The DC Times

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

By Jonathan Bales

Will Miles Austin Go For 1,000 Yards in 2012?

Over at DallasCowboys.com, I projected Miles Austin’s stats for the season.

One of the keys to projecting Austin’s production is understanding where he positions himself on the field. As I mentioned in a previous article, Austin lined up in the slot on 44 percent of his snaps in 2011. Since the Cowboys used three-plus receiver sets on only 42 percent of their plays last season, you can see Austin is now the Cowboys’ full-time slot receiver (if you’re wondering, Austin’s slot rate is higher than the overall team rate of three-receiver sets because Austin often lines up in the slot in base packages with tight end Jason Witten outside).

Austin’s increase in snaps in the slot last year is reflected in his stats; in 2011, the average length of a pass to Austin was only 10.9 yards, ranking him just 90th in the NFL among wide receivers. Austin also posted only 13.5 yards-per-reception – down over two yards from his career mark of 15.6.

Read the whole post to find out why Austin may not reach 1,000 yards even if he stays healthy in 2012.

By Jonathan Bales

Running the Numbers: Who Will Play the Slot in 2012?

Jonathan Bales

There’s a lot of talk about who will win the No. 3 receiver job in Dallas this season, and everyone is looking for the next Wes Welker. The Cowboys have some small, quick players Dwayne Harris and Danny Coale, a duo that might be battling each other for one roster spot.

Instead of forcing a particular type of player into a specific role, I think the Cowboys should line up with the three best receivers on the field, regardless of their skill sets. If Andre Holmes proves he’s the third-best option on the offense, he should play in three-receiver sets.

The reason for this is that the Cowboys have a ton of flexibility with Miles Austin. In my latest post at DallasCowboys.com, I explain why Austin is basically already the Cowboys’ slot receiver.

In three-receiver sets, the Cowboys have moved Austin into the slot more and more over the years. In 2009, I tracked Austin as playing 15.5 percent of his snaps in the slot. In 2010, it jumped to 32.4 percent. Last season, Austin actually played inside 44.0 percent of the snaps he was on the field. Of his 72 targets, 62.5 percent came when he lined up in the slot. That’s full-time slot duty.

So when you’re trying to predict the Cowboys’ 53-man roster this year, don’t force a guy in there simply because he has “prototypical” slot receiver skills. Jason Garrett will play the top three options, and at this point, my money is one Austin, Bryant, and Holmes.

By Jonathan Bales

Miles Austin on ESPN’s First Take

By Jonathan Bales

Miles Austin Reports to Workouts at Lighter Weight

Miles Austin is in the building.  The up-and-coming wide receiver has joined his teammates at Valley Ranch this week for voluntary workouts.  Surprisingly, he said his absence was not contract-related:

“I was out in L.A. working,” Austin said.  “To be honest, I was really working hard.  I came back the lightest I’ve ever been, in shape already.  I’m feeling really good and looking forward to the year.”

Austin continued, “Not a power play, nothing like that at all.  It just came down to when I was working out there, I was really buying into the workouts.  Not only was I working out with a personal trainer, but I was running hills, running Runyan [Canyon], a lot of things.”

Austin apparently wasn’t lying about working hard–he is currently only 207 pounds.  While the lighter frame could help his speed, we are worried that it might hinder Austin’s ability to break tackles.

Austin weighed around 214 pounds last season, but players generally enter the season at a lower weight than offseason workouts.  Austin may have weighed 217 or more at this time last year.  Also, don’t forget he figures to lose a few pounds during training  camp.

Is this 7-10 pounds of weight loss going to make Austin that much faster?  After all, how much faster can the guy really get?

Still, we trust Austin is doing the right thing.  The organization is surely aware of Austin’s weight loss.  Perhaps his new slimmer body will allow him to be quicker in small areas, providing him the benefit of not having to break as many tackles.

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys News and Notes: 3/19/10

Miles Austin and Kevin Ogletree Playing

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FQz6ZMAwkM&feature=player_embedded]

By Jonathan Bales

Top Five Reasons Brandon Marshall Will Not Join the Cowboys

Brandon Marshall is one of the most talented receivers in the NFL. So why would he be a poor fit in Dallas?

Of all the players that Cowboys fans could want, we hear Brandon Marshall’s name come up more than any other. The reasons are obvious. Big. Strong. Fast. 21 receptions in one game.

Marshall is also ripe for the picking as the Broncos only placed a first round tender on the stud receiver, practically begging another club to provide him with a one-way ticket out of Denver.

With Roy Williams struggling, why not give up a late first round pick for a player who would be dynamite outside opposite Miles Austin? The reasons are below.

1. Like T.O., Marshall would not take a back seat as a secondary option.

We recently detailed why T.O. would probably not respond well to being a complementary player in Dallas. The same is true of Marshall.

Would Marshall come in and automatically be the Cowboys’ number one receiver, or would it be Austin? It could be more of a 1A and 1B situation, but either way, Austin is too good to not continuously utilize.

Our inclination is that Marshall would want to see the bulk of the targets in the passing game. There just are not enough balls to go around to effectively satisfy Marshall, Austin, and Witten and maintain a dominant running game. Someone would be unhappy, and do we really want it to be players who have already put their heart into playing for the silver and blue?

2. In addition to yielding a first round pick, the Cowboys would also have to provide Marshall a long-term contract.

The Cowboys could only land Marshall by signing him to an offer sheet. That contract offer obviously has to have enough guaranteed money that Marshall will be willing to sign it.

After dishing out $45 million to Roy Williams and another big-time deal in the works for Austin, the Cowboys, surprisingly, will be a bit short on funds.

The organization could theoretically dump a huge portion of the contract into the 2010 uncapped season, but Jerry Jones is no fool. He has already stated the Cowboys have imposed a team-mandated salary cap for themselves.

Signing Austin long-term takes precedent over bringing in a guy like Marshall. After that happens, an offer to Marshall would mean the club would be investing well over $100 million in three wide receivers. Not exactly business-savvy.

3. Marshall does not fit the character profile of the current Cowboys’ players.

The Cowboys released T.O., Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, and Greg Ellis last offseason. There was a method to their madness. The current roster is composed of 53 stand-up, intelligent, high-character guys.

This is not to say that Marshall cannot be those things, but he has proven that he can become a bit of a distraction at times. There is no way that Jerry, influenced by his son Stephen, will be able to justify bringing in a possible trouble-maker.

Like it or not, this man is one of the main reasons the Cowboys will not sign a big-time free agent wide receiver in 2010.

4. Without a first round pick, the Cowboys would not be able to upgrade a more urgent position of need.

If the Cowboys do want to bolster the receiver spot, the draft is a great time to do it. Not only will it be less of a financial burden, but the team can also save their first-rounder by drafting dodging Marshall and drafting a receiver in the mid-to-late rounds.

Signing Marshall not only eats up a lot of cash, but it also erases the Cowboys’ ability to sign an impact player (perhaps an offensive lineman), in the first round. Instead, Dallas would have to wait until the 59th pick of the draft to upgrade either the offensive line, safety, or another position.

From the standpoint of a selfish fan, the draft without a first round pick, as we saw last year, can be quite monotonous.

5. No one is sure how hard Marshall will play once he obtains big money.

Marshall was a fourth-rounder out of UCF in the 2006 draft. Needless to say, his rookie contract wasn’t exactly Peyton Manning-type money.

Very talented players can alter their approach and overall mindset to football after cashing in, i.e. Jamarcus Russell. While Marshall does appear to have the proper work ethic intact to ensure that does not happen, you can never be sure.

At the very least, there does appear to be something about Marshall that makes it appear as though he is not as serious about the game of football as, say, Austin or Witten.

Conclusions

Marshall is certainly both an uncommon talent and a unique individual. He will undoubtedly help some team immensely–but that team us unlikely to be the Dallas Cowboys.

It isn’t that signing Marshall would be the worst thing in the world. Heck, it could even work out for the best. But operating a professional football team is about playing the percentages. At this time, Marshall is not a “high-percentage play” for Dallas.

By Jonathan Bales

Terrell Owens Back to Dallas: Is it a Realistic Possibility?

Might T.O. be back in the blue and silver in 2010?

There have been rumblings among some Cowboys fans about the possible return of Terrell Owens to Dallas. Like every team for which Owens has played, Cowboys fans seem to be split 50/50 on his worth to the team.

We are about the biggest T.O. supporters you will find, but in this post, we will detail five reasons why Owens won’t (and shouldn’t) rejoin the Dallas Cowboys.

First, though, let’s talk about a few of the positives of T.O. wearing the blue and silver once again.

Pros

1. Owens practices harder than anyone.

A lot of times T.O.’s name gets grouped together with guys like Randy Moss and Chad Ochocinco, but that really is unfair to Owens. Unlike those players, T.O. brings 100 percent to practice each and every day. He consistently prepares himself as well as anyone in the league, year in and year out.

Not only are Owens’ on-field behavior and production a template for the younger receivers to follow, but his work ethic also allows the Cowboys defensive backs to go against the best every day in practice. Don’t shortchange Owens involvement in Dallas as a major factor in the success of the Cowboys cornerbacks in 2009.

2. Despite a down year in Buffalo, it is evident Owens still has something left.

We recently spent some time looking at a few of the Bills’ late-season games in ’09. While T.O. is obviously not what he was at age 28, he certainly can still play the game. His speed is still very much apparent. It would be very difficult for teams to try to take away both him and Austin deep, cover Witten underneath, and still stop the run game.

3. T.O. would likely draw a lot of single coverage with Austin and Witten receiving a lot of attention.

Make no mistake about it–Miles Austin is the Cowboys’ #1 wide receiver. Defenses will surely look to take him and Witten out of a game first next season, with or without the addition of T.O. Having said that, Owens would benefit from single coverage which he very rarely saw during his first stint in Dallas.

Cons

1. Owens is unlikely to embrace a role as the third receiving option on offense.

For the above reasons, Owens’ return to Dallas looks good on paper. In reality, however, there is just no way T.O. is going to accept a role as the Cowboys’ third receiving option (and probably fourth option overall). If Owens complained about not getting the ball enough when he was double-covered in Dallas, imagine how unhappy he will be if he does not get the ball when he is truly open.

2. Bringing back Owens would stunt the growth of Kevin Ogletree.

The Cowboys want to get Ogletree more involved in 2010. There are even rumors that he could push Roy Williams for a starting spot in training camp.

Ogletree’s playing time would become all but non-existent, though, if Owens returned to the ‘Boys. Even if Williams got cut, Crayton would likely remain in the slot, meaning Ogletree would be just a backup to the X and Z receivers.

If the Cowboys want to see what they have in Kevin Ogletree this season, T.O.'s return is not an option.

3. The Cowboys would be unlikely to draft a young wide receiver due to a lack of roster space.

A lot of you are clamoring for the Cowboys to select a young wide receiver to groom as the eventual replacement for Roy Williams. While we still see an early-round selection of a wide receiver as unlikely (unless he is a return man), the Cowboys simply would not have the roster space to hold their current receivers, Owens, and a rookie.

4. Jerry Jones will not cut Roy Williams, meaning Dallas’ top three wide receivers would not play special teams.

Even if Owens came back to town, it is unlikely Jerry Jones would give up on Williams. He doesn’t want to admit he made a mistake on Williams, and in all fairness Roy has just one full season in Dallas under his belt.

Williams, as the third receiver, would not play special teams. This would create a problem, particularly if David Buehler does not win the placekicking job and the team has to use two roster spots on kickers.

5. Jerry Jones won’t bring back a player he cut immediately after claiming the Cowboys were searching for a “Romo-friendly” offense.

The reason Jones released T.O. was not because of his on-field play, but because of the perceived locker room turmoil which Owens was thought to have created. Why in the world would the Cowboys bring back a player they deemed to be the cause of the team’s lack of chemistry, particularly after winning their first playoff game in over a decade?

Conclusion

Owens is not coming back to Dallas. Despite the potential benefits, his return would create more problems than it would fix. Topping that list of problems is the fact that T.O. will not embrace being a role player and Jerry Jones will not disrupt his quest to create a “Romo-friendly” offense.

Despite this, we still suggest to all Cowboys fans, “Getcha popcorn ready!”

By Jonathan Bales

Miles Austin’s Future in Dallas and the “Poison Pill” Contract

After the Cowboys signed players to free agent tenders, we briefly discussed here why the Cowboys will not let Miles Austin get away. Austin signed a first and third round tender, but he is free to sign with another squad. If Dallas does not match that offer within seven days, Austin would be gone and the Cowboys would receive a first and third round pick from the team that signed him.

The Cowboys, though, are expected to match any potential offer Austin might sign.

But what if they can’t? What if the nature of the contract is such that it is impossible (not just economically speaking) for Dallas to match it?

This sort of contract would contain what is referred to as a “poison pill.” A “poison pill” contract contains characteristics with which one team is able to comply but another is not. The concept began in 1996 when San Francisco signed running back Rodney Hampton to an offer sheet which mandated he must be on the field for 70 percent of the offensive plays the next two seasons.

Hampton’s current team, the Giants, had just drafted Tyrone Wheatley and would be unable to meet the clause without significantly stunting Wheatley’s growth.

That contract offer was never completed, but another “poison pill” offer sheet did go through in 2005 when Seattle guard Steve Hutchinson signed with Minnesota. Hutchinson’s offer sheet stated he must be the highest paid offensive lineman on the team. Minnesota knew Seattle left tackle Walter Jones’ contract would make it impossible for Seattle to match their offer.

Despite the inherent lack of fairness in these deals, the current CBA states that they are still legal.

So, is it possible that Miles Austin could sign an offer sheet containing such a “poison pill”? Jerry Jones recently addressed the subject, claiming:

That’s always a concern and that’s one of the things that needs to be addressed in the new collective bargaining agreement. Those are called unintended consequences there. What turns into trying to be competitive among clubs and what turns into trying to be fair for a player turns into being a disadvantage for the clubs.

Thus, Jones is aware of the possibility of losing Austin.

Miles Austin should be partying in Dallas for awhile.

Still, the chances of it coming to fruition are extremely low. First, teams are simply not eager to create such discontent and animosity around the league. They may win the battle in securing the player for which they yearn, but could end up losing the war because teams may become less willing to deal with them in the future.

Second, despite Austin’s tremendous season, there are still a limited number of organizations willing to part with two high picks for a player who has yet to start a full season.

Lastly, and most important, the future of Austin is really up to him. He (or more likely his agent) will be very aware of any “poison pill”-containing offers. Miles seems to enjoy playing in Dallas, and we doubt he is chomping at the bit to pack up and buy a ticket out of here. While he is undoubtedly seeking a long-term deal, Austin would likely come back to the Cowboys and allow them to match any offer before putting the Cowboys in a no-win situation.

Thus, while it is theoretically possible that Austin may be wearing something other than the silver and blue this fall, it just is not a realistic scenario. Cowboys fans can rejoice in the fact that, barring a catastrophe, Miles Austin will be the team’s number one wide receiver now and in the future.

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

Cowboys News and Notes

Demarcus Ware Wired

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