Dorance Armstrong

Cowboys Sign 8 Draft Choices

The Cowboys now have all but one of their nine 2018 draft choices signed. Headlined by linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas reached agreements with everyone but third-round wide receiver Michael Gallup on Friday, Todd Archer of ESPN.com reports. Here’s the full list of signees:

The structure of the Boise State product’s contract slightly held up the team’s proceedings with its top draft investment, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Clarence Hill (Twitter link), but he’s now signed up. Vander Esch will earn approximately $11.847MM and collect a $6.696MM signing bonus.

Vander Esch met with numerous teams that held picks in the middle of the first round, and despite needs at both pass-catching positions, the Cowboys selected the Mountain West Conference standout. Connor Williams also didn’t play a position of dire need, given Dallas’ three All-Pro linemen, but he’s now in the mix for the team’s left guard spot.

Despite being unsigned, Gallup is working out at the Cowboys’ rookie minicamp on Friday. Many third-round picks around the league have yet to sign. This is an annual tradition due to the CBA’s gray area regarding third-rounders’ compensation.

Cowboys Rumors: Austin, Witten, S, Draft

The Rams and Cowboys agreed on a deal that will send Tavon Austin to Dallas in exchange for a sixth-round pick, and the sides began discussing this trade on Thursday, Stephen Jones said (via Todd Archer of ESPN.com). Jones said the Rams had a third-day pick in mind as compensation for their former top-10 investment, one who renegotiated his pricey contract earlier this year in order to stay with the team that drafted him. Austin will become the Cowboys’ primary punt returner, Jerry Jones said (via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News, on Twitter), and will take over those duties from Ryan Switzer — whom Dallas traded to Oakland shortly after the Austin deal was agreed upon. Austin, 27, was a part-time kick and punt returner for the Rams last season. He will also function as primarily a running back with the Cowboys, who envision him taking over Lance Dunbar‘s old role as the team’s primary receiving back. Jason Garrett said (via Machota, on Twitter) the goal will be to get the ball to Austin in a variety of ways, so it sounds like Dallas intends to keep the 5-foot-9 performer in a gadget role.

Here’s the latest from Dallas:

  • While Jerry Jones said Jason Witten would take a few days before announcing a decision about his 2018 status, the owner now is backing off that stance. It may take longer. “As I saw Troy [Aikman] say, that’s his decision, and he’s got the time to make it,” Jones said, via Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk. “He deserves the time to make that. I don’t have a timeline on it. I do know that when we left [Friday], he certainly thought he wanted the weekend to come to some conclusion. … I want to emphasize again how we like our tight ends that we’ve got on the roster that would be on the roster if we don’t have Witten, but certainly Dalton [Schultz] was noted as what we thought was the best blocker of the tight ends.” The Eagles traded one spot in front of their rivals in Round 2 to select Dallas Goedert. Witten may well inform the Cowboys of his decision early next week, but Dallas brass doesn’t appear to be rushing him. The Cowboys selected Stanford’s Schultz in the fourth round.
  • The team wants to bring in competition for Xavier Woods at free safety, Machota tweets. The Cowboys did not draft a safety this weekend but will remain on the lookout for one. This is a unique year to need a safety, with several experienced ones still available. Eric Reid, Tre Boston and Kenny Vaccaro are without teams. However, Machota notes (on Twitter) Jerry Jones declined to comment when asked if Reid would be a possibility for the Cowboys. The former Pro Bowler is in a strange position, being part of the Colin Kaepernick-led protest movement but profiling as a player who is an upper-echelon starter at a lower-profile position. Jones has been a vocal opponent of these protests, probably the leader among the owners against them, so it would be a surprise if Reid ended up in Dallas.
  • The Cowboys were able to draft defensive end Dorance Armstrong in the fourth round, but Jerry Jones said (via Machota, on Twitter) they nearly traded two fourth-round picks to acquire a third-rounder to draft the Kansas pass rusher.