NFC East: Stephen Jones

IRVING, Texas -- There was a time when the Dallas Cowboys would not approach the agents of their draft picks until the week before training camp to get a deal finalized.

On Tuesday, second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence became the last of the team's nine draft picks to sign, receiving a four-year deal worth $5.506 million and $3.895 million guaranteed. Thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement, the negotiations do not need to take a long time to finalize.

"I think business in the rear view mirror is good,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "Guys get that behind them. It's one less thing they're going to worry about. We never worry about it. I do think sometimes the young guys, it's their money, their contract. They worry about it.”

Lawrence was not too worried. He did not miss an organized team activity workout or minicamp session.

"I'm very happy,” said Lawrence, who was the 34th overall pick. "Now I can really say I'm officially a Cowboy.”

The Cowboys do not have to worry about any contracts heading into training camp. The only unresolved issue is backup quarterback Kyle Orton, who missed his second day of minicamp. He is staring at a fine of $69,455 for missing the entire camp, which concludes Thursday. If he fails to report to training camp, he would face a $30,000 fine.

Coach Jason Garrett said he did not talk to Orton or his agent and was unaware if anybody in the organization had talked to the quarterback.
IRVING, Texas -- The NFL Players Association has decided not to pursue any action against the Dallas Cowboys as a result of Sean Lee's season-ending knee injury, according to ESPN's Ed Werder, but the NFL has had contact with the club.

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"They have evaluated a couple of our practice sessions and given us some pointers, but I don't think we've done anything (wrong)," executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "Jason (Garrett) has always done a good job of playing by the rules and I think obviously they looked at that and say that we were but at the same time I think we all have to take notes and get better. We need to do it better and hopefully do it to where you don't have anything unfortunate happen."

Jones would not divulge what those pointers were.

"More than anything it's just remembering that they are OTAs and there's a standard that they recommend," Jones said. "In some cases, any time you get men who are competitive then the intensity level can rise and it's up to our coaches and up to them to keep everything in check ... We're all on the same page to keep these guys healthy."

Jones confirmed on Tuesday that Lee suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament during the Cowboys' first organized team activity on May 27. On the play, Lee's leg buckled before he was hit by guard Zack Martin, who was attempting to make a block on a screen pass.

Per in the collective bargaining agreement, there is to be no contact during OTAs and minicamp. Players are not in pads. If teams are in violation of the offseason rules, they are subject to fines.

Jones and coach Jason Garrett said they believe Lee suffered the injury before the contact with Martin. Garrett said he starts every team meeting reminding players about the need to practice the right way.

"We don't want the contact," Garrett said. "We don't want guys going to the ground. We've evaluated that play. We think that the injury happened before the contact, but again we don't want it to be that physical."

What could the Cowboys fetch?

May, 30, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- If the Los Angeles Clippers can reportedly fetch $2 billion, then what would the Dallas Cowboys be worth?

It was a question Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones was asked during an appearance on 1310 The Ticket in Dallas.

“All I can tell you is it doesn’t matter what the number is and Jerry’s not selling,” Jones said.

Last July, Forbes estimated the Cowboys worth $2.1 billion. The Cowboys were one of five sports franchises estimated to be worth more than $2 billion with Real Madrid ($3.3 billion), Manchester United ($3.165 billion), Barcelona ($2.6 billion) and the New York Yankees ($2.3 billion).

In January, Forbes valued the Clippers at $575 million.

“Obviously sports franchises are tremendous content,” Jones said. “It’s obviously a getaway for our culture, our society to escape the stress and every day pressures of work by watching sport, whether it’s football, whether it’s basketball, baseball, hockey, any sport. Watching their kids play sports, people enjoy it. I think people are drawn to it. There’s only a finite group of teams that are out there. Obviously that one being in LA makes it even more special. When you see the Dodgers go for what they go for, I guess I’m not totally floored, but it’s obviously a big number.”

And a number the Cowboys could eclipse, but never will.

Jerry Jones isn’t selling.
IRVING, Texas -- These are tough odds Anthony Spencer faces right now.

The Dallas Cowboys' defensive end is recovering from microfracture surgery and has a goal of playing at some point this season.

Spencer
Spencer, who underwent the procedure last year, said he hopes to return by the end of training camp. If that’s the case, Spencer most likely will begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list. This news is not a surprise, given the difficultly to return from such a surgery.

Team doctors have given Spencer a timetable on when he can return. But Spencer won’t reveal it, instead he’s just focusing on his rehab.

“This injury it’s really uncommon, you rarely see guys coming back from it,” Spencer said. “So, I’m really not looking at any type of timetable. I’m just on my body schedule; where my body is, that’s where I am.”

The Cowboys have had two players, Al Johnson and Kevin Hardy, return from microfracture surgery. New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston had the procedure in 2009 and Detroit Lions right tackle Gosder Cherilus got it done in 2010.

And each returned to the field from their injuries.

Washington Redskins defensive tackle Stephen Bowen underwent microfracture surgery and hopes to return this season.

“There’s guys who come back and other guys who struggle,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “It’s certainly not an impossibility. Sometimes it just takes longer than an ACL or something like that.”

Spencer's recovery had him lay in bed for 15 to 16 hours a day to immobilize the leg, all while his wife was pregnant with their first child.

Once he was able to move around, Spencer needed two crutches for four-to-five months.

Now he’s able to walk on his own, but can’t put too much pressure on his knee during the rehab process.

It’s a slow moving rehab that has had very little setbacks. Spencer has undergone four MRIs since the surgery to make sure his knee is stable.

Which it is. But for how long is the question.

“I have to listen to my body,” Spencer said. “I’ve gotten to where I’m listening to my body in rehabbing and doing the things at the pace of my body. Just try to do that and be as patient as possible. That’s one of the biggest things with the surgery (that) I’ve read (is) just being patient and I’m not pushing it pass that.”
Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones told SiriusXM radio Wednesday afternoon that he had a chat with Tony Romo regarding speculation the team might draft a quarterback.

Romo
The Cowboys didn't, bypassing Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel at No. 16 overall and instead taking Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin. The team did not use any of its nine picks to select a quarterback.

With talk about whether the Cowboys should draft a quarterback to eventually replace Romo so prevalent, Jones said he wanted to remind Romo about the team's commitment to him.

But Romo's confidence in his abilities never wavered.

"We did it, everybody had a visit with him along the way," Jones said. "Jerry [Jones, Cowboys owner/GM] included, myself included, and told him how this is his football team and how much we think of him and with all the rumors flying around not to pay attention to that. His response is, as you might expect from Tony, it was 'Well if you decide to, it ain't going to matter, there's not anybody out there that can beat me out.' "

Stephen Jones said during the interview there's a belief Romo can play at least four more seasons, and there was no need to draft a quarterback to sit and watch despite Romo's age (34) and ongoing recovery from a second back surgery.

Cowboys' rookie pool set

May, 14, 2014
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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."
IRVING, Texas -- In order to avoid some of the circus certainly to be involved in the selection of Johnny Manziel, the Cleveland Browns are limiting access to national media at the team’s rookie mini-camp this weekend.

By doing so, the Browns have created even more of an issue.

Could you imagine the Cowboys ever doing such a thing? Of course not. They would have loved the attention. At least that’s the most commonly held perception.

But speaking on a conference call with season-ticket holders on Tuesday, executive vice president Stephen Jones hinted the circus was part of the reason why the Cowboys passed on Johnny Football in the first round.

The Cowboys had Manziel highly rated on their draft board but opted to take Zack Martin instead.

“We all felt like he’s a great football player,” Jones said. “At the same time a lot about what Johnny is is the ‘it’ factor. I think it will be really hard for a guy like Johnny Manziel to sit on the bench and watch. That was a factor in our decision making. I don’t think he’s like an Aaron Rodgers, who was very patient and watched Brett Favre for two or three years to wait his turn.

“The minute he walks in there’s going to be controversy. In the National Football League we know it, you don’t win every game and have tough ones you lose and quarterbacks are in tough situations.”
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys believe they drafted a third-round prospect despite trading their third-round pick.

They consider selecting Pittsburgh receiver Devin Street in the fifth round a steal.

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Street had a third-round grade on the Cowboys’ board, which is why they packaged their fifth-round pick (No. 158) and a seventh-rounder (No. 229) to move up a dozen spots and draft him with the 146th overall pick.

The Cowboys see the 6-foot-3, 189-pound Street, who holds Pitt’s career receptions record with 202, as a pro-ready receiver. He’s expected to immediately compete for the No. 3 receiver role and gives the Cowboys a legitimate option as an outside receiver if Dez Bryant or Terrance Williams gets injured.

“Very, very accomplished route runner, great hands, great length,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “If anything, needs to work on some of the strength a little bit. Other than that, he’s played in a [pro-style] system, he knows the route tree. It will be easy for him coming in.”

Street could be limited this offseason due to a shoulder injury he suffered as a Pitt senior, when he caught 51 passes for 854 yards and seven touchdowns in 10 games. That injury, which limited him to three reps of 115 pounds on the bench press at the combine, could have caused his draft stock to drop.

However, the Cowboys sent receivers coach Derek Dooley to privately work out Street on the Pitt campus. Dooley returned to Valley Ranch raving about Street and didn’t stop until the Cowboys drafted him.

“It doesn’t matter where you get picked; it only matters what you do when you get here,” Dooley told Street during the phone call after the Cowboys made the pick. “Get your ass ready. You’re going to get down here quickly and we’re going to go to work, and you’re going to put it on all those teams that passed you up.

“You see all them receivers that went ahead of you? All right, don’t ever forget it, you hear me? And that needs to motivate you every day.”
IRVING, Texas -- It started with Orlando Scandrick in the fifth round of the 2008 draft. It moved on to Tyrone Crawford in the third round of the 2012 draft. On Friday, the Dallas Cowboys made Demarcus Lawrence the third player from Boise State they have drafted, taking him in the second round.


“We like Boise guys,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We always take a hard look at where the player has played, what kind of program (it is) and what that program is all about. They do a great job up there. It's a very competitive program. The players that come out of there compete; they play hard. We've got two of them, so we feel really good about how this guy has learned to play football and the environment he's been in.”

Garrett acknowledged the chip-on-the-shoulder factor. Executive vice president Stephen Jones mentioned another factor.

“They play with a hot motor,” Jones said. “Their motor runs high and I think that attracts people in the NFL. To play in our game, to play in the NFL you've got to have a passion for it and you've got to play every play and I think they get coached that way out there from the start out in Boise. So you see a lot of that in them and it's easy to start to like a guy. Obviously when you see some players and maybe they're not as coached up then you start to see a lot of plays off and this and that, then you start to downgrade a player. You've got to give it to them. We've looked at a lot of their guys the last 3-4 years and turn on tape and they're rolling.”

Crawford helped recruit Lawrence to Boise State.

“When I was on my visit he asked me for a pass-rush move and I told him one and he got a sack that game,” Lawrence said. “So when I get to Dallas he's got to show me some love, too.”

Crawford will be more than willing to help and serve as a mentor.

“We just like to work hard,” Crawford said of the Boise State players. “Good, character guys. I don't know what it is the Cowboys in particular that love the Boise guys but you know as Boise guys and defensive guys we do have great coaching there. We fit into the system there and we fit into the system we play here.

“We definitely feel like we can compete with anybody and even if we can't we're going to say we can. We're going to go into it like we can.”
IRVING, Texas -- The draft trade charts say that the Washington Redskins got the best of the Dallas Cowboys.

The Cowboys don't care. They were willing to pay a steep price for the player they considered to be the last premier pass-rusher left on the board.

[+] EnlargeDemarcus Lawrence
Brian Losness/USA TODAY SportsThe Cowboys had a first-round grade on Demarcus Lawrence.
The Cowboys gave up the 47th and 78th overall picks to move up to No. 34 and select Boise State's Demarcus Lawrence, who they believe was the only remaining available player who could make an immediate impact as a right defensive end, Dallas' most glaring need after the cost-cutting release of DeMarcus Ware.

"We really felt like we wanted to help the defense, and we knew that we might have to give up a little more than the charts read out," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "As we all know, that can happen sometimes when you want some guy, and we really wanted this guy.

"The biggest thing was we wanted to get up there at the top [of the second round] because we thought he could go because of his unique ability. We didn't want to take a chance on losing him."

According to one widely used draft trade chart, the No. 34 pick is worth 560 points. The picks the Cowboys gave up were worth 560 points.

Jones said the Cowboys discussed the deal with the Redskins all day and "sweetened the pot a little bit" to get it done when it came time to make the pick.

"This was a classic case of seeing a need," owner/general manager Jerry Jones said. "The question in my mind was just how much do you pay for it? Just how much would you go?"

The Cowboys were willing to go higher than the charts said they should for one of 20 players they gave a first-round grade. They view Lawrence as one of three immediate-impact right defensive ends in the draft along with No. 1 pick Jadeveon Clowney and No. 9 pick Anthony Barr.

Dallas hoped that Barr, defensive tackle Aaron Donald or outside linebacker Ryan Shazier would be available when they got on the clock with No. 16, but Donald and Shazier were selected in the few picks before them. Lawrence was the next defensive player on Dallas' board, but Stephen Jones said he would have been a reach at 16.

At No. 34, the Cowboys think Lawrence was a great value, even though they had to pay a steep price to get there.

"It's always painful to give up a pick," Stephen Jones said. "I mean, you don't like it. I don't like it. But you know, you've also got to look at reality -- a little bit of it between not having a ton of cap space for free agency, and then having a limited number of right ends.

"We a little bit felt motivated to go get the guy we liked. He fit right in. I mean, in terms of where we had him, he fits perfectly. But in terms of having to give up an extra pick, that part is a little tougher, but we felt like it was worth it. Especially a pass-rusher."
IRVING, Texas -- With only $80,362 to spend on rookie free-agent signing bonuses, the Dallas Cowboys have a little advantage over other teams with three compensatory picks in the seventh round.

Instead of having to guarantee portions of a base salary to get around the bonus limit, the Cowboys can target their priority free agents with picks Nos. 248, 251 and 254 in the seventh round on Saturday.

Last year the Cowboys guaranteed linebacker Brandon Magee $70,000, and he was among their final cuts, eventually joining the Cleveland Browns. Safety Jakar Hamilton received a $10,000 signing bonus. Safety Jeff Heath received $2,000 and became a starter.

Historically the Cowboys have done well in college free agency with Hamilton, Heath and Cam Lawrence earning spots on the 53-man roster at some point in 2013. In 2012, the Cowboys added Ronald Leary, Cole Beasley, Lance Dunbar and Ben Bass as undrafted free agents. Leary is a starter, while Beasley and Dunbar have legitimate offensive roles.

Kicker Dan Bailey was the best undrafted free-agent signing in 2011 and signed a seven-year deal this offseason.

The Cowboys have six seventh-round selections.

“The seventh-round picks historically are throw-ins [in trades],” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “I don’t know if the league has caught up to what value a seventh-round pick is, in terms of the quote-unquote ‘charts’ that are out there. If you look at what a seventh-round pick can bring you, you start to say the player [in the seventh round] is more valuable than boosting the bottom of the six [round] to five picks, 10 picks up to the middle of the sixth when a lot of times that player will fall to you anyway. A lot of times you see it as thrown-ins. I see it as a great opportunity for us to take six players that can help our football team.”
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have drafted players with varying degrees of injuries over the years, hoping they found value where others saw risk.

They did it with Sean Lee and Bruce Carter in the second rounds of back-to-back drafts in 2010 and '11. Morris Claiborne had wrist surgery before the 2012 draft, and Dallas had no qualms trading up to get him. Joseph Randle was picked in the fifth round last year despite a thumb surgery that kept him out a good portion of the offseason.

Despite not wanting to use it as an excuse the past few years, the Cowboys often cite injuries as the major reason as to why they have finished 8-8. With just a little bit of luck in the health department, owner/general manager Jerry Jones hinted on Tuesday, the Cowboys would have been a playoff team and will be a playoff team this year.

So would the Cowboys be as willing to draft players with injury flags, such as Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley, who tore both of his anterior cruciate ligaments in college?

“I think you have to always measure the value that you’re getting, but at the same time I think one of issues at the top of the list the last couple of years have been injuries,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “That was brought up in the draft room and we have to be cognizant of that injuries have been a little bit of what’s put us behind the eight ball a little bit. We’ll certainly have to take a long, hard look at that before we pull that trigger but that doesn’t mean we won’t do it. I wouldn’t say it’s out of the question.”
IRVING, Texas -- Months of work is about to be wrapped up this week with the NFL draft starting on Thursday, and the Dallas Cowboys still have some work to do on their board.

"We're still tweaking it," executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "I wouldn't say it's finalized but it's close."

With the draft pushed back, some teams have delayed their evaluation process. The New Orleans Saints staff recently went to Las Vegas to break up the monotony and to avoid overanalyzing things.

Jones does not believe the extra time is a negative.

The extra time has allowed the coaches to be more involved in the process so the scouting staff can put players that are better fits for the Cowboys' offense, defense or special teams in the correct spots.

"I think if you do your work and do it right, I hadn't seen people backing up on things," Jones said. "I think it just allows you do to a little more further study on guys and make sure you have him right and not overlooked something. I don't think the ‘study long, study wrong' is an issue here. I think it's been good for us and we certainly look at it as a way to be better than we've been in the past."
Will McClayAP Photo/James D SmithAssistant director of player personnel Will McClay, 47, will be an asset to the Cowboys in May's draft.
IRVING, Texas -- There is a Herm Edwards story that keeps coming back to Will McClay, especially now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There always will be corners to sweep.
IRVING, Texas -- Whenever Jerry Jones speaks, you must remember there are two Jerrys.

There is Jerry Jones the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, AT&T Stadium and countless other business ventures. And there is Jerry Jones the general manager of the Cowboys.

In pumping up the 50th anniversary of the Academy of Country Music Awards that will come to AT&T Stadium next year, Jones had his owner hat on when he said the following:

“As you know, the Cowboys have not gone to the playoffs in several years. We have not gone. Yet we're the most popular TV show there is on television. We lead all teams in TV ratings, 24 out of the last top 25 shows were NFL games. And any time your Cowboys play, they're up there at the top and leading.”

In other words, the Cowboys are famous for being famous, not for what they actually do. It’s a maddening statistic that Jones always cites. There is nothing incorrect about it, but are the Cowboys popular because they play good football? Their .500 record over the last decade-plus suggests otherwise. Are the Cowboys popular because they are a team others loathe? There is probably some of that, too. Are the Cowboys popular because of the inventive ways they lose and the types of games they play? There is some of that too.

All of it adds up to a ratings bonanza and why the Cowboys, despite their record, will be on national television so much in 2014 when the schedule is released soon.

ESPN NFL columnist Ashley Fox took Jones to task for the comments over the weekend. She didn’t separate Jerry the owner from Jerry the general manager.

Most important is whether Jones can separate the two titles? He is the only owner/general manager in the NFL. Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown doesn’t carry the title even if the final call is his. But Brown does not have the outside business interests of Jones. He is not trying to turn Paul Brown Stadium into a destination spot the way Jones has done with AT&T Stadium.

Of course, Jones also has had to pay off more than $700 million of the stadium since the city of Arlington’s contribution was capped at $325 million.

The sad fact for Cowboys fans is that there is never a clear-cut answer as to whether football is the No. 1 priority when it comes to how Jones operates the team. Jones will say it is and always will be, and there is no doubt he wants to win badly.

However, when Henry Melton made his free-agent visit, Jones was away from Valley Ranch tending to other business interests. Stephen Jones and Jason Garrett handled the visit and Melton signed on with the club. But how many other general managers wouldn’t be on hand when a free agent, especially one as important as Melton, is visiting? It is between none and nil.

When the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum opened last spring on draft day, Jerry Jones was there for the spectacle. How many other GMs would be there on a draft day? All of the work leading up to the draft was complete by then, but it again leads to questions about the priorities.

When the Cowboys lost 37-36 to the Green Bay Packers last season, Jones was asked on 105.3 The Fan if he worried about fan apathy.

“Not with games like the other day,” Jones said. “That’s a show, if you want to look at it that way.”

How many other GMs would look at it that way? None.

But how the Cowboys have operated this offseason might be the beginning of something different in how Jones separates the owner from the general manager. The Cowboys made difficult decisions on DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and Miles Austin. They have eschewed the big-name signings and even the Melton deal is essentially for one year and $3.5 million.

Will they be bold and move way up in the first round? It doesn’t sound like that is in their plans. They could move down and collect more selections, which would be smart. They could take the best player available approach, which would be smart too.

It will be up to Jones the general manager.

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