Dallas Cowboys: Jason Hatcher

A guess at the Cowboys' schedule

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
IRVING, Texas – Last week the St. Louis Rams offered up at $100,000 prize if somebody can correctly predict their 2014 schedule, complete with day and time.

We will offer up no such prize if you can correctly predict the Dallas Cowboys’ schedule, but feel free to post yours in the comments section. I’m giving you my best guess as the NFL comes close to finalizing the schedule this week.

Sept. 7 at New York Giants -- I pondered them opening the year at the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night, but thought better of it.

Sept. 15 vs. Houston Texans -- The Rangers are home on Sept. 14, so to avoid congestion, let’s make this a "Monday Night Football" matchup for ESPN.

Sept. 21 at Seattle Seahawks -- With the trip to London later, the Cowboys are able to have their long travel games spread out.

Sept. 28 vs. Arizona -- Seems about the right time to bring in the Cardinals, but could they be a Thanksgiving Day possibility?

Oct. 5 at Tennessee Titans -- First trip to Nashville since Albert Haynesworth stomped on Andre Gurode’s head.

Oct. 12 vs. Philadelphia Eagles -- The Cowboys get their first crack at the Eagles to avenge last year’s Week 17 loss.

Oct. 19 vs. Washington Redskins -- Jason Hatcher’s return to AT&T Stadium, though I think this game will be more about Robert Griffin III.

Oct. 26 at Chicago Bears -- The Cowboys’ trip to Soldier Field last year would have been the most pathetic road game of year if not for their trip to New Orleans.

Nov. 2 vs. Indianapolis Colts -- It was supposed to be the return of Phil Costa, but he has retired, so instead Andrew Luck makes his first trip to Arlington.

Nov. 9 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars at London -- The one game I know I will get right as the Cowboys make their regular-season debut across the pond.

Nov. 16 – Bye -- I’m on a roll.

Nov. 23 at St. Louis Rams -- I’ve long felt the Cowboys need to play a road game the week before Thanksgiving. This gives them a short flight.

Nov. 27 vs. New Orleans Saints -- They played on Thanksgiving in 2010 and I don’t like putting a key game on a day everybody is watching anyway, but call it a hunch.

Dec. 7 at Philadelphia Eagles -- Here comes the final month grind. Will the Cowboys be in the chase?

Dec. 14 vs. San Francisco 49ers -- The Cowboys better be ready for their most physical game of the season.

Dec. 21 at Washington Redskins -- In Week 16 last year Tony Romo pulled off some late-game magic despite a back injury that required surgery five days later.

Dec. 28 vs. New York Giants -- Open with New York, close with New York. Will the NFC East title come down to Week 17 for the fourth year in a row?

Stanford's Mauro closer to Cowboys dream

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
IRVING, Texas -- Josh Mauro was like a lot of kids growing up in the area. He was a huge Dallas Cowboys fan. He even attended the final game at Texas Stadium, a loss to the Baltimore Ravens in 2008. He hoped one day he would wear the star on his helmet.

[+] EnlargeJosh Mauro
George Frey/Getty ImagesTexas native Josh Mauro had a breakout season for the Stanford Cardinal in 2013.
Today Mauro, who played defensive line at Stanford after leaving Hurst L.D. Bell, is at Valley Ranch with other Dallas Day hopefuls -- working out for the team while his immediate family watches. Mauro will be joined by other locals like TCU safety Elisha Olabode, Missouri quarterback James Franklin (Corinth), Abilene Christian receiver Taylor Gabriel (Mesquite), Miami defensive back Kacy Rodgers (Southlake Carroll) -- whose dad was the Cowboys defensive line coach from 2003-07 -- and North Texas running back Zach Orr (DeSoto).

"It's kind of like a dream come true," Mauro said. "Playing Pee Wee football and high school, you see the Cowboys and it's like a dream to think you could play for them. This isn't a sign-up for the Cowboys, but to even have the opportunity to work out for them is something special."

Mauro, 6-foot-6, 280 pounds, played defensive end, defensive tackle and even some nose tackle for Stanford. He had 51 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, six quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and an interception for one of the best defenses in college football in 2013.

He knows the Cowboys have defensive line needs, too. He knows DeMarcus Ware is now with the Denver Broncos, Jason Hatcher is with the Washington Redskins and Anthony Spencer remains unsigned. He is aware they signed Henry Melton.

"You're talking two, possibly three starters up front in that defense that aren't there anymore," Mauro said.

Mauro met with Cowboys assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett and other coaches at the NFL scouting combine in February. He played in the East-West Shrine Game and worked out in California, with former Stanford players like Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener and other current NFL players.

"It's a great work environment, just getting to be with guys that are like minded and in the NFL," Mauro said. "I've been able to learn a lot from them."

ESPN Insiders have him as the 21st ranked defensive end, but his versatility puts him on the radar of 4-3 and 3-4 teams. Having played in a multiple defenses used at Stanford also helps. When he arrived at Stanford, Vic Fangio was his coordinator. Fangio now runs the San Francisco 49ers defense. Josh Tarver took over for Fangio, and he now runs the Oakland Raiders defense. Derek Mason took over for Tarver and he is now the head coach at Vanderbilt.

"Say a team runs a 3-4, the guys they'll have aren't just the typical big, block squares just two-gapping," Mauro said. "It's a passing league. You've got to be able to play different personnel. Look at a team like New England. They might have one down lineman and standing up the other 10 guys. The game is so different. It's not the traditional tight end, two backs, two wide receivers. It could be three, four, five wide receivers. The name of the game is to get to the quarterback. I've been able to do that at Stanford from a lot of different positions. Nowadays getting to the quarterback whether it be from the nine technique or nose guard, you've got to be able to create mismatches for people in different positions."

He worked out for the Atlanta Falcons and will work out for the New York Giants next week, followed by visits with the 49ers and Raiders.

"I still remember we wrote our goal letters at every training period at Stanford," Mauro said. "My first goal was to eventually become a starter at Stanford, an All-American defensive end and be a future first-round pick. Now coming out of high school that was a very, very ambitious goal and I wasn't heavily recruited. I had a few offers, but I always set the bar high so even if I fall short of my expectations I'd still end up in a good place. I always believed in it. Three years in the program I hadn't played very much. The fourth year I came in off the bench and was the energy guy … . My fifth year I ended up starting 11 games and was productive and helped one of the best defenses in the nation. Everything is kind of surreal. You couldn't plan it out. You just always have to believe in yourself if no one is believing in you."

Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 1

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
IRVING, Texas -- Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss the best way for the Cowboys to win, the apparent plans at safety, finding a future quarterback, rebuilding and Ed Reed. Ed Reed? Yep.

Away we go:


Analyzing McShay mock 4.0: Cowboys 

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
The Dallas Cowboys' offseason mostly has been about improving a defense that finished last in the NFL in 2013.

They have a new defensive coordinator, Rod Marinelli. They said goodbye to DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher. They have said hello to Henry Melton, Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain, but the work to improve remains.

In ESPN draft expert Todd McShay’s fourth mock draft Insider, he sticks with defense. You have to be an ESPN Insider to find out all his picks.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

IRVING, Texas -- We had more than 190 questions in Wednesday's chat, so there is a lot to pick from in this week's chat leftovers.

But first a leftover question: What's better Thanksgiving leftovers or Easter leftovers? I'm going Thanksgiving. Nothing like a cold turkey sandwich with stuffing on wheat bread.

And away we go:

Rick (San Antonio): Todd, the Boys have been one game away from advancing to the tourney. And JJ is always on cue to mention that and seems to be happy with a team that barely gets into the playoffs. Will his mentality change to form a team that can dominate?

Todd Archer: I get your sentiment, Rick, but I think the days of a team having to dominate from Game 1-16 are largely over. I realize the Seattle Seahawks were good all year, as were the Denver Broncos, but Jerry has seen teams like the Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants get hot at the end of the season and make playoff runs. It's not about being the dominant team in September. It's about being ready in December. Clearly the Cowboys haven't been ready in December (or early January) with their three losses in Week 17 the last three seasons, but as Bill Parcells use to say: get in the tournament and anything can happen. Did you have UConn in the Final Four?

Roger Murtaugh (Dallas): Do we still like Tyrone Crawford? Is Crawford's return and the signing of Melton enough to deter the Boys from going D-Line in the first round?

Archer: The Cowboys still like Crawford … a lot. They believe he can play all four line spots, but that seems to be a stretch for me. He's not a nose tackle in base situations and I don't think he's a right defensive end either. He can play either tackle spot in pass-rushing spots. I think he's a left defensive end mostly but can move inside in obvious passing situations. While the Cowboys like him -- a lot -- I don't believe they should have huge expectations where he makes a colossal jump. He's not played a lot of football here lately and he didn't have a sack as a rookie. They should view anything they get from him as gravy. And as for the draft, I don't think Melton's arrival takes the Cowboys out of going defensive line in the first round at all.

Toby (Billings,MT) [via mobile]: Do you think we will see more production from escobar and or hanna this year?

Archer: They better get more out of Gavin Escobar. He has a chance to do some things in the passing game for sure. He can make some tough catches and I think he can really work the seams. Now, do I think he'll be an on-the-line tight end? Not really but that doesn't mean he won't get on the field. I think Scott Linehan will be more creative in getting more out of the 12 personnel package than what they Cowboys did last year. I like Hanna, but I'm not sure how the Cowboys feel about him. I think the Cowboys draft a blocking tight end in the middle to late rounds and if they go with only three tight ends, then Hanna could be the odd-man out.

Mario (South Carolina) [via mobile]: Is the Cowboys organization going to sign any more free agent vets to strengthen the offense and defense up a little more or is scoring high in the draft the big game plan this season.

Archer: I think they're done in free agency until after the draft unless something pop opens that is unexpected. Most of the guys available now have been available since free agency began and the Cowboys have yet to kick the tires really on anybody. I think they wait to see what they get out of the draft and fill in holes with cheap prospects in free agency. One name I'd like to see them go after is safety Steve Gregory. If we're going to play the 'better than' game, while factoring in cost, I think Gregory would be better than the other safeties not names Barry Church. Now that's just my opinion. As I've said, I think the Cowboys are ready to roll with J.J. Wilcox, Jeff Heath and Matt Johnson for now.

9to82 (Anywhere but here): Aren't all the additions in free agency made by Skins, Eagles, and Giants really just "march madness"? People hail DRC signing...reminder, he was terrible in Philly. Can't buy a championship folks.

Archer: I agree with the general statement, but those teams have gotten better to a degree. How much? Who knows? But the Redskins are better with DeSean Jackson. The Eagles are better with Malcolm Jenkins and Darren Sproles. The Giants are better with their flurry of signings. Are the Cowboys better with Henry Melton, Terrell McClain, Jeremy Mincey and Brandon Weeden? I'd rather have DeMarcus Ware but I'm OK with Melton over Hatcher, even with Melton coming off the knee injury. The Cowboys have stuck to their free agency plan. They could have spent, but chose not to. They're trying to build the right way. Not that the Eagles, Redskins and Giants made any foolish signings, but I do believe we've seen a lot of times win a title in March that don't make the playoffs in January.

Bruce (Gotham): What would the Cowboys do if Manziel fell to them in the draft?

Archer: If that happened, I wish I could be in the room to hear the conversations. It's actually a conversation they should have before the draft. You have to be prepared to take any player. I don't think the Cowboys were prepared to take Sharrif Floyd last year when he fell to No. 18 and they were killed for dropping down so far. I'd take Manziel, but I'm not the general manager. I can see the Cowboys taking him, but I can see them wishing the phone would ring so they could pick up some extra picks. But do you really believe he will be available at No. 16? I don't.
We are nearly a month into the free agency period and it seems the Dallas Cowboys are losing the battle in the NFC East.

The division games have ended in heartbreak for the Cowboys the last two seasons with losses in the regular season finale eliminating them from playoff contention.

After the Washington Redskins signed DeSean Jackson to a four-year deal on Wednesday we examine just where the Cowboys are in free agency.

The need. Fix the defensive line: The Cowboys had no choice but to solve this problem given they lost DeMarcus Ware 24-hours after releasing him and their refusal to re-sign Jason Hatcher in free agency. Jerry Jones said the team got better along the defensive line, if not younger with the signing of Henry Melton to replace Hatcher at defensive tackle and Jeremy Mincey to possibly take over for Ware at end. Terrell McClain is projected to add depth to the unit. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has strong relationships with his linemen and he plans to use a rotation with a better group of players this season than last. Jones also said the team will draft the best player available thanks to what the team did in free agency. But you have to think if the team had made a play for say Robert Ayers, who signed a deal with the New York Giants, this group would be even better.

Safety, Safety, Safety: It seems the Cowboys are always looking to fix the safety position. Last season the team started three different players at the position and none of those players were able to sustain a hold onto the position due to various reasons. The Cowboys have bypassed adding a veteran player such as Jairus Byrd, who left Buffalo for a six-year $56 million deal with New Orleans. The Cowboys weren’t going to pay big money for a safety again after getting burned by large contracts to Ken Hamlin and to Roy Williams in previous seasons. Danieal Manning, Michael Huff and Major Wright are on the market and could be signed to a short-term deal. But the Cowboys are hoping the stiff competition between J.J. Wilcox, Matt Johnson and Jeff Heath will develop a consistent starter in 2014.

It’s all about the money: When free agency started the Cowboys had less than $2 million to spend and after cutting Ware, that money increased to a little over $10 million. The team had to be smart in what it did in free agency and was against kicking out big money to a player. Hence the incentive-type deal Melton signed. Outside of the Melton decision, signing Weeden might be the smartest financial move the team made. His cap numbers for the next two seasons are $570,000 in 2014 and $660,000 in 2015. Far lower than what the team has given current No. 2 quarterback Kyle Orton the last two seasons. The Cowboys had to be smart in their decision making due to the salary cap and the moves they made backed that up.

Checking in on Cowboys' free agents

April, 1, 2014
Apr 1
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.

Quantifying the Cowboys' injuries

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31
IRVING, Texas -- Injuries played a big part in why the Dallas Cowboys finished 8-8 in 2013. So, how does one measure the impact of those injuries?

Football Outsiders quantifies just how much, and the result is a little surprising. In their Adjusted Games Lost metric, the Cowboys checked in at 67.9, which ranked 17th. In 2012, the Cowboys were 28th in Adjusted Games Lost (86.5).

The New York Giants were last at 144.6. The teams ranked Nos. 27-31 made the playoffs: San Diego Chargers (94.4), New England Patriots (99.9), Green Bay Packers (104.5) and Indianapolis Colts (110.3).

The Cowboys used 20 different defensive linemen in 2013, so it’s not surprising they were second in AGL among that position group at 26.0. The Chicago Bears were tops at 28.1 in large part because they lost Henry Melton, now a Cowboy, for 13 games with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. What’s difficult to know is which players were counted. Jeremiah Ratliff was projected as a starter and did not play a game. Anthony Spencer played one game. DeMarcus Ware missed three. Jason Hatcher missed three. The projected top reserve, Tyrone Crawford, did not play a game because of a torn Achilles.

Here’s how Football Outsiders came up with the formula:

“With Football Outsiders' Adjusted Games Lost (AGL) metric, we are able to quantify how much teams were affected by injuries based on two principles: (1) Injuries to starters, injury replacements and important situational reserves matter more than injuries to bench warmers; and (2) Injured players who do take the field are usually playing with reduced ability, which is why Adjusted Games Lost is based not strictly on whether the player is active for the game or not, but instead is based on the player's listed status that week (IR/PUP, out, doubtful, questionable or probable).”

For the full story, click here. For the ESPN Insider story, click here Insider.

Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 1

March, 28, 2014
Mar 28
IRVING, Texas -- Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys Twitter mailbag is ready. In it we discuss how the offense will look with Tony Romo coming off back surgery, who the real general manager of this team is and whether some offensive line help could be coming in the future.

Part 2 will come out on Saturday. Remember if you have questions for me via Twitter (@toddarcher) use the #cowboysmail hashtag.

Away we go:


Insiders not high on Cowboys' work so far

March, 27, 2014
Mar 27
IRVING, Texas -- The guys over on ESPN Insiders are not fans Insider of what the Dallas Cowboys have -- or have not -- done in free agency so far this offseason, giving them a D grade.

The only team with a worse grade is the Oakland Raiders, who earned an F.

The grade had more to do with the losses of DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and Miles Austin, than the signings of Henry Melton, Terrell McClain, Jeremy Mincey and Brandon Weeden. I understand that line of thinking. I don’t know how the Cowboys can expect Melton, who is coming back from a torn ACL, and Mincey (or any combination of the defensive ends on the roster) to be better than Hatcher and Ware.

But where I disagree to an extent is how much the cap held them back.

The Cowboys could have restructured Ware’s deal without any problem. They could have fit Hatcher’s deal under the cap. They could have signed Julius Peppers or Jared Allen once Ware left. They could have signed just about anybody they wanted.

To me, they chose not to. They chose to get out of the game where they pushed more money into the future. They chose to not pay thirtysomethings large amounts of cash.

So what I wonder is if the Cowboys did those things with Ware and Hatcher or signed a Peppers or an Allen, wouldn’t the argument have been the Cowboys are doing the same old thing?

If the grade is about the personnel, then I can understand it, but it’s too easy to just pick apart the cap mismanagement as a reason why they didn’t (or haven’t) gone after higher-priced free agents.

Cowboys want to get younger

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
ORLANDO, Fla. -- On the last day of the NFL owners meetings, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett talked about his team becoming younger. While it's good to have experience, Garrett said the league has always been geared for the younger talent.

When asked if the Cowboys would seek a veteran receiver, Garrett said Dez Bryant was a veteran and he even mentioned Terrance Williams, entering his second season, as a Day 1 starter for 2014.

Garrett didn't know the average age of the roster, mainly because it's still being finalized, but not re-signing 30 something defensive linemen DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher, along with backup linebacker Ernie Sims, is a statement onto itself.

"You always want to infuse your team with young talent," Garrett said Wednesday morning. "You’re always trying to build your team for now and for going forward. You don’t want to build your team with guys based on what they’ve done in the past. It’s based on what they can do now for your team and what they can do going forward for your team. That’s not a commentary on anyone we’ve let go. We feel like DeMarcus Ware has a lot of good football left in him. We feel like Jason Hatcher has a lot of good football left in him. Those are the two marquee guys we’re talking about. But we had to make an organizational decision in a salary-cap era, given our salary–cap circumstances. Again, we felt like these are the best moves for our team now and moving forward."

When the 2014 starts, the Cowboys will have 20-something-year old players at skill positions such as cornerback, left tackle, wide receiver, running back, defensive tackle, strong safety and middle linebacker.

"You’re always trying to upgrade your football team and looking at the landscape as to how you can do that," Garrett said. "We’re getting into draft time right now. That’s certainly one way. We’re still in free agency. You’re always looking at the landscape at who’s available and who can help you. We’ll do that at that position just like any other position."

Cowboys revamp the defensive line

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Jerry Jones doesn't believe his team is rebuilding. It's a word not in his vocabulary because of quarterback Tony Romo, whom Jones says is still in his prime.

While Jones' team isn't in a rebuilding mode overall, massive changes took place with the defensive line.

Jones said the line needed to be revamped this offseason after drastic changes occurred during the 2013 season.

Projected starters Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher and DeMarcus Ware will play for somebody else next season. Anthony Spencer, another projected starter, is unsigned and recovering from microfracture surgery.

“We didn't have those guys like we had them on paper before the season started,” Jones said. “We had injuries, had our issues with Ratliff, Ware was compromised by injury and we lost Spencer, (Tyrone) Crawford (torn Achilles), I don't need to go down the list. But sitting here this time last year, relative to sitting here right now, we were better on paper than we are right now, for sure. But the line we played with, we're better today than the line we played with, and we have players who probably have a better chance of not having as much negative health issues as we did last season.”

Jones is bringing back two starters from the 2013 team in Nick Hayden (tackle) and George Selive (end).

He was forced to find replacements, and he trusted his personnel staff and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to find the pieces.

The Cowboys signed tackle Terrell McClain for depth and end Jeremy Mincey as a projected starter replacing Ware. But the cherry on top is Henry Melton, who will be a pass-rushing tackle replacing Hatcher.

Despite the new players, Jones didn't rule out another lineman being selected in the NFL draft, which starts May 8.

The Cowboys' moves on the defensive line are similar to what was done over a three-year period when the team made an overhaul to the offensive line.

It was an aging group and Jones' personnel staff drafted tackle Tyron Smith in 2011, signed Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau in free agency and signed Ronald Leary as an undrafted guard in 2012. The completion of the rebuilding effort ended last year with the selection of center Travis Frederick in the first round.

It's never easy to rebuild in city like Dallas. But you can rebuild certain parts of you team, which the Cowboys are doing with the defensive line.

“Well the challenge is, it's like holding two handfuls of jello,” Jones said. “When you get it shored up on one hand, it's coming out the other side. That's the makeup of dealing with contracts, players' skill level, expiring contracts -- that's the challenge.”

Cowboys open to signing older players

March, 24, 2014
Mar 24
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Cowboys let two starting defensive linemen go in free agency -- DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher -- who will each be 32 years of age when the 2014 season starts in September.

There's a thought that the Cowboys moved on from extending the contracts of players in their 30s.

With Ware and Hatcher gone, the Cowboys signed three defensive linemen as replacements: Henry Melton (27), Terrell McClain (25) and Jeremy Mincey (30).

"I think we've been efficient, and, obviously, up front was a focus because of the unfortunate things we’ve had happen there last season," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "We obviously decided to make some changes there so we brought in some people to fill some holes. But we'll continue to look at that and obviously keep an eye on it in the draft as well. But it allows us not to force the issue with the moves we’ve made."

Jones said the Cowboys are open to signing players in their 30s but it has to make good financial sense. During the free-agency period, the team expressed interest in 34-year old defensive end Julius Peppers before signing Melton and brought 32-year old defensive end Jared Allen to Valley Ranch for a visit.

Peppers signed a three-year deal with the Green Bay Packers and Allen has yet to sign a deal.

Jones said it's difficult to make decisions on good players who are in their 30s. Ware, for instance, was coming off a six-sack season, the first time he finished with fewer than 11 sacks since his rookie year. Ware also missed three games with a quad injury, the first of his career, and he was either limited or missed practice for an assortment of health issues.

The Cowboys had to look at whether Ware's decline was based on health or age. The team offered Ware a pay cut and he declined, so the team released him and 24 hours later he signed with Denver.

The Cowboys gave contract extensions to defensive tackle Jay Ratliff and left tackle Flozell Adams when the pair were in their 30s and each player was released before his contract expired.

"It's always hard. Historically we've obviously been that way but we’ve obviously been bit by it," Jones said. "So we took a long hard look at that and made some decisions not to go in that direction this time."

Asked about signing a player in his 30s again, Jones said, "We wouldn’t rule it out. I think each situation stands on its own."

Where to play Tyrone Crawford?

March, 24, 2014
Mar 24
IRVING, Texas -- Now that the Dallas Cowboys have signed Henry Melton to be the under tackle along their defensive line, what does that do for Tyrone Crawford?

Before tearing his Achilles on the first day of training camp last summer, Crawford played mostly left defensive end in organized team activities and minicamp. There were thoughts this offseason that he could move into the 3-technique spot vacated by Jason Hatcher but now owned by Melton. With Melton on board, Crawford can settle in at defensive end once again.

Crawford’s versatility is a major plus. He can play outside in running situations. He can move inside to defensive tackle in passing situations. That’s why Rod Marinelli was so intrigued by Crawford last year, but he never really got to see him in action.

Crawford played well as a rookie in 2012 in a reserve role. He did not record a sack, but the coaches saw the potential that made him a third-round draft pick and believed he was a fit in the 4-3 scheme after playing in the 3-4.

Crawford’s rehab from the torn Achilles has gone well. He was doing some resistance training by the end of the season. Barry Church tore his Achilles in the third game of the season in 2012 and was able to return for the 2013 offseason without a hitch. The sense is that Crawford will be able to do everything this offseason.

In Crawford, George Selvie and Jeremy Mincey, the Cowboys look to have more left defensive ends – better run-stoppers – than right defensive ends – more pass-rush threats. Selvie played some right defensive end in 2013 and is the Cowboys’ leading returner in sacks with seven, but he lacks the athleticism and bend required to play that side on a full-time basis.

But at least the Cowboys have pieces along the defensive line, which is something they didn’t have when free agency started, knowing they would not have DeMarcus Ware or keep Hatcher.

Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 1

March, 21, 2014
Mar 21
IRVING, Texas -- Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it, we discuss where the Cowboys go next in free agency after signing Henry Melton, Melton's future and if this team needs to build around their younger players. Here's a hint: they are.

Part 2 will be delivered on Saturday. If you have questions, send them to me via Twitter (@toddarcher) and use the #cowboysmail hashtag.

Away we go: