. That’s an issue. This is definitely a medical issue. There is no doubt in my mind about the medical. That is another campaign. It’s a pretty circuitous route. It has a lot of discretionary things to determine. There is a lot of subjectiveness. But he is doing very well. He’s got a lot to play for. He has a new baby. He has a lot going for him. He is very astute about knowing that. He has to do what a lot of us have had to do and that is to do better at 24 and 25 than when you were 20.”

The NFL’s substance-abuse policy states that once the reinstatement paperwork has been filed, “all individuals involved in the process will take steps to enable the commissioner to render a decision within 60 days of the receipt of the application.” There have been times where that time frame has been extended, but barring that, we should be getting a resolution on Gregory this summer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.