Dallas Cowboys: Ernie Sims

Best case/worst case: Bruce Carter

July, 8, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- In order to break out of their 8-8 doldrums, the Dallas Cowboys will need a lot to go right in 2014.

This week we take a best-case, worst-case look at five offensive and defensive players that will go a long way toward shaping the Cowboys' season.

Bruce Carter

Carter
Carter
Best-case: He finally reaches his potential

So much was expected of Carter when the Cowboys moved to the 4-3 scheme last year. He seemed to have the speed and athleticism to handle the weakside linebacker spot. Although he had a career-high 122 tackles, he struggled in 2013. He had only four tackles for loss, no interceptions and after two sacks in the first two games he didn't record another one the rest of the season. Carter has not faced a bigger year in his career. He is set to be a free agent after the season. After playing well in 11 starts in 2012 before suffering an elbow injury, he was viewed as part of the future core. Now he's not. The Cowboys were going to draft Ryan Shazier in the first round if the Pittsburgh Steelers didn't scoop him up with the 15th pick. Carter's job description is changing under new coordinator Rod Marinelli. He will be protected by the 3-technique (lining up on the outside shoulder of a guard) at all times, which will keep him free from offensive linemen and give him better access to roam sideline to sideline. There is no doubting Carter's athleticism. He is one of the strongest players at his position. He can run with tight ends and backs. There is something there to develop, but time is running out. If he hits his potential, the Cowboys have a chance and Carter can work his way back into the future core.

Worst-case: Same as it ever was

If players aren't getting better, they're getting worse. If Carter is the same player in 2014 as he was in 2013, then that will severely limit the defense. He has to be a playmaker on a defense that does not look to have a lot of them, especially along the defensive front. What drove the coaches and those around Valley Ranch nuts last year was the indifference Carter seemed to show when he played poorly. That's part of the reason he was benched against the San Diego Chargers and was pushed by Ernie Sims for playing time. The coaches see a physical specimen capable of doing everything necessary. Does Carter have the innate football sense? The Cowboys have changed how they drop in coverages to give the linebackers the chance to eye the quarterback more. That should allow Carter to use his athleticism. Much of the offseason has been about building up Carter for the coaches. They want to challenge him more. They know how important he is to the scheme. If that doesn't work and Carter's seeming indifference doesn't improve, then they have no chance. He does not have to become a fire-breather, but he has to show a little smoke.

Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 1

April, 18, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:
  • What I would do with the 16th pick in the draft if I was the general manager.
  • What about a quarterback in the second round?
  • What about Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne?
  • What about the salary-cap implications of letting Kyle Orton go?

Away we go:
 

In Will McClay, Cowboys will be covered

April, 15, 2014
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Will McClayAP Photo/James D SmithAssistant director of player personnel Will McClay, 47, will be an asset to the Cowboys in May's draft.
IRVING, Texas -- There is a Herm Edwards story that keeps coming back to Will McClay, especially now.

The story is from more than 10 years ago, when Edwards was coach of the New York Jets. As a boy, Edwards' father made him sweep the back patio of their house. When Edwards was done, his father went out back, saw the pile his son made and immediately went to the corners. They were untouched.

The message that stuck with McClay when he first heard the story was simple: Details matter.

In his current job as the Dallas Cowboys' assistant director of player personnel, McClay is sweeping the corners.

In this case, sweeping the corners is looking anywhere and everywhere for a player to help the Cowboys in next month's draft. This is McClay's first as the Cowboys' highest-ranked personnel chief not named Jones.

"He's there night and day," said McClay's former Arena Football League assistant and confidante Terry Gray. "He's got a relentless passion to provide Mr. [Jerry] Jones and Stephen [Jones] the very best product available within the means and the parameters of what he's able to work with. He's nonstop. Nonstop. He doesn't sleep a whole lot."

There will be time to sleep after the draft. Maybe McClay, 47, can sneak in a little bit in June after the minicamp ends but before training camp in Oxnard, Calif., begins in late July.

For now, sleep can wait. McClay, whom the Cowboys declined to make available for this story, is in charge of putting the Cowboys' draft room together. It is a painstaking process that takes months to go through but picks up its pace in the final few weeks before the Cowboys pick No. 16 overall in the first round on May 8.

This week, nearly 30 players from across the country will visit Valley Ranch, wrapping up on Wednesday. On Thursday, the club will host its Dallas Day workouts for the local draft prospects. When it is all over, McClay and the scouting department will be back in the office grinding away, sweeping the corners.

McClay's rise to this current position has taken him through the Arena Football League as a player and coach, the defunct XFL and the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he was the assistant director of pro scouting. He joined the Cowboys organization in 2002 as defensive coordinator of the AFL's Dallas Desperados and became the head coach in 2004. He also served as a pro scout for the Cowboys, and in 2012 he was named the director of football research. Last spring he was promoted to his current title.

"Everything equates in looking at talent," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "He found some really unique guys in the arena league and then of course when he was back in scouting. He has had a passion for it, and it just seems like every step of the way he's done a good job for us. I commend him on the job he did finding guys like [George] Selvie and [Nick] Hayden, people like that. People that everybody had a shot at, but he brought them in."

Over the past few years, the Cowboys have found several prizes in street free agency in Laurent Robinson, Tony Fiammetta, Eric Frampton, Ernie Sims and Selvie, who had seven sacks last season. The Cowboys dressed 20 different defensive linemen in 2013.

McClay spent most of the season sweeping the corners for defensive linemen. And he was doing it long before he ever heard Edwards' tale. He did it at Houston Marian Christian, playing wide receiver as a freshman and quarterback as a senior to win Class 3A state titles in the Texas Christian Interscholastic League in 1981 and ‘84.

His high school coach, Mike Treybig, remembers walking into his office only to see McClay feeding the 16-millimeter film into the projector.

"

He found some really unique guys in the arena league and then of course when he was back in scouting. He has had a passion for it, and it just seems like every step of the way he's done a good job for us.

" -- Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones on assistant director of player personnel William McClay
"William liked watching tape," Treybig said. "I would imagine he would've loved it if we let him call his own plays. I know there were times we allowed him to do that. He was definitely a student of the game. We didn't have to worry about a lot of stuff when it came to William. We knew he did his homework and would take care of things to give us the best chance to win on that Friday."

McClay could have gone to Nebraska, but he chose Rice instead to stay close to home and played defensive back. He was recruited there by Mike Nolan, the current defensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons. Tyrone Willingham, the former head coach at Notre Dame and Stanford, was the receivers coach at the time.

He remembers questions from McClay about what receivers looked for, searching for ways to get better as a defender even if the wins did not come as much as the Owls would have liked. Willingham and McClay remain close to this day.

"I'm personally excited for the individual, but I'm more excited for the organization because they did not let talent, for one reason or another, slip through the cracks," Willingham said. "That, to me, is so important because when you have talent you want to let it rise to the top to better everyone else in the organization."

Clint Dolezel played two years at East Texas State, throwing for 3,152 yards and 22 touchdown passes. McClay was defensive coordinator with a hand in personnel for the Milwaukee Mustangs in 1995 when Dolezel was recommended and eventually signed.

By the time Dolezel retired in 2008 with the Desperados with McClay as his head coach, he threw for 44,563 yards and 931 touchdowns.

"So many scouts get caught up in the fact, ‘Well, we want him because he went to this big school,'" said Dolezel, now the head coach of the AFL's Philadelphia Soul. "And a lot of times they're right, but those are the no-brainers that no one is pointing a finger at if he doesn't pan out. Hey, he had the pedigree because he went to Texas or Oklahoma or Florida State or Alabama. The good ones find the ones at East Texas State and schools like that."

In his interview with the Jaguars, Tom Coughlin had McClay research a particular free-agent cornerback the team was high on and wanted to sign. McClay watched the tape and concluded that the player would not be worth the money or fit in the system. Coughlin briefly objected, but McClay held firm. He got the job, and the Jaguars did not sign the player.

"There is not a magic formula," Gray said. "It's just good, old-fashioned bust-your-ass hard work and lots and lots of tape. Lots of calls. Lots of research. Just looking at thousands of players until you find one you think fits for you. He's just got a very unique way knowing a football player when he sees one. That's commonly described by a lot of people, but he just knows it at a different level. It's more than just everybody saying, ‘He can't play.' It's Will finding guys that can play that no one considered.

"Will McClay is a machine. He's a film-watching, evaluating, researching machine. He just never stops and he will never stop."

There always will be corners to sweep.

Checking in on Cowboys' free agents

April, 1, 2014
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IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have lost two players in free agency – Jason Hatcher and Danny McCray – with eight players still available on the market.

DeMarcus Ware does not count as an unrestricted free-agent signing because he was released, and the Cowboys will not receive a compensatory pick in 2015.

Here is a look at the status of their remaining free agents:

RB Phillip Tanner – The Cowboys did not tender him a deal as a restricted free agent, thus allowing him to sign elsewhere. It is possible he'll return on a one-year deal at the minimum, but it is unlikely.

DE Edgar Jones – Has some value because he can play special teams. Another one-year deal at the veteran minimum or possibly a minimum-salary benefit player.

OL Ryan Cook – Did not play last year because of a back injury. His ability to play center and guard helps, but the Cowboys want to get better and younger with their reserve interior linemen.

QB Jon Kitna – He will go back to coaching high school football and teaching math.

LB Ernie Sims – Has some fans on the coaching staff, but he becomes something of a progress-stopper given the development of Kyle Wilber and DeVonte Holloman.

DE Anthony Spencer – He is the Cowboys' most attractive remaining free agent, but where is he in his rehab from microfracture surgery? He has visited the Washington Redskins and New York Giants, but it seems that the longer he is available, the better chance he returns to the Cowboys on a short-term deal.

OL Brian Waters – The same question asked after the season remains now: Does he want to play? In order to play, he needs surgery on his triceps. He could be an emergency option later in the summer.

DE Jarius Wynn – With the signing of Jeremy Mincey, Wynn's return does not seem likely, but he has some position flexibility that the Cowboys like.

Cowboys guard Ronald Leary cashes in

March, 24, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Ronald Leary made $405,000 in 2013 and started every game at left guard.

Because of his playing time and low base salary based on one year of experience, Leary earned an extra $307,104.43 as part of the NFL’s performance-based pay system. Each team is given $3.46 million to divide among the players and it does not count against the salary cap.

Kluwe
Leary
The system was designed to reward players whose level of playing time did not match their base salary. Leary, an undrafted free agent in 2012, took part in 990 of 997 offensive snaps in 2013.

Leary was one of 12 Cowboys to earn at least $90,000.

Safety Jeff Heath: $247,273.09
Defensive tackle Nick Hayden: $156,788.33
Wide receiver Terrance Williams: $153,719.19
Defensive end George Selvie: $141,704.71
Linebacker Kyle Wilber: $137,825.71
Safety J.J. Wilcox: $134,132.05
Tight end James Hanna: $112,413.69
Center Travis Frederick: $101,334.51
Running back DeMarco Murray: $98,646.61
Safety Barry Church: $96,884.40
Linebacker Ernie Sims: $90,679.43

Anthony Spencer, who played 34 snaps all season, earned the smallest check: $369.97.

The only catch is that the players do not get the cash until 2016.

Free-agency primer: Cowboys

March, 7, 2014
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» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: Jason Hatcher, Anthony Spencer, Brian Waters, Danny McCray, Ernie Sims, Jarius Wynn

Where they stand: After finishing with the worst-ranked defense in the NFL in 2013, the Cowboys need help everywhere, but mostly on the defensive line. The need could be even greater if the Cowboys are unable to come up with a new deal for DeMarcus Ware, who is set to make $12.25 million in 2014 and count $16.003 million against the cap. Coming off an 11-sack season, Hatcher is likely to command more money from another team that will make it unlikely for the Cowboys to match, but they will not close the door on keeping him. Spencer is rehabbing from knee surgery and could be had on a short-term deal that will not involve a lot of money. The rest of their free agents are more fill-in types who will be allowed to test the market if not allowed to leave altogether.

What to expect: Not much. Last year the Cowboys added safety Will Allen and linebacker Justin Durant in free agency on short-term, low-money deals. The approach will be more that way than setting the market on a player as they did in 2012 for cornerback Brandon Carr (five years, $50 million). Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys can be "efficient" spenders in free agency. The Cowboys will have to create space under the cap to sign players to modest deals. The best bet is for them to look for low-cost help on players on the line looking to rebound from down years or injuries. They also could look at safety, though Jerry Jones said at the NFL scouting combine that they liked their young safeties such as J.J. Wilcox. Whatever money the Cowboys do have is more likely to be set aside for Tyron Smith and/or Dez Bryant.

Putting value on Cowboys' free agents

March, 7, 2014
3/07/14
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IRVING, Texas -- On Thursday, Bill Polian offered up his do's and don'ts when it came to free agency.

Spencer
Hatcher
Hatcher
Today we bring you the free-agent tracker designed by Polian and fellow ESPN Insiders Gary Horton, Matt Williamson and Field Yates, and the grades assigned to the Dallas Cowboys' unrestricted free agents.

The grades also have a monetary value. An "A" player should get $6 million on average per year with guaranteed money in the first three or more years. A "B" player should get $2-$6 million on average per year with guaranteed money in the first two years or less. A "C" player should get $2 million or less on average per year with guaranteed money in the first two years or less. A "D" player should get a one-year deal at the veteran minimum.

Not surprisingly Jason Hatcher gets the highest grade with an A-minus. In the scouting report, Hatcher is "a good fit for the Tampa 2 defense. He's quick off the ball, explosive and disruptive. Hatcher shows good strength versus the run and solid power as a pass-rusher."

The A-minus grade would put Hatcher in the $4-$6 million annually range. Do the Cowboys have that kind of money to spend?

Anthony Spencer came in with a B grade, which I thought was a little surprising. The scouting reported cited his ability to play in the 3-4 as well and acknowledged his knee injury. I would doubt the Cowboys do more than a one-year deal with Spencer, but that is a big window in the $2-$6 million range.

The only other free agents with grades better than D are defensive end Edgar Jones and linebacker Ernie Sims. Jones could be back at the right price, but there will not be a rush to sign him. Sims would appear to have played in his final game as a Cowboy with the club wanting younger, cheaper depth players.

Ryan Cook, Brian Waters, Danny McCray and Jarius Wynn all carried D grades among the remaining free agents.

2014 Cowboys free agents: Ernie Sims

February, 26, 2014
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Sims
Ernie Sims
Position: Linebacker
Type: Unrestricted
2013 salary: $840,000

Summary: Sims played in 12 games, starting six because of Bruce Carter’s ineffectiveness and injuries to Justin Durant and Sean Lee, but he had a hard time staying healthy as well, dealing with a groin injury. He had 42 tackles and forced a fumble.

Why keep him: He played for new defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli in Detroit and knows the scheme to the point where he can play all three linebacker spots. He will be a physical presence on a defense that needs as much physicality as possible.

Why let him go: He was out of position too often last year, looking for the big hits. The development of Kyle Wilber and DeVonte Holloman gives the Cowboys younger and less expensive options at the backup spots. They can also play on all of the major special teams' units, which Sims did not do.

Best guess: It’s time to move on.

Five Wonders: Can Dallas go deep in '14?

February, 4, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Not necessarily by popular demand, but Five Wonders is back and we'll look at a number of issues the Dallas Cowboys face in the offseason.

On to the Wonders:
  • I wonder how different the Cowboys' offense will look in 2014 with the addition of Scott Linehan. He will call the plays, but they will be Jason Garrett's plays in the pass game and Bill Callahan's plays in the run game. If there is a change, I wonder if it will be in the deep passing game. He was unafraid to take shots down the field. That's easy to do when you have a receiver like Calvin Johnson and a quarterback with an arm like Matthew Stafford. The Cowboys did not force the issue down the field with the 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos as the only real exception. Tony Romo averaged a career low 7.2 yards per attempt in 2013. As an offensive line coach, was Callahan protecting his guys from having to hold the fort a little longer by not calling the deep ball as much? Was Romo protecting himself in some ways because he has taken a beating in recent years with an offensive line that had too many holes? Maybe it's partly both. Linehan will have to boost the confidence in the deep passing game to make a real difference.
  • I wonder if the Cowboys look at extending Doug Free's contract. He is set to make $3.5 million in 2014 and the final two years of his deal voids after the season. Free, who had a bounce back season in 2013, will count $6.520 million against the cap and if the Cowboys choose to extend Free, they would gain cap space as well as have one of their tackles in place for 2015 and beyond. The Cowboys will have to make it worth Free's while after they cut his pay in half the last two seasons. He will be under no obligation to get do something “team friendly,” but he is not in a hurry to leave. He just turned 30 last month and is entering his eighth season. His backup, Jermey Parnell, is about to enter the final year of his deal. He was supposed to press Free in training camp last summer, but he never did in part because Free never really allowed it.
  • As you look at what the Cowboys might do in the May draft, I wonder if just how much you should keep an eye on wide receiver. I would almost guarantee Miles Austin will not be back with a $5.5 million base salary in 2014. With Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams the Cowboys would have to feel good about their top two receivers. I wonder if they would look at a receiver in the third round, like they did last year in taking Williams. Or I wonder if they will look for a veteran that is not looking to break the bank. Somebody like New Orleans' Robert Meachem comes to mind. If the Cowboys lost Bryant or Williams to injury, then they would need to have receiver ready to be a No. 2 receiver, like how Laurent Robinson filled in a few years ago.
  • Last year was the year of the hamstring injury for the Cowboys. Austin, Justin Durant, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Morris Claiborne, Gavin Escobar, Dwayne Harris, Danny McCray, Ernie Sims, J.J. Wilcox and Williams were among those troubled by varying hamstring injuries last year. Jason Garrett said the Cowboys continually looked at the reasons why. They studied how much they stretched, what they ate, what they drank. The Cowboys had players wearing GPS-like monitors in practice to gain different measurements. I wonder if the Cowboys practiced too long as the year went on. Garrett liked to say you don't want to leave it all on the practice field during the week, but could they have been in a position where they practiced so much in the week they were gassed for the game?
  • Sometimes patience is required when it comes to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I wonder if that will serve Charles Haley well. Haley was once again left off the final ballots of the voters, but that doesn't mean he will not get in. Not to go all Garrett on you, but it is a process. In the last two years we've seen the receiver logjam break with Cris Carter and Andre Reed getting selected. That could be good news for Tim Brown in 2015. Haley has seen defensive linemen Warren Sapp and Michael Strahan get selected the last two years. Maybe next year is his turn and if it is, then nobody will remember all the years it took him to make it to Canton, Ohio, and his gold jacket will be the same as every other Hall of Famer. The voters have a difficult job. I'm not of the belief Haley's conduct toward the media has played a role in his lack of support so far. Sapp was hardly the friendliest player and he got in. It will happen for Haley, one day.

Cowboys snap counts: defense

January, 6, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- No team in the NFL needed more players on defense than the Dallas Cowboys in 2013.

They had 41 defenders with cornerback Brandon Carr playing the most (1,116 snaps) and Dez Bryant playing the least (three). The Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints had the second most with 32 players on defense.

In training camp, the Cowboys’ projected defensive line was Anthony Spencer, Jason Hatcher, Jeremiah Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware. Hatcher played the most snaps (747) but that was only 66 percent of the snaps. Ware missed three games and played 628 snaps (55 percent). Spencer played 34 snaps in one game before his season ended. Ratliff, of course, played none before his release.

Nick Hayden played the most snaps on the defensive line (821). George Selvie did not join the team until training camp began and played 744 snaps.

With Hatcher and Spencer set to be free agents and Ware coming off a career-low six sacks, the Cowboys need to refurbish their defensive line in a way where Hayden and Selvie are not playing as much.

The Cowboys used 20 defensive linemen during the season, although Kyle Wilber moved to linebacker late in the season and played 501 snaps.

It might not have seemed this way, but Jeff Heath played only 79 more snaps than J.J. Wilcox.

Defensive snaps:

1,116 – Brandon Carr
1,088 – Orlando Scandrick
1,015 – Barry Church
874 – Bruce Carter
821 - Nick Hayden
747 – Jason Hatcher
744 – George Selvie
702 – Sean Lee
628 - DeMarcus Ware
594 - Jeff Heath
515 - J.J. Wilcox
506 – Morris Claiborne
501 – Kyle Wilber
380 – Ernie Sims
275 – Jarius Wynn
254 - Drake Nevis
207 – DeVonte Holloman
197 – Justin Durant
178 – B.W. Webb
163 – Will Allen
153 – Everette Brown
144 – Caesar Rayford
117 – Corvey Irvin
81 – Sterling Moore
72 - Edgar Jones
63 – Cameron Lawrence
49 – David Carter
46 – Jason Vega
45 – Jerome Long
38 – Landon Cohen
34 – Anthony Spencer
34 – Frank Kearse
24 – Kyle Bosworth
22 – Micah Pellerin
20 – Everett Dawkins
20 – Martez Wilson
16 – Jakar Hamilton
15 – Marvin Austin
8 – Danny McCray
6 – Orie Lemon
3 – Dez Bryant

Dallas Cowboys penalty breakdown

January, 1, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys had 102 accepted penalties in 2013, which were the fewest they have had in the Jason Garrett Era, but the 867 yards were the most.

In 2011 the Cowboys were flagged 112 times for 802 yards. In 2012, they had 118 penalties for 853 yards.

In Sunday’s NFC East title game vs. the Philadelphia Eagles, they were penalized once for 5 yards and it never should have been a penalty. The officials did not restart the playclock and the Cowboys were called for a delay of game.

Here’s the breakdown (includes declined, offsetting penalties):

Offensive holding - 24
False start – 17
Defensive holding – 12
Offside – 9
Defensive pass interference – 8
Neutral zone infraction – 7
Unnecessary roughness – 6
Offensive pass interference – 6
Illegal use of hands – 5
Face mask – 4
Illegal block above the waist – 4
Delay of game – 4
Roughing the passer – 3
Unsportsmanlike conduct – 3
Intentional grounding – 1
12-men on the field – 1
Encroachment – 1
Horse-collar tackle – 1
Illegal contact – 1
Offside, free kick – 1
Illegal formation – 1
Illegal shift – 1
Personal foul – 1

Player by player:

8 – Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick, Ronald Leary, Doug Free

7 – Tyron Smith

6 – Morris Claiborne, George Selvie

5 – Dez Bryant, Barry Church

4 – Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Kyle Wilber

3 – Cameron Lawrence, Travis Frederick, Jarius Wynn, Bruce Carter, DeMarcus Ware

2 – Ernie Sims, Jason Hatcher, J.J. Wilcox, James Hanna, Dwayne Harris, Jason Vega, DeMarco Murray, Nick Hayden

1 – Sean Lee, Miles Austin, Will Allen, Mackenzy Bernadeau, L.P. Ladouceur, Jermey Parnell, Brian Waters, Terrance Williams, Kyle Bosworth, B.W. Webb, Cole Beasley, Lance Dunbar, Kyle Orton, Caesar Rayford

A look at the Cowboys' free agents

December, 30, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- With the Dallas Cowboys' season over, here is a list of their exclusive rights, restricted and unrestricted free agents heading into 2014.

Exclusive rights (1)
Chris Jones

Restricted free agents (2)
Dan Bailey
Phillip Tanner

Unrestricted free agents (9)
Ryan Cook
Jason Hatcher
Edgar Jones
Jon Kitna
Danny McCray
Ernie Sims
Anthony Spencer
Brian Waters
Jarius Wynn

Officially, Tony Romo is inactive tonight

December, 29, 2013
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Since he remains on the active roster, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is officially listed as inactive for tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Romo had back surgery on Friday but the team did not make the formal move of placing him on injured reserve. If the Cowboys win tonight, then they will place Romo on IR and add a player to the active roster for the playoffs. If they had made the move already and gone with just 52 players on the active roster, they would have lost some practice squad players.

Joining Romo on the inactive list are: B.W. Webb, Jakar Hamilton, Sean Lee, Ernie Sims and Darrion Weems.

This is the first game Webb has been inactive all season, but he lost his playing time to Sterling Moore and the return of Morris Claiborne means the Cowboys do not need to carry five cornerbacks.

Pondering the 46: Down to the corners

December, 28, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have yet to place Tony Romo on injured reserve. They really don't have the need to make the formal move just yet, so as we Ponder the 46, Romo will be one of the inactives.

Sean Lee is out with a neck strain. Ernie Sims is doubtful but he has not practiced the last two weeks because of a groin injury. Darrion Weems and Jakar Hamilton will also be inactive. Martez Wilson has been inactive the last two games, so he is likely to be down for his third straight game.

That leaves one spot and with Morris Claiborne coming back from a hamstring injury, rookie cornerback B.W. Webb is in the crosshairs.

Webb has been active for every game, but he lost his playing time to Sterling Moore the last few games. Maybe the Cowboys cover themselves by bringing a fifth cornerback to the game in case Claiborne aggravates his hamstring again, but they have had only four active for the season.

Perhaps they could go lighter on the defensive line, but with LeSean McCoy running and DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, Jarius Wynn and George Selvie all nicked to some degree, that doesn't seem to be the wise choice.

So the inactives will be: Romo, Lee, Sims, Weems, Hamilton, Wilson and Webb.

Dez Bryant getting rehab work in

December, 26, 2013
12/26/13
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IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant caught some passes during individual drills but started doing rehab work prior to team drills during Thursday's practice.

Bryant tweaked his back during Wednesday's practice and team officials limited his work.

"We'll just see how he does," coach Jason Garrett said before Thursday's practice. "He'll go warm up like he normally does and we'll respond accordingly."

Bryant has encountered back issues before. Rest and treatment are normally prescribed to take care of it. Team officials don't believe it's serious and Bryant is expected to play Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Quarterback Tony Romo (back), linebacker Sean Lee (neck) and linebacker Ernie Sims (groin) missed practice, as expected.

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