When the NFL fined the Cowboys million in cap space and fined the Redskins million the day before free agency opened, for all intents and purposes they made it sound like a done deal. It almost came across that this was a cut-and-dry case of the two teams violating the rules and paying the price. At least that’s the way the NFL tried to make it sound. Immediately, members here at BTB, and across the media landscape, started looking closer and it was clear there was something fishy going on. Questions immediately surfaced; what rule had been violated specifically? Why would the NFLPA agree to this? Why did the NFL approve the contracts at the time? Doesn’t the rationale behind the fine sound a lot like collusion?
As time has passed, those issues, along with others, have come to the surface, and now we got a full-blown confrontation. As we noted yesterday, the Cowboys and the Redskins have filed a grievance to get an independent arbitrator to rule.
Why are the Cowboys and Redskins keen on getting the case in the hands of an independent arbitrator? One, to get it out of the hands of Roger Goodell. The other? Because of comments by John Mara, owner of the New York Giants and the chair of the NFL Management Council.
By the way, thanks to Dan Graziano and ESPNDallas for their great work in following this case. Check it out here.
“I thought the penalties imposed were proper,” John Mara, the New York Giants’ owner and chair of the NFL Management Council, which imposed the penalties said Sunday. “What they did was in violation of the spirit of the salary cap. They attempted to take advantage of a one-year loophole, and quite frankly, I think they’re lucky they didn’t lose draft picks.”
In violation of the spirit of the salary cap? What the heck is that supposed to mean? Either they were in violation of a rule, or they weren’t. Basically, what he’s saying is they were in violation of the spirit of a collusion deal the owners had struck, not in violation of a specific rule. In fact, I’ve never seen anyone mention a specific rule they were in violation of. It seems to me the NFL is getting themselves into a bigger mess as thing rolls along.
More comments from Mara:
There was no salary cap in 2010. This is a fact. Mara repeatedly brushed that aside during questioning Sunday, irritated at the fact’s mere existence. “We’ve had a cap for 29 of the last 30 years,”…
“This has nothing to do with collusion. It has to do with teams attempting to gain a competitive advantage through a loophole in the system. They attempted to take advantage of it knowing full well there would be consequences.”
The “gaining competitive advantage” argument is one that the NFL keeps bringing up. But Dan Graziano had a good response to that.
If this penalty was rooted in common sense, the NFL’s owners would be mad at teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who spent well below the level where the salary floor would have been. If this were really an issue of future competitive balance, as the ruling establishing the punishments claims it is, then teams that didn’t spend enough in 2010 would be punished as well. But the fact that they’re only going after the two teams that overspent in 2010 — or restructured contracts to take short-term hits in an effort to allow them to spend more down the road — indicates that this is not a competitive balance issue. It’s a salary restriction issue.
It’s a collusion issue. And the longer the NFL drags out this fight, the more likely that’s going to become a central issue, whether in a lawsuit, or with Congress stepping in. And just to add insult to injury, ProFootballTalk has this little nugget to add:
As we already know, the agreement regarding the imposition of the penalties was struck between the NFL Management Council Executive Committee and the NFLPA, making it a revision of the CBA without a vote of the league’s owners or union leadership. That deal happened even though Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was and still is a member of the NFL Management Council Executive Committee. It’s one thing for the so-called CEC to use its delegation of authority to work out side agreements with the union. It’s quite another for the CEC to do so without knowledge of one of the men who has secured membership on the CEC.
This could get very ugly.
Over the weekend, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock released an updated, post-Combine version of his top five players per position (full rankings here). The Cowboys have been very busy in free agency so far, but there still are a number of positions of need for the Cowboys. Notably, the Cowboys haven’t made any free agency moves so far along the defensive line, so we’ll look at the defensive line and other positions of need as we review how Mayock’s rankings have changed since his pre-Combine version from February.
Defensive Tackles: A popular topic among many Cowboys fans is the idea of drafting a big guy for the middle of the defensive line. While it remains to be seen whether the Cowboys have any interest in doing that, it is also clear that outside of Kenyon Coleman, Jay Ratliff is the oldest Cowboys defender currently under contract: he’ll turn 31 at the start of the season.
|Rank||Previous Ranking (2/14)
||Updated Rank (3/16)
|1||Michael Brockers, LSU||Dontari Poe, Memphis|
|2||Jerel Worthy, Michigan State||Fletcher Cox, Mississippi St.|
|3||Dontari Poe, Memphis||Michael Brockers, LSU|
|4||Devon Still, Penn State||Jerel Worthy, Michigan State|
|5 (tie)||Fletcher Cox, Mississippi St.||Kendall Reyes, UConn|
|Kendall Reyes, UConn||Devon Still, Penn State|
|Brandon Thompson, Clemson|
Mike Mayock gets off the Michael Brockers train and elevates combine phenom Dontari Poe to the number one spot. Fletcher Cox also sees his stock jump dramatically as he moves into the number two spot. The 6-4, 298-pound Cox is gaining momentum as the flavor-of-the-week candidate for the Cowboys as a defensive end, and he could be available at the #14 position.
After the break, we look at offensive linemen, corners and defensive ends and OLBs.
Interior Offensive Linemen
|1||David DeCastro, Stanford||Peter Konz, Wisconsin|
|2||Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin||Philip Blake, Baylor|
|3||Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State||Ben Jones, Georgia|
|4||Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State||David Molk, Michigan|
|5||Brandon Brooks, Miami (OH)||Michael Brewster, Ohio State|
Where Mayock had previously lumped the interior linemen together in one top five list, he has now split them out by position. Not much has changed for the guards, save for the addition of Brandon Brooks as the fifth-ranked guard.
Mayock does not seem to share the medical concerns that have been associated with Peter Konz, and keeps him atop the center board. Of note, some of the names on the center list are projected to go as late as the fifth/sixth rounds. If the Cowboys want a center, they’ll likely find one waiting for them in almost every round.
David DeCastro remains the fan favorite for now, but many of the other names on this list are also worthy of consideration in a trade down scenario or with later-round picks.
Cornerbacks: With the acquisition of Brandon Carr, it seems unlikely that the Cowboys will use their first pick on a corner. But the Cowboys will probably have a keen eye on any corners who start slipping on draft day, as cornerback is widely believed to have some of the best depth in this draft and the Cowboys can always use more corners.
|Rank||Previous Ranking (1/24)
||Updated Rank (2/14)
|1||Morris Claiborne, LSU||Morris Claiborne, LSU|
|2||Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama||Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina|
|3||Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama||Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama|
|4||Trumaine Johnson, Montana||Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama|
|5||Leonard Johnson, Iowa State||Josh Robinson, Central Florida|
Unfortunately, if you had harbored hopes of perhaps snatching up Stephon Gilmore with the Cowboys’ second-round pick, those dreams are likely over. Similarly, many mock drafts had Josh Robinson as a later-round favorite for the Cowboys, but his exceptional combine showing has him being talked about as a potential first-rounder.
Defensive Ends/OLBs: Even though the Cowboys slapped the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer, the Cowboys are still likely to look for ways in which to improve their pass rush. The latest rumor, according to Calvin Watkins at ESPNDallas, is that there is mutual interest between the Cowboys and outside linebacker Erik Walden. Regardless of how that turns out, an improved pass rush must rank at the very top of the Cowboys’ to-do list entering the draft.
|Rank||Defensive Ends (3/16)
|1||Quinton Coples, North Carolina||Melvin Ingram, South Carolina|
|2||Courtney Upshaw, Alabama||Whitney Mercilus, Illinois|
|3||Nick Perry, USC||Andre Branch, Clemson|
|4||Vinny Curry, Marshall||Ronell Lewis, Oklahoma|
|5||Jared Crick, Nebraska||Shea McClellin, Boise State|
DEs and OLBs are another position that Mayock had lumped together in his previous positional rankings, and he pulls them apart this time. Notably absent from both lists: Bruce Irvin, who had turned heads at the combine and is another fan favorite as a Cowboys pick, but who may have hurt his draft stock a little with an arrest on Saturday for allegedly breaking a sign in a Jimmy Johns Sandwich Shop.
The Cowboys showed a lot of interest in J.J. Watt last year. Whether the Cowboys try to improve their pass rush via a DE or OLB remains a topic of much debate. But we do already have one hint of where they may be leaning: OLB Ronell Lewis has received an invitation for an official pre-draft visit with the Cowboys.
Overall, many of the dark horses that we had been secretly hoping would be available in the later rounds for the Cowboys are making a push for the top: Stephon Gilmore, Josh Robinson, Fletcher Cox or Shea McClellin are no longer flying under the radar – if they ever were.
The Cowboys have signed 26-year old inside linebacker Dan Connor. Connor played in 15 games for the Panthers last year and he had 75 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss and 1 forced fumble. He has now played in 42 games in his first four years in the NFL and he has 156 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery and 1 pass defensed. Connor is not a big time playmaker, but he’s pretty dependable inside against the run.
The Cowboys have released 25-year old kicker David Buehler. He played in 4 games last season due to hip surgery and he didn’t try any field goals or extra points. Buehler played in 36 games in his three years for the Cowboys and he connected on 24 of 32 (75%) field goals and 42 of 44 extra points, good for 114 total points. Buehler has lost his job to Dan Bailey.
The Cowboys have placed 32-year old punter Mat McBriar on the Injured Reserve List, ending his season due to a left foot injury. McBriar played in 14 games for the Cowboys this year and he has punted the ball 58 times for 2,542 yards (43.8 avg). He had 7 touchbacks (12.1%) and pinned the opposing team inside their own 20-yard line 21 times (36.2%). The Cowboys have promoted 22-year old punter Chris Jones from the practice squad. Jones played in 1 game earlier this year for the Cowboys and he punted the ball 4 times for 172 yards (43.0 avg). He didn’t have any touchbacks and he pinned the oppositon inside their own 20-yard line 2 times. The Cowboys better hope that Jones is ready for prime time tomorrow night because he’s going to have a huge role in this game.
Hot on the heels of the news that the Redskins traded away their future to acquire the second pick of the 2012 NFL draft comes speculation that there may be even more trades in the works this year. Dan Pompei of the National Football Post writes today that there may be a whole bunch of teams looking to trade down in this year’s draft:
From the early returns, it appears that the concept of trading down is going to be in vogue this year. A number of front office men have expressed a desire to do so. Now that the Browns won’t be moving up for Robert Griffin, they are a candidate to move down with the fourth pick. The Rams could even move down again from the sixth spot. And a number of teams that pick after the Rams have been sending out trade feelers to move down. Given the strengths and weaknesses of the draft, teams are thinking they rather would have multiple second, third and fourth round picks than one first rounder.
Personally, I like the idea the Cowboys of trading down, for the very reasons Pompei outlines above. It may be a little far-fetched, but if a guy like Trent Richardson would fall to #14, perhaps the Cowboys might be able to entertain some trade offers. They were open to trading out of the #9 spot last year, but didn’t get any offers. Unfortunately, the same could easily happen again this year. Of course, there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with staying put and taking the best player available, whoever that may turn out to be.
But in a market where many teams are looking to trade down, simple market dynamics suggest that the Cowboys may be better served by trading up.
In a market where supply outstrips demand, prices inevitably fall. Could the same happen to this year’s draft picks? If the teams picking in the top ten are stumbling all over themselves to trade down and acquire extra picks, will they accept a lower price for trading down than teams historically have?
The draft value chart, as presently constructed, would suggest the following trade-up possibilities for the Cowboys:
- Cowboys trade their 14th and 82 picks (1,100 + 180 = 1,280 points) to Buffalo for their 10th pick (1,300 pts)
- Cowboys trade their 14th and 113th pick (1,100 + 68 = 1,168 pts) to Seattle for their 12th pick (1,200 pts)
Of course, that’s assuming there’s no discount for the top ten picks. And conversely, that there’s no premium on extra draft picks. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that this year will see a premium on extra draft picks, and let’s assume that that premium would be the equivalent of one full round. So the trade value of a third round pick this year would be the equivalent of a second round pick on the draft value chart.
For the Cowboys, this hypothetical scenario would mean their third round pick (#82, 180 points) could now be worth the equivalent of their second round pick (#45, 450), and their fourth round pick (#113, 68 points) could be worth the 180 points of their third rounder. Here’s how far the Cowboys could trade up in such a scenario:
- Cowboys trade their 14th and 82 picks (1,100 + 450 = 1,550 points) to St. Louis for their 6th pick (1,600 pts)
- Cowboys trade their 14th and 113th pick (1,100 + 180 = 1,168 pts) to Buffalo for their 10th pick (1,300 pts)
Under this hypothetical scenario, the Cowboys could be in play for the 6th pick that the Rams appear to be shopping, at least according to Pompei. And do you think it’s any coincidence that just a few hours after the Pompei article appeared this morning, news leaks out of the Rams front office that the team is very interested in Trent Richardson? If you’re not inclined to take everything you read at face value, you could easily think this looks like a team trying to protect the value of their pick.
The top two picks are set, with Luck going to the Colts and RGIII to the Redskins. After that, the consensus seems to be that Matt Kalil and Justin Blackmon could be the next two picks. It’s not inconceivable that Morris Claiborne could be available as late as the sixth pick, thus making him available for the Cowboys in the scenario outlined above.
Also, other blue-chip prospects like Quinton Coples, Melvin Ingram, Riley Reiff or David DeCastro could suddenly be available for the Cowboys for a quite a discount.
In the NFL, you usually win games with the players you draft in the top two or three rounds. But you win championships with blue-chip players. The best place to find those blue chippers is in the top ten picks of a draft class. The Cowboys could sit pretty at #14 and hope that a blue-chip player falls to them. Or they could realize that hope is not a strategy and go after a true blue-chip prospect by trading up.
This year, market dynamics may make it easier (and cheaper!) than ever to trade up. The Cowboys could find themselves fielding multiple calls from teams wanting to trade out of the top ten. What would you be willing to give up to secure a true blue chipper? And who would that blue-chipper be?
The Dallas Cowboys used their franchise tag on 28-year old OLB Anthony Spencer. He played in all 16 games for the Cowboys last year and he had 66 tackles, 6 sacks, 7 tackles for a loss, 4 forced fumbles and 1 interception. Spencer has now played in 76 games in his first five years with the Cowboys and he has 266 tackles, 21.5 sacks, 21 tackles for a loss, 10 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries, 10 passes defensed and 1 interception. This was a smart move for the Cowboys as Spencer is a good pass rusher and a big time playmaker.
Sure, the Cowboys were only 8-8 on the season……but that wasn’t Tony Romo’s fault. The 31-year old Tony Romo played in 16 games (all starts) for the Cowboys last year and he completed 346 of 522 passes (66.3%) for 4,184 yards with 31 TD passes and 10 INTs (102.5 QB Rating). Romo also carried the ball 22 times for 46 yards (2.1 ypc) with 1 TD run last year. Romo has now played in 105 games (77 starts) in his NFL career and he has completed 1,672 of 2,592 passes (64.5%) for 20,834 yards with 149 TD passes and 72 INTs (96.9 QB Rating). Romo has also carried the ball 158 times for 459 yards (2.9 ypc) with 4 TD carries so far in his NFL career. Romo is now 47-30 (61%) as a starting QB during the regular season in the NFL.
26-year old Stephen McGee got into a game this year when Tony Romo injured his hand and he didn’t play too bad. McGee completed 24 of 38 passes (63.2%) for 182 yards with 1 TD pass and 0 INTs (83.4 QB Rating). He also carried the ball 4 times for 28 yards (7.0 ypc) last year. McGee has now played in 3 games (1 start) for the Cowboys in his career and he has completed 46 of 82 passes (56.1%) for 420 yards with 3 TD passes and 0 INTs (82.4 QB Rating). He also has carried the ball 17 times for 102 yards (6.0 ypc) so far in his NFL career. McGee is 1-0 as the Cowboys’ starting QB.
39-year old Jon Kitna is likely near the end of the line as his season was ended early due to injury. Kitna played in 3 games (0 starts) for the Cowboys last year and he completed 6 of 10 passes (60%) for 87 yards with 1 TD pass and 2 INTs (82.1 QB Rating). He also carried the ball 3 times for -2 yards (-0.7 ypc) last year. Kitna has now played in 141 games (124 starts) in his NFL career and he has completed 2,677 of 4,442 passes (60.3%) for 29,745 yards with 169 TD passes and 165 INTs (77.4 QB Rating). Kitna also has carried the ball 313 times for 956 yards (3.1 ypc) with 11 TD runs so far in his NFL career. Kitna is 50-74 (40.3%) as a starting QB during the regular season in his NFL career.
The Cowboys have signed 27-year old LB Baraka Atkins to a reserve/future contract. Atkins has now played in the NFL since the 2008 season with the Seahawks. Atkins has now played in 21 games in his first 2 years in the NFL and he has 29 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for a loss, 2 fumble recoveries and 1 pass defensed. Atkins will be a longshot to win a job for the Cowboys in 2012 or beyond.
If you thought the Combine would lead to some new names being mocked to the Cowboys, you may be in for a surprise as you read through our mock draft roundup this morning.
While there were many prospects who stood out at the Combine and possibly improved their draft stock, the mock draftniks this week are a conservative bunch, sticking to the names they’ve been mocking to the Cowboys for the last few weeks.
Cornerback and O-line remain the two positions mocked most frequently, with Dre Kirkpatrick and David DeCastro still the odds-on favorites. In fact, it’s hard finding mocks that don’t have either of the two mocked our way.
In today’s round-up, we look at the latest post-Combine mocks from Foxsports, SBNation and Draftek, a whole Armada of mocks from NFL.com and many others, including one from the illustriously named website Fantasy Knuckleheads.
All the mock draft goodness after the break.
Peter Schrager, Foxsports, 2/29/2012: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Will [the marijuana charges being dropped] be enough for some teams to get over the incident? For many teams, maybe not. For the Cowboys? Sure. A six-foot cornerback with top-flight speed (think Patrick Peterson speed), Kirkpatrick is the rare tall cornerback who can keep up with the game’s fastest receivers (think Patrick Peterson).
The Cowboys are desperate for some depth and some young talent at cornerback. Kirkpatrick would be a steal at No. 14.
Ryan van Bibber, SBnation, 2/29/2012: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
Dallas might fill their cornerback needs in free agency, targeting either Brandon Carr or Cortland Finnegan. If they do, they would be under no pressure to grab one in the first round of the draft. DeCastro matches need and draft spot as one of the more promising interior linemen since Steve Hutchinson.
Drafttek, 2/29/2012: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College
How can you tell when Cuzzin Jerruh is lying? His lips move . . . but for the sake of argument, let’s take him at his word that needs will be filled in free agency and the Cowboys will adopt a “BPA” policy for the 2012 Draft. In this horrific simulation, the top 2 CB’s (Claiborne #3 to Minnesota and Kirkpatrick #5 to Tampa Bay) are both off the board, the “People’s Choice” OG David Decastro goes to Kansas City at #11, and even “Super Soph” DE Michael Brockers is gone (#9 to Carolina).
So looking at the Big Board, the two best values remaining are RB Trent Richardson and ILB Luke Kuechly . . . of the 2 positions, RB appears to be in better hands with Murray/Jones/Tanner than ILB with Lee/Carter/Lemon. The potential injury concerns are prevalent at both positions . . . but only Lee has proven he can play in the NFL. We hope Carter is starting material, but we don’t know . . . Kuechly is the best ILB prospect in this year’s draft. Don’t you always take “the best”???
Ryan McCrystal, DraftAce, 02/29/2012: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Rob Ryan recently stated that he wants the Cowboys to focus on the secondary this offseason, and I suspect Jerry Jones will listen. Charges were recently dropped against Kirkpatrick in his marijuana arrest, which help alleviate any concerns teams may have about his character. Then again, the Cowboys aren’t the type of franchise that pays much attention to those types of concerns to begin with, and for that reason Janoris Jenkins may be an option here as well.
Steve Wyche, NFL.com, 02/29/2012: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Dallas could make a surprise pick and snap Boston College ILB Luke Kuechly. It’s a need, but the secondary is more pressing.
Chad Reuter, NFL.com, 02/29/2012: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Terence Newman won’t be in Dallas much longer and Kirkpatrick’s combine workout showed he has enough speed to stay with NFL receivers. He didn’t run agility tests, however, and only weighed 186 pounds, so Dallas may not have a problem picking him up in the mid-first round.
Albert Breer, NFL.com, 02/29/2012: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Don’t be surprised if Dallas signs a free agent corner (Brandon Carr, Cortland Finnegan) and drafts one. Rob Ryan can’t have enough of them.
Bucky Brooks, NFL.com, 02/29/2012: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
After watching receivers routinely run past Terence Newman and Co., Jerry Jones is intent on fortifying the secondary. Kirkpatrick is a solid all-around corner with the size and length to challenge the big receivers that rule the roost in the NFC.
NationalFootballAuthority, 2/29/2012: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
The ‘Boys need an upgrade at the corner position and Jenkins makes sense here; only because it seems as though he has made serious strides to clean up his act. His off the field antics forced his path to UNA as many will recall. There are some other interesting options here, and if it’s not Jenkins it could be Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick.
NFLmocks.com, 2/28/2012: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
DeCastro only plays guard which could push him down the board. Konz on the other hand is a center which holds more value. You say, but Jesse where is the cornerback? Well one of the combine rumors is that the Cowboys will be signing Brandon Carr, the Kansas City Chiefs cornerback, as soon as free agency opens and that they are looking at OL. Tyron Smith is moving to LT also in case you missed that. Center though remains a problem. Konz, to me, is better than Mike Pouncy last year.
NePatriotsdraft, 2/29/2012: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Even if the Cowboys sign Brandon Carr or another veteran CB, they could still use another piece to their secondary. Jenkins has some well known character issues, but he’s also an extremely talented player who can bump at the line and turn and run with even the fastest WRs.
Dallas Cowboys Mock Draft overview (min. three rounds deep)
|Site||Date||1st Round||2nd Round||3rd Round||4th Round||5th Round||6th Round|
|Draft Tek||2/29||Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College||Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia||Kendall Reyes, DE, Connecticut||Josh Robinson, CB, Central Florida||Ryan Lindley, QB San Diego State||Kevin Koger, TE, Michigan|
|Walter Football||2/29||Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama||Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse||Tank Carder, ILB, TCU||Jared Crick, DE, Nebraska|
|Fantasy Knuckleheads||2/27||Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama||Bobby Wagner, OLB, Utah State||Senio Kelemete, OG, Washington||Duke Ihenacho, SS, San Jose State||Quentin Saulsberry, C, Mississippi State||George Bryan, TE, NC State|
|Sideline Scouting||2/23||David DeCastro, OG, Stanford||Alameda Ta’amu, NT, Washington||Trumaine Johnson, CB, Montana
||Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon||Janzen Jackson, S, McNeese State||Brandon Lindsey, OLB, Pittsburgh|