The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys Potential Draft Picks: Nate Allen, S, USF

USF's Nate Allen would add a dimension to the defense which is currently lacking.

Our 2009 Cowboys’ safety grades will be out soon, but no grade is required to know that Dallas could benefit from the addition of a ball-hawking safety. We don’t see it as the #1 team need, but many people do. Thus, safety, along with offensive tackle, are the most popular positions chosen for Dallas in mock drafts.

The problem for the Cowboys is that the top two ball-hawks, Eric Berry and Earl Thomas, will likely be long gone by the time they select at pick #27. USC’s Taylor Mays may still be on the board, but his poor hips and lack of quickness make him a poor fit for Dallas.

People within the organization have been saying great things about second-year safety Michael Hamlin. The Cowboys obviously won’t rely on him though, so safety is a legitimate first round option for the ‘Boys.

Scouting Report

Safeties who are considered “ball-hawks” generally have cornerback-type size, but USF’s Nate Allen is an exception. At 6’1”, 205 pounds, Allen’s physique allows him to be above-average in run support. He takes good angles and can actually be quite physical at times.

In addition, Allen also has the skill set to play a “centerfield” type position. He excels at tracking the ball in the air and making plays due to his fluidity and exceptional change of direction.

Allen lacks elite speed, so his man-to-man coverage skills are only average. He is better suited playing in a zone, allowing his instincts to take over.

We see Allen as a bit underrated. He has game-changing ability–a trait the current Cowboys’ safeties lack. He would be a great fit in Dallas’ scheme because of his ability in run support and the fact that he does not give up a lot of big plays (yet he is still able to force turnovers).

Projection

Allen has been soaring up boards of late. Once considered a mid-to-late second round selection, there have been rumors of Allen sneaking into the back of the first round. There is practically zero chance Allen will be available for Dallas when their second pick rolls around, but he might be a slight reach at pick #27.

Allen is the type of player that could force the Cowboys to either trade out of the first round or move up in the second. If Dallas does end up trading back come draft time, you can expect that Allen is probably one of the players they are seeking.

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys Film Study: Initial Drive Statistics

One of the more important aspects of an offensive coordinator’s play-calling ability,we believe, is his success on initial drives–those drives to begin a game and to start the second half. At these points, a coordinator is generally calling scripted plays. Thus, he has had all week to plan his attack on the defense (in the case of the initial offensive drive), or the entire halftime (in the case of the opening 2nd half drive).

When given time to prepare, offenses generally outperform defenses. Year in and year out, the league-wide average yards-per-play and scoring totals for offenses are higher on the first drives of each half than any other drive.

Some teams, of course, are more apt to come out firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately, the Cowboys have not seemed to be one of them in recent years.

Note: Drives during which the Cowboys simply took a knee were not counted.

First Half

The Cowboys’ first half average yards-per-play (5.78 yards) is significantly lower than the 6.45 yards-per-play the team averaged on what we will call “non-initial drives”– all drives excluding the first drive of the game and the first of the second half.

While point scoring can be fluky and thus susceptible to fluctuations over the course of just one season, Dallas’ points-per-drive was noticeably lower to begin the game (1.69) than in non-initial drive situations (2.30).

But why is the Cowboys’ initial drive success so poor? Is it fair to place all of the blame on Jason Garrett’s play-calling?

Probably not. Our guess is that it is a combination of Garrett and the overall mindset of the team. Remember, Wade Phillips is an excellent “X’s and O’s” coach, but he is not exactly a top-notch pre-game motivator.

2nd Half

A stat that is more indicative of Garrett’s play-calling might be the initial drive of the second half. At this point, most of the pre-game adrenaline and hype has faded and the mindset of teams has shifted to a more ‘cerebral’ approach.

Unfortunately, the Cowboys’ second half opening drive stats are atrocious. As the chart details, the team averaged just 4.94 yards per play in these situations. That is an astounding 23.5 percent drop from the non-initial drive average.

These second half failures are only worse in terms of points, as the Cowboys averaged just 1.06 points-per-drive to open the second half, a 54.0 percent drop from the non-initial drive average of 2.30.

In Garrett’s defense, the team did improve vastly at the end of the season, scoring a touchdown on the first drive of the game over the final three weeks. They averaged a ridiculous 13.05 yards-per-play on those drives.

Let’s hope he can carry that success into the 2010 season.

By Jonathan Bales

Is Doug Free Suited to Play Left Tackle?

Doug Free did a respectable job filling in at right tackle for the injured Marc Colombo last season. We gave him a ‘B-’ in pass protection and a ‘C+’ in the run game in our 2009 Offensive Line Grades. In fact, he actually performed slightly better than starter Marc Colombo in our rankings.

Doug Free's ability to play left tackle is a big question mark for Dallas.

Cowboys fans and writers alike are assuming Free will eventually make the transition to left tackle. Not so fast. Free performed admirably for a backup player, but do we really think he is ready to protect Romo’s blind side?

The uncertainty surrounding Free’s ability to play left tackle is one of the main reasons we believe the Cowboys should retain Flozell Adams in 2010. At right tackle, Free rarely faced the opposition’s best pass-rusher (although he did effectively neutralize Jared Allen in the divisional playoff game).

Still, he has not withstood the test of time. Entrusting a player with only half a season of play under his belt with the task of keeping the franchise quarterback safe is risky to say the least.

Thus, expect the Cowboys to address the tackle position early (and perhaps often) in the upcoming draft. In our opinion, drafting a stud tackle to groom behind Adams for a year is the most rational path for Dallas to take and their most likely ticket to success. This rookie could prepare himself to start in 2011, with Adams then leaving the team or possibly moving to guard.

Free might eventually battle Colombo for the starting right tackle job, but he certainly makes a very trustworthy swing tackle.

By Jonathan Bales

2010 NFL Mock Draft Version 2.0

Sam Bradford jumps to the first overall pick in our latest mock draft.

1. St. Louis Rams- Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma

In Version 1.0 of our 32-team mock draft, we had Clausen going first overall. That changes as St. Louis is rumored to have more interest in Bradford as the ticket to future success.

2. Detroit Lions- Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska

The Lions are rumored to have heavy interest in OT Russell Okung, but look for them to take the highest-rated non-QB on their board. We doubt Okung will be rated higher than Suh on any board.

3. Tampa Bay Bucs- Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma

McCoy’s 23 bench press reps are a concern, but he has displayed good overall intelligence and character, making any worries about his work ethic a bit less concerning.

4. Washington Redskins- Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State

Will Jimmy Clausen be the pick? The Redskins placed a first round tender on Campbell, so he isn’t going anywhere. Washington needs to fix their line or no quarterback will be able to succeed.

5. Kansas City Chiefs- Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa

The Chiefs are in dire need of a left tackle, and Bryan Bulaga has steadily been moving up boards. Safety Eric Berry could also be the selection here.

6. Seattle Seahawks- Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame

Although we do not believe Clausen represents great value (we had him as the #37 rated overall player on our initial Big Board), it is tough to pass up what you consider to be a potential franchise quarterback. Pete Carroll is very familiar with Clausen’s skill set.

Trent Williams is the third Oklahoma player in the top eight of this mock draft.

7. Cleveland Browns- Eric Berry, S, Tennessee

The Browns would be doing cartwheels to grab Berry here. They have been rumored to be seeking either him or Florida CB Joe Haden. It will be interesting to see if they select Haden if Berry is off the board despite Haden’s poor 40-yard dash time.

8. Oakland Raiders- Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma

Could it be? The Raiders don’t select the biggest, fastest player on the board? Look out for Maryland tackle Bruce Campbell here, but Williams ran just three-hundredths of a second slower (4.88) than Campbell, so his game tape could be the deciding factor (if Al Davis even looks at game tape).

9. Buffalo Bills- Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama

The Bills have a lot of holes to fill. It will be interesting to see what they decide to do if Clausen or Bradford is still on the board at this point.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars- Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, USF

Despite signing DE Aaron Kampman, the Jags will still be searching for talented pass-rushers early and often come April. Pierre-Paul is an athletic freak (260 pounds, 4.64) and a good fit in Jacksonville’s scheme.

11. Denver Broncos- Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee

This may seem a bit high for the DT from Tennessee, but we have talked to multiple scouts who say Dan Williams may be the most under-the-radar player in this year’s draft. Denver desperately needs to improve their run defense, and at 330 pounds, Williams may be just the man for the job.

12. Miami Dolphins-Brandon Graham, DE/OLB, Michigan

Lately there have been concerns about Anthony Davis's work ethic, but tackles never last long on draft day.

Graham has been soaring up the rankings since the Senior Bowl. After losing Jason Taylor, the ‘Phins will be on the lookout for a player such as Graham who is versatile enough to stuff the run as efficiently as he gets to the quarterback.

13. San Francisco 49ers- Earl Thomas, FS, Texas

An overwhelming amount of Dallas fans want Thomas to be the team’s selection, but there is just no way he drops to the back of the round. A cornerback could also be the pick if San Fran releases Nate Clements.

14. Seattle Seahawks- Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers

Davis’ stock could be slipping after he did not even weigh in or participate in drills at Rutgers’ Pro Day. Still, Seattle needs a replacement for LT Walter Jones.

15. New York Giants- Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State

In a bit of a shocker, we have Kyle Wilson as the first CB off the board. Successful corners generally have either great size or speed, and Joe Haden has neither. That is not to say he won’t be a good corner, but Wilson is a more fluid athlete with greater versatility. He could help New York in the return game.

16. Tennessee Titans- Joe Haden, CB, Florida

Picks #15 and #16 could be flip-flopped on draft day, but we are going to stick with what we have heard from scouts. Ex-Ravens and Browns scout Daniel Jeremiah told us there is a chance that Haden drops into the 20′s.

17. San Francisco 49ers- C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson

We debated listing Spiller as the 49ers’ first pick in the round, which is a definite possibility with Seattle selecting right behind them at #14. If Spiller lasts this long, expect the Niners, who will have already addressed one position of need, to bring in the home-run hitter to complement Frank Gore.

Maurkice Pouncey is an option for Dallas, but he might not last until pick #27.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers- Mike Iupati, G, Idaho

The Steelers’ linemen are getting old quickly, and the organization always places an emphasis on do-it-all players. Iupati, who will likely play guard in the NFL, has the potential to kick out to tackle, a characteristic which will surely boost his draft stock.

19. Atlanta Falcons- Maurkice Pouncey, G/C, Florida

We had Pouncey as the Cowboys’ selection in our last mock draft, but in this particular version he won’t be available for Dallas. A lot of people may be surprised to see Pouncey this high, but some teams reportedly have him as a top 10 overall player.

20. Houston Texans- Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State

Local Houston newspapers have reported the Texans are going to select either Earl Thomas or Ryan Mathews. We think Thomas will be long gone, so Mathews will come into Houston with an immediate opportunity to start over Steve Slaton.

21. Cincinnati Bengals- Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech

With the signing of WR Antonio Bryant, the Bengals’ focus will likely shift to the defensive side of the ball. Jonathan Joseph and Leon Hall are excellent cornerbacks who could benefit from the pass rush abilities of a player such as Derrick Morgan.

22. New England Patriots- Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State

Stories of Bryant missing meetings and even showing up late to games could be erroneous, but they still may hurt a player who already had character concerns. If Bryant drops into the 20′s he is dangerously close to Jerry Jones’ trade range. If the Cowboys stand pat, the Patriots would love a play-maker like Bryant to possibly replace Randy Moss in 2011.

23. Green Bay Packers- Charles Brown, OT, USC

Charles Brown is an undersized, athletic tackle who fits best in a West Coast offense because of his superb ability in pass protection. Green Bay re-signed tackle Chad Clifton but will lose OT Mark Tauscher, so Brown fills a need.

24. Philadelphia Eagles- Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri

We love the upside of Texas LB Sergio Kindle.

Weatherspoon impressed at both the Combine and Missouri’s Pro Day, displaying the sort of consistency NFL coaches love. Philly may also go with Kyle Wilson or Joe Haden here if they happen to fall, but linebacker is a prime need.

25. Baltimore Ravens- Sergio Kindle, LB, Texas

We had Kindle rated as the #8 overall prospect on our Big Board, so Baltimore would be acquiring tremendous value here. Their wide receiver position is no longer weak with signings of Donte Stallworth and Derrick Mason and the trade for Anquan Boldin.

26. Arizona Cardinals- Taylor Mays, S, USC

Honestly, we think Mays is going to be an average player at best in the NFL, but a lot of people obviously disagree. Some team will fall in love with his workout numbers, and Arizona would probably love to see Mays drop to them after losing Antrel Rolle.

27. Dallas Cowboys- Jared Odrick, DT/DE, Penn State

At this point, Cowboys fans will likely be screaming for the team to select Maryland LT Bruce Campbell. Despite the need for an upgrade at tackle, we still see Odrick as the most likely pick. There is a good chance either Marcus Spears, Jason Hatcher, or Stephen Bowen will not be back in 2011, and in addition to playing defensive end, Odrick can also become the primary backup to DT Jay Ratliff. If Odrick is gone at this point, which is a decent possibility, we see Bruce Campbell, Golden Tate, Brian Price, and Devin McCourty all as legitimate options for Dallas.

McCourty may seem like a reach to some, but don't be shocked to see him be a first round selection.

28. San Diego Chargers- Jahvid Best, RB, California

We love Jahvid Best’s skill set, and despite concerns about his size, he is actually the same size as C.J. Spiller. RB Darren Sproles may or may not return to San Diego, but either way the team must address the position early in the draft.

29. New York Jets- Golden Tate, WR, Notre Dame

Questions about Tate’s speed disappeared after his 4.42 official 40 time in Indianapolis. WR Braylon Edwards may not be in New York next season, so the Jets have to stock up on weapons for Mark Sanchez.

30. Minnesota Vikings- Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers

A bit of a sleeper to sneak into the first round, McCourty displayed superb fluidity and change of direction at the Combine. In addition, he also possesses above average size and speed. Minnesota is desperate for an upgrade over Cedric Griffin.

31. Indianapolis Colts- Brian Price, DT, UCLA

We see Price as a legitimate option to convert to defensive end in a 3-4, but a lot of teams see him as a three-technique defensive tackle. He is an underrated player that will fit in well with Indy’s undersized defense.

32. New Orleans Saints- Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma

The Saints are pretty free to select the best player available at this point. Linebacker is a bit of a question mark right now, so Brandon Spikes may be an option. Also do not rule out the Golden Child, Tim Tebow. Sean Payton is creative enough to concoct ways to utilize Tebow’s talent without disrupting the productivity of Drew Brees.

By Jonathan Bales

Mailbag: 3/12/10 (Brandon Marshall, O.J. Atogwe, Jesse Holley)

Brandon Marshall is an incredible receiver, but signing him really isn't an option for Dallas.

Q: Why is there not more talk of the Cowboys signing Brandon Marshall? He received only a first round tender from the Broncos. The Cowboys have a late first-rounder and Denver probably wouldn’t match an offer. Marshall could take over for Roy Williams.

Jimmy D, Grand Rapids, MI

A: Marshall is certainly an incredible athlete and wide receiver, but the move just doesn’t make too much sense. Sure, he could help the team, but at what price? The Cowboys already have players on their own team they need to sign long-term, i.e. Miles Austin.

If Dallas signed Marshall to an offer sheet, they would be on the hook for three huge contracts to players at the same position. That isn’t exactly business-savvy. The uncapped year won’t a ticket to spend unlimited amounts of cash, as the Cowboys have already stated they are implementing their own cap.

Further, despite the opinions of most fans, the Cowboys are not really weak at wide receiver. Austin is a legitimate number one, so our expectations for Williams need to be lessened. Of course you would like to see your $45 million man play to his potential, but with Austin, Jason Witten, and the Cowboys’ running game, people need to realize that Williams’ upside is limited.

Lastly, the front office just spent last offseason ridding itself of players they deemed distractions. We think locker room chemistry is overrated, but apparently the Cowboys’ brass does not. That doesn’t help Marshall’s case.

Any chance of signing FS O.J. Atogwe hinges on the Cowboys' draft outcome.

The only wide receiver that may join the squad is probably a middle-to-late round draft selection who is versatile enough to return kicks and punts.

Q: I have heard Dallas might be interested in signing Rams’ free safety O.J. Atogwe. What are the chances of this happening, and what would the ‘Boys have to give up? Do you think it is a smart move?

Anna Orr, Dallas, TX

A: Unlike a lot of the rumors circulating the internet, there is actually a realistic chance of the Cowboys signing Atogwe. We wouldn’t call it an outstanding chance, but a possibility nonetheless.

Atogwe offers a trait the current Dallas’ safeties do not possess–ball-hawking ability. Atogwe has picked off 15 passes the last three seasons despite playing for a St. Louis team that does not get thrown at a lot.

The issue for the Cowboys will be if they see Atogwe as a significant upgrade over Ken Hamlin. Atogwe should receive a decent size contract, but the Cowboys may want to just invest a high draft pick in a free safety rather than one who is already 28 years old.

The good news for Dallas (which makes a deal more likely) is that they will not have to give up any picks to sign Atogwe. The Rams are able to match any offer sheet Atogwe signs, but if they do not, they do not receive any compensation.

On June 1, however, Atogwe becomes an unrestricted free agent, meaning any team can sign him and St. Louis holds no right to match an offer. It is likely teams will wait until then to offer Atogwe a contract.

Thus, for the Cowboys, the chances of signing Atogwe hinge on the path they take during the draft. If they draft a safety in rounds one or two, Atogwe likely will not be in Dallas. Should they pass on a safety in the early rounds, however, Dallas may just become the favorite to sign the 28 year old ball-hawk.

Still, the Cowboys are in no rush to sign Atogwe. If they do deem Ken Hamlin a liability, chances are they will look to draft a stud rookie safety before giving big money to a veteran.

Jesse Holley overcame long odds to make the Cowboys' practice squad, and he will have to do it again to make the 53-man roster.

Q: What are the chances of the “4th and Long” winner Jesse Holley making the Cowboys’ roster?

Daniel Wagnor, Palmdale, CA

A: Very, very slim. Holley isn’t a bad player, but there just is not much room. Despite the notion that wide receiver is a weak link for the Cowboys, it is actually very deep.

The team generally keeps five wide receivers on the 53-man roster. Austin, Williams, Crayton, and Ogletree are all basically locks to make the squad.

The odd man out, if there is one, would be Sam Hurd. If Hurd makes the team again, it will be due to his special teams ability. At a certain point, though, special team players have to step up into a positional role. Hurd may be capable of doing that, but Jerry Jones may decide he wants a player with more upside.

To obtain that upside, the Cowboys also could draft a wide receiver fairly early in the April draft. We don’t see that as likely, but if it does happen, Holley’s shot of making the roster is all but gone. In a nutshell, although we like the guy, he will probably have to hope for an injury.

By Jonathan Bales

2010 Cowboys-Only Mock Draft: Version 3.0, Post-Combine

The Cowboys will likely value the versatility of C/G Maurkice Pouncey.

In versions 1.0 and 2.0 of our Cowboys Mock Drafts, we had the team selecting Penn State DT/DE Jared Odrick and USC OT Charles Brown, respectively. While we would still guess Odrick will be the pick if forced to select today, drafts can take wild twists as the result of just one event.

In this version our our Cowboys Mock Draft, we will describe a path the Cowboys may take if they happen to sign an offensive tackle before April 22 (Marcus McNeil or Jared Gaither, for example).

Round 1- Maurkice Pouncey, C/G, Florida

A lot of mocks have Idaho guard Mike Iupati as the Cowboys’ selection at #27, but we believe they will value the versatility of Pouncey. If Iupati is still on the board, it will be interesting to see who Dallas has rated higher. Some scouts believe Pouncey is a top 15 talent. He would likely come in and be the immediate backup to both starting guards and center Andre Gurode.

Round 2- Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida

Spikes’ size makes him a candidate to play inside in a 3-4. Keith Brooking and Bradie James played well last year, but the Cowboys must soon look for their replacements (particularly for Brooking). We still think a play-making return man is an option here, but because players such as Mardy Gilyard, Dexter McCluster, and Jordan Shipley had such poor 40-yard dash times, the Cowboys may be able to wait a round to grab someone.

FYI: Despite these first two selections, no, we are not Gators fans.

We still aren't sure why teams aren't high on South Carolina LB Eric Norwood.

Round 3- Eric Norwood, LB, South Carolina

To play devil’s advocate, we have assumed the Cowboys do not see any return man at this point as providing great value. So which direction does the team go? Jerry Jones said the Cowboys will take the best player available at each position, and we really like South Carolina LB Eric Norwood.

A lot of fans will be disappointed in yet another linebacker, but we all know what a key position the edge rusher is in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme . As we detailed in our profile of Eric Norwood, he is a an excellent pass-rusher who should transition nicely to OLB. Further, we are not sure Dallas is convinced they have proper depth behind starters Ware and Spencer (Curtis Johnson, Victor Butler and Brandon Williams).

Round 4- Jordan Shipley, WR, Texas

The Cowboys’ patience in this particular mock draft pays off, as Texas WR Jordan Shipley is still on the board. Shipley would come in and become the starting punt and kickoff returner, and also compete with Patrick Crayton in the slot. We see Shipley as an early second round talent, but his 4.57 at the Combine will surely drop his stock. Still, Shipley plays much faster than his time and displays excellent quickness and body control.

Round 6- Kurt Coleman, FS, Ohio State

Dallas may or may not upgrade the safety position before this spot, but we still maintain that the Cowboys’ brass is more comfortable with what they have at the position than fans. Despite interest from other clubs in Gerald Sensabaugh, the Cowboys remain likely to lock him up long-term. Ken Hamlin struggled last season, but members of the organization like what they have in second-year man Michael Hamlin.

Coleman is a small, ball-hawk type safety which the Cowboys lack right now. He would be a project, but worth the risk at this point.

Syracuse DT Arthur Jones would move to DE in the Cowboys' 3-4 defense.

Round 7- Arthur Jones, DT/DE, Syracuse

The importance the Cowboys place on the defensive end position is reliant on the futures of Spears, Bowen, and Hatcher. The second round tenders placed on all three players means the latter two are not going anywhere in 2010. Spears, however, could garner some interest from other 3-4 teams. We detailed what Dallas might do with him here.

If the likely scenario of all three defensive ends remaining on the team comes to fruition, the Cowboys may look at a late-round prospect like Syracuse’s Arthur Jones. Jones is a talented athlete who may drop this far due to knee surgery he underwent in November of last season.

Continue to check back for our ongoing “Potential Draft Picks” Series and ever-evolving Mock Drafts.

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys News and Notes

Jay Ratliff wants you to recycle

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05IwAuUVsrk&feature=player_embedded]

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Tender Offers: What Does It All Mean?

Miles Austin will be in Dallas for years to come.

We have sorted the Cowboys restricted free agents into those who are working on long-term deals, those who are not working on new contracts but will be on the team in 2010, those with uncertain futures, and those named Shaun Suisham.

Working On A Long-Term Deal

WR Miles Austin- 1st and 3rd Round Tender $3.168 million

The lack of a long-term deal has many Cowboys fans worried that there is a possibility Austin could be switching uniforms in 2010. Fear not, as the Cowboys’ brass has made signing Miles Austin their number one offseason priority. There is simply no way Austin will be on any team except Dallas for the next few years.

The Cowboys gave Austin a first and third round tender, meaning other teams are free to sign him to an offer sheet. The Cowboys would then have seven days to match that offer, and we can assure you they will do so, no matter the offer. There are reasons the Cowboys have not been active in free agency, and locking up guys like Austin and Gerald Sensabaugh heads that list.

While Austin is due just over $3 million this year with his tender offer, he will likely be making a lot more. The team is still negotiating with Austin’s agent on a long-term deal, so expect him to be in a Cowboys uniform this season and beyond.

S Gerald Sensabaugh – 2nd Round tender $1.809 million

Sensabaugh’s situation is much like Austin’s. The team is working on a long-term deal with him, although it is improbable that another team would be willing to give up a second round pick to sign Gerald. Thus, there is less urgency to lock up Sensabaugh than there is for Austin. Nonetheless, Sensabaugh will be the starting strong safety for the Cowboys in 2010.

**UPDATE: Sensabaugh reportedly already has three visits set up with other teams, so there apparently is some interest in him. It will be interesting to see if Dallas matches a possible offer or takes the second round pick.

DE Marcus Spears – Original Draft Pick $1.226 million

This tender offer is a bit strange. It is an original draft pick tender, but the Cowboys would receive only a second round pick should Spears sign with another team. We discussed the possibilities of Spears’ situation in our latest Mailbag. To recap, the team could be:

No team will surrender a second round pick for either Bowen or Hatcher.

  • assuming no team will yield a second round pick for Spears.
  • planning to match any offer another team gives Spears.
  • be content accepting a second round pick for losing Spears.

The last scenario is unlikely, so the Cowboys are probably betting that no team is willing to give up a second round pick to sign Spears long-term. Spears will almost certainly be on the team in 2010, but he is probably the most likely of the tendered players to leave via signing long-term with another squad.

Will Be Cowboys In 2010

These players are unlikely to sign long-term deals, but are almost certain to make the squad next season.

DE Stephen Bowen – 2nd Round Tender $1.759 million

Spears is frustrated over his tender offer, and a major reason for his frustration is that Stephen Bowen and our next player, Jason Hatcher, will make more money than him in 2010 as his backups. Bowen recorded a career high in tackles and sacks in 2009, but no team will sign him to an offer sheet.

DE Jason Hatcher – 2nd Round tender $1.759 million

Like Bowen, Hatcher will not be signed by another team. It isn’t that they are not good players, but teams value draft picks so much and will be unwilling to part ways with a second-rounder for a current backup.

Veterans such as Patrick Watkins have very shaky futures with the Cowboys.

Uncertain Futures

A tender offer is no guarantee of a roster spot, and these players may or may not have to find work later in the year.

WR Sam Hurd – 2nd Round Tender $1.759 million

Hurd received a rather high tender offer, so there is no way he will be joining another team anytime soon. Still, if the Cowboys select a wide receiver early in the draft, Hurd’s future could get cloudy.

S Patrick Watkins – Orginal Draft Pick $1.176 million (Drafted in 5th)

Watkins is a valuable on special teams, but his lack of growth at safety could mean he has played his last down in Dallas.

OT Pat McQuistan- Orginal Draft Pick $1.176 million (Drafted in 7th)

McQuistan’s future will likely be determined by draft selections. If the team selects multiple tackles and does not release Flozell Adams, McQuistan will be gone.

C Cory Procter – 2nd Round Tender $1.759 million

Procter’s versatility to play both guard and center has kept him around longer than expected.

NT Junior Siavii – Orginal Draft Pick $1.176 million (Drafted in 2nd by Kansas City)

Like McQuistan, Siavii’s future will be determined by draft picks. He benefits from lack of depth at nose tackle.

CB Cletis Gordon – Not Tendered, but signed to a one-year deal for the $630,000 minimum

With Suisham gone, David Buehler is the current favorite to win all kicking duties.

There have actually been rumors that Gordon could make the 53-man roster as a returner. That may affect the Cowboys’ draft day philosophy.

C Duke Preston – Original Draft Pick $1.226 million (Drafted 4th by Buffalo)

Despite receiving a tender, we would call Preston an underdog in his effort to make the roster.

Good-Bye

K Shaun Suisham – No Offer

Shaun Suisham was not tendered and will be on another team in 2010.

Conclusions

The Cowboys have not made a splash in free agency thus far because there is just no need for it. They are working on multiple long-term contracts and saw no reason to overpay for players such as Antrel Rolle or Julius Peppers.

Look for the team to sign a few smaller-name free agents. Jamal Williams is an option as a backup nose tackle, assuming the price is right. The Cowboys have also been rumored to be interested in Colts’ safety Antoine Bethea. Signing him would cost the Cowboys a first round pick, though, so they may be bargaining with Indianapolis to reduce the compensation.

The draft will be a tremendous indicator of which of the players listed above will be on the team in 2010. The selection of a guard/center, for example, would be bad news for Cory Procter and Duke Preston, while drafting a nose tackle would make Junior Siavii a long-shot to make the squad.

For more roster predictions, check out our article “Which Ten Cowboys Will Go?”.

By Jonathan Bales

2010 NFL Combine Losers

Dan Lefevour missed a chance to be the most talented quarterback to participate in the Combine.

Yesterday, we detailed the “winners” of the NFL Combine. Today, we analyze those players who may have substantially hurt their draft stock.

Ole Miss RB/WR Dexter McCluster

We think McCluster’s poor performance at the Combine is a bit over-hyped. Yes, he ran a 4.58 forty, but he showed explosion with a 37.5 inch vertical. In addition, McCulster also proved he has been working out with an incredible 20 bench press reps at just 165 pounds. McCluster certainly plays faster than he timed, so we think he will bring excellent value to any team that selects him.

Central Michigan QB Dan Lefevour

With so many quarterbacks not working out at the Combine, Lefevour had a shot to move up boards. He likely would have been the best signal-caller participating in drills. Instead, he chose to only work out at his Pro Day, displaying a lack of competitiveness which will hurt his draft stock.

Kansas WR Dezmon Briscoe

Briscoe was a guy not many people were high on pre-Combine, yet we had him ranked as our #21 overall prospect. We knew he would have a sub-par forty (4.61), but his nine bench press reps call his work ethic into question. We still love his body control and ball skills, but Briscoe will likely slide down boards into the third or fourth round.

Cincinnati WR Mardy Gilyard

Ciron Black has been in a tailspin since the start of the '09 season.

Gilyard, a player most were expecting to run in the 4.40 range, posted just a 4.56 forty. In a way, this could help the Cowboys a lot, as Gilyard could easily drop to the back of the second round (after pre-Combine rumors of him jumping into the back of the first). We knew Gilyard plays fast and brings tremendous upside in the return game.

Texas WR Jordan Shipley

Like Gilyard, Shipley’s poor Combine performance could help the Cowboys. In addition to a 4.57 forty, Shipley also looked shaky in position drills. We have watched enough tape on him, though, to know what Shipley brings to the table. Instead of using their second round pick on Shipley, there is now a chance Dallas could grab him with their third.

LSU OT Ciron Black

We are not worried about Black’s numbers as much as what we saw in the drills. He looked slow, stiff, and out of shape. Black bent over at the waist instead of the knees, displaying poor form and an overall lack of athleticism. He could easily drop to the late rounds of the draft.

Is there a chance Joe Haden drops to pick #27? At least one scout thinks so.

Kentucky LB Micah Johnson

Johnson’s 4.99 forty was by far the worst of any linebacker (there was only one other player above 4.90). We were surprised by this result perhaps more than any at the entire Combine. Johnson displays good sideline-to-sideline speed on tape, so it is possible he was not completely healthy. We still like him as an option for Dallas at inside linebacker, but he would likely only be a two-down linebacker.

Michigan CB Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren had a shot of being the third cornerback taken in the 2010 draft. That is unrealistic now, as Warren displayed inadequate speed (4.59) and poor strength (12 reps). A cover two team might jump on him, but he is not a fit for Dallas’ scheme on defense.

Florida CB Joe Haden

How bad was Joe Haden’s Combine? He went from a consensus top ten pick to possibly losing his status as the first cornerback taken to Boise State’s Kyle Wilson. One scout we talked to actually said Haden could drop to the back of the first round because elite corners must have either size or speed, and Haden showed neither. If he somehow dropped to pick #27, Dallas would have to take a long look at him despite no immediate need at cornerback.

Nebraska S Larry Asante

Larry Asante is in the mix with Morgan Burnett, Nate Allen, Chad Jones, and Reshad Jones to be the fourth safety off the board come April. He may have dropped to the back of that pack after his Tuesday workout running a 4.63, posting just 14 reps, and exhibiting poor hips and change of direction in position drills.

LSU S Chad Jones

Chad Jones ran nearly as poorly as Asante (4.57), but at least Jones is 15 pounds heavier. However, at 230 pounds, Jones’ nine bench press reps are pathetic. His size and lack of speed make him an unrealistic option for Dallas.

Chad Jones doesn't fit the safety mold for which Dallas is searching.

By Jonathan Bales

Mailbag 3/5/10

Marcus Spears' second round tender was a bit surprising, but he is still likely to remain in Dallas.

Q: Why did the Cowboys only give Marcus Spears a second round tender? Don’t you think another team will give up the pick and sign him?

Terry Hardwick, Memphis, TN

The Cowboys actually gave Marcus Spears an original pick tender. However, should another team sign him, they would only have to give up a second round pick, so you are right about that.

There are a few things the Cowboys could be trying to accomplish by not giving Spears a higher tender. First, perhaps they think no one will sign Spears long-term. NFL teams treat draft picks like gold. When the Cardinals are trying to trade Anquan Boldin for a third-rounder, you get an idea of how valuable teams consider their draft picks to be.

Second, the Cowboys may plan to match any offer that Spears gets from another team. If Spears gets signed long-term, the Cowboys have seven days to match that exact offer. They have to be careful with this, however, as a team could sign Spears to a deal that contains a “poison pill”– a component of the contract that the Cowboys would be unable to match. For example, if the contract said that Spears could only play “X” amount of games in Arlington, Texas, then the Cowboys would obviously be out of luck. Offers containing “poison pills” are very rare and considered dirty. There would also be no reason for Spears to sign such a contract, unless he really does not want to come back to Dallas.

Moving Flozell Adams to guard is a possibility, but more so in 2011.

Lastly, the Cowboys could actually be content with Spears leaving. We doubt this is the case, but if they have enough confidence in Jason Hatcher, Stephen Bowen, and Igor Olshansky, they may see Spears as expendable. This would make defensive end a high priority in the draft, increasing the likelihood of the Cowboys selecting Jared Odrick or Brian Price in the first round.

Q: Is it possible to move Flozell Adams to guard? He has struggled in pass protection but excelled in run blocking, so maybe it could help his production.

Allen Barber, Oakland, CA

You know, we actually are not fundamentally opposed to the idea. You have to be careful switching players’ positions, but Flozell may actually be a candidate to make the switch to guard. As you pointed out and we showed in our Offensive Line Grades, Adams was still productive in the run game. Moving him to guard might help him utilize his strength and hide his lack of quickness in pass protection.

The most obvious potential problem is that guards are asked to pull a lot more than tackles. Does Flozell still possess the quickness needed to pull and make a block in the open field? Perhaps he has been dominant in run blocking because, at left tackle, he is generally matched up against the defense’s smallest lineman, something that would never happen if he was playing guard.

Still, we think Adams has the strength to hold his own inside. Further, Leonard Davis has shown that a 355 pound man is capable of moving around well at guard, so Adams shouldn’t be ruled out.

Practically, however, a move cannot be made at this time. First, the Cowboys are already searching for depth at tackle. This is probably Adams last season as the starting left tackle, and who knows if Doug Free is capable of playing well on the left side. We already think Free’s right tackle play, contrary to popular belief, was only slightly above average.

As much as Earl Thomas would help the Cowboys' secondary, he will probably get selected too high for Dallas to even have a chance to trade for him.

Second, the Cowboys already have two solid guards. Adams would have to take Kyle Kosier’s job, but Kosier played extremely well last season, yielding just one sack all year. If a move to guard is in Flozell’s future, it would likely come next year, when Kosier is a free agent and the team has had a full season to groom either Doug Free or a rookie as Adams’ successor at left tackle.

Q: Do you see the Cowboys trading up to draft Texas safety Earl Thomas? We need a new free safety and Thomas is a ball-hawk who looked great at the Combine.

Devon Douglas, Weatherford, TX

Earl Thomas did excel in Indianapolis, and we listed him as one of our “Combine Winners.” Most surprising about Thomas was that he weighed in at 208 pounds, 10 pounds heavier than his college weight, yet still ran a 4.44 forty-yard dash. Thomas is certainly on the Cowboys radar.

Unfortunately, he is on a lot of other teams’ radar too. We think Thomas is going to go very early in the draft, even more so than people are expecting. We talked to a scout who said multiple teams have Thomas ranked ahead of the “consensus” top safety Eric Berry. There are also rumors that Houston will not let Thomas get passed them if he drops to pick #20.

If that is the case, the best case scenario for Jerry Jones would be to trade up to pick #19 if Thomas somehow drops there. Even though we see that as very unlikely, it would probably cost the Cowboys their 3rd and 4th round picks to make that move (according to the NFL Draft Value Chart). That is a steep price to pay, particularly with so many talented safeties projected to be on the board in round two.

Thus, unless Thomas drops into the 20′s, the Cowboys are highly unlikely to make a move for him. It should really be a moot point, though, as we see Thomas as a potential top 15 pick.