Dallas Cowboys: Ben Gardner

Dallas Cowboys Preseason Live

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
9:00
AM ET
Welcome to Dallas Cowboys training camp! ESPN.com Cowboys reporters Todd Archer and Tim MacMahon have live updates and the latest news from Oxnard, California.
Constructing a 53-man roster is a difficult process, piecing together 10 positions groups and matching up present needs with future production of older and younger players. This week we take a look at constructing the Dallas Cowboys' roster.

Defensive line

On the roster: George Selvie, Terrell McClain, Henry Melton, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Anthony Spencer, Jeremy Mincey, Nick Hayden, Ken Bishop, Davon Coleman, Ben Gardner, Amobi Okoye, Martez Wilson, Dartwan Bush, Chris Whaley, Caesar Rayford, Ben Bass

Locks: Selvie, McClain, Melton, Lawrence, Crawford, Mincey

Inside track: Spencer, Hayden, Bishop, Gardner, Coleman, Bass

Need help: Wilson, Coleman, Bush, Whaley, Rayford,Okoye

How many fit? The Cowboys needed 20 defensive linemen last year because of injuries and a revolving door of newcomers who mostly struggled. The Cowboys opened the year last season with 10 defensive linemen on the 53-man roster and ended the year with that many, but the only constants were Jason Hatcher, DeMarcus Ware, Edgar Jones, Hayden and Selvie.

Selvie
Ten seems to be the right number again in 2014 as the Cowboys plan to attack with numbers if not known commodities. Spencer and Okoye could be candidates to open the year on the physically unable to perform list because of injuries. Hayden started every game last year, but he is not a lock to make the roster. Selvie had seven sacks last year but he is not a lock to start. Crawford did not play last year because of an Achilles’ injury. Melton is coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. McClain had a productive spring but can he carry that over to a full-time role?

The Cowboys gave up their third-round pick to move up for Lawrence, and he will fight with Mincey for a starting spot. He looks the part, but he has a lot to learn. Going against Tyron Smith might be a good thing. The Cowboys are betting that Mincey will be able to find a niche as a quality pass rusher.

Bass is entering his third training camp. He has flashed ability but hasn’t been able to stay healthy in his first two years. Gardner, Bishop and Coleman could be viewed as a part of the future as the line gets the overhaul the offensive line began in 2011. Rayford looks the part but has to have a good preseason to earn a spot. Wilson has some pass rush to him.

Losing Ware and Hatcher and possibly not having Spencer until the seventh game of the season, this group does not have high expectations. Rod Marinelli kind of likes it that way, but he has to somehow coax pass rush out of players who have yet to do it on a consistent basis.

The series:

Quarterbacks
Specialists
Running backs
Safeties
Wide receivers
Cornerbacks
Tight ends
Linebackers
Offensive line

Dallas Cowboys' projected roster

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
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IRVING, Texas -- Examining the Dallas Cowboys' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)

The Kyle Orton watch is over now that the Cowboys released the veteran backup. The timing of it is a surprise, and Jason Garrett spoke optimistically all offseason about Orton’s return. Now the Cowboys turn their attention to Weeden as Romo’s backup. Weeden had a productive spring, running the first-team offense as Romo recovered from back surgery. The Cowboys haven’t kept a third quarterback since 2011, and Caleb Hanie and Dustin Vaughan will have work to do to crack the 53-man roster

RUNNING BACKS (4)


The last two spots could be up in the air. Randle, a fifth-round choice, will be pushed by free-agent pickup Ryan Williams in the preseason. Williams, a former second-round pick, was not able to stay healthy in Arizona. The Cowboys have given him a chance to win a backup job. Clutts did a nice job as a late-season pickup in 2013. He is more versatile than undrafted rookie J.C. Copeland, but I don’t think having a fullback on the 53-man roster is set in stone.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)


I debated whether to go with a sixth, but later on you will see why I stuck with five. It is possible the Cowboys will look for a veteran in the final cuts if they feel limited by their depth because of injury, but I think they like the overall group. They will work their No. 3 receiver role on a rotation basis, but Beasley could emerge as a bigger threat on third down. There will be a lot of eyes on Williams, who takes over the No. 2 role on a full-time basis. Bryant is set for another Pro Bowl-type season.

TIGHT ENDS (3)


Witten remains near the top of the game at his position. His total catches were down last year, but his touchdowns were up. Escobar’s role figures to expand, especially as a No. 3-type receiver. Hanna has the inside track on the third spot, but I have a feeling the Cowboys will be looking for more of a traditional blocker, especially if they want to get away from the fullback spot to open up a role elsewhere.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

The top six are set, with Bernadeau or Leary fighting it out for the left guard position and the loser becoming the top backup on the interior. Parnell is in the final year of his deal, and if Weems develops, I wonder if the Cowboys would look for a trading partner. They have invested a lot in Parnell in time and money for him to be a backup, so it would be a risk, but perhaps one worth taking. Weems had a decent offseason. Clarke gets the nod as the No. 9 guy right now, but veteran Uche Nwaneri could work his way into the mix.

DEFENSIVE LINE (10)

I think the Cowboys will go heavy here, especially considering what happened last year and the numbers they have thrown at the position this year. Four of them are rookies -- Lawrence, Gardner, Bishop and Coleman. I believe Anthony Spencer and possibly Amobi Okoye will start the year on the physically unable to perform list, so they don’t make this 53-man roster with the idea that they join the team after the sixth game of the season. Wilson garnered the last spot over a 2013 starter, Nick Hayden, but there will be a few players in the mix for the final few spots, including Ben Bass.

LINEBACKER (7)

Carrying seven linebackers might be a little heavy, but I have special teams in mind when it comes to Will Smith. He benefits from having only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. The Cowboys spent the offseason telling us games are won and lost up front, so carrying an extra offensive or defensive linemen could get in this mix as well. McClain gets a spot only because of his experience. Backups of Holloman, Hitchens and Smith would be tough considering their youth, and I can see the Cowboys looking for veteran backup help around the final cut dates.

CORNERBACK (5)


Carr and Claiborne have to play exceptionally well for this defense to have a chance, and they might have to do it without much help from a consistent pass rush. Scandrick is coming off his best season, and Claiborne will have to beat him out to reclaim the starting spot. Moore can play inside and out. Mitchell showed in his limited offseason work that he can make plays. Last year’s fourth-round pick, B.W. Webb, will have to fight for a spot. Based on his offseason work, he did not make the cut for this roster.

SAFETY (5)

Church is the only player without questions. The Cowboys are projecting the other four with their biggest bet on Wilcox. He enters camp as the starter, but he could be pushed by Heath and Hamilton. Dixon will be more of a special-teams threat if he is to make the roster. Hamilton showed some playmaking in the offseason. No Matt Johnson? Not right now, especially after he couldn’t practice -- again -- for most of the offseason.

SPECIALISTS (3)


Perhaps Cody Mandell can push Jones, but Jones is the more consistent punter and has a good rapport as a holder for Bailey. Ladouceur remains one of the best long-snappers in the game. This group won’t change during the summer unless there is an injury.

Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 1

June, 20, 2014
Jun 20
9:00
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IRVING, Texas -- Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:
Away we go:

@toddarcher: He will go on the refused to report list if he does not show and is not cut and the Cowboys would gain a spot on the 90-man roster in his absence. I want to get more into the "why" on Orton's absence. I don't believe it's unhappiness with his contract. I don't think he is looking to go anywhere else. I truly believe he doesn't want to play. But if the Cowboys don't cut him, then he might have to play. We all should be so burned to have to come back and earn $3 million for a season in which he might not play a snap. Orton can skip the first week of camp before the Cowboys would be able to come after some of his signing bonus money. If he retired, then he would have to repay the team $3.4 million. Would you want to write that check? Would you be willing to give up about $300,000 in fines, de-escalators and still make excellent money? I believe we'll see Orton sometime in late July in California. @toddarcher: No, because those aren't his strengths either. He can run with running backs and tight ends. When he plays with confidence, he is fine. He had a solid offseason in coverage, improving as the OTAs and minicamp went along. Now that doesn't mean anything when the pads come on but there were some encouraging signs. Linebackers coach Matt Eberflus made it sound like Carter is much more into the process of learning everything he needs to learn. That's a good thing. He's just not built to be a run stopper/pass-rusher. The weak-side backer in this scheme has to be the playmaker. Think Lance Briggs in Chicago. Carter has those skills, but can he put it all together? I'm not sure, but he did some good things in the spring. @toddarcher: As an Aussie, I was expecting a Mat McBriar question. Oh well. The Cowboys had nine picks. Do I think all nine will make the 53-man roster? No. I'll make Zack Martin, DeMarcus Lawrence, Anthony Hitchens and Devin Street locks. I like Ben Gardner, Ahmad Dixon and Terrance Mitchell to make it as seventh rounders. I think Ken Bishop and Will Smith will have chances too, but I'm just playing a numbers game right now. Then there are the undrafted rookies, like Tyler Patmon, Ben Malena and Davin Coleman. The Cowboys look to have some rookies who can contribute if not this year, then in the future. @toddarcher: I've asked and was told no. I think his day is done and I think the Cowboys want to see what they already have. There's something about Babin that just doesn't fit. He has been in a ton of spots the last couple of years. Teams keep biting on his talent. The Cowboys are content with their defensive line mix. @toddarcher: If you think about it, it is their base package. They will play more nickel defense than base package just because of what you said. It's all dependent on personnel groupings. If teams want to line up with a fullback or two tight ends, you'll see their base defense. If they want to spread the field, they'll go with a nickel look. The Cowboys feel like they're covered at cornerback with Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne. They like their defensive line rotation, although there are a lot of questions simply based on the untested or unknown players added in the offseason or coming back from injuries. But at the end of the day, Rod Marinelli will be in a nickel defense 60-65 percent of the snaps. 

Workload unlikely to change for Tony Romo

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
10:30
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IRVING, Texas -- Through the organized team activities, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has been kept out of competitive drills as well as some individual work as he recovers from December back surgery.

Romo
With the Cowboys' minicamp starting Tuesday, Romo will continue down the same road. Romo has said recently he expects to be 100 percent within a few weeks, but that time frame comes after the Cowboys' offseason is over.

"We'll take him day-by-day like we do with all the other guys," Garrett said last week, "but I don't see it changing dramatically."

Romo has gone through walkthrough drills with the first-team offense and thrown individual routes with wide receivers, running backs and tight ends. He has not taken a snap in 11-on-11 or 7-on-7 drills. He has also sat out of the quarterback's footwork drills as the team attempts to protect him from jarring motions as much as possible.

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Romo will not be the only Cowboy to likely be limited because of injury during the three-day minicamp. Wide receiver L'Damian Washington (shoulder), wide receiver Devin Street (quadriceps bruise), safety Matt Johnson (hamstring), linebacker DeVonte Holloman, linebacker Anthony Hitchens, defensive end Ben Gardner (groin), defensive tackle Amobi Okoye (illness), defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee), defensive tackle Chris Whaley (knee), wide receiver Dwayne Harris (shoulder), defensive end George Selvie (shoulder), defensive end Caesar Rayford (shoulder) have been either slowed by injury during all or part of the offseason program.

Johnson took part in just one OTA before his hamstring tightened up. Because of his history (he missed his rookie season with recurring hamstring injuries) the Cowboys have wanted to protect Johnson. He missed last season because of foot surgery.

He is hoping to take part in the minicamp in some fashion.

"I've just been making sure it's good to go," Johnson said. "I think we're being over-cautious but I feel good."

Cornerback Terrance Mitchell, one of the Cowboys' five seventh-round picks, will take part in team drills for the first time since the rookie minicamp in May. League rules prevented him from showing up before June 13 because Oregon had not graduated.

With OL retooled, Cowboys look to fix DL

June, 11, 2014
Jun 11
11:50
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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.

George Selvie looking at an encore

June, 5, 2014
Jun 5
9:01
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- A year ago, George Selvie did not have a job in the NFL. Today he is one of the most senior defensive linemen taking part in the Dallas Cowboys' organized team activities (OTAs).

Selvie
Longtime Cowboys DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher are gone. Anthony Spencer has returned but he has yet to practice because of knee surgery. Tyrone Crawford is back from an injury that kept him out last season. Henry Melton, Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain are in as free agents. The Cowboys also drafted DeMarcus Lawrence, Ben Gardner and Ken Bishop.

“It's kind of weird, but it's a rotating door,” Selvie said. “The NFL is never the same room. Some guys went out. Some new guys came in.”

Of the players currently able to practice, Selvie, Nick Hayden and Crawford are the longest-tenured of the Cowboys' defensive linemen, having played 16 games. And Selvie did not show up until the first week of training camp after Crawford got hurt.

The Cowboys are Selvie's fifth team. In parts of three seasons with the St. Louis Rams, Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars, he had three sacks. He spent about six weeks last offseason with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Last year, he put up seven sacks with the Cowboys. He is their leading returner in sacks.

“Definitely I sat back and said I had a pretty good year, but having a coach like Rod [Marinelli], he said I could've had a better year,” said Selvie, who also had 39 tackles, seven tackles for loss and 22 quarterback pressures. “He showed me all my bad plays and said, ‘Look at how many plays you were that close to getting if you did this.' I definitely take that into consideration and work on the things I did wrong.”

While he has some level of seniority, Selvie, who has yet to take part in team drills in the spring because of shoulder surgery, does not feel settled just yet.

He can think back to last June when he was looking for a job.

“Some people say I probably won the job by default last year because a lot of people got hurt, but I think I came in and did what was asked of me,” Selvie said. “I went out there, played well and that's what I've got to do this year.'

Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 2

May, 31, 2014
May 31
12:00
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:

If you want to read Part 1 of the mailbag, click here.

Away we go:

Breaking down rookie deals so far

May, 29, 2014
May 29
4:00
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have signed six of their nine draft picks with Zack Martin, DeMarcus Lawrence and Anthony Hitchens remaining to agree to deals.

Fifth-round pick Devin Street is the top pick to sign thus far, receiving a signing bonus of $201,972. The team quickly reached deals with seventh rounders Ben Gardner ($59,172 signing bonus), Will Smith ($50,352), Ahmad Dixon ($50,352), Ken Bishop ($45,896) and Terrance Mitchell ($45,896).

The six picks received base salaries of $420,000 (2014), $510,000 (2015), $600,000 (2016) and $690,000 (2017).

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Cowboys have $5.609 million cap room with their top 51 contracts. The deals for Martin, Lawrence and Hitchens will be inside the top 51 once they are completed, which will chew up some of that space.

The Cowboys will gain $5.5 million in salary cap space Monday when Miles Austin's release becomes official. Austin, who signed with the Cleveland Browns, was designated a post-June 1 release in March.

The Cowboys do not need Austin's cap relief to sign their draft picks, but it will give them more room for potential deals for Dez Bryant or Tyron Smith in the offseason, as well as money for practice squad players, signings later in the season and injury settlements.

Dallas Cowboys sign Devin Street

May, 23, 2014
May 23
12:45
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IRVING, Texas -- With all of their seventh-round draft picks signed, the Dallas Cowboys have signed their fifth-round pick, wide receiver Devin Street, to a four-year deal.

The Cowboys moved up in the fifth round to select Street with the 146th pick. His 202 career catches are a Pittsburgh record. He had 2,901 career yards, third-best in school history, and 16 touchdowns.

The Cowboys had him in the third round on their draft board and liked his size (6-foot-2, 198 pounds) and ability to attack the ball. He had his best year as a junior, when he caught 73 passes for 975 yards. He was limited to 10 games as a senior, catching 51 passes for 854 yards and seven touchdowns.

The Cowboys view him as a complement to Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams. Street has the ability to play outside if either of the starters gets hurt.

The Cowboys have yet to reach deals with their first-, second- and fourth-round picks (Zack Martin, DeMarcus Lawrence and Anthony Hitchens).

Seventh-rounders Ben Gardner, Will Smith, Ahmad Dixon, Ken Bishop and Terrance Mitchell have already signed.
IRVING, Texas -- Unlike most of their new teammates, Zack Martin and Ben Gardner did not need introductions at the Dallas Cowboys’ rookie minicamp.

Notre Dame’s Martin, the Cowboys’ first-round pick, and Stanford’s Gardner, one of their five seventh-rounders, played against each other three times with Gardner missing the 2013 meeting because of an injury.

“Zack is one of the best all-around offensive linemen I’ve ever played against, for sure,” Gardner said. “We always had good battles with each other. He’s one of those guys who I have a lot of respect for because he plays the right way. He’s not a dirty player. He just plays hard through the whistle. He’s going to do great things for the Cowboys.”

After the games Martin and Gardner would congratulate each other, having built a respect over the years.

“Very tough, put his nose in there on blocks,” Martin said. “Then when he gets on the edge, he has a lot of quickness. At Stanford he played a little D-tackle and D-end and when you see D-tackles move outside, you think, ‘All right a little advantage here,’ but he’s got a lot of quickness and good moves. Whenever we played Stanford we always knew where he was. Very active player. High motor.”

Gardner did his best to throw Martin off his game.

“He’s quiet,” Gardner said. “I’m more the talker. I tried to get in his head but you can’t faze him. He doesn’t like to talk.”

Stanford won three of the four years, but Notre Dame kept its unbeaten season going in 2012 with a somewhat controversial win on a goal-line stand.

“Stanford fans think it was,” Martin said. “They blew the whistle, so we stopped, and then the ball went over the goal line.”

Cowboys sign Ken Bishop

May, 20, 2014
May 20
3:05
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have deals with all five seventh-round picks, with defensive tackle Ken Bishop signing a four-year deal on Tuesday.

Bishop, who was the 251st pick, joins Ben Gardner, Will Smith, Ahmad Dixon and Terrance Mitchell as the signed draft picks. The Cowboys still have to sign their top four picks: Zack Martin, DeMarcus Lawrence, Anthony Hitchens and Devin Street.

Bishop was a first-team All-MAC pick after posting 70 tackles and seven tackles for loss as a senior at Northern Illinois. He also intercepted two passes and broke up one. In two seasons, he had 125 tackles, 16.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks.

Rookies out to earn star

May, 17, 2014
May 17
9:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- As has been the case since Jason Garrett took over as Dallas Cowboys head coach, the rookies have to earn the star on their helmets.

When Ben Gardner arrived at Stanford, the "S" was on the side of his helmet. When the defensive end arrived on Monday, his helmet did not have a star.

“You understand when you come into this locker room you’ve got earn it,” Gardner said. “The star is a little bit different. It’s one of those things that almost gives you chills at first. I’m happy to work for it and excited to earn it and one day put it on our helmets.”

At the pre-rookie minicamp meeting, Garrett told the player of the value of the star.

“You’ve got to earn your star,” first-round pick Zack Martin said. “We realize we’re rookies and at the bottom of the table. We’ve got a ways to go and we’re willing to work for it.”

Cowboys' picks have captain backgrounds

May, 16, 2014
May 16
10:30
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IRVING, Texas – Jason Garrett did not invent the term “right kind of guy,” but the Dallas Cowboys head coach certainly uses it a lot.

It does not mean a team full of choir boys, but leadership is part of the criteria. Of the Cowboys’ nine draft picks, nine were captains on their college teams.

Zack Martin, the first-round pick, was a two-time captain at Notre Dame. Anthony Hitchens (Iowa), Devin Street (Pittsburgh), Ben Gardner (Stanford) and Ahmad Dixon (Baylor) were captains last season.

“You want guys who are good people, certainly, but you want guys with great football character; guys who love to play, who have a passion for playing,” Garrett said after the draft. “When you think about describing a lot of these defensive guys: they’re all physical players, they all love contact, they love to play the game, they’re well respected by their teammates and their opponents, you hear great things about them from their coaches. So those are kind of guys we want on our team.

"We’re trying to build a culture. One of the great opportunities you have to build a culture is these last three days. Who are you going to bring in? I can sit here all day long telling people what I think is important in football, what we want this team to be. I tell our players that all the time. But then if we bring in players who don’t really fit that, it becomes meaningless. So we feel it’s important to have guys who love this game, who have a passion for this game, who want to work at this game and are just football guys. And we feel these guys are that.”

Cowboys' rookie pool set

May, 14, 2014
May 14
1:45
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have a rookie pool of $5.792 million to sign their nine draft picks and undrafted free agents.

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Several teams have already started signing their draft picks and it is something the Cowboys could start to do at this weekend's rookie minicamp. Last year the Cowboys signed DeVonte Holloman, Joseph Randle and B.W. Webb in a five-day span in May. The entire draft class was signed by the end of June.

The Cowboys kick off a two-day minicamp Friday and could look to wrap up deals with picks in Rounds 4-7: Anthony Hitchens, Devin Street, Ben Gardner, Will Smith, Ahmad Dixon, Ken Bishop and Terrance Mitchell.

With the new collective bargaining agreement there is little negotiating involved, making the deals easy to reach conclusions. The late-round picks will receive base salaries of $420,000, $510,000, $600,000 and $690,000 on their four-year deals. All of the draft picks will receive four-year deals but the Cowboys will hold a fifth-year option on first rounder Zack Martin.

The Cowboys have $5.5 million in salary-cap space and will gain another $5.5 million in salary-cap space when Miles Austin's contract comes off the books June 2.

The extra space could help the Cowboys in securing long-term deals for Dez Bryant or Tyron Smith over the summer. Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said during the draft the teams hopes to start talks with Smith's agent, "sooner rather than later."

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