Jerry Jones

Cowboys Deny Trying To Pull Jason Witten Out Of Retirement

According to Jason Witten‘s ESPN coworker Adam Schefter, the Cowboys tried to pull the tight end out of retirement multiple times this year. However, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says that’s not true. 

That’s just not correct, period,” Jones said (via Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News) after the game. “He misses competing, but he’s got his head down and hands in the dirt, doing the job on ‘Monday Night Football’.”

Of course, no one could blame the Cowboys if they did try to keep one of the most reliable and durable tight ends in the game, especially after an offseason that left them without a true No. 1 wide receiver. But, Jones says it’s not true, and at this point, the Cowboys appear to be doing okay without Witten. The tight ends filling in for Witten came through on Sunday, including Blake Jarwin who had a seven-catch, 56-yard performance against the Eagles. The Cowboys’ offense has also improved greatly since trading for wide receiver Amari Cooper, who caught yesterday’s game-winning TD.

Witten piled up 11 Pro Bowl nods and two First Team All-Pro selections over the course of his career, spent entirely with the Cowboys. Even if head coach Jason Garrett never tried to pull Witten out of the booth, it’s hard to imagine that they’d say no if the 36-year-old had a change of heart.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Owners To Revisit How NFL Conducts Investigations?

In the wake of the Kareem Hunt incident, some NFL owners want to reconsider how the league handles its investigations into criminal allegations made against players, The Washington Post’s Mark Maske writes

Sources tell Maske those owners would like to revise the league’s investigative methods with the possibility of considering if it should be conducting those investigations in the first place. Though some are interested in rehashing the process, it is not expected to be a large contingent and there is not believed to be a specific agenda item on the issue at the upcoming owners’ meeting in Dallas on Wednesday.

“It’s certainly an issue that needs discussion,” said one of those people with knowledge of those owners’ views, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic. “Is there a way to do this better? If not, should the NFL even be in the investigative business?”

The NFL faced heavy scrutiny after security footage from a February 2018 incident at a Cleveland hotel surfaced last week of Hunt shoving a woman to the ground and kicking her. In its original investigation, the league was unable to obtain the footage to review and did not question the running back about the incident. Hunt was not punished when the incident first came to light, but after the release of the video he was placed on the Commissioners’ Exempt List and was released immediately by the Chiefs.

Maske notes the hurdles the NFL faces in conducting these independent investigations since it does not have subpoena power.

Among the leaders of the charge by the owners could be Jerry Jones, who was openly dissatisfied with the way the league handled investigation into star Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott in 2017 that resulted in a six-game suspension and a drawn-out appeals process.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Jerry Jones, Gallup, Cowboys, Steelers, Howard, Buccaneers

Professional took a long winding path back to Los Angeles, and eventually ended with two teams. After many years of discussion, both the Chargers and Rams ended up relocating. There were a bunch of rumors over the years about other potential options for the NFL to make its way back to Los Angeles but we never really had many details, until now. Jerry Jones was reportedly approached and given the option to bring a team to L.A., according to ProFootballTalk.com.

Jones revealed what went down in a recent interview he did, saying “Several years back, I was approached by several owners that asked if I would consider selling the team, and the team being a more elite team and I take Los Angeles and build Los Angeles.” Jones explained that he never wanted to sell the Cowboys and it obviously never happened, but Jones re-establishing the L.A. market for the NFL would’ve been highly entertaining, if nothing else.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • After the tragic passing of his brother, Cowboys receiver Michael Gallup‘s status was understandably in doubt for today’s Thanksgiving game. While he missed practice this week, Gallup will in fact play against the Redskins in today’s game, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). It’s great news for the Cowboys’ suddenly resurgent offense, and our thoughts are with Gallup and his family.
  • The Steelers already have a couple of talented tight ends in Jesse James and Vance McDonald, but are apparently doing due diligence on the position. The team worked out former Eagles tight end Billy Brown yesterday, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Brown, a 2017 undrafted free agent, has never appeared in a regular season game so perhaps this is just for the updating of emergency lists.
  • Promising Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard had his season ended last week by an ankle injury, but he did get some good news. Bucs coach Dirk Koetter announced that Howard’s injury wasn’t as bad as some initially thought and “won’t require surgery and shouldn’t be a long-term issue”, according to Scott Smith of the Buccaneers’ official website (Twitter link). It’s great news, and Howard should be poised to become one of the best tight ends in the league in 2019.

NFC Notes: Buccaneers, Smith, Vea, Cowboys, Receivers, Rams, Okoronkwo

The Buccaneers made a major change this week, firing much-maligned defensive coordinator Mike Smith and replacing him with Mark Duffner. The Bucs’ defense had picked up right where they left off in 2017, and had been an absolute sieve, leading for calls to fire Smith for weeks now. While Bucs fans will be happy that anyone other than Smith is calling the defense, some in Tampa Bay’s locker room apparently were hoping the team would go in a different direction for their interim coordinator.

There “was strong support by the players for Bucs DL Coach Brentson Buckner to take over the defense”, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (Twitter link). It’s notable that the team apparently didn’t go with the players’ first choice, and it will be interesting to watch how things play out with Duffner. His first test will be stopping Baker Mayfield and the Browns this Sunday.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • Speaking of the Buccaneers, rookie first round pick Vita Vea will make his first ever start this Sunday, according to Greg Auman of The Athletic (Twitter link). Vea, the talented young defensive tackle from Washington, will start because Gerald McCoy is missing the game due to injury.
  • While Dallas’ lack of pass-catchers has been one of the biggest storylines in the NFL this year, it doesn’t sound like the Cowboys will be adding outside receiving help anytime soon. Owner Jerry Jones downplayed speculation they’d go after a veteran receiver, saying it’s “hard to do at this juncture, to bring in a position that needs the coordination that you have to have with the quarterback” and adding that “the farther you go into the year, then the harder it is to think about bringing a player in”, per Jon Machota of Dallas News. While Jones insisted the organization is “confident in the personnel that we have here”, it still wouldn’t be surprising if they were ultimately aggressive in the trade market.
  • Rams rookie fifth round pick outside linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo hasn’t been able to see the field this year as he’s been sidelined with a foot injury, but could be making his return soon. Okoronkwo has been practicing with the team, and the Rams will decide soon when to bring him back according to Lindsey Thiry of ESPN. The Rams’ pass-rush has been lacking this year, and Okoronkwo could potentially provide a big boost. Thiry reports that Rams coach Sean McVay is high on the young edge player.

Cowboys Notes: Jones, Lawrence, Gathers

As he enters his mid-seventies, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is slowly handing over control of the franchise to his son, Stephen Jones, according to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. The younger Jones is currently Dallas’ executive vice president, CEO, and director of player personnel, so he’s more than prepared to take on a larger role. Stephen Jones takes a more conservative financial stance than his father, per Moore, which could indicate the Cowboys will have their cap in better order when he eventually takes over. Notably, Stephen pushed the Cowboys to eschew drafting Johnny Manziel in 2014, and lobbied instead to select guard Zack Martin, a win for the club.

  • Free agent guard Xavier Su’a-Filo worked out for the Cowboys on Thursday, tweets Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. A former second-round pick Su’a-Filo spent four years with the Texans before inking a deal with the Titans earlier this year. He didn’t make it through final roster cuts, which is perhaps unsurprising given that he finished as a bottom-three guard in 2017, per Pro Football Focus. Dallas, though, needs depth along the interior of its offensive line given injuries to Zack Martin and Travis Frederick, so Su’a-Filo could be an option for the club.
  • Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence is paying attention to the recent extensions signed by fellow defenders Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack, and said his free agent price is rising correspondingly, per Calvin Watkins of The Athletic (Twitter link). Lawrence will earn $17.143MM under the franchise tender in 2018, but has already said he’s not open to playing on the tag in 2019 (not that he’ll have much of a choice if the Cowboys opt to deploy it again). Now that both Donald and Mack have crossed the $22MM/year threshold, the sky is the limit for Lawrence, who will aim to build on an excellent 2018 campaign that included 14.5 sacks.
  • Further details have emerged regarding tight end Rico Gathers‘ recent arrest for marijuana, as Kate Hairopaulos of the Dallas Morning News details. Gathers was arrested after he and a female companion were discovered smoking in Central Park in Frisco, Texas, and police found 0.078 ounces of marijuana on the former collegiate basketball player. Gathers’ arrest became public on Saturday just prior to roster cutdowns, but Dallas decided to keep him around nevertheless. He could potentially serve a brief league-imposed suspension down the line.

Bryant Would Have Been Open To Pay Cut

The Cowboys dominated the Friday NFL news cycle by releasing Dez Bryant and doing so without offering the acclaimed wide receiver a chance to stay with the team at a reduced rate. That move may have been amendable to Bryant, despite the receiver’s previous comments not appearing to indicate as such.

A first-time free agent, Bryant said in an interview with the NFL Network’s Jane Slater (Twitter link) he would have accepted a pay cut if the Cowboys offered. Dallas did not offer to keep Bryant on a lesser salary. The 29-year-old wideout expected the team to propose a pay cut. While it’s unclear how much of a salary reduction Bryant would have accepted, the Cowboys weren’t interested and made the odd decision to release their all-time leader in touchdown receptions more than a month into free agency.

As part of the five-year, $70MM extension he signed just before the 2015 franchise tag deadline, Bryant was scheduled to make $12.5MM in base salary and comprise $16.5MM of Dallas’ cap this season.

The juncture of this cut came largely because Jerry Jones has long had an affinity for the mercurial pass-catcher, and it took convincing for the team’s top decision-maker to sign off on a release, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (video link).

Jerry Jones, he loved me to death, and I loved him too,” Bryant told Slater.I honestly believe in my heart that this was a hard decision for him. But when it’s five, six guys at a table against one guy, you got to do it.”

Bryant is not making it a secret he’d like to join one of the Cowboys’ top rivals, but ESPN.com’s Chris Mortensen reports (on Twitter) a landing in Philadelphia, Washington or New York does not look especially promising at the moment. The Redskins are not believed to be interested in the ninth-year player.

Being in the division is a huge possibility it’s something that I want,” Bryant said in the interview (Twitter link). “It’s personal. I’m tired of being the scapegoat and I’m going to keep proving that on and off the field.”

It will obviously be more difficult for Bryant to command the type of money he could have had the Cowboys made this move a month ago, but he’s likely to generate some interest soon.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Colin Kaepernick

While a new avenue with the Seahawks has opened up, albeit with a rather significant hiccup early in that process, Colin Kaepernick remains embroiled in a collusion lawsuit with the NFL.

The latest owner deposed in the case, Jerry Jones, has been the most vocal about players standing for the national anthem. As he did for the depositions of Texans owner Bob McNair and Ravens decision-makers Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh, Kaepernick is sitting in on the proceedings, Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com reports. This deposition in Frisco, Texas, is scheduled to last several hours.

Jones is one of many owners scheduled to be deposed in this case. In addition to previously reported members of the deposition list — Patriots owner Robert Kraft, 49ers CEO Jed York and Pete Carroll — Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and Seahawks owner Paul Allen are also on this docket, Robinson reports. The Yahoo reporter notes Jones’ inclusion stems from several factors, among them comments he made about retribution for Cowboys who protested during the anthem and conversations Jones had with President Donald Trump about the NFL’s response to protests during anthems.

The outspoken Dallas owner is among a group of owners who have urged Roger Goodell to end the players’ right to kneel during the playing of the national anthem, and Robinson reports Jones is expected to make another push for this practice to end at the next set of owners’ meetings in May.

This case is not expected to be resolved soon, with Robinson reporting these historic proceedings will likely drag into 2019.

As for a possible Kaepernick/Seahawks agreement, the quarterback’s camp said (video link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com) the Seahawks issued an ultimatum that hinged on Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem. Word out of Seahawks headquarters was that the franchise wanted a firm plan from the 30-year-old passer about how his role in the racial inequality-centered protest movement going forward. Robinson reports the Seahawks were specific regarding the anthem, and that the former Super Bowl starter declined to make a commitment at this time.

The Seahawks saw Michael Bennett become part of this protest movement last season, refusing to stand during the anthem. A 2017 report also indicated Kaepernick would stand for the anthem if he was signed last season. It’s unclear if that stance has changed, but it certainly remains an issue in the passer landing a contract offer. The Seahawks door is not believed to be closed, but the team also has other Russell Wilson backup candidates in mind.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cowboys Meet With Dez Bryant

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has indeed met with veteran receiver Dez Bryant, but the club has not asked him to accept a pay reduction at this point, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Bryant is due a $12.5MM base salary in 2018, and will count for $16.5MM on Dallas’ salary cap. If he’s released, the Cowboys would save $8.5MM but still be on the hook for $8MM in dead money. Dallas could designate the 29-year-old Bryant as a post-June 1 release and in turn save $12.5MM in 2018 space, but that extra room wouldn’t be available until June. As such, it wouldn’t help the Cowboys sign free agents in March.

Bryant has managed to get into the end zone 14 times over the past two seasons, but he hasn’t topped 1,000 yards since the 2014 season. 2017 also marked the first year that Bryant was able to stay healthy for all 16 games since that 2014 season. Bryant only posted 69 receptions and 838 yards, however, which isn’t in line with a salary that makes him the NFL’s eighth-highest-paid wideout.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jerry Jones Reimburses NFL For $2MM+

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has agreed to reimburse the NFL for more than $2MM in legal fees, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The league’s owners said expenses incurred as a result of Jones’ threat to sue the NFL.

“After a hearing with the Commissioner and the Finance Committee, the matter of the reimbursement of legal fees has been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties,” the league said in a statement.

Jones, of course, expressed his unhappiness with the league over commissioner Roger Goodell‘s now-completed contract extension, as well as the NFL’s decision to suspend Cowboys running Ezekiel Elliott for six games following domestic violence accusations. While Jones never actually sued the league, he’s still required to pay for not only his own legal expenses, but those of the NFL, as well. The league’s competition committee warned Jones of such an outcome in a November letter.

Goodell himself met with Jones in Florida on Monday night, reports David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, allowing the Cowboys owner to make his case as to why he shouldn’t be forced to reimburse the league.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Jerry Jones, Landry, Bruce Allen

Clarence E. Hill, Jr. of the Star-Telegram writes that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will testify before commissioner Roger Goodell and other owners at an appeal hearing tomorrow in Palm Beach, Florida. Jones is appealing the commissioner’s decision to assess him more than $2MM in legal fees stemming from the federal court case with Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and Jones’ opposition to Goodell’s contract extension.

As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk observes, the fact that Jones is testifying before Goodell means that Goodell has not exercised his right to designate the appeal to someone else, even though not doing so creates obvious conflict of interest concerns. In Florio’s estimation, Jones has strong arguments against fee-shifting for his threat to sue the league with respect to Goodell’s extension, as he never actually followed through with the threat. His arguments against fee-shifting with respect to the Elliott matter is a different story, as the Cowboys clearly provided substantial assistance to Elliott in his battle with the league.

Florio says Goodell has final and binding power to resolve the amount of legal fees to be paid, but the resolution granting him that power does not expressly grant him the authority to also answer the threshold question of whether club behavior triggered a repayment obligation. Goodell presumably will take the position that he has final say in that regard, too.

As the Goodell v. Jones saga drags on, let’s take a look at several more notes from the NFC:

  • Although the Bears have interest in Dolphins wideout Jarvis Landry, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune does not believe the team should trade for him. Biggs says Landry does not give Chicago the dynamic, speedy playmaker that it needs, and given that, it would cost too much in both dollars and draft capital to land him.
  • Although most mock drafts have the Lions selecting a RB or DE with their first-round draft pick, Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com says the team could target an OLB like Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds to boost its pass rush. Rothstein says the Lions could indeed target a RB with its first draft choice, but it’s a deep class for RBs, and the better value might be found on Day 2.
  • John Keim of ESPN.com says it is unclear whether Redskins team president Bruce Allen is on the hot seat, though Keim believes he should be. Nonetheless, Keim thinks it would take a really bad season, and not just a mediocre one, for Allen to be shown the door.
  • Mike Jurecki of 98.7FM says the Cardinals would like to retain linebacker Josh Bynes as a depth option, but he believes the team will target a linebacker at some point in the draft and/or look to the UDFA market to grab an LB (Twitter link).
  • Earlier today, we took a look at potential QB plans for the Vikings and Giants.