Cowboys Rumors

Extra Points: Packers, Martin, Draft, Raiders

Bashaud Breeland‘s workout parade concluded in Green Bay, but his Packers contract is nearly its expiration. The veteran cornerback would re-enter the market in a better position, doing so a year after a golf cart-related injury harpooned his value. But Breeland, who said many teams would not medically clear him after his foot injury, would be interested if the Packers approached him about staying before he hit the market. Although, he said the Packers have not discussed an extension with him yet.

If I have the opportunity, I would,” Breeland said, via Ryan Wood of Packersnews.com, of a possible extension or offseason Packers re-signing. “At this point in time, the Green Bay Packers have first dibs because I’m here. They can make it happen at any moment.”

The Packers are not known as extravagant spenders but are keen on locking up their own talent. Breeland has only played in four Packers games, but on Sunday, the former Redskins starter recovered a fumble and returned an interception 96 yards for a score. Both Tramon Williams and Davon House‘s contacts expire at season’s end as well, but the Packers still have recent high draft picks Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson and Kevin King locked up long-term. Next year’s cornerback market may include the likes of Darqueze Dennard, Ronald Darby, Bradley Roby and Bryce Callahan while also housing veterans Morris Claiborne, Kareem Jackson and Brent Grimes.

Here is the latest from around the league as Week 14 winds down.

  • Zack Martin re-aggravated his MCL sprain during the fourth quarter of the Cowboys‘ overtime win over the Eagles on Sunday, and Todd Archer of ESPN.com notes the All-Pro guard will likely be limited in practice this week. Martin has never missed a start in his five-year career, but MCL sprains are often multi-week injuries. The possibility Martin misses multiple games in order to right himself for an expected playoff game is on the table, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. If Martin does sit against the Colts, Connor Williams would start at right guard, per Archer.
  • So far, the prevailing word surrounding possible top-five pick Justin Herbert is another year in Eugene, Ore. But longtime evaluator Gil Brandt, now with NFL.com, tweets he would make substantial bet that the Oregon quarterback declares for the 2019 draft and becomes a top-five selection. Teams like the Giants, Jaguars and Buccaneers would likely be interested if Herbert left early.
  • Texas Tech wide receiver Antoine Wesley will depart school early. Responsible for 1,410 yards this season — third-most in Red Raiders history behind Michael Crabtree and Keke Coutee — Wesley announced Monday (on Twitter) he will leave Lubbock and head to the NFL.
  • Scot McCloughan could be a name to watch in the Raiders‘ GM or de facto GM search, Vic Tafur of The Athletic writes (subscription required). The former Redskins and 49ers GM interviewed with the Raiders for a position under Reggie McKenzie after the 2014 season, but Tafur notes McCloughan wanted personnel control. He then took Washington’s GM job before an ugly divorce. Jon Gruden and McCloughan’s tenures in Green Bay briefly overlapped in the mid-1990s, and Tafur notes McCloughan got along well with Jay Gruden in Washington.
  • The Broncos worked out 15 players on Monday. Defensive linemen Winston Craig, Jon Cunningham, Marcus Hardison and Christian Lacouture took part in the group audition, per Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link). Defensive backs Jude Adjei-Barimah, Sojourn Shelton and Henre’ Toliver joined linebacker Greer Martini in working out in Denver, per Klis.

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.

Martin Didn't Suffer Ligament Damage

  • Cowboys guard Zack Martin suffered a scary looking knee injury in their overtime win over the Eagles, but it looks like he escaped major injury. Owner Jerry Jones said after the game that the team is “concerned” about the injury but that there doesn’t “appear to be any structural damage.” While it’s good news that his ligaments are alright, it sounds like he could still miss some games. Being without Martin for any period of time would be a major blow for Dallas, as Martin is one of the league’s best guards.

Jason Garrett Tried To Convince Jason Witten To Unretire

The 7-5 Cowboys have put together a four-game winning streak and now sit atop the NFC East standings, though the 6-6 Eagles are hot on their heels. Dallas hosts Philadelphia in a critical divisional matchup this afternoon, and according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett has reached out to an old friend to give his club a boost.

Per Schefter, Garrett has made multiple attempts this season to convince former Cowboys tight end Jason Witten to come out of retirement and rejoin the team. Witten, of course, announced his retirement back in May, and he has served as a color commentator for ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcasts this year (which have not gone nearly as well for him as his on-field career did). Even though Witten is now 36, he did put up 63 catches for 560 yards and five scores last season, and Dallas would kill to have that kind of production from its tight end corps this year.

The Cowboys’ have gotten next to nothing from their tight ends in 2018 thanks to injury and poor performance, and Garrett was convinced that Witten could step out of the broadcast booth and back onto the field without missing a beat. The team’s offense has come alive since adding Amari Cooper prior to the trade deadline, and Garrett believed Witten’s presence would further bolster the unit. However, Witten has firmly resisted Garrett’s overtures and is committed to honing his new craft.

The Cowboys drafted Witten out of Tennessee in the third round of the 2003 draft, and he never suited up for anyone else. He piled up 11 Pro Bowl nods and two First Team All-Pro selections in a remarkable career that places him near the top of all major statistical categories for tight ends.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Sean Lee Unlikely To Play In Week 14

  • Although Sean Lee himself has indicated he’ll be ready to play on Sunday, the Cowboys may hold out the veteran linebacker until Week 15, per Rapoport (Twitter link). When he does return, Dallas will need to decide how to divvy up its snaps in the second level of its defense. Lee, of course, is a superstar when on the field, but Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith are both immensely capable, as well. Pro Football Focus grades both Vander Esch and Smith as top-seven linebackers league-wide, and Vander Esch is in consideration for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Given that NFL clubs are using nickel (two-linebacker) packages on more than two-thirds of plays, one of the Cowboys’ ‘backers will have to take a back seat.

Cowboys’ Frederick Hopes To Play In 2019

Cowboys center Travis Frederick says that he is unlikely to return to the field this season. However, he feels “very good” about his outlook for the 2019 season. 

I have certainly made progress, but at this point in the season, having not been able to do my football movements. … Even if I was 100 percent strength wise to be able to come back and play. … I’m still six or eight weeks out from that,” Frederick told 105.3 The Fan.

Frederick was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome before the start of the season, which caused numbness in both of his arms and a host of other symptoms. The four-time Pro Bowler recently regained feeling in his hands and technically can return from IR to play this year, but he’ll need additional time to get his medical situation straightened out and get back into playing shape. Frederick didn’t completely rule out the possibility of rejoining the team for the playoffs, but he characterized the odds as as “long shot.”

Before the illness, the 27-year-old started 80 straight games for the Cowboys. He had another productive season in 2017, as Pro Football Focus ranked him third among eligible centers. In his stead, the Cowboys have been relying on Joe Looney, who currently ranks 20th among centers according to PFF’s metrics.

The Cowboys have Frederick under contract through 2023 thanks to the six-year, $56.4MM extension he signed back in 2016. The offensive line has done an adequate job this year, and should be strengthened by the impending return of left tackle Tyron Smith, but it won’t be at its absolute best until Frederick is back in the lineup.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fritz Pollard Alliance Recommends HC Candidates

Every year, the Fritz Pollard Alliance releases a list of recommended minority head coaching candidates. This year’s edition is nearly double in size and features the likes of Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores and Cowboys defensive backs coach/defensive passing game coordinator Kris Richard, as Mike Jones of USA Today writes. 

Here’s the complete list of suggested candidates:

  • Keith Armstrong (Falcons special teams coordinator)
  • Teryl Austin (Former Bengals defensive coordinator)
  • Eric Bieniemy (Chiefs offensive coordinator)
  • Jim Caldwell (former Lions and Colts head coach)
  • George Edwards (Vikings defensive coordinator)
  • Brian Flores (Patriots linebackers coach)
  • Leslie Frazier (Bills defensive coordinator)
  • Raheem Morris (Falcons assistant head coach/wide receivers coach)
  • Hue Jackson (special assistant to the head coach of the Bengals; former Browns head coach)
  • Kris Richard (Cowboys defensive backs coach/defensive passing game coordinator)
  • Duce Staley (Eagles assistant head coach/running backs coach)

Flores, the de facto defensive coordinator of the Patriots, figures to be a hot coaching candidate this year. The same goes for Bieniemy, who is helping to guide one of the league’s most dangerous offenses.

Others on this list, such as Jackson and Austin, seem unlikely to garner real consideration for head coaching positions this offseason. The Browns turned the corner after dumping Jackson and appointing Gregg Williams as the team’s interim head coach, which isn’t a great endorsement for the offensive guru. Meanwhile, the Bengals hired Austin in January but fired him earlier this month as his defense was one of the lowest ranked in the NFL.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

David Irving Away From Cowboys Due To Personal Issue

While the Cowboys are looking like the team to beat in the NFC East, David Irving‘s contract year has not gone well. The defensive lineman has only played in two games and is now away from his team again.

Dealing with a high ankle sprain, Irving hasn’t been at Cowboys practice or any recent team meetings, Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News notes, adding that the free agent-to-be is dealing with personal issues as well.

Irving was suspended for violating the NFL’s policy on substances of abuse, missing the Cowboys’ first four games, and was entangled in a custody battle for his daughter this year. While Irving won that battle, he did not report to training camp on time and was evicted from his Dallas home, George adds.

Jason Garrett excused the talented interior pass rusher from the team to deal with personal issues, but the team’s view of the latest Irving absence isn’t known. Irving won’t play Thursday against the Saints, but George adds the Cowboys are hopeful he will be back at some point next month.

The Cowboys kept Irving via second-round RFA tender ($2.91MM) but have an interesting offseason ahead, with Dak Prescott becoming extension-eligible and 2015 first-rounders Amari Cooper and Byron Jones entering fifth-year option seasons. Irving won’t be a top priority, but he may need to return to the field soon to make an effort to re-establish his value.

He registered seven sacks in eight games last season, thriving as a defensive tackle in Dallas’ 4-3 scheme.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/26/18

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants

Oakland Raiders

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Latest On Extension Talks For Amari Cooper, Dak Prescott

The Cowboys indicated earlier this month that they are planning on signing the newly-acquired Amari Cooper to an extension. However, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com writes, the two sides have not yet had any talks regarding a new deal. Cooper is under club control through 2019 under the fifth-year option that Oakland had previously exercised, and Cooper would be a legitimate franchise tag candidate for at least the 2020 season if it comes to it, so the Cowboys have not prioritized a new contract. However, Schefter said player and team do plan to discuss a long-term extension after the season, and that Dallas is prepared to pay Cooper.

Cooper’s price, though, is only going up. He is starting to look a little like his old self in Dallas, and he exploded for 180 yards and two scores in the team’s Thanksgiving Day win over the Redskins. Now riding a three-game winning streak, the Cowboys have suddenly become the favorites to win the NFC East, and Cooper — who has 22 receptions for 349 yards and three TDs in four games with the team — is a big reason for that.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk examines what a new contract for Cooper could look like, and he suggests that any deal reached prior to the 2019 season would need to include at least $30.6MM in fully-guaranteed money, and probably more. Plus, in light of recent contracts for players like Sammy Watkins and Brandin Cooks, Cooper could easily make a case for a deal that features an average annual value of $16MM+. Cooper is represented by agent Joel Segal, who of course did wonders for Khalil Mack earlier this year.

In addition to Cooper, the Cowboys are also planning an extension for third-year signal caller Dak Prescott. as Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network confirms (video link). Owner Jerry Jones and executive VP Stephen Jones are reportedly convinced that Prescott is the team’s franchise quarterback, and they plan to pay him accordingly. As Florio notes, it will be difficult to determine a true starting point in negotiations for Prescott, but Rapoport says that Dallas wants to lock up both Cooper and Prescott for the foreseeable future this offseason and that the club is making financial preparations now. The Cowboys have not yet initiated talks with Prescott’s camp either but will do so at season’s end.

As we heard yesterday, star running back Ezekiel Elliott may be left out once Dallas has finished paying Prescott, Cooper, and (potentially) Demarcus Lawrence.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.