NFL Nation: Bruce Carter

IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter, who has missed the last three games with a thigh injury, returned to practice Thursday. Cowboys officials hope Carter will be healthy enough to play in Monday's game against the Washington Redskins.

Carter
Carter
Also, cornerback Brandon Carr, who finished last week's game against the New York Giants with a pulled hamstring, was participating during the open media access period of practice.

Defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, currently on the reserve/non-football injury list, practiced for the first time this season. Okoye has recovered from anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a brain condition that causes memory loss and seizures. Okoye was in a coma for three months last year.

Safety Jakar Hamilton (personal reasons), quarterback Tony Romo (back), defensive end Jack Crawford (calf) and Doug Free (foot) missed practice.

Romo, however, did participate in the walk-through session.
Dallas Cowboys strongside linebacker Bruce Carter has missed the past three games with a thigh injury, but he did some running before Sunday's game against the New York Giants and expects to practice this week.

Carter
Carter
"For the most part, I'm able to do everything I need to do," Carter said. "I got a couple of extra days to get ready, given we have a Monday night game."

In the New Orleans game on Sept. 28, Carter was credited with six tackles and two pass breakups, one that was intercepted by fellow linebacker Justin Durant.

But Carter didn't finish the game, he was injured chasing down a runner and didn't return.

The Cowboys have used a variety of players at linebacker this season because of injuries, with Rolando McClain (middle), Durant (strong and weak side), Anthony Hitchens (middle) and Kyle Wilber (strongside) getting the majority of playing time.

Other injuries of note:
  • Running back DeMarco Murray (ankle) didn't finish the first half of Sunday's game but did start the second half. Murray, who finished with 128 rushing yards, said his ankle felt fine. He said he didn't get the ankle re-taped.
  • Quarterback Tony Romo came into Sunday's game with a sore ankle and ribs. It didn't appear as if Romo had any problems moving around the pocket and he did take a few hits but nothing that would be alarming. Romo was a perfect nine-for-nine in the second half.

DeMarco Murray misses practice

October, 15, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- The NFL's leading rusher, DeMarco Murray, missed Wednesday's practice with an illness. Dallas Cowboys' officials don't believe it's anything serious and he's expected to play Sunday against the New York Giants.

Murray was battling the illness over the weekend.

Defensive end Anthony Spencer missed practice with a sore left foot. Spencer said he hopes to practice later this week.

Quarterback Tony Romo (back), linebacker Bruce Carter (quad), tackle Doug Free (foot) and linebacker Rolando McClain (personal reasons) also missed practice on Wednesday.

Carter and Free won't play Sunday, while Romo and McClain are expected to participate in the Giants game.
IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Henry Melton was listed as limited on the Wednesday practice report.

Last week, Melton (hamstring) didn't practice until Friday and was listed as questionable going into the game against the New Orleans Saints. Melton did play against the Saints.

Defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee), who made his season debut last week, was limited.

Tony Romo (back) and Bruce Carter (thigh) didn't practice on Wednesday. Romo is expected to practice this week and play in Sunday's game against Houston. Carter most likely won't play.

Linebacker Rolando McClain (groin) and wide receiver Dez Bryant (shoulder) were full participants on Wednesday.

Dallas Cowboys' projected roster

July, 18, 2014
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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.
IRVING, Texas -- It's a week before the Dallas Cowboys arrive in Oxnard, California, for training camp and we already know just how big of a year it is for Bruce Carter.

It's been written and talked about countless times in the offseason.

[+] EnlargeDallas' Bruce Carter
Donald Miralle/Getty ImagesCowboys linebacker Bruce Carter, a second-round pick by Dallas in 2011, is set to become a free agent after this season.
Carter is entering the final year of his rookie contract, set to become a free agent after the season. At one point he was viewed as a core player, vital to the future growth of the Cowboys' defense. After a frustrating 2013 season, he is not viewed that way anymore.

But it doesn't mean he can't be viewed that way again.

In 2011, Anthony Spencer was in a contract year and tied his career high with six sacks. He also had 31 quarterback pressures and four forced fumbles. His overall game made him a valuable player in the Cowboys' 3-4.

The Cowboys placed the franchise tag on Spencer for the 2012 season.

In another contract year, Spencer had his best season, putting up a career-high 11 sacks and earning his first Pro Bowl bid.

The Cowboys put the franchise tag on him again for 2013, guaranteeing him nearly $20 million over the two seasons in which he was tagged.

Last season, he played in only one game because of a knee injury that required microfracture surgery and might keep him out of the beginning of this season. Once again he is in a contract year, having signed a one-year deal that could be worth as much as $3.5 million.

Jason Hatcher was in a contract year last year and responded with his best season. He had 11 sacks -- after putting up just 16 in his previous seven -- and was named to the Pro Bowl. His age -- he turned 32 on Sunday -- kept the Cowboys from making a play at re-signing him, but the Washington Redskins signed him to a four-year, $27.5 million deal as a free agent.

Way back in 2007, Ken Hamlin joined the Cowboys on a one-year deal. He put up a career-high five picks and was named to the Pro Bowl. Prior to the 2008 season, he signed a six-year, $39 million deal with the Cowboys that included $15 million guaranteed. He was cut after the 2009 season.

Some contract years have not been as productive. Cornerback Mike Jenkins saw the Cowboys add Brandon Carr in free agency with a $50 million deal and draft Morris Claiborne with the sixth overall pick. Jenkins was coming off shoulder surgery, did his rehab elsewhere and started only two of 13 games in 2012. He signed with the Oakland Raiders.

Gerald Sensabaugh played on three straight one-year deals with the Cowboys from 2009-11 before cashing in at the end of the 2011 season with a five-year, $22.5 million deal that included $8 million guaranteed. He was cut after the 2012 season.

Which brings us back to Carter, the club's second-round pick in 2011.

"That's certainly a cliché thing in all of sports, that people talk about, 'He's in a contract year and he's going to take a different approach than he had up till this point,'" coach Jason Garrett said. "I don't know if I buy that with guys that I have been around. I think Bruce Carter wants to be a really good football player. I think that's independent of anything that is going on in the business side. I think getting comfortable in this scheme for the second year -- I think Sean Lee's absence will help him. It will force him to step up a little bit more. It will force Justin Durant to step up a little bit more. Sometimes you can have a player as strong as Sean Lee is -- such a great leader like Sean is -- sometimes you defer to that guy. I think it's really important for those guys to understand he's not here right now. They have to step up. They've done a better job of that throughout the OTAs and minicamp."

Linebackers coach Matt Eberflus said Carter has "ramped up," the meetings with the position coach in the offseason.

"I think he's taking steps in the right direction," Eberflus said. "And he's putting the work in. He's meeting with me as much as he can. Studying the tape, giving him clear and concise goals daily for practice and he's doing a good job of attaining those goals each and every day so when he does that he takes steps in the right direction to improve his fundamentals and his game."
IRVING, Texas -- A year ago, Barry Church was something of a question mark.

He was coming off a torn Achilles and played in parts of only three games in 2012.

This year, the safety might be the Dallas Cowboys' most established defender.

[+] EnlargeBarry Church
AP Photo/James D SmithMore will be asked of Barry Church this season.
Anthony Spencer is the most tenured, but he might not play until the seventh game of the season. Orlando Scandrick has the most Dallas experience among the defensive backs, but he will be pushed for a starting job by Morris Claiborne. Bruce Carter has more career starts, but the linebacker is enigmatic to say the least.

That leaves Church, who led the Cowboys with 147 tackles from his safety spot. He also had five tackles for loss, an interception, six pass deflections, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown.

“You never want to get too complacent or take things for granted,” Church said. “I feel like I have a role on this team now, especially at the safety crew because I’m one of the oldest guys out there in the secondary, me and Orlando and Brandon Carr. It’s a different role coming in being one of the old guys.”

Church came to the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2010. He worked his way up from special-teamer to sub-package player to a starter.

This year he figures to add another role: leader.

With Sean Lee out for the year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the Cowboys are in need of a defensive leader. Church deferred to Lee, DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher last year, but now the younger players (as well as his peers) will look to him.

The coaches have asked him to be more vocal.

“I pretty much know the defense front and back, so the more I can communicate to the other guys and get people lined up, the better. I definitely feel like I can do it. I could’ve done it last year, but Sean was the designated leader and the vocal captain, so you roll with him. He was the guy. He proved himself. I was coming off an injury and had to re-prove myself.”

Church is a player coach Jason Garrett often cites as an example to younger players trying to figure it out.

“He loves to play,” Garrett said. “People respond to him. And he does a lot of positive things. He’s around the ball a lot. He makes a lot of plays. So he has that way about him where people kind of gravitate toward him because of his personality and because of his play. Just needs to play more and keep doing that. In regards to the absence of Sean, he absolutely needs to step up as a leader. Your best players need to do that. When you play a position like safety, you’re a big communicator back there with everybody else in the secondary. So being strong with his [voice] and being strong with his mannerisms and getting everybody squared away, I think that’s a big part of what his job is.”
IRVING, Texas -- Rod Marinelli likes what he saw from his Dallas Cowboys defense in the spring.

The defensive coordinator liked that he has more players along the defensive line. He likes the linebackers’ “movement skills.” He likes how cornerbacks Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne can play man-to-man. He likes the growth J.J. Wilcox made at safety opposite Barry Church.

[+] EnlargeBarry Church and Morris Claiborne
Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportsDallas defensive backs Barry Church and Morris Claiborne didn't have much to celebrate during 2013.
But there’s something else Marinelli likes about the group.

“I think there’s something to prove a little bit,” Marinelli said. “Not something to prove from last year, but there are some guys coming here off the street with something to prove. There are some guys in contract years with something to prove. There are some guys coming out saying, ‘I want to be a better player,’ who have something prove.

“You get that many guys wanting to prove something, then you can become better. Right now what I like is how hard they’re going after their craft.”

Last season was a mess for the Cowboys' defense. It has been referenced so many times this offseason that “32nd-ranked defense” has been tattooed on everybody. The Cowboys gave up 6,279 yards in 2013 a year after giving up a franchise-record 5,687 yards. Five quarterbacks had four-touchdown games against the Cowboys. Two times in a three-week span, they allowed more than 620 yards. The New Orleans Saints had 40 first downs.

“It definitely bothers us,” Church said. “I’m speaking for myself, but it definitely bothers me. But there’s nothing we can really say or prove different. We were 32nd in the league and we weren’t that good on the defensive side of the ball. This year, the only way we can counter that is by playing good and becoming one of the better teams in the league at taking the ball away and against the run and the pass.”

It’s not just the players. The tag falls on the coaches, too.

“Nobody wants to look at last year and take ownership of that, but we have to,” secondary coach Jerome Henderson said. “And we’ve got to get better from there, and we cannot let that happen again.”

Oh, and now the Cowboys have to show they can be better in 2014 without the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks, DeMarcus Ware, who was cut, last year’s leader in sacks, Jason Hatcher, who signed as a free agent with the Washington Redskins, and their best playmaker, Sean Lee, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in organized team activities.

But the sense is that Marinelli likes it this way. He had ubertalented defenses with the Chicago Bears with guys like Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman. He won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with guys like Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Simeon Rice, John Lynch and Ronde Barber.

He doesn’t have an Urlacher, Sapp, Brooks, Briggs, Rice or Lynch with this group.

He has Henry Melton, whom he coached to the Pro Bowl with the Bears, trying to prove he can come back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He has Bruce Carter trying to prove he is a big-time player in a contract year. He has Claiborne, a former sixth overall pick in the draft, trying to prove he is not a bust. He has Carr trying to prove he is worth the five-year, $50 million contract he received in 2012. He has George Selvie trying to prove he was not a one-year wonder after putting up seven sacks last season. He has Tyrone Crawford trying to prove he can come back from a torn Achilles.

He has low-cost free agents such as Terrell McClain, Jeremy Mincey and Amobi Okoye trying to prove they can be prime-time players. He has Justin Durant trying to prove he can be a middle linebacker and Kyle Wilber trying to prove he can be a strongside linebacker. He has Rolando McClain trying to prove that a player who has retired twice in the past year has the desire to keep playing. He has DeMarcus Lawrence trying to prove that a second-rounder can make an impact as a rookie. He has Wilcox trying to prove he can play strong safety.

He has guys like Church and Scandrick trying to prove that they can put up solid seasons in back-to-back years.

So much to prove. So much to forget.

“The first thing you do is you take it as coaches and players and you take accountability for it,” Marinelli said. “And no excuses. Now we look forward. Now it’s about the expectations of this group and with expectations you have to execute. It’s that simple. That simple, yet that hard.”
IRVING, Texas -- As the Dallas Cowboys seek a replacement for injured MLB Sean Lee, one place they won't look is in Bruce Carter's direction.

"From what I see, I think they're going to keep me at my same position," Carter said. "I guess they're just going to try guys and work them in and out and just see who fits best."

Carter
Carter
In 2012, when the Cowboys ran a 3-4 scheme and Lee missed 10 games because of toe surgery, Carter took over Lee's spot. Last season, when Lee missed five full games -- and parts of two others -- with hamstring and neck injuries, the Cowboys did not slide Carter from the weakside linebacker spot to the middle.

Lee is expected to miss the entire 2014 season with a torn ACL in his left knee.

The Cowboys believe Carter is best-suited for the weakside position because of his athleticism, but he struggled making the transition from the 3-4 to the 4-3. He posted a career-high 122 tackles but only four were for loss. He did not intercept a pass, force a fumble or recover one from a difference-making position in the scheme.

The Cowboys benched Carter during one game and took him out of the starting lineup in two others.

"I felt I didn't have the best season that I wanted to have, obviously," Carter said. "But I mean, everybody has their ups and downs. I'm just going to go out here and just continue to work, put my head down and keep working."

Carter is in the final year of his contract. The Cowboys were a pick away from drafting former Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier in the first round of the draft, and he would have forced Carter to switch spots. At the rookie minicamp, new defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said he doesn't coach confidence. A player's success is up to the player.

"Go play," Marinelli said. "It's a man's game, man. Play it the right way. That's what I want. We're going to coach it. We'll coach you hard. Be where you're supposed to be. This is what we expect. And then go."

Carter said he has spent more time working at Valley Ranch this offseason than in the past. Being in top shape, however, hasn't been the issue. Being more football-aware is what he needs to improve upon most.

"I just want to be the best player I can be," Carter said. "I have a lot of potential to be great. I don't want to leave anything in the tank. I want to sell out and give my all."
There was a lot of talking going on last weekend from the defensive side of the ball regarding the Dallas Cowboys.

It started with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli talking about Bruce Carter needing to toughen up and play with more confidence.

Then we had secondary coach Jerome Henderson saying everybody on the defense has to improve.

Matt Eberflus, the linebackers coach, said the strongside and weakside linebacker spots, presently held by Justin Durant and Carter, are open.

[+] EnlargeRod Marinelli
AP Photo/Tim SharpAfter not reaching the postseason for a third straight year, it could be playoffs or bust for Rod Marinelli and the Cowboys' coaching staff.
But the weekend wouldn’t be complete without cornerback Brandon Carr, he of the five-year, $50.1 million free-agent contract, saying he must take over the league.

The statements from these men are fine, of course, because people need to be called out and challenged.

Yet, many of the people doing the talking were part of a defense that gave up a franchise-worst 6,645 yards last season.

The Cowboys also gave up 2,056 rushing yards, ninth-most in franchise history.

You could say the coaches can only do so much from the sidelines and you might also comment about the players working within the scheme.

In reality, if the Cowboys' defense doesn't improve in 2014, several of the people doing all the talking won’t be around to collect Jerry Jones’ checks any longer.

You see, the head coach, Jason Garrett, is in a contract year. And while Jones doesn’t believe in lame-duck statuses -- calling it a politician's word -- if the Cowboys fail to reach the postseason for a fifth consecutive season, it’s very difficult to believe the same staff and defensive pieces will return.

Marinelli is a respected coach in this league but after last season’s debacle you begin to wonder if he’s lost his fastball.

Players love playing for him.

Listen to him talk and you want to play for him.

In a bottom-line business, Marinelli convinced the front office to sign free agent Henry Melton as the new three-technique defensive tackle while coming off a torn ACL.

Defensive end Jeremy Mincey, a free-agent signing who underachieved in Jacksonville, is another Marinelli confirmation.

Marinelli loves second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence's passion and measureables and has the hopes of inserting him as DeMarcus Ware's replacement at right defensive end.

And because of that there is an expectation for Lawrence to produce in his rookie year considering what the Cowboys gave up to get him, swapping second-round picks with the Washington Redskins and giving up a third to get him.

Of course, you expect Marinellis’ magic to continue with George Selvie (seven sacks from left defensive end) and Nick Hayden (16 quarterback pressures from defensive tackle) in 2014.

Selvie was signed in training camp when injuries began to pile up along the defensive line. Hayden was already here looking at a backup role until injuries forced him into the starting lineup.

Are Selvie and Hayden going to finally be productive players or just below average?

There’s the tricky situation at linebacker where Carter hasn’t been consistent while making the adjustment from a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 scheme.

Marinelli called Carter out the other day at Valley Ranch, but are you really calling somebody out who got benched for poor play during the 2013 season?

This whole thing isn’t mainly on Marinelli -- it’s on a lot of other people at Valley Ranch.

When the draft ended last week, the Cowboys were praised in many circles for how well they performed. It was about defense and seven of the nine picks were for Marinelli’s unit.

The Cowboys made football decisions for a change, bypassing the flash of Johnny Manziel at quarterback, and getting the substance of tackle Zack Martin.

Adding backups for middle linebacker Sean Lee (Anthony Hitchens in the fourth round), depth for the defensive line (Ben Gardner and Ken Bishop in the seventh) and strong side (Will Smith in the seventh) along with a safety (Ahmad Dixon in the seventh) appear solid decisions.

None of it means anything if the main people on the defensive roster and men like Marinelli don’t make it work.

And while Jerry Jones is supporting the ideas of adding more playoff teams, the decisions made for his defense need to have substance in 2014.

Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 1

April, 18, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:
  • What I would do with the 16th pick in the draft if I was the general manager.
  • What about a quarterback in the second round?
  • What about Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne?
  • What about the salary-cap implications of letting Kyle Orton go?

Away we go:
 
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have signed three defensive players in free agency, but that does not mean they have fixed the woes on that side of the ball in the offseason.

Among the national visitors to the Cowboys next week for pre-draft visits are UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr, Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence and Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward, according to sources.

Teams are allowed 30 national visitors leading up to the draft. They do not work out, but they meet with coaches and scouts and are put to the test mentally. The Cowboys can have an unlimited number of players work out at their Dallas day session on April 17 that includes players from local colleges or who played high school football in the area.

Donald has been linked to the Cowboys since an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl in January. He met with coaches at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis in February and will come to Valley Ranch as well. Donald might be the perfect fit as a 3-technique in Rod Marinelli’s defense.

The Cowboys signed Henry Melton as a free agent, but it does not take them out of the bidding for Donald, who had 11 sacks and 28.5 tackles last season. Melton’s contract is essentially a one-year deal. If he does not perform at a high level, the Cowboys can walk away from the final three years of the contract by not exercising the option.

Barr had 23.5 sacks in his last two years at UCLA and was a first-team All-Pac-12 pick. He played mostly linebacker, but his ability to rush the passer has some teams wondering if he can be a full-time defensive end. It is possible he could play strongside linebacker and move to defensive end in passing situations.

Shazier has phenomenal athleticism and can cover tight ends and running backs. With Bruce Carter in the final year of his deal, Shazier could provide excellent insurance or perhaps force Carter to move to the strongside linebacker spot. Shazier had 143 tackles last year for Ohio State and 44.5 tackles for loss in his career.

Lawrence led the Mountain West with 10.5 sacks in 2013 and had 20.5 tackles for loss. At 6-foot-3, 251 pounds, he is more of a defensive end than outside linebacker with long arms and deceptive strength.

Ward is one of the top safeties in the draft and could be a first-round pick. He had 95 tackles, seven interceptions and 10 pass deflections last season, but he is also coming off foot surgery. The Cowboys have not looked at the veteran safety market in free agency for somebody to play alongside Barry Church. They have said they like what they have in last year’s third-rounder, J.J. Wilcox, as well as Jeff Heath and Matt Johnson, who has yet to play in his first two years because of injuries.

In recent history, the Cowboys have shown a preference for selecting players who visited Valley Ranch before the draft. Last year, Travis Frederick, Terrance Williams, Wilcox, B.W. Webb and Joseph Randle were among the pre-draft visitors they selected. Since 2005, the only top picks not to visit the Cowboys before the draft were DeMarcus Ware (2005) and Morris Claiborne (2012).

Jared Allen option not likely now

March, 19, 2014
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Allen
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' search for defensive line help is not over with the addition of Henry Melton, but their push for Jared Allen will not be quite as intense, according to sources.

Allen wrapped up a visit with the Cowboys on Tuesday before they agreed to a deal with Melton.

Allen would be the Cowboys’ best defensive end, but at what price? He has had seven straight seasons with at least 11 sacks, but he turns 32 in April and the Cowboys were not willing to pay a hefty price for DeMarcus Ware or Julius Peppers.

With Ware and Jason Hatcher gone, George Selvie is the leading returning sacker from 2013 with seven. Jeremy Mincey, who signed a two-year deal worth a maximum of $4.5 million last week, had two sacks with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Denver Broncos in 2013. Kyle Wilber, DeVonte Holloman, Bruce Carter and Orlando Scandrick had two sacks apiece for the Cowboys.

Allen has also visited with the Seattle Seahawks.

Cowboys interested in LB Woodyard

March, 10, 2014
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On the eve of the start of free agency, the Cowboys have expressed some interest in Denver weakside linebacker Wesley Woodyard.

Woodyard
Woodyard compiled 84 tackles, three forced fumbles and four pass breakups in 2013. In the past two seasons, Woodyard has 10 pass breakups and four interceptions.

Last year, the Cowboys used the free-agency period to sign veteran linebacker Justin Durant to a two-year, $2.3 million deal with $400,000 guaranteed.

Durant battled injuries last season as the strongside linebacker, playing in 10 games before getting placed on injured reserve. The Cowboys could promote Kyle Wilber to the starting role at strongside linebacker and create competition on the weakside spot for Bruce Carter with a veteran signee.

If the Cowboys release Durant, it'll save the team $1.25 million on the salary cap.

The Cowboys are looking for upgrades along a defense that finished last in total yards (6,645), 30th against the pass (4,589) and 27th against the run (2,056) last season.
DeMarcus WareMatthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsIt might be time for the Cowboys to let aging defensive end DeMarcus Ware go.

The Dallas Cowboys have a chance to start over.

It’s not an ideal situation, but in the big picture, this is the perfect time.

The Cowboys are talking with Pat Dye, the agent for defensive end DeMarcus Ware, about a reduction in salary.

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Should DeMarcus Ware take a pay cut?

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Discuss (Total votes: 16,027)

Ware has been the Cowboys’ best defensive player for roughly seven consecutive seasons. But last year was different. Ware battled elbow, back, quad and a stinger in 2013.

His health betrayed him and he finished with just six sacks in the 2013 season. You could say health was the reason for his declining play or that he’s just getting old.

The reality is Ware is still a good player, not a player worth taking $16 million of your salary cap, but maybe half that.

The Cowboys have basically told him to take a pay cut or find another team.

I don’t believe they should keep him though because although Ware is still a productive player, if the team is trying to forge ahead and stop the mediocrity of the franchise, then letting him go is the best thing possible.

Rebuild.

If Ware is off the books, it saves $7.4 million.

On June 1, you get another $5.5 million in savings when your rid yourself of Miles Austin’s contract.

That’s close to $13 million in savings from two veteran players who are battling health issues as they move to the backstage of their careers. Sure some other NFL team will sign them, that’s life in the NFL.

The Cowboys need to get younger, like yesterday. If Jason Garrett wants a contract extension he should tell Jerry Jones, let’s get younger.

It’s time to end the way the franchise has kept players around for too long and move toward the future. It’s time for the Cowboys to draft the best players on their board and clean up the communication mess of the last few years in the war room.

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