FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys have yet to sign a free agent from another team, although that could change Tuesday.
Their modus operandi when it comes to free agency is to re-sign their own players, but the past two years they have lost critical pieces to their roster.
Last week, it was linebacker Anthony Hitchens, who signed a five-year, $45 million deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. They also lost fullback Keith Smith and linebacker Kyle Wilber to the Oakland Raiders, but neither played major offensive or defensive roles and can be replaced.
Last year, it was guard Ronald Leary to the Denver Broncos, safety Barry Church to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brandon Carr to the Baltimore Ravens, Morris Claiborne to the New York Jets, J.J. Wilcox to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Terrell McClain to the Washington Redskins, among others.
The Cowboys can argue that they did not want to pay the price to keep those players, which is fine, but if they don’t get ahead of the market by signing players to extensions before they reach free agency, then they won’t do anything but spin their wheels in free agency.
Speaking on the team’s luxury bus from the NFL scouting combine last month in Indianapolis, owner and general manager Jerry Jones was almost gloating about the compensatory picks the team received for losing Leary (fourth round), Church (fifth round), Carr (fifth round) and Claiborne (sixth round).
Depending on what they end up doing in free agency, they could get a fourth-rounder for Hitchens in 2019. The picks help make up for the loss of proven players, and the Cowboys could use them in trades to move up in next month’s draft.
But if the Cowboys’ plan is to “keep their own,” then they could face a difficult task in 2019.
They could have as many as 12 players set to hit unrestricted free agency, including three massive pieces to their success: Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, Pro Bowl right guard Zack Martin and defensive lineman David Irving.
The Cowboys kept Lawrence on the franchise tag this year, chewing up $17.143 million of their cap space. They have until mid-July to sign Lawrence to a multi-year contract or else he will have to play this season on the tag.
Martin is set to play out the year on his fifth-year option at $9.3 million. The Cowboys have wanted to lock him up to a long-term contract since last summer, but have not been able to close the deal. An extension would free up cap space this year and lock down Martin the same way they did Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick. The Cowboys will not shy away from making Martin the highest paid guard in the NFL, which is now north of $13 million per season.
The Cowboys gave Irving, a restricted free agent, the second-round tender at $2.9 million. Theoretically, another team could sign Irving to a massive offer sheet, which the Cowboy won’t match in order to gain a second-round pick this year, but if not, then Irving would be scheduled to hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent in 2019. If Irving can put together a full season of work, then his price will be enormous.
Safety Byron Jones could be an unrestricted free agent next year as well if the Cowboys don’t pick up his fifth-year option by May 2. Add in running back Rod Smith, tight ends James Hanna and Geoff Swaim, backup tackle Chaz Green, defensive end Datone Jones and linebackers Justin March-Lillard and Damien Wilson and long snapper L.P. Ladouceur, and the Cowboys will have plenty of decisions to make.
The Cowboys can sign Dak Prescott to a mega-extension for the first time next summer and the quarterback numbers are going to be astronomical.
That’s why what happens this year matters so much, especially with Lawrence and Martin.
If Lawrence has another Pro Bowl-type season, his price jumps up to likely $20 million per year. If Martin waits, then his number only goes up as well, however, he has said he does not want to play anywhere else.
There is only one franchise tag to go around. Getting a long-term deal done for Lawrence might be more difficult than Martin, but if the Cowboys want to follow through on their “keep their own” plan they need to get something done.
Compensatory picks only matter so much.
Falcons’ Hayden Hurst shares support for Cowboys’ Dak Prescott speaking on mental health
Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst said he approached Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott after Sunday’s game to express his support in the wake of what Hurst called “disgusting” comments made by Fox Sports 1’s Skip Bayless about Prescott’s opening up about his mental health.
Prescott recently shared in an episode of “In Depth with Graham Bensinger” that he sought help in the offseason for anxiety and depression brought on by the death of his older brother, Jace, and the coronavirus pandemic. Jace Prescott died by suicide in April. Dak Prescott also lost his mother to colon cancer in 2013.
In response to Prescott’s comments, Bayless said on his “Undisputed” show, “I don’t have sympathy for [Prescott] going public with, ‘I got depressed’ and ‘I suffered depression early in COVID to the point that I couldn’t even go work out.’ Look, he’s the quarterback of America’s team.” Fox later issued a statement condemning Bayless’ remarks.
Hurst, who has been open about attempting suicide and dealing with anxiety and depression, said he was appalled by Bayless’ words.
“To be totally honest with you, when I saw what Skip Bayless said, it just really upset me — that Dak had the courage to come out and talk about that and how it affected his family, how it affected him — and those [Bayless] comments, I thought, were just disgusting,” Hurst told ESPN on Tuesday night. “For a guy to come out and talk about that topic and use his platform to try and help and save lives, I’ve got nothing but respect for him because I know how hard it is going through stuff like that.
“It hit my family hard. My uncle killed himself. My cousin killed himself. And I had my own stuff with addiction and my attempted suicide. I know how much courage it takes to come out and talk about that. And for a guy like [Bayless] to blast Dak on his show, on national television, I think that’s just wrong. So I wanted to go up to Dak and talk to him and tell him how much I appreciated it.”
Following the Cowboys’ 40-39 win over the Falcons on Sunday, video captured Hurst stopping Prescott to say, “Hey, I’ve got a lot of respect for what did, came out and talked about. Me and my mom have a foundation about suicide prevention. Respect the hell out of you for talking about it, man.”
Prescott responded with a suggestion that they collaborate one day, to which Hurst replied, “Absolutely.”
“I thought it was awesome,” Hurst told ESPN. “I’m sure Dak Prescott doesn’t really know who I am. But I know the courage that takes, because a lot of people don’t like talking about mental health. They’re afraid to talk about it. They’re embarrassed. If guys like Dak Prescott can come out and talk about it, I think he’s going to save a lot of lives. I think that’s cool. I admire him. And I’ll be a Dak Prescott fan forever. I think he’s an awesome guy.”
Hurst previously shared his story about attempting suicide in January 2016 when he was in college at South Carolina. He had an unsuccessful stint in minor league baseball as a pitcher due to a throwing condition known as “the yips,” started using drugs and drinking heavily, then tried to slit his wrist. He survived what he called his “come to Jesus moment” and now tries to educate others about dealing with depression.
Hurst established the Hayden Hurst Foundation with his mother, Cathy, to raise awareness of mental health issues in children and adolescents by funding mental health services and programs through donations and fundraising events. The foundation will host a charity golf event Oct. 19 in Atlanta.
New York Giants adding Devonta Freeman on 1-year, $3 million deal
Freeman and the Giants agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $3 million, Freeman’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Tuesday. Freeman will sign the contract Wednesday morning, practice with the Giants later Wednesday and could play as soon as Sunday.
“Devonta turned down more money from other teams because he likes the opportunity with the Giants best,” Rosenhaus told Schefter.
Freeman, 28, spent the first six years of his career with the Atlanta Falcons. He has two 1,000-yard rushing seasons (2015-16) and has averaged 4.2 yards per carry throughout his career.
But Freeman had 656 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 184 carries (3.6 ypc) last season. The Falcons let him walk as a free agent this offseason and instead signed Todd Gurley.
But the Giants currently offer Freeman the best opportunity for touches with Barkley lost for the season. They have Lewis and Wayne Gallman on the active roster. Veteran Rod Smith is on the practice squad.
“Wayne and Dion are definitely guys that will factor in,” coach Joe Judge said Monday. “We’ll work to their strengths, they are two different types of backs. Both of them have a degree of toughness. Wayne’s got that long speed, get him ranging out and get him really moving. Dion’s got that real good short area quickness and burst to get going. He does a great job of finding small seams and getting through the hole. They are both different guys, we’re going to have to work with what they do well to give them an opportunity to be successful.”
Now add Freeman, who visited the Giants on Tuesday, to the mix.
Barkley was placed on injured reserve earlier Tuesday. Cornerback Ryan Lewis was added to the active roster.
Raiders’ Jon Gruden, Saints’ Sean Payton fined $100K for violating mask protocols
Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton have both been fined $100,000 by the NFL for not wearing masks on the sideline during Monday night’s game, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The Raiders and Saints also have each been fined $250,000, the source said.
The fines are the same that the NFL levied Monday against the Denver Broncos and Vic Fangio, the Seattle Seahawks and Pete Carroll and the San Francisco 49ers and Kyle Shanahan for similar violations this past Sunday of the league’s COVID-19 game-day protocols.
“I had a coach who was reminding me about it throughout the game, [running backs coach] Chad Morton was on my ass the whole night. He was reminding me the whole time,” Carroll told the Seahawks’ website on Tuesday. “I even changed masks at halftime to find one that worked better. Sometimes you’ve got to get coached up. Sometimes you have to admit that that you screwed up and have got to do better.”
“We wear masks all day at practice, we wear them around the building,” Carroll said. “I know it’s extremely important to wear masks. Sometimes you’ve just got to be reminded.”
Gruden, who revealed after Monday night’s victory over the Saints that he had previously contracted COVID-19, said Tuesday that he did not want to get into specifics about how he dealt with the virus.
“It wasn’t pleasant,” he said, “and it was reported that I made up that I had the virus and it really ticked me off because I would never do something like that.
“But it’s a very serious matter and, you know, obviously, I’m sensitive about it. But yeah, it was a tough ordeal, that’s for sure. Just like everybody else that had it.”
Payton also battled COVID-19 over the summer.
Gruden was asked after Monday night’s game about being mask-less on the sideline.
“I’m doing my best,” he said at the time. “I’ve had the virus. I’m doing my best. I’m very sensitive about it. … I’m calling plays. I just want to communicate in these situations and if I get fined, I’ll have to pay the fine. But I’m very sensitive about that and I apologize.”
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