Dallas Cowboys: Brian Schaefering

The Dallas Cowboys were almost $20 million over the salary cap when the offseason began, but the restructuring of contracts and releasing of some players put the team in a better situation after the NFL draft.

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Baylor head coach Art Briles joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss what kind of player the Cowboys are getting in Terrance Williams.

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The Cowboys are a little more than $5 million under the salary cap. They will pick up an additional $2 million when the release of defensive end Marcus Spears takes effect June 1.

That means the Cowboys will have $7 million available to sign draft picks and free agents. That figure could increase if right tackle Doug Free is released (saving $7 million) or takes a pay cut (an undetermined amount of savings).

Defensive end Anthony Spencer is under contract for $10.6 million, but his cap number could be decreased if he is signed to a long-term deal.

The Cowboys want to have salary-cap space during the season in the event obtaining a veteran free agent is necessary due to injury. Last season, the Cowboys signed Charlie Peprah, Brady Poppinga, Brian Schaefering, Ernie Sims and Anthony Armstrong because of injuries.

Right now, the Cowboys are on target to have enough space to take care of draft picks and free agents before and during the season.

Cowboys tender Danny McCray

March, 8, 2013
3/08/13
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IRVING, Texas – Having signed Phil Costa to a two-year deal last week, the Cowboys made a tender offer of $1.323 million Friday to safety Danny McCray, their only restricted free agent.

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Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Tony Romo's potential contract extension, the Cowboys' plans for Anthony Spencer and how Joe Flacco's final month of the season impacted the Cowboys' offseason.

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The Cowboys will have the right to match an offer to McCray but would not receive any compensation if he were to leave.

McCray has been the Cowboys’ best special-teams player the last three seasons and finished second on the team with 18 special-teams tackles in 2012. McCray started 10 games at safety because of injuries and finished second on the team with 87 tackles and had five pass breakups, but his playing time decreased later in the season.

Safety is a position of need after the Cowboys cut their other starting safety last season, Gerald Sensabaugh. The only safeties signed for 2013 are Barry Church, who is coming off a torn Achilles, and Matt Johnson, who did not play in a game as a rookie because of hamstring injuries. McCray is a restricted free agent while Eric Frampton and Charlie Peprah are set to be unrestricted free agents.

The Cowboys will not tender an offer to defensive lineman Brian Schaefering, an exclusive rights free agent who signed late last season. Linebacker Orie Lemon is also an exclusive rights free agent.

Cowboys' moves create $23 million in space

February, 28, 2013
2/28/13
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IRVING, Texas – By restructuring the contracts of Brandon Carr, DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten, Miles Austin and Ryan Cook, the Cowboys are under the $123 million NFL salary cap.

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Todd Archer joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the Cowboys' attempt to clear cap space, Tony Romo's value around the NFL and why the recent Alex Smith trade shows how valuable Romo truly is.

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But not by so much that they can be active shoppers when free agency begins March 12 and not enough to where they can place the franchise tag on outside linebacker Anthony Spencer for the second straight year.

The five announced moves Thursday cleared roughly $23 million against the cap, leaving them with about $5 million under the cap. They would have to create another $6 million to fit Spencer's $10.6 million tag under the cap.

The Cowboys have until Monday to tag Spencer.

The $5 million figure does not take into account the restricted free-agent tenders for Phil Costa, Danny McCray and possibly Brian Schaefering at $1.323 million each. It is possible the Cowboys do not tender Schaeferung, a late-season pickup in 2012.

To clarify an earlier report, the Cowboys have the OK to re-work the contract of guard Nate Livings, which would create roughly $740,000 in space, but they have yet to send in the move to the league. They could gain $1 million by re-doing Mackenzy Bernadeau's contract. Because Bernadeau hit on a play-time incentive, his base salary is set to increase to $2.25 million in 2013.

The Cowboys have also talked to the agents of Jay Ratliff and Orlando Scandrick about re-structuring their contracts, which would create another $3.8 million in room.

The moves made Thursday also allow the Cowboys to keep Tony Romo on the books for $16.8 million and Doug Free at $10.02 million in 2013. The Cowboys and Romo's agent have yet to have substantive talks about an extension, but the team is hopeful it can reach one in the near future.

Simpler scheme played role in move to 4-3

February, 13, 2013
2/13/13
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IRVING, Texas – With all the injuries the Cowboys had in 2012 on the defensive side of the ball, it seemed like Rob Ryan had to re-teach his scheme to a new player every week.

The Cowboys lost Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Kenyon Coleman, Jay Ratliff and Orlando Scandrick, as well as Josh Brent to injured reserve or the non-football injury list, forcing the team to find street free agents like Ernie Sims, Brady Poppinga, Brian Schaefering and Charlie Peprah and poach Sterling Moore off New England’s practice squad.

It was taxing and difficult, considering the supposed complexities of Ryan’s schemes.

Part of the desire to add Monte Kiffin as defensive coordinator and move to the 4-3 was the supposed simplistic nature of the scheme.

“In this day and age in the NFL, with shortened offseasons, shortened training camps, injuries, all those kinds of things, it’s important to try and put offensive and defensive systems in place that allow you to deal with the schedule and absorb the injuries that very well could happen,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “That was one of the philosophical advantages of playing this 4-3 defense. We think it can be a simpler defense for us, for guys to come in here and learn in this day and age, and also if you have the injuries to absorb it allows you to maybe do that a little bit better.”

Cowboys free agents: Brian Schaefering

February, 7, 2013
2/07/13
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[+] EnlargeSchaefering
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsBrian Schaefering didn't have a huge impact, but a team can never have enough defensive tackles.

Brian Schaefering


Position: Defensive tackle

Type: Restricted

Summary: A late-season addition, Schaefering picked up the techniques well and immersed himself into the Cowboys locker room pretty quickly. He had a minimal impact on the team.

Why keep him: You can never have enough defensive tackles, especially when you're moving to a 4-3 scheme that needs defenders to push the pocket. The uncertain futures of Jay Ratliff and Josh Brent due to their arrests means the Cowboys are thin at this position, so Schaefering gets to stay.

Why let him go: The Cowboys didn't seen enough of him and there's nothing wrong with looking at other players, specifically draft picks with more upside.

Best guess: He stays with the team. It can't hurt to have him around getting to know the scheme and maybe becoming a reliable backup.

Follow the rest of the series here.

A look at the Cowboys' free agents

December, 31, 2012
12/31/12
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LANDOVER, Md. -- The Cowboys will have 18 free agents, but the biggest decision will be with outside linebacker Anthony Spencer.

The Cowboys could place the franchise tag on him for a second straight year, but that will cost them $10.6 million. Spencer has played so well in 2012 that another team could be willing to overpay him to pry him away from Dallas.

The Cowboys are not in the best of salary-cap positions and will likely have to restructure a number of contracts and cut players just to reach the expected $121 million cap.

Here’s a look at the free agents to be:

5 Wonders: Jason Witten's quiet record

December, 25, 2012
12/25/12
12:00
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IRVING, Texas -- Merry Christmas to everybody. On this day filled with wonder, we bring you the final regular-season installment of Five Wonders.

On Rudolph …

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Coach Jason Garrett talks about the Cowboys' overtime loss to the Saints and Jason Witten's remarkable season.

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** I wonder if anybody has set a record as quietly as Jason Witten set Sunday. With his final catch he set an NFL record for catches by a tight end in a season with 103. Tony Gonzalez had 102 for Kansas City in 2004. Because it came in overtime and given the magnitude of the game, there was a brief mention on the digital board and an announcement. Counter that with Detroit’s Calvin Johnson breaking Jerry Rice’s record for receiving yards in a season in which he was able to hand the ball to his dad and the crowd was able to make a big acknowledgment of the feat. Witten simply flipped the ball to the official and went back to business. The mark deserved more acclaim in the days that followed, not that Witten cared for any of the attention. It is, however, interesting to note. For all of the attention the Cowboys get nationally, somehow Witten seems to fall between the big headlines. Just an observation.

** If you’re wondering when Matt Johnson can play again, it won’t be this week. Johnson was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return Nov. 18 because of a hamstring injury. He can return to practice Friday but he would not be eligible to play in a game until the divisional round of the playoffs. Johnson’s rookie year has been a wash because of the hamstring injuries. The offseason should do him some good to get bigger and stronger, but the Cowboys won’t know what they have until next summer. Given Barry Church’s recovery from an Achilles’ tear and Johnson’s inexperience, the Cowboys face something of a dilemma at safety. They clearly believe Johnson has some real potential or they would not have kept him around all year the way they have, but they won’t know what he is. So go get a safety in free agency or draft one of the best safeties in the draft? Not really. To me, they can get by at safety especially with the resources they have at linebacker and cornerback.

** The Cowboys’ pro scouting department has done a nice job in finding players throughout the season that have come in and played a role on a team ravaged by injuries. I wonder if some of the guys they have added are keepers going forward. Start with Eric Frampton, who will be a free agent after the season. He was signed to be a special teams’ guy and has worked his way into a starting role in part because of injury. He would be a guy to bring back in 2013. I wonder if they take one-year looks at guys like Michael Coe, Charlie Peprah and Brian Schaefering too. Now, these guys aren’t top-end starters by any means, but good role players. You would like to be able to develop younger guys in these roles, but they could be doing enough to at least get a deal for 2013.

** I wonder how the Cowboys believe David Arkin will be a player one day. They have done everything possible to not play the 2011 fourth-round pick this season and yet he remains on the roster. Arkin has had chances in his first two training camps that a lot of players do not get afforded and he was unable to show he can play. Yet the Cowboys keep him. If they end up cutting him next August in camp, then they wasted time. Teams loathe to give up on offensive lineman and I’m sure everybody thought Doug Free was a bust after his first two seasons when he played only a couple of times. Like Free, Arkin is from a small school and those guys tend to take time to develop, but the Cowboys cannot afford to draft projects anymore. They need to get guys who are close to being ready to play.

** I wonder if enough people are noticing what Dan Bailey has done in his first two years. He is having the second-best two-year run by a Cowboys kicker in team history. His coach, Chris Boniol made 59 of 64 field goal tries in 1995-96, good for a 92.2% percentage. Bailey has made 60 of 67 kicks the last two seasons, including 28 of 30 this season, for a 90% make rate. (Yes, we rounded up from 89.5%). He has made a field goal in every game but one this season (at Seattle), and has delivered winning kicks against Cleveland, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh this year. The guy is automatic and that means a lot with how many games in the NFL come down to big kicks.

Pondering the 46: Heavy with defensive backs

December, 21, 2012
12/21/12
10:38
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IRVING, Texas – As the Cowboys can attest, injuries play a large part when pondering the 46-man gameday roster. So does the opponent.

With New Orleans bringing the second-ranked pass offense in the NFL, the Cowboys will likely have to counter by having all nine defensive backs available with Morris Claiborne returning from a one-week absence due to a concussion.

Five inactives appear to be a lock: Jay Ratliff, David Arkin, Darrion Weems, Kevin Kowalski and Phillip Tanner.

Who are the final two?

Last week against Pittsburgh the Cowboys dressed all six wide receivers, but that might be a luxury they cannot afford this week. To me, that puts the final couple spots down to the defensive line, wide receiver and linebacker.

I’d rather see Brian Schaefering over Robert Callaway along the defensive line. Linebacker could be a question, so if they go there that final spot comes down to Brady Poppinga and Kyle Wilber. Since Poppinga started last week and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan used more of a 4-3 look vs. Pittsburgh, he gets the edge. At wide receiver, Anthony Armstrong was active last week but didn’t play an offensive snap, so he’s inactive this week in my book.

Jason Hatcher: Who are these guys?

December, 19, 2012
12/19/12
2:46
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IRVING, Texas – Since the regular season started, the Cowboys have made 58 roster moves. Twenty of them have come in the first 19 days of December.

On Wednesday they officially welcomed defensive linemen Ike Igbinosun to the practice squad.

Jason Hatcher, a Cowboy since 2006, looks around the locker room and is not sure who’s who anymore.

“Those guys man like I said I don’t know half of them but they’re playing their butt off right now,” Hatcher said. “I’m learning their names, but they doing a great job coming off the street doing what they do.”

The defense has seen the addition of Brady Poppinga, Sterling Moore, Michael Coe and Brian Schaefering since Nov. 26 and all four have made contributions.

“I learned I think Coe’s name today,” Hatcher said. “That’s probably one. Sterling No. 30, I learned his name today. There’s a few more I’ve got to learn by they’ve been balling.”

Wait, Moore has been here three weeks and you’re just learning his name?

“Really?” Hatcher said. “Shoot, I didn’t know that one. I feel bad. My bad, Sterling.”
A look at the snaps played by Cowboys’ defenders in the team’s 27-24 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, while analyzing what it means:

S Gerald Sensabaugh: 60 of 60
CB Mike Jenkins: 60 of 60
CB Brandon Carr: 59 of 60
OLB Anthony Spencer: 58 of 60
OLB DeMarcus Ware: 52 of 60
DE Jason Hatcher: 50 of 60
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ILB Alex Albright: 49 of 60
S Danny McCray: 41 of 60
ILB Dan Connor: 38 of 60
CB Sterling Moore: 37 of 60
S Eric Frampton: 29 of 60
DL Sean Lissemore: 29 of 60
DE Marcus Spears: 27 of 60
DE Tyrone Crawford: 22 of 60
OLB Victor Butler: 13 of 60
CB Michael Coe: 10 of 60
DE Brian Schaefering: 10 of 60
NT Robert Callaway: 6 of 60
LB Ernie Sims: 5 of 60

Taylor's Takes: CB Sterling Moore, NT Robert Callaway, CB Michael Coe and DE Brian Schaefering combined for 63 plays. So defensive coordinator Rob Ryan deserves considerable credit for getting his unit to play well with a bunch of no-name, new-to-the-team guys. ... Eric Frampton replaced Danny McCray in some situations in the nickel and dime because McCray was struggling. He couldn’t cover TE Heath Miller in the first half and receiver Mike Wallace ran past him for a 60-yard gain in the third quarter. ... LB Alex Albright played a season-high 49 snaps and finished with five tackles -- none bigger than his third-down stop in the second quarter.

Pondering the 46: Opponent could make a difference

December, 14, 2012
12/14/12
11:34
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IRVING, Texas – With so many new faces in new places, configuring the Cowboys’ 46-man roster for Sunday against Pittsburgh could be a challenge.

Injuries play a big part in setting the roster, so even though DeMarcus Ware said he will play with a hyperextended elbow against the Steelers, the Cowboys have to prepare for the possibility Ware won’t be able to finish the game. Does that mean they dress all eight linebackers?

Injuries in the secondary have the Cowboys shorthanded too. Can they dress all nine of them?

While the Cowboys might want to get a look at wide receiver Anthony Armstrong, can they get all six wide receivers active? How about all five running backs?

Facing a physical team, the Cowboys could want to dress all seven defensive linemen, including newcomer Brian Schaefering. Most likely they will go with six with Schaefering and Robert Callaway taking the last two spots with Jay Ratliff off.

The Cowboys’ final decision has to come down at wide receiver, running back and linebacker. Is Phillip Tanner active? Can they go with four receivers, especially with Dez Bryant playing with a broken finger? What role can Brady Poppinga serve?

The inactive guesses: David Arkin, Darrion Weems, Kevin Kowalski, Ratliff, Poppinga, Beasley, Michael Coe

Cowboys say hello to new faces

December, 13, 2012
12/13/12
4:39
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IRVING, Texas – With Jay Ratliff all but done for the season because of sports hernia surgery, the Cowboys have lost 12 players to injury, the most since 2005.

If you add Josh Brent, who was placed on the non-football injury list and is done for the season, to the list, it’s the most players they have lost in a year since 14 players ended the 1999 season on injured reserve or the non-football injurt list.

Since Nov. 26 the Cowboys have signed six players -- Brian Schaefering, Robert Callaway, Darrion Weems, Sterling Moore, Anthony Armstrong and Brady Poppinga –- to the 53-man roster. This week they changed out half the practice squad, signing four new players.

“I’ve never been a part of a season or a team that’s had so many guys lost for extended periods of time,” quarterback Tony Romo said. “We were joking earlier this week (that) we needed name tags out at practice, just because new guys keep coming in. That’s part of what happens in the National Football League sometimes. This is definitely the most our team has been exposed to that since I’ve been here. With that battle, guys have had to step up all year.”

Of the 13 players out for the year, nine were expected to be significant contributors: Ratliff, Brent, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Kenyon Coleman, Orlando Scandrick, Barry Church, Phil Costa and Chris Jones.

Cowboys sign Brian Schaefering

December, 12, 2012
12/12/12
5:25
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IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys signed veteran defensive lineman Brian Schaefering To replace Josh Brent on the roster.

The Cowboys also re-signed Vince Agnew and placed him on the practice squad.

Schaefering played for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in Cleveland. He had 72 tackles in 37 games from 2009-11 but was cut by the Browns on Aug. 31.

With Brent on the reserve non-football injury list, the Cowboys needed to add depth to the defensive line. As it stands, nose tackle Jay Ratliff is doubtful for the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a groin injury.

Sean Lissemore has replaced him at starter. Rob Callaway was called up from the practice squad prior to the Cincinnati Bengals game last week to play defensive tackle and defensive end.

Cowboys work out veteran DL

December, 12, 2012
12/12/12
11:10
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IRVING, Texas – With Josh Brent out for the season and Jay Ratliff’s availability still in question because of a lingering groin injury, the Cowboys have brought in veteran Brian Schaefering for a workout.

“We need somebody to help us right now,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “Jay’s a question mark, so we’re down to five guys. If we get an injury we’re down to four, so we’ve got to get someone in here getting ready to play in case somebody gets injured.”

Schaefering played for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in Cleveland. From 2009-11, he had 72 tackles in 37 games, but he was cut by the Browns on Aug. 31.

Jones said he was not sure if Ratliff could return this week from a groin injury that has kept him out of the last three games. Ratliff went for a second opinion on his injury, which concurred with the team’s medical staff, according to Jones.

Without Ratliff and the impending move of Brent to NFI, the Cowboys have Jason Hatcher, Marcus Spears, Sean Lissemore, Tyrone Crawford and Robert Callaway on the defensive line.

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