NFL Nation: dan bailey

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dan Bailey didn't want to sound as if he was giving a cliché-type answer.

The Dallas Cowboys kicker couldn't help it because this is how he thinks.

After making 30 consecutive field goals, Bailey was wide left on a 53-yard try at the end of regulation in Sunday's game against Houston.

[+] EnlargeDan Bailey
Tim Sharp/AP PhotoThe Cowboys maintain confidence in place-kicker Dan Bailey, who missed a field goal against the Texans but made the game-winning FG in overtime.
The Cowboys depend on Bailey, who has been just as important as running back DeMarco Murray during this 4-1 start to the season.

Bailey got another chance to redeem himself in overtime and made a 49-yarder to give the Cowboys a 20-17 victory.

"The guy's pretty damn good," coach Jason Garrett said.

Yeah, Bailey is. He's missed just three field goals in his last 29 games.

Sunday afternoon Bailey missed what most people wearing stars on their helmets thought was automatic. Holder Chris Jones thought Bailey's 53-yard try was going to be good, likewise for cornerback Brandon Carr.

Bailey pushed it slightly left and he had to wait for another chance.

Bailey said he wasn't happy with himself after missing the kick, his first since last season in a Week 4 game at San Diego, and had to forget about it quickly because that's all you can do.

"I'm not trying to give you a cliche but honestly, you just have to put it behind you," Bailey said of his thoughts between kicks. "It makes it easier and when you have confidence in the guys in front of you, the whole operation."

In overtime, Dez Bryant made this incredible leaping catch for 37 yards to push the Cowboys into Texans' territory. Two runs by Murray and the Cowboys were set for a third-down play.

Bailey doesn't watch the proceedings late in games. He just focuses on his techniques and kicks a ball through the net while the offense drives down the field. If he follows the techniques with his steps toward the ball, twisting his hips and following through with his leg, all is good. He's not part of the discussion in terms of which hash-mark the ball should go on. Before the game, Bailey speaks with special teams coach Rich Bisaccia about which direction he's most comfortable kicking toward.

It's a narrow-minded focus that's allowed Bailey to emerge as one of the best kickers in the NFL.

After the two Murray runs, Garrett could have run another play on third down, but elected to let Bailey win the game.

Bailey knew it was third down but didn't mind because if it's bobbled snap and a few yards are lost, he's got the confidence to make the kick again from a longer distance.

"It's confidence in the whole unit," Bailey said. "During the week, we put a lot of work into it and work on doing the best that we can. We all try to take that one-for-one mentality so if you don't make one put it behind you and go and try to make the next one."

It's kinda like a baseball player who gets four at bats or a shooting guard looking for his shot on 10-to-15 touches a night.

If you miss the first shot, no big deal, wait for another chance.

"Everyone is going to miss," Tony Romo said. "Dan is the best kicker in the league and as great as he is he's going to miss at some point. But the funny part is he's lucky enough and he's going to make the second one. I think we all felt comfortable with that. Most of the time when you miss and have those situations, you lose the game. So it's a great, great feeling to be able to have your miss be there and yet still win the game. Not everyone is afforded that opportunity from quarterbacks to kickers all over the place."

Dallas Cowboys' projected roster

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

QUARTERBACKS (2)

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

RUNNING BACKS (4)


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

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)


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

TIGHT ENDS (3)


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

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

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

DEFENSIVE LINE (10)

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

LINEBACKER (7)

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

CORNERBACK (5)


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

SAFETY (5)

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

SPECIALISTS (3)


Perhaps Cody Mandell can push Jones, but Jones is the more consistent punter and has a good rapport as a holder for Bailey. Ladouceur remains one of the best long-snappers in the game. This group won’t change during the summer unless there is an injury.
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 -- In many ways a successful draft is measured by how well a team does in the later rounds.

Ben Volin of The Boston Globe put together a story about teams that draft well and poorly with an interesting graphic.

The Dallas Cowboys are one of six teams not to have a current starter they selected in Rounds 5-7, according to the chart, which means Volin did not count Orlando Scandrick (fifth round, 2008) as a starter even though he started most of the 2013 season. If Morris Claiborne performed up to capabilities and was not hurt, he would have been the starter. If you count Scandrick, then the Cowboys would be one of 12 teams to have one starter from Rounds 5-7.

The other five without a starter were the Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears.

Since 2010, the Cowboys have had 12 picks in Rounds 5-7 and only Dwayne Harris, James Hanna, Joseph Randle and DeVonte Holloman remain.

Hitting on late-round picks is guesswork in a lot of ways. In 2004, the Cowboys hit on three seventh-rounders in Nate Jones, Patrick Crayton and Jacques Reeves. They all had productive NFL careers and earned second contracts.

That’s the goal: find players who can fill roles. The Cowboys kept Crayton for a second contract, but Jones and Reeves left after their rookie deals expired.

Teams build their depth through late-round picks and the Cowboys have not hit enough in the late rounds to fortify their depth. The Seattle Seahawks had an NFL-best five starters from Rounds 5-7 in 2013. The Philadelphia Eagles were next with four.

Also in Volin’s chart is a look at undrafted starters. The Cowboys had a league-high five in 2013 with Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Barry Church, Ronald Leary and Jeff Heath. The Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins had four apiece to tie for second.

For years the Cowboys have excelled in finding undrafted free agents. In the last three years they have landed Dan Bailey, Phillip Tanner, Chris Jones, Ben Bass, Cole Beasley, Leary, Heath and Cam Lawrence.

They make up for the misses in Rounds 5-7 with hits in undrafted free agency. With three compensatory picks in the seventh round this year, the Cowboys will have the chance to draft what would have been their priority undrafted free agents.

They only hope they’re not just making up for misses in Rounds 5-7.

Cowboys re-sign Chris Jones

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
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IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys punter Chris Jones has signed his exclusive rights tender of $645,000.

The move chews up $150,000 of the roughly $2 million worth of salary-cap space.

Jones averaged 45 yards per punt in his first full season with the Cowboys. He appeared in two games in 2011 as an injury replacement for Mat McBriar and four games in 2012 before a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament ended his season.

Jones had a 39.1-yard net average and had 30 of his 77 punts end up inside the opponents’ 20. Teams averaged only 9.2 yards per punt return against the Cowboys in 2013.

Earlier in the offseason the Cowboys signed kicker Dan Bailey to a seven-year extension worth $22.5 million.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Dallas Cowboys must address their defensive line in 2014 and have had talks with the agent for Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer.

Spencer
Hatcher
Hatcher
"They've indicated they want them both back," Jordan Woy said, "so we'll see how it goes."

The probability they both return to the only team they have known is slim for a number of reasons. The Cowboys must shed salary-cap space and could find it difficult to match any offer Hatcher receives from another team. Spencer played only 34 snaps in 2013 because of a knee injury that required microfracture surgery.

Hatcher, who turns 32 in July, had his best season with a career-high 11 sacks and was added to the Pro Bowl. He had 48 tackles, seven tackles for loss and 33 quarterback pressures in 15 games.

"He'd like to play there," said Woy, who negotiated a seven-year, $22 million deal for kicker Dan Bailey earlier in the offseason, "but hey, it's free agency and it's going to come down to the contract."

Spencer turned 30 in January and has made close to $20 million the last two seasons as the Cowboys' franchise player. But he enters free agency coming off a major surgery. Woy said Spencer just began running this week after undergoing the surgery last fall.

Woy said Spencer was told by the doctors that his rehab is on the right track and they feel confident he will be able to play. The question is when, which will affect his marketability.

"I think some of the OTA-type stuff he could do limited things in," Woy said. "I don't think he'd be out there full speed but by training camp and the preseason games he'll be back full speed out there."
PHILADELPHIA -- Midway through the 2013 NFL season, SI.com’s Peter King took a look at a league-wide trend and concluded, “Kicking field goals is too easy.”

King didn’t spend that much time in Philadelphia.

It wasn’t so much that Alex Henery did a terrible job as the Philadelphia Eagles' kicker. He made 23 of 28 attempts, a success rate of 82 percent. But the more telling number wasn’t the 23. It was the 28.

[+] EnlargeAlex Henery
AP Photo/Brian GarfinkelAlex Henery has attempted just five field goals of at least 50 yards in his three NFL seasons.
The best kickers in the league don’t just make 90 percent of their attempts. Their range and success rate give coaches the confidence to turn to them in all kinds of situations, at ever greater distances. New England’s Stephen Gostkowski didn’t just make 15 more field goals than Henery; Gostkowski attempted 13 more.

Henery attempted just two field goals of 50 yards or longer, making one. Gostkowski attempted six. Baltimore’s Justin Tucker attempted seven. So did Green Bay’s Mason Crosby and Dallas’ Dan Bailey.

When the Eagles lost to the New York Giants at home in October, Matt Barkley was playing quarterback in relief of Michael Vick. Late in the second quarter, Barkley drove the Eagles to the Giants’ 27 before being sacked for a 5-yard loss.

Instead of trying a 50-yard field goal with wind swirling, coach Chip Kelly decided to go for a fourth-and-12. Barkley dropped the snap and threw an incompletion.

Now it goes without saying that Barkley could have made better plays on third and fourth down. Taking the sack probably changed Kelly’s strategy. But would the Patriots, Packers, Ravens, 49ers or Cowboys have balked at trying a 50-yard field goal?

The guess here is no. A week earlier, Kelly had made the second-guessable decision to have Henery try a 60-yard kick late in the first half against Dallas. He missed.

A coach without complete confidence in his kicker is like a baseball manager with a shaky bullpen. The ripple effect on his decision-making is constant.

Henery also missed a 48-yard field goal in the Eagles’ 24-22 playoff loss to the Saints. His kickoff to the shallow end zone resulted in a long return that set up the Saints’ game-winning score.

Henery presents a bit of a conundrum for the Eagles. They invested a fourth-round pick in him in the 2011 draft. At 26, he is still at the point in his career when many kickers find themselves. Is it better to take the risk that he will do just that with the Eagles, or the risk that he will do it for some other team?

Most of the top kickers in the league right now were undrafted. Gostkowski, like Henery, was a fourth-round pick. Green Bay’s Crosby was a sixth-round pick. The more typical route is to be signed as a rookie free agent and bounce around until finding the right combination of opportunity and success.

Seattle is Steven Hauschka's sixth team. Denver is Matt Prater's third.

So the Eagles will almost certainly bring in a kicker to compete with Henery, something they didn’t do last year. But it seems unlikely they will use a draft pick, unless somebody they really like -- Chris Boswell from Rice or Anthony Fera of Texas, maybe -- is sitting there in the sixth or seventh round.

Hauschka is to become a free agent, but will likely remain with the defending champions. Veterans Adam Vinatieri and Phil Dawson should be on the market. One intriguing name is Dan Carpenter, who had a good season in Buffalo. If the Bills re-sign Carpenter, that could make Dustin Hopkins, their sixth-round pick from Florida State last year, available.

Kickers are out there. The Eagles have a decent one. The question is whether that’s good enough.
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys did not know what they had when they signed Dan Bailey as an undrafted free agent.

They did not know what they had in him with a week to go in the preseason, either. By that time the Cowboys had five kickers on the roster: David Buehler, who held the kicking job in 2010, Bailey, Shayne Graham, Kai Forbath, an undrafted free agent like Bailey but injured, and veteran Dave Rayner.

[+] EnlargeDan Bailey
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesDan Bailey has made 88 of 98 field goal attempts in his three seasons.
The Cowboys missed three out of four field goal attempts in the final preseason game against the Miami Dolphins; one from Buehler and two from Rayner.

By not kicking that night, Bailey elevated himself.

About to enter his fourth season, the Cowboys rewarded Bailey last week with a seven-year, $22.5 million deal that makes him among the top 10 highest-paid kickers in the NFL. And for those believing the Cowboys made more of a mess of their salary cap with the signing, Bailey’s cap number in 2014 is less than what it would have been if they had given him the second-round tender as a restricted free agent.

“That was a huge advantage looking back at it now, to go up against guys like Shayne and they brought in Dave Rayner, guys that have been kicking in the league a while and been real successful,” Bailey said. “At the time, I was just trying to keep my head down and do my own things. I think it was invaluable to get that competition early on to nail down the job.”

It taught Bailey that every kick is a new chance. A previous make does not guarantee success. A previous miss does not guarantee failure.

Bailey has made 89 of 98 field goal attempts in his career. He has missed just two kicks in each of the last two seasons. The pressure of winning the job out of a lockout as an undrafted rookie helped prepare Bailey for end-of-game moments. His eight game-winning kicks in three seasons are a franchise record.

“I don’t think it changes too much,” Bailey said of any added pressure because of the contract. “You’re only as good as your last kick. That’s the nature of the league. You have to bring your ‘A’ game every day to practice, to the game, even off the field. You’ve got to do the right things. I don’t think it’ll have too much of an impact. I think I take pride on being mentally strong enough to put that on the back burner and focus on the task at hand.”

Bailey’s leg strength was a question when he arrived, but he had a career-high 52 touchbacks in 2013 after just 54 in his first two seasons. He also made 6 of 7 attempts from 50 yards or more after making only 5 of 9 tries in his first two years from 50 yards or more.

“A lot of it had to do with just improving my leg strength and explosiveness, that stuff I did in the offseason, but just as much as that it was just a mentality,” Bailey said. “We practice a lot of those in camp and in practice and even in the offseason. Just getting back there and kicking long field goals, it was creating more of a comfort level for myself to know those kicks do come up in games.”

For the first time in his career, Bailey will not have Chris Boniol as a kicking coach. Boniol and the Cowboys agreed to part ways in the offseason, leaving Bailey and punter Chris Jones to improve without the watchful eye of an NFL veteran.

“He was a great asset to have,” Bailey said. “He was a guy I looked up to because he’d been literally in the same shoes I’ve been in.”
IRVING, Texas -- Now comes the fun part for the Dallas Cowboys.

With their projected salary cap of $127.6 million in 2014, they have to find a smart way to shave nearly $25 million to get under the cap. Preferably they would cut more than that in order to have room to sign players in free agency.

The task might seem daunting, but with a couple of clicks on a computer, they can get that $25 million pretty easily.

[+] EnlargeDeMarcus Ware has reached double-digit sacks for seven consecutive seasons, but he'll need four sacks in the final three games to keep the streak alive.
AP Photo/James D. SmithHow to handle DeMarcus Ware's contract looms as a big decision for the Cowboys in the offseason.
The question is how much money do they want to push into the future on veterans?

“We’ll have extensive personnel meetings in regards to (the cap),” coach Jason Garrett said. “When you put that together with the financial part of it, the salary cap part of it, we think it’s really important to do the football evaluation thoroughly independent of that. And then you add that as an element. It’s an element that’s alive and well in the National Football League. Money matters in the salary-cap era we’re in right now. But I do believe the football evaluation is primary, and then you add that element into it, and then you make your best decisions for your team in regards to that player and how he fits in your team.”

The Cowboys will restructure the contracts of Tony Romo and Sean Lee. Those two moves will create about $13.4 million in salary-cap relief, while also increasing the cap numbers on those players in future years. However, when the Cowboys signed these deals, this was their only option.

In the past the Cowboys have restructured DeMarcus Ware's contract with no questions asked. He was putting together Pro Bowl seasons, and it was worth it. Now coming off a six-sack season and turning 32 in July, is it worth it to do it once more?

He is to count $16.003 million against the cap with a $12.25 million base salary. If they simply restructure his contract again, the Cowboys would gain nearly $8.6 million in cap space. But they have to factor in future cost, age and performance when making the move. Ware has said he would restructure, but clarified his “pay cut” stance after the season. If the Cowboys choose to cut Ware, they would free up $7.4 million in room.

The Ware decision looms as the Cowboys’ biggest of the offseason, especially if he does not take a pay cut. They do not have an in-house candidate to take his spot, and could gamble that he returns to form in 2014.

Brandon Carr will have a $12.217 million cap number. Restructuring his deal made sense before the season started, but might be a question now because of how he played in 2013. If they redo his deal like they did in 2013, then they are adding to his cap figures down the road, which would make it harder to release him.

The feeling is they will bite the bullet and re-work the deal, creating about $4.7 million in room.

Restructuring Jason Witten's deal will create $2.6 million in room.

If you look at Romo, Lee, Carr and Witten, that is nearly $21 million in room. The decision on Ware could create as little as $7.4 million, and as much as $8.6 million.

Wide receiver Miles Austin figures to be a June 1 casualty, which will open up $5.5 million in space, but would carry more than $5 million in dead money in 2015. Most of that money will be used to sign the draft picks.

The Cowboys have other avenues to create space (Doug Free, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Kyle Orton) in varying ways.

Getting under the cap will not be an issue. Getting under the cap enough to be able to make upgrades in free agency is another story.

Teams have to overpay in free agency. Signing Carr to a five-year, $50 million deal two years ago is proof, but that was the going rate for a top cornerback on the market. It is rare to get the on-field value to match the contract in free agency.

The Cowboys would be better served to be bit players in free agency and keep their own, like a Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith and Dan Bailey, with longer-term contracts.

Dallas Cowboys season wrap-up

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
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Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final power ranking: 17
Preseason power ranking: 20

Biggest surprise: The Dallas Cowboys did not believe they could have a worse defense than the one they fielded in 2012. They were wrong.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan lost his job after the Cowboys finished the year ranked 19th in defense and allowed 400 points. The Cowboys not only switched defensive coordinators, they switched philosophies, bringing in Monte Kiffin to run a 4-3 scheme.

It never worked.

The Cowboys allowed 6,645 yards, 432 points and failed to deliver most of the time. They were hit by injuries, just as Ryan’s defense was, and poor play from big-name players such as DeMarcus Ware, Bruce Carter, Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr. Sean Lee was having a Pro Bowl-type season but hamstring and neck injuries forced him to miss most of the final seven games. Only Jason Hatcher, Orlando Scandrick and Barry Church had representative seasons.

Biggest disappointment: It’s hard not to go with Ware, who had a career-low six sacks. For the first time he did not play in every game in a season, missing three games with a quadriceps strain. He also played with injuries to both elbows, a back strain and stinger. But the pick will be Miles Austin. Like Ware, he suffered through injury. He missed five games with a hamstring injury and was held without a catch in two games as he attempted to play through the strain. He finished the season with 24 catches for 244 yards and no touchdowns. It was the fewest catches he had since 2008 when he was a bit player and first time since 2007 he did not score a touchdown. The Cowboys hoped for a late-season boost when he returned but it never came.

Biggest need: The easy answer is to say upgrade the entire defense. They need help at linebacker and safety. The defensive line needs an overhaul. We talked about Ware’s status, but Hatcher, who had a career-high 11 sacks, and Anthony Spencer, who is coming back from microfracture surgery, are set to be unrestricted free agents. The Cowboys used 19 defensive linemen during the year and found solid contributions from players such as George Selvie and Nick Hayden, but optimally they play in reserve roles. The hits on the line started in April when the Cowboys passed on Sharrif Floyd, their fifth-ranked player, at No. 18 and traded down and continued when Tyrone Crawford tore his Achilles on the first day of camp. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said in the offseason the defensive line was a strength. There is no way he can say that now.

Team MVP: By process of elimination it cannot be a defensive player because the unit was the worst in the NFL. DeMarco Murray would get votes for a second-half MVP. The contest comes down to Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. Romo missed the final game because of back surgery, but threw 31 touchdown passes and was intercepted only 10 times while throwing for 3,828 yards. Bryant earned his first Pro Bowl berth and finished with 93 catches for 1,233 yards and 13 touchdowns. They made big plays at big moments. They had mistakes at big moments, too. As a result, they split the award.

All-NFC East: Dallas Cowboys

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
10:00
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» NFC Teams: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

 
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys had eight players on the All-NFC East team with Tony Romo being the biggest snub.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles won the vote of the four NFL Nation bloggers that cover the NFC East. Foles had a terrific season taking over for Michael Vick, finishing with 27 touchdown passes and just two interceptions. Romo also had a terrific season with 31 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in 15 games before back surgery knocked him out of the finale.

To the victor of the NFC East go the spoils, so Foles got the nod.

Wide receiver Dez Bryant, tight end Jason Witten, left tackle Tyron Smith and left guard Ronald Leary were named to the team. Bryant was dynamic. Witten was Witten but his opportunities were down. Smith might have had the best season of any left tackle in football. Leary’s inclusion might speak to the dearth of good offensive line play in the division. Mackenzy Bernadeau played better.

Normally a case could be made for DeMarco Murray, but not so much in a division with LeSean McCoy and Alfred Morris.

The Cowboys had the worst ranked defense in the NFL and had two players on the division’s defensive squad. Jason Hatcher was one of the two defensive tackles after he finished with a career high 11 sacks. Sean Lee missed five games with hamstring and neck injuries but still showed he was the best middle linebacker in the division. If he can stay healthy he might be able to show he is among the best in the league.

If there is a snub on defense it would be cornerback Orlando Scandrick. He did well versus Victor Cruz and DeSean Jackson this year and came up with the biggest play in the win at Washington when he took on Pierre Garcon for a third-down deflection. But he had only two interceptions and missed a few others.

Dan Bailey missed only two field goal attempts on the season and was named the division’s best kicker. There should have been little doubt here. Dwayne Harris averaged 30.6 yards per kick return with a long of 90 yards and 12.8 yards per punt return with an 86-yard TD against the Redskins. He has a great feel for the return game.

Pro Bowl selections: Dallas Cowboys

December, 27, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- For the second time in three years the Dallas Cowboys have only two Pro Bowl selections with Tyron Smith and Dez Bryant earning their first trips.

Bryant has 85 catches for 1,134 yards and 12 touchdowns, matching last year’s total scores. Smith has been a stalwart on the offensive line and blossomed as the season as gone on as a pass protector and run blocker.

Bryant and Smith earned their trips, but the Cowboys had some other players who could have paid a visit to Hawaii in February, and some could be added as alternates as the game gets closer.

Kicker Dan Bailey has missed only two field goal attempts on the season, making 17 in a row. He has made 25 of 27 attempts after making 29 of 31 tries last season. A Pro Bowl bid would look good on his resume as the Cowboys look to sign him to a long-term contract, but the club is more than aware of his value.

Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher has a career-high nine sacks but has gone the last four games without a sack. Hatcher had at least one sack in six of his first nine games but a stinger cost him one game and some strength.

Tight end Jason Witten has played in eight prior Pro Bowls and has 61 catches for 716 yards and eight touchdowns. He had an NFL record 110 catches in 2012. Only two tight ends have more touchdown catches than Witten this season.

Tony Romo had a Pro Bowl season with 3,828 yards, 31 touchdown passes and only 10 interceptions, but would not have been able to play in the game anyway with the news of Friday’s back surgery.

DeMarcus Ware had his Pro Bowl streak snapped at seven. For the first time since his rookie year, Ware did not earn a trip to the Pro Bowl. Ware, who was selected but did not play last year because of shoulder surgery, has six sacks this year and has been slowed by nagging injuries for most of the season. He is questionable for Sunday’s game because of an elbow injury that kept him out of Friday’s practice.

Click here for the complete Pro Bowl roster.

Scandrick deal a win for player, Cowboys

December, 13, 2013
12/13/13
5:10
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IRVING, Texas – The first reaction to the Cowboys extending Orlando Scandrick's contract two years might be confusion.

But when you look at what the Cowboys and Scandrick agreed to with the deal, then you will see it will help the team create salary-cap room over the next three years when it will need it most.

Scandrick is guaranteed $9 million on the two-year extension, but only $4.5 million is fully guaranteed at this point.

The Cowboys added $1 million to his base salary in 2014 to bring it to $4.5 million and increase his cap figure to $6.601 million. Oh my gosh, why did they do that? Well, they were planning on restructuring Scandrick’s deal anyway and this allows them to spread out the base salary that will be turned into bonus money over five years.

That move will save the Cowboys about $2.6 million in 2014. Without the extension, the Cowboys could have saved about $1.5 million.

In 2015, Scandrick has a base salary of $1.5 million. He was scheduled to make $5 million. In 2016-18, he has base salaries of $3 million each year. He was set to make $10 million ($5 million each year) from 2015-16.

So the Cowboys have saved $4.5 million over the next three years on the deal and Scandrick has gained as much as $9 million in guarantees, knowing he will be in Dallas and not a cap casualty in the near future.

Scandrick has had his best year, though the Chicago game was not a shining moment. He has shown he can be more than a nickel cornerback and has not given the job back to Morris Claiborne. Scandrick is in his fifth season and is just 26. The team hopes he can continue to play at this level for the next couple of years, which would make this move even better.

The Cowboys will be in a tough salary-cap position and will have to restructure contracts (Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Brandon Carr and potentially DeMarcus Ware) and have decisions to make on players’ futures (Miles Austin).

With Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith and Dan Bailey needing new deals over the next two seasons, the added cap space will only help the Cowboys. Bruce Carter had been in the list of players in need of contract extensions, but he has played his way off the list. Perhaps DeMarco Murray, who is also signed through 2014, can play his way on to the extension list.

Film study big for Cowboys' Dan Bailey

December, 7, 2013
12/07/13
12:00
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IRVING, Texas – You wouldn’t think a kicker would study much film before a game, but Dallas kicker Dan Bailey is an exception.

Bailey
Not only has he tried to decipher the Chicago Bears' kick-return game, but he has also studied Bears kicker Robbie Gould. Bailey has never kicked at Soldier Field and wants to see how Gould kicks going in both directions, especially with the cold and windy conditions expected for Monday night.

“Since I’ve never played there I’m going to have to figure it out when I get there,” Bailey said, “but I watch film and see what the wind does. I watched multiple games and kind of see what lines their guy takes. It looks like it’s been pretty windy there almost all the time. I do as much homework as I can from a film standpoint and ultimately I have to just go out there and see what it’s like the day of.”

Before the Cowboys played the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on Nov. 24, Bailey and punter Chris Jones went through earlier and longer pregame warmups to get accustomed to the wind.

“It ended up coming down to a kick and I’m glad we put in the extra prep because we knew exactly where we needed to be and where we wanted to be in that situation,” Bailey said. “I’ll probably do the same thing in Chicago just to try and prepare myself the best way I can.”

Ho hum, Dan Bailey with another winner

November, 24, 2013
11/24/13
11:17
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Officially, the wind at kickoff was listed as 6 mph on Sunday. It seemed a lot more than that, and it was swirling inside MetLife Stadium.

But Dan Bailey was able to knock home a 35-yard field goal to give the Dallas Cowboys a 24-21 victory against the New York Giants.

“It died down a little bit [later in the game], but it was still there -- still a factor, I guess you could say,” Bailey said. “I felt like we had a pretty good read on it going from different directions, so you just kind of had to make the best of it.”

Bailey appeared to go through a more involved pregame warm-up, but he tried not to overthink the wind.

“For me, it was just put it through the upright,” Bailey said.

It was his eighth game winner, establishing a team record. He had been tied with Rafael Septien. Bailey is in his third NFL season, all with Dallas.

It was Bailey’s first game-winning kick this season and his first since beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime with a 21-yarder in Week 15 last season.

“I don’t know about that [being routine],” Bailey said. “It came down to three, and we’ve just got to go out there and do our job. Luckily we were able to do that today.”

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