Dallas Cowboys: Marc Colombo

With OL retooled, Cowboys look to fix DL

June, 11, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- The look of the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line has changed dramatically over the last three seasons.

In 2011, the Cowboys started the process of tearing down the line, moving on from Marc Colombo, Leonard Davis and Andre Gurode. In 2012, they replaced Kyle Kosier.

But in stripping down the line, the Cowboys didn’t have ready-made replacements, with the exception of Tyron Smith, who was their first-round pick in 2011. Bill Nagy was an undersized guard and seventh-round pick. He started four games before getting hurt. The Cowboys recalled Montrae Holland to the roster and started him for 10 games. They relied on Derrick Dockery as well. At center, they went with undersized Phil Costa, who was undrafted in 2010. Kevin Kowalski, another undrafted player in 2011, was a key reserve.

This spring the Cowboys have a line with three first-round picks in Smith, now at left tackle, center Travis Frederick and right guard Zack Martin. Doug Free is the only holdover, moving from left tackle to right tackle.

This offseason the Cowboys have stripped down the defensive line. A year ago at this time, Jerry Jones called it the strength of the team. DeMarcus Ware is now with the Denver Broncos. Jason Hatcher is with the Washington Redskins. Jay Ratliff is with the Chicago Bears. Anthony Spencer is coming back from microfracture knee surgery.

“There is an analogy there,” coach Jason Garrett said. “A lot of veteran players, who were really good, of the same generation, and you have to transition. You have to get younger.”

Like the offensive line, the Cowboys didn’t have any ready-made replacements on the defensive line. Instead of going with late-round or undrafted players, the Cowboys are going with low-cost veterans with questions about health, consistency or both.

They added Henry Melton, Jeremy Mincey, Terrell McClain and Amobi Okoye in free agency. They kept Spencer on a one-year deal for short money. They drafted DeMarcus Lawrence in the second round and Ben Gardner and Ken Bishop in the seventh round.

“Defensive line is one of those positions you can’t have enough of those guys,” Garrett said. “Some of the best teams I’ve been around, some of the best teams we’ve completed against seem to have a boatload of these defensive linemen constantly coming at you … We’ve just got to keep them coming.”

Rebuilding is not one of George Carlin’s seven dirty words, but it sure can be viewed that way at Valley Ranch. The preferred word is retooling. The Cowboys have retooled the offensive line. They are in the process of retooling the defensive line.

There might be a question of quality, but there is no question of quantity.

“The best defensive lines I’ve been around are the ones that have ‘wave’ players,” Garrett said. “If you think back to the 90s when this team was winning Super Bowls there were eight legit defensive linemen rotating through games. Jim Jeffcoat playing 12 plays in a game. It’s ridiculous.”

Garrett went on to mention Leon Lett, Chad Hennings, Jimmie Jones, Charles Haley, Tony Tolbert, Tony Casillas and Russell Maryland.

“If you can have some of those guys play 30 snaps instead of 60 snaps or 15 snaps instead of 30 snaps, you’re going to be so much better,” Garrett said.

Nick Hayden played a defensive-line high 821 snaps in 2013 after being unemployed in 2012. Hatcher played 747 in 15 games. George Selvie, who was signed during training camp, played 744. Six of his seven sacks came in the first nine games.

“We played a lot of snaps last year,” Selvie said. “Where the rotation helps is everybody can stay fresh. The new guys coming in, it will help a lot. It was rough by the end of the year. We were hurting. A lot of snaps like that takes a toll on your body.”

To carry out the offensive line analogy, Lawrence can be viewed like Smith, a premium pick at a premium spot. And the job is hardly close to being over. Melton, Okoye, Spencer, Selvie and Hayden all could be on one-year deals. Mincey signed a two-year deal. McClain is on a three-year deal.

“The games are won and lost up front and always will be lost up front,” Garrett said. “If you don’t have good offensive and defensive linemen your skill guys can’t do what they need to do. So we’ve tried to do that. We’ve kind of tried to restructure our fronts over the last few years and build the team the right way.”

The retooling is in its infant stages, like the offensive line in 2011. The Cowboys have to replenish the defensive line in 2015 and beyond with more premium picks the way they have the offensive line.

Romo happy Dallas building through line

May, 22, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Tony Romo never really sweated the possible selection of Johnny Manziel by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the draft.

He was more than happy to see the Cowboys select Zack Martin in the first round. That gives Romo three first-round picks up front in left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and Martin. It also had him remembering what it was like early on in his time as the Cowboys’ starter.

“When I first started playing we had some pretty good players that did some really good things for the organization, and I think we’re building that back to that point,” Romo said.

In 2006, left tackle Flozell Adams and center Andre Gurode made the Pro Bowl. In 2007, the Cowboys signed Leonard Davis to a big contract and he made the Pro Bowl with Adams and Gurode. Right tackle Marc Colombo and left guard Kyle Kosier were solid players as well.

In 2011, the Cowboys dismantled the line, cutting Gurode, Davis and Colombo and started the rebuilding process by drafting Smith with the ninth overall pick.

“As a quarterback, that half-second, that tenth of a second can make the difference in completing a pass or not,” Romo said. “A lot of that is dictated as to whether or not you have that extra time. I think it goes to show the organization is building through the lines and that’s the way you win in the National Football League late in the year.”

Colombo working in personnel department

May, 18, 2014
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IRVING, Texas – Three years after he played his last game in the NFL, former Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Marc Colombo is checking out life on the personnel side of the NFL.

Colombo, who started for the Cowboys at right tackle from 2006-10 and finished his career in 2011 with the Miami Dolphins, is working in the scouting department this summer.

“Marc’s obviously a very smart guy and knows what he’s doing and he was always a leader in that offensive line room,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “He knows what guys look like. He’s testing the water in a lot of areas. We’re giving him some projects, see what he likes. He’s obviously a guy who did a lot for the Cowboys.”

Colombo spent most of his time observing the offensive line on Friday and Saturday, but he talked to multiple coaches, including special-teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia.

“He’s got great energy,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Always has, always will.”

Cowboys done with OL rebuild

May, 14, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Pam Martin asked her son to do some research on the Dallas Cowboys' offensive line, so the team’s first-round pick dutifully did what his mother told him.

Zack Martin quickly realized he was older than Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, the other two first-round picks Martin will join on the line in 2014. Smith, the 2011 first rounder, was born Dec. 12, 1990. Frederick, the 2013 first rounder, was born march 18, 1991.

Martin was born Nov. 20, 1990.

[+] EnlargeZack Martin
Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsNotre Dame's Zack Martin is the latest first-round pick Dallas has added to its young offensive line.
“That’s a little weird,” Martin said.

Weird and potentially terrific for the Cowboys. Before Smith, Jerry Jones never used a first-round pick on an offensive lineman. Tom Landry, Tex Schramm and Gil Brandt also kept their distance from the offensive line. Before Smith, Howard Richards was the most recent first-round offensive lineman, coming in 1981 with the 26th overall pick.

Now the Cowboys are like the San Francisco 49ers with three first-round starters on the offensive line. In 2007, the Niners took Joe Staley. In 2010, they added Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis.

“We believe games in the National Football League are won up front,” coach Jason Garrett said. “If you look at the best teams in the league now and for a lot of years, they are able to control the line of scrimmage on the offensive side of the ball. We did that for years here when we won championships here in the ‘90s. You need to build the infrastructure of your team.”

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San Francisco went 6-10 in 2010, but has gone 36-11-1 in the past three seasons. They have played in three straight NFC Championship Games, making it to the Super Bowl in 2012.

“We’ve been pretty lucky getting (Andre) Gurode, getting the Flozell Adamses and Larry Allens (in the second round), but those days are over apparently,” Jones said. “So we want to get some of that quality in the future offensive line. These guys are long-term players that are good, and all of that is about franchise.”

The Cowboys have an offensive line that can grow together.

Smith made his first Pro Bowl last season and is the best young tackle in the NFL. Frederick started every game as a rookie and cemented the interior of the Cowboys’ line. Martin will be a Day 1 starter and was considered the safest pick in the draft.

Right tackle Doug Free is the oldest up front and is just 30. Ronald Leary recently turned 25. Mackenzy Bernadeau, who could still compete for a starting job, is just 28.

Having Smith, Frederick and Martin grow together should make everyone associated with the Cowboys’ offense happier, from Garrett to passing game coordinator Scott Linehan to assistant head coach Bill Callahan to quarterback Tony Romo and running back DeMarco Murray.

The selection of Martin ends the rebuilding of an offensive line that started in 2011 when the Cowboys parted ways with Gurode, Leonard Davis and Marc Colombo. A year later they said goodbye to Kyle Kosier.

It took time.

In 2011, the Cowboys started a seventh-round pick, Bill Nagy, at left guard and a second-year undrafted center in Phil Costa. When Nagy got hurt, they looked to journeymen Montrae Holland and Derrick Dockery.

Smith played as a rookie at right tackle and needed 2012 to be seasoned as a left tackle. Nate Livings was signed as a free agent in 2012, but injuries led the team away from him last season. Bernadeau’s play improved last year after he re-took the right guard spot following Brian Waters' season-ending triceps’ injury.

“We are going to be a better offensive line, a better offense, and we will probably play better defense the better we play on the offensive line,” Garrett said. “We will be able to run the ball better and control the football a little more.”

Bradie James retires as Cowboy

May, 6, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys signed Bradie James on Tuesday so the veteran linebacker could retire with the team that drafted him in the fourth round of the 2003 draft.

James played for the Cowboys from 2003-11 before joining the Houston Texans in 2012. He did not play last season.

James started all but three games from 2005-11 at inside linebacker and led the Cowboys in tackles in a six-year span, topping out at 202 in 2008. He also had eight sacks in 2008. He is the sixth-leading tackler in franchise history after Darren Woodson, Lee Roy Jordan, Randy White, Dexter Coakley and Ed “Too Tall” Jones.

The Cowboys made a similar ceremonial move with Marc Colombo in 2012. On hand for the announcement was former teammate Akin Ayodele.

With Tony Romo, Cowboys not rebuilding

March, 14, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Earlier today my guy, Calvin Watkins, brought you a post that says the Dallas Cowboys are rebuilding.

I don’t want to say Calvin is wrong, but, well, um, well, I don’t agree with that premise.

Romo
It’s not a rebuild the Cowboys are going through. And if you want to call it a rebuilding job, what exactly are they rebuilding from? They have won one playoff game since 1996. Teams that rebuild at least go to conference title games or Super Bowls -- and win Super Bowls.

I just don’t think you rebuild when you have a franchise quarterback that will turn 34 in April and is only in the second year of a six-year extension.

What the Cowboys have done the last few years -- and I wrote about it -- is re-tool. The departures of DeMarcus Ware, Miles Austin and Jason Hatcher are more evidence that the Cowboys are re-tooling. With Tony Romo, the Cowboys still need to win now. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said as much at the NFL scouting combine.

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He doesn’t have time to wait three or four years to rebuild with Romo as his quarterback.

What the Cowboys are doing is changing their core. While Romo and Jason Witten are still the focal points of the team because of their play, status and production, the core of the team has moved on from guys like Ware, Jeremiah Ratliff, Austin, Andre Gurode, Marc Colombo, Bradie James and Terence Newman in recent years to newer players.

The core now is Sean Lee, Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith, DeMarco Murray, Orlando Scandrick, Travis Frederick, Terrance Williams and Barry Church. They would love guys like Morris Claiborne, Tyrone Crawford and Gavin Escobar to join this list but they have not proven they can play yet.

The Cowboys have to maximize what they have left with Romo and Witten but not to the point where they are left in salary-cap shambles for when the “new guard” is in their prime.

Rebuilding, to me, is starting over. The Cowboys aren’t going to start over with Romo and Witten and they’re not exactly moving back to ground zero either.

What they are doing does not guarantee success or even something better than 8-8, but they are in the process of passing the torch, so to speak.

Cowboys are getting younger

March, 12, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- These are not your father's Dallas Cowboys, so to speak.

Once a team stocked with enough players to field a softball team in an over-30 league, the Cowboys are getting young.

With the releases of DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin, the Cowboys have three starters over 30 years old in Tony Romo, who turns 34 next month, Jason Witten, who turns 32 in May and Doug Free, who turned 30 in January.

The only other thirty-somethings on the roster are backup quarterback Kyle Orton, who is 31, and long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur, who turns 33 on Thursday.

Not included on the list are free agents Anthony Spencer (30) and Jason Hatcher (31).

Ware turns 32 in July and Austin turns 30 in June.

The Cowboys have refused to use the word "rebuild" over the last three seasons but they have re-tooled their roster moving away from Leonard Davis, Kyle Kosier, Andre Gurode and Marc Colombo on the offensive line and Ware, Jay Ratliff, Marcus Spears and Kenyon Coleman on the defensive line.

They have made the decision to not restructure the contracts of Witten and Brandon Carr, who turns 28 in May, unless absolutely necessary so they do not push more money into the salary cap in future years.

For years people have called the NFL a young man's game. The Cowboys are moving to a younger man's team.

Cowboys line could have continuity in 2014

January, 17, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Continuity is a buzzword every year when it comes to offensive line play. For the Dallas Cowboys it is no different.

The Cowboys could have continuity on the line in 2014 for the first time in a long time.

The last time the Cowboys returned the same line from the previous year came in 2008 when they had left tackle Flozell Adams, left guard Kyle Kosier, center Andre Gurode, right guard Leonard Davis and right tackle Marc Colombo.

Kosier played in only three games in 2008 because of a foot injury, but those five guys were in place at the beginning of the 2009 season when the Cowboys went 11-5 and made their most recent playoff appearance. Colombo missed seven games with a broken leg and Doug Free saw the first action of his career.

In 2013 four of the Cowboys five starters at left tackle, left guard, center and right tackle played every game. Mackenzy Bernadeau started 11 games at right guard and Brian Waters started five before his season ended with a torn triceps.

The Cowboys can go into 2014 feeling good about Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Free. The Cowboys could look to make moves at left and/or right guard with Ronald Leary and Bernadeau through the draft or in free agency but know they know what they have if they can't.

"It's never set in stone until it's done," Bernadeau said.

The line helped produce the first 1,000-yard rusher since 2006 in DeMarco Murray and protected well enough with the interior more stout than it had been in previous years.

"I want to say it sets the standard for us," Bernadeau said of the late-season success with the running game. "It's one of those deals where we know what we're capable of doing and we want to do better. We have the highest expectations of ourselves. It's a mix of us getting it done up front and holding those expectations high."

Rebuilding of line paying off for Cowboys

December, 20, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- When Jason Garrett was named the Dallas Cowboys head coach on Jan. 5, 2011 he set out to refurbish the offensive line.

The Cowboys purged Leonard Davis, Andre Gurode and Marc Colombo. They released Kyle Kosier the following year.

The Cowboys are seeing the fruits of the rebuilding now.

The Cowboys started the rebuild by taking Tyron Smith in the first round of the 2011 draft. Mackenzy Bernadeau was added as an undrafted free agent at right guard and left guard Ronald Leary was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2012. This year, the Cowboys made center Travis Frederick a first-round pick.

The holdover has been Doug Free, who has rebounded with a solid season at right tackle.

“It’s a hard thing to do,” Garrett said. “It started with Tyron Smith, it continued with some other decisions that we’ve made. And then certainly Travis Frederick came into the mix this offseason and has helped us. You need to have young, cornerstone players on your offensive line, and we’ve gone through that process over the last couple of years. I think we’re getting where we need to be.”

As the Cowboys move down the stretch, the line is playing better than it ever has since Garrett took over. In the last five weeks, the Cowboys have rushed for more than 100 yards as a team. DeMarco Murray is 23 yards away from 1,000 on the season and he missed two games with a knee injury.

“It’s unfortunate that we haven’t won these games because I felt like our line is playing well,” tight end Jason Witten said. “Great camaraderie up front. We’ve really been able to run the ball and they create big holes. It’s good to see our line play that well. They work harder than anybody on our football team.”

Five Wonders: Changes on defense?

December, 11, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- Those of you wondering where Five Wonders went on Tuesday, fear not. It's here on Wednesday.

We just pushed it back a day with the Dallas Cowboys playing on ESPN's “Monday Night Football.” And boy wasn't that an exciting contest?

Anyway, off we go ...

1. Jerry Jones said there will be changes on the defensive side of the ball after the debacle against the Chicago Bears. I wonder what they would be. And how big of a difference could they actually make? The scheme is the scheme. They can't become some blitz-happy team overnight. The personnel is the personnel. So does it make a difference if J.J. Wilcox starts over Jeff Heath at safety? Minimally. I'd look for Sterling Moore to be the nickel back if Morris Claiborne cannot return this week from a hamstring injury. Huge difference? Perhaps considering how lost B.W. Webb looks. Injuries could force a shakeup at linebacker. Does DeVonte Holloman get some time? He's not a weak-side linebacker by trade, but maybe it's time he plays instead of Ernie Sims or Cam Lawrence if Bruce Carter can't go. The defensive line does not have many options, but maybe Drake Nevis moves in for Nick Hayden. Again, we're not talking major changes.

[+] EnlargeDallas' Rod Marinelli
Casey Sapio/USA TODAY SportsWould Rod Marinelli be interested in rejoining Lovie Smith if Smith were to become a head coach again?
2. This isn't so much an “I wonder,” but it is for those wondering if Rod Marinelli will join Lovie Smith should Smith return to the NFL as a head coach somewhere. From what I'm told, Marinelli signed a three-year deal with the Cowboys when he joined the team in the offseason. Technically Jones could allow Marinelli to join Smith if he wanted, but he does not have to. The promotion rule was dropped a long time ago. Since Jones would not let Joe DeCamillis leave for the Oakland Raiders two years ago to be with Dennis Allen or Tony Sparano to leave for the New Orleans Saints when Sean Payton took over in 2006, I can't see Jones letting Marinelli walk. The defensive line has been a drive-through of sorts because of injuries and Marinelli has made it work. It's not been perfect by any stretch but it's been fine.

3. With all of the talk about how well Tyron Smith has played this season, I wonder if the Cowboys will be more patient than normal in talking about an extension for Smith. Under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, the Cowboys have a fifth-year option on Smith in which they would pay him roughly the amount of the transition tag in 2015. They have to make their decision to use the option year in the spring and the money becomes guaranteed after the 2014 season. Maybe the Cowboys will wait because they will have to do something with Dez Bryant, who will be a free agent after next season. They could franchise Bryant and use the option year on Smith, but with salary-cap limitations I can see them being more willing to get a deal done with Bryant first. Because the option year is a new tool teams will have a difficult time navigating those negotiations on long-term deals. Bryant will be a more pressing deal to get done and the Cowboys will be able to keep Smith in their back pocket, so to speak.

4. I wonder how strongly the Cowboys attack the defensive line in the April draft. Marinelli played a big part in the team choosing to pass on Sharrif Floyd last April because they did not want to use a first-round pick on what they viewed was a two-down defensive lineman. A few years ago the Cowboys saw their offensive line grow old with Marc Colombo, Leonard Davis, Andre Gurode and Kyle Kosier. They cut Colombo, Davis and Gurode and bit the bullet. Jason Hatcher turns 32 next season and will be a free agent. Anthony Spencer turns 30 in December, is coming off microfracture surgery to his knee and is also a free agent. DeMarcus Ware turns 32 next July and has been slowed by nagging injuries this year. Their one building-block defensive lineman is Tyrone Crawford and he is coming off a torn Achilles. For as well as George Selvie has played this year, he is not a building-block player. He is solid, but you would feel better about him being a backup than a full-timer. The rest of the guys still have things to prove. If the last few years has been about rebuilding the offensive line, I wonder if it's time to start rebuilding the defensive line.

5. I wonder if assistant director of player personnel Will McClay becomes a sought after front-office personnel person. The NFL has tweaked its Rooney Rule and now teams will have to interview at least one minority candidate for their head coaching or general manager vacancy. Last year there were eight head coaching vacancies and seven general manager jobs and none went to a minority. McClay, who is African-American, was elevated to his current role in the offseason and has the run of the personnel department. He has yet to set up a draft board, but he has been responsible for a lot of the pro personnel work in recent years and has found players that have come off the street and contributed to the Cowboys' success. He was a former head coach with the Dallas Desperados and has also helped the coaches on game day. He has received interest from teams in the past, but the Cowboys have not let him leave. This time they may not have a choice.

5 Wonders: More on Tony Romo sitting

August, 6, 2013
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OXNARD, Calif. – One preseason game is in the books and four remain, but there are plenty of things to wonder about.

So on it is to our third training camp installment of Five Wonders:

** On the grand schemes of things Tony Romo not playing a series against Miami is not that big of a deal. With issues on the offensive line and Romo’s lack of offseason work because of the back surgery, the team thought it was wiser to sit the quarterback against the Dolphins. Well, I wonder what they were thinking about in 2010 and ’11 when they didn’t sit Romo with offensive line issues when he had to play more. In 2010 at San Diego, Robert Brewster had to play right tackle with Marc Colombo and Alex Barron hurt, but Romo played four series. In 2011, the Cowboys made the decision to part ways with center Andre Gurode before they played at Minnesota and had undrafted rookie Kevin Kowalski start with Phil Costa out. It was the first time Romo took a snap from Kowalski all summer. And Kowalski was the third rookie to start that night with Bill Nagy and Tyron Smith. There was no worry that night either. Again, it’s not a huge deal that Romo didn’t play against Miami, but it’s just notable given what happened in recent history.

** Now that Larry Allen has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Charles Haley figures to be the next Cowboy to make it. Haley has been a finalist the last few years and the feeling among voters is that the question is “when” not “if” Haley will make it. But I wonder who will be the next Cowboy to take up a lifetime residence in Canton, Ohio. Perhaps Chuck Howley, Lee Roy Jordan, Cliff Harris and Drew Pearson get a look from the Veterans Committee. But what of the more-recent era Cowboys? Darren Woodson should gain consideration but the safety position has never been a popular pick among the voters. Woodson was covering slot receivers before it was fashionable for safeties to do so. He was truly ahead of his time in some ways. I’m not sure there is another 90s Era player that will get a look, but Jerry Jones will be in there one day. Maybe soon too.

** Forever, it seems, the Cowboys have found success stories in undrafted free agents: Romo, Miles Austin, Stephen Bowen and Dan Bailey are among the more recent vintage. But I wonder if there will be one undrafted free agent to make the team this year. Really. The leader would appear to be linebacker Brandon Magee, who could become a big part of the special teams’ units. Even those who haven’t seen Eric Rogers play a snap seem to think he can be Keyshawn Johnson, but the Cal Lutheran product has a lot of work to do in earning a spot. Safety Jeff Heath has been an under-the-radar guy and Jakar Hamilton, who received $10,000 to sign, has yet to make a mark in camp. There is a lot of time to make a push but right now there isn’t a lock yet.

** It’s hard to gauge just how interested the Cowboys are in Brian Waters. They know he is available, but they haven’t really put the full-court press on him just yet. Maybe they wanted to see Ronald Leary in a game before going ahead with it. But if they are going to sign Waters, I wonder if it’s too late. He did not take part in an offseason program last year and did not sign with a team. He was not with a team this offseason either. What kind of shape is he in? If the Cowboys bring Waters in, it’s not for a workout. It’s to sign him. He signed with New England in 2011 a week before the season started and ended up in the Pro Bowl. But in players’ years, that could be a lifetime ago.

** Let’s close with a game involving a 53-man roster projection. I wonder if the final spot or two comes down to a seventh linebacker, fourth running back, a 10th offensive linemen, a sixth wide receiver or a ninth defensive lineman? If that’s the case, then Magee, Phillip Tanner, Darrion Weems, Anthony Armstrong, Tim Benford, Eric Rogers or a George Selvie are fighting for one or two spots right now. Right now, I’m not sure the ninth or 10th offensive lineman is on the roster. Armstrong has had a really good camp and his speed separates him from some others. Selvie could be insurance for Anthony Spencer being banged up and helped himself with Sunday’s two-sack effort. Tanner also helped his cause. Based on what Tanner, Selvie and Armstrong did against Miami, it looks like the Cowboys will have a decision to make as opposed to trying to find players to keep.

Cowboys tidbits: Why Will Allen makes it

May, 6, 2013
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IRVING, Texas – Here are a couple of Cowboys quick hits to tide you over for a little bit:

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Glenn "Stretch" Smith, Randy Galloway and Matt Mosley discuss the latest on Doug Free's role with the Cowboys and the Cowboys' first-round draft pick Travis Frederick.

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  • Unless he completely flames out in the offseason and early in camp the way Brodney Pool did last summer, safety Will Allen will be on the Cowboys’ roster this year. In addition to the $65,000 signing bonus he received on the one-year minimum salary-benefit deal worth the $840,000, he was guaranteed $555,000 of the base salary. His cap number this year is $620,000. Linebacker Ernie Sims signed the same deal but minus the signing bonus and guarantee, which would seem to keep him on a roster bubble through camp.

  • For those wanting the Cowboys to cut Nate Livings, remember that his $1.7 million base salary this year is guaranteed. If they cut him and he signed with another team, the Cowboys would only owe him the difference between a potential new salary (likely the minimum) and the $1.7 million.

  • Some of you have asked why Matt Johnson is ineligible to take part in this week’s rookie minicamp after not playing a snap as a rookie last year. Here’s why: he earned a pension credit. Ronald Leary didn’t earn that credit after spending most of the year on the practice squad before a late call-up to the active roster and therefore can practice this week.

  • When I listed the Cowboys’ defensive line in a post last week, I forgot to mention Brian Price. He was a “futures” signing after the season and could be a beneficiary of the team’s move to the 4-3 scheme. He did not play last year after he was cut by Chicago following a trade from Tampa Bay, but he was a second-round pick in 2010 by the Buccaneers. The Cowboys signed him to a two-year deal but there is an injury waiver in the contract because of a pelvic condition that required surgeries in 2010. The Cowboys took a similar chance on Marc Colombo in 2005. His career nearly ended because of a serious knee injury suffered in Chicago, but he was able to win the right tackle job in 2006 and hold on to it through 2010.

  • For those scoring at home: Tony Romo has passed on playing the Azalea Invitational in Charleston, S.C., one of the better amateur tournaments anywhere, the local Adams Golf Pro/Scratch, which he has won in the past, and will not attempt to qualify for the HP Byron Nelson Championship or the U.S. Open.
  • Doug Free adjusting to right tackle

    August, 2, 2012
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    OXNARD, Calif. – When Doug Free broke into the Cowboys’ starting lineup in 2009 it was at right tackle for an injured Marc Colombo.

    Over the next two seasons, he started every game at left tackle, but the Cowboys flipped Free and last year’s No. 1 pick Tyron Smith to the opposite sides for 2012.

    Even after an offseason of acclimating to right tackle again, Free finds it to be a work in progress.

    “I’ve definitely got a lot better than I was, but I’m still working on it,” Free said. “Some of the pass protection stuff I just haven’t found my rhythm yet. It’s coming and I’ll get there.”

    Free is basically learning the position again.

    “Getting used to kicking with my opposite leg, my set up, learning my angles with pass protection,” Free said. “I didn’t have my best day (Wednesday) but there’s always things to work on.”

    Free is also getting accustomed to being the old guy in terms of continuous service with the Cowboys as he enters his sixth season. Over the last two years, the Cowboys have let go of Leonard Davis, Colombo, Andre Gurode and Kyle Kosier, who were staples on the line for years.

    “It’s pretty weird,” Free said. “Since I started here, I came in with guys all in their seventh, eighth, ninth year. To finally be here as one of the older guys on the offensive line is weird. ... Every year you lose one or two guys. It’s kind of gone slowly. I think it would’ve been a shock if they left the same year. I had a good time with those guys and they taught me a lot and definitely helped me get me where I am.”

    Despite perception, character matters

    April, 26, 2012
    4/26/12
    11:58
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    IRVING, Texas -- There is a long-held perception among many outside Valley Ranch that character means little to the Cowboys when it comes to the evaluation process.

    Owner and general manager Jerry Jones has selected some questionable characters (Quincy Carter comes to mind) but he also passed on Randy Moss in 1998. During Wednesday’s pre-draft press conference the term "makeup" was thrown around a lot by Jones, coach Jason Garrett and assistant director of player personnel Tom Ciskowski.

    For Garrett, makeup means a lot. The Cowboys’ draft last year was filled with serious-minded players who were either captains or leaders of their teams, such as Tyron Smith, Bruce Carter, DeMarco Murray and Dwayne Harris.

    "Guys that have the right kind of motor at early levels, the right kind of motor, the right kind of track records of competes, the right kind of track of work ethic, you can go down through those top picks you might find there is 20 percent of them that have outstanding makeup," Jones said.

    "It’s not something that is easily attained for a player and that is factored in. We have that factored in with the grade; the fact that he practices like [Jay] Ratliff or he plays like Ratliff. To me that would be where we want to watch for and not get enamored with some of the other things that might make him impressive and stick to the fact that within a week he has to be out here and he has to hit the ground with the kind of work ethic he has never seen before and we want him to be in step with those guys. That is a plus. That is an ideal situation."

    "Obviously if we could get the fastest strongest biggest with the greatest makeup of Jason Witten or frankly [Marc] Colombo, you could bottle that up or get that in a player with a lot of skill you have really done something.”

    But there is a sliding scale involved if a talented player remains in later rounds, according to Garrett.

    "When certain players have a great, great physical ability do you still want guys who have great make up?," Garrett said. "My experience and I think all of our experience has been the makeup part of a player is a big key to their success.

    "Having said that, you’re more willing to look at a player who has more ability. You see it around the league every year on every football team with rookie players and with veteran players. So you’re always evaluating the player. You have to figure out what makeup quality they have that is fatal. In no way are we going to take this guy for this reason, I don’t care how great a player he is. Then you have to say, 'OK, what are his makeup issues? What are his character issues? Are they fatal? Is there something we can help them with?' And then you kind of work your way through that."

    Garrett continued: "How good a player is he? Is he worth it? Where are we taking him? You like to say there is a hard and fast rule, you like to make it black and white, but that’s not the reality of it. You have to talk it through. You have to have a philosophy that you stick with consistently and then you have to weigh the risks of when we take that particular player."

    Cowboys news and notes

    April, 25, 2012
    4/25/12
    5:10
    PM ET
    IRVING, Texas -- A couple of notes from two days of news conferences at Valley Ranch.

    * There are no new talks involving the team and outside linebacker Anthony Spencer. He signed his $8.8 million franchise tag Monday and reported to the voluntary workouts at Valley Ranch. However, team executive vice president Stephen Jones did say of any contract talks, " No, but they can happen fast."

    * Running back DeMarco Murray (ankle) and wide receiver Raymond Radway (leg) are progressing in their recovery from surgeries. Coach Jason Garrett said he expects to see Murray and Radway work out with the team for the veteran minicamps in June, though it hasn't been determined if those two players will be limited in any way.

    * In the last two drafts, the Cowboys picked up starters from the first round in Dez Bryant (2010) and Tyron Smith (2011). Sean Lee (second-round pick in 2010) moved into the starting lineup last season and Bruce Carter (2011 second rounder) is expected to compete for a starting role this year. Can it happen again? "But your expectations are certainly first-and second-round players are starters for you sooner rather than later," Garrett said.

    * Nice retirement ceremony for tackle Marc Colombo on Wednesday. He rarely spoke with reporters but was polite and always had time to talk Red Sox and Celtics. "He's inspirational," Garrett said, adding later, "A damn good football player." You hope a similar thing can be done for former center Andre Gurode and inside linebacker Bradie James whenever they decide to retire, if they want to retire as Cowboys, which was the case for Colombo.

    * Tom Ciskowski, assistant director of player personnel, said the Cowboys don't have any holes and when asked to expound on it said, "Well, I look at our team and what we’re hopefully going to draft over the next three days to upgrade, like I mentioned earlier. But we’ve got some depth at some positions and I just think even we’re not drafting today we can go play tomorrow. And I think Jerry [Jones] alluded to that that we’re just going to try and find the best football players that we can regardless of the position to help us."

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