NFC East: Will Smith

Dallas Cowboys' projected roster

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
11:00
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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' 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.

SportsNation

Who will lead the Cowboys in sacks this season?

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    17%
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    1%
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    25%
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Discuss (Total votes: 14,176)

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."

Dallas Cowboys draft wrap-up

May, 10, 2014
May 10
7:46
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NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


IRVING, Texas – A wrap-up of the Dallas Cowboys draft. Click here for a full list of Cowboys' draftees.

[+] EnlargeZack Martin
Robin Alam/Icon SMIZack Martin was the right choice for the Dallas Cowboys in the first round.
Best move: In taking Zack Martin with the 16th pick in the first round with Johnny Manziel staring at them in the face, the Cowboys made a football decision. Bravo. It did not directly help a defense that ended last in the NFL in 2013, but indirectly it could make the defense better. If the Cowboys are better along the offensive line, they can do a better job closing out games by running the ball and the defense would be on the sidelines watching. Martin started 52 games at left tackle at Notre Dame but will move to guard, most likely for Mackenzy Bernadeau, this year. He is the third offensive linemen the Cowboys have drafted in the first round in the last four seasons. The Cowboys hit on tackle Tyron Smith (2011) and center Travis Frederick (2013) and if they hit on Martin, they will make Tony Romo’s life much easier. Jason Garrett said teams win games up front, but he has been reluctant to run the ball and Scott Linehan’s offense in Detroit was pass happy. The Cowboys do not have to become a ground-and-pound team but they will have to do a better job of finishing games with the run.

SportsNation

Which Cowboys draft pick are you most excited about?

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Discuss (Total votes: 18,529)

Riskiest move: The Cowboys entered the draft knowing they needed a right defensive end. When they went with Martin in the first round, the need increased, so they were willing to overpay some by giving the Washington Redskins their second (47th) and third (78) picks in order to move to the 34th pick to take Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence. With how the draft fell, they had a chance to stick at their picks and take defensive linemen anyway, but none with the elite talent they believe Lawrence has to affect the quarterback. Moving up is always dangerous. The last time the Cowboys moved up significantly in a round was in 2012 when they took Morris Claiborne in the first round. Through his first two seasons, the Claiborne move has not paid off.

Most surprising move: Most of the draft experts had linebacker Anthony Hitchens as a late-round pick, but the Cowboys took him in the fourth round, No. 119 overall. He was Iowa’s defensive MVP in 2013 and led the team in tackles for two seasons with 112. He could play inside linebacker as Sean Lee’s backup and be a special teams stalwart early on. The Cowboys defense is predicated on speed and he ran a 4.7 at the scouting combine. But he was productive. He had an eye-catching 13.5 tackles for loss as a senior.

File it away: The Cowboys came into the draft needing to find help for a defense that finished last in the NFL in 2013. The Cowboys ended up with nine picks and took seven defenders to potentially help Rod Marinelli make over the unit in 2014. Five of those picks came in the seventh round, so some expectations need to be tempered, but the Cowboys were able to find a defensive end in Ben Gardner, a linebacker in Will Smith, a safety in Ahmad Dixon, a defensive tackle in Ken Bishop and defensive back Terrance Mitchell. If the Cowboys can find three players to fill roles out of that group, they should be happy.

Cowboys won't rush roster moves

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20
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INDIANAPOLIS -- When will the Dallas Cowboys start making decisions on the future of players?

“Til it’s time to get under the cap,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said.

Teams do not need to be compliant with the salary cap until March 11, but some teams have already started cutting players to create cap savings, like the Detroit Lions did last week in cutting Louis Delmas and Nate Burleson and the New Orleans Saints with Will Smith, Roman Harper and Jabari Greer.

In addition to using the time at this week’s NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis to look at draft prospects, the Cowboys will use the time to discuss the futures of players like DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin and how they want to pare their salary cap by $20 million-$25 million before the first day of the league year.

Several others could have their contracts restructured, like Tony Romo, Sean Lee, Jason Witten, and others could be cut, like Justin Durant, to make room.

“We continue to look at them and we continue to look at what’s available out there, what’s going to be available out there, and we’re looking at a lot of tape with [assistant director of player personnel] Will [McClay] and the pro guys are looking at the tape on all those guys and what’s likely to be available in the draft,” Jones said. “All these things affect the decision.”
The big news today in the NFL is, once again, out of New Orleans, where two current Saints defensive players and two former ones have been suspended for their alleged role in the Saints' bounty programs. Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has been suspended for the entire season and defensive lineman Will Smith has been suspended for the first four games. Former Saints defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, who was in camp with the Philadelphia Eagles last year and is now with the Packers, is suspended for eight games, and former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita (now with the Browns) is suspended for three.

This all assumes that these suspensions hold up, and we have yet to hear from the NFLPA, which has been arguing for weeks that the league had insufficient evidence to support claims that the players were complicit in administering the bounty programs or that they acted on bounty offers during the games in question. But assuming Vilma and Smith are suspended at all, that's a nice little break for the Washington Redskins and rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, who are scheduled to open the 2012 regular season against the Saints in New Orleans on Sept. 9. While a road game in New Orleans remains a difficult challenge for anyone, especially a rookie quarterback, the Saints' defense obviously becomes somewhat less fearsome if Vilma and Smith aren't on the field.

The other three teams in the NFC East also play the Saints this year, though all are scheduled to do so after Smith's suspension expires. The Eagles open their season Sept. 9 in Cleveland against the Browns, who will be without Fujita if his suspension is upheld.

Saints suspensions hurt the NFC East

December, 3, 2008
12/03/08
9:59
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Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

News that three New Orleans Saints would be suspended for using a diuretic could hurt the NFC Beast in its attempt to place more than one team in the playoffs.

The Saints (6-6) will lose Charles Grant, Will Smith and Deuce McAllister for the final four games of the regular season. The Cowboys, Redskins and Eagles were hoping for some help from the Saints, who host both the Falcons (8-4) and Panthers (9-3) in the final four games.

The Falcons hold the tiebreaker over the Cowboys (8-4) at this point because of a better conference record. The Saints were in position to get themselves back in the playoff race with a win over Tampa Bay (9-3), but they couldn't pull off the upset Sunday.

McAllister's impact is minimal at this point in his career and Grant is already on injured reserve with a triceps injury. But the loss of Smith certainly hurts their chances of running the table to finish the season. The NFC East teams have to be wondering whether the Saints will keep bringing it every week now that they're virtually out of the playoff race and have lost three players.

This might be a good time for Jerry Jones to leave an encouraging voicemail on his former assistant Sean Payton's voicemail. If the Giants are the only NFC East team to make the playoffs, remember the day this suspensions came down.

Romo helps homeless man

November, 19, 2008
11/19/08
4:49
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Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

After the first game of the season, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo pulled off the road late on a Sunday night and helped out a stranded motorist. On Tuesday, he walked up to a movie theater and noticed that a homeless man was cashing in change. Romo bought the man a ticket to see "Role Model" and then invited him to sit with he and his buddy.

I'll let Tim MacMahon of the Cowboys Blog tell the rest of the story:

Romo, who confirmed the story but didn't want to elaborate, waved [the homeless man] Doc over to sit by him and his buddy. Doc sheepishly mentioned that he hadn't showered in a few days.

"Don't worry about that," Romo said. "I'm used to locker rooms."

And so the $67 million quarterback and a man who doesn't have $6.70 to his name sat next to each other and shared laughs for 90 minutes or so.

Pretty cool story. Earlier in the day, Romo stopped by my neighborhood with actor Will Smith to participate in a pep rally for the Lake Highlands volleyball and football teams.

Wednesday Beastlines

November, 19, 2008
11/19/08
10:58
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Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Start your mid-morning off right with headlines from around the division. Here's what's happening in the Beast today:

Cowboys

Eagles

Giants

Redskins

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