Let's dive right in to your reactions, questions, concerns, and queries from another week of football. Please be reminded that if you wish to read/review any of the many draft profiles already completed in this space, you may at the following link that is positioned right here.
And now, to your Emails:
Q: Do you expect Dunbar to return to DAL next season? - Jon
A: You know, this is a good place to start this week, with this question and the next revolving around the free agent situations that face the team. Unlike last year where the free agents that would hit the market were named Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray at the top of the list, this squad might be the least stressful that the team faces here for a bit. First, on the topic of Lance Dunbar.
As is the case with anyone on the list, it should be noted that there are often 2 levels of free agent aspiration. 1) fair market value or 2) maximize every last dollar opportunity. We are purely guessing what each player wants to do, but when healthy, Dunbar might be the type of guy who could get a pretty enticing offer. However, to be fair, he really needed a great 2015 to make his value soar and when he was hurt in the 4th game of the season and lost for the year, that plan went out the window.
The good news for him is that the Cowboys loved him. And missed him. And depending on who you ask, there is at least a moderate sized belief that if they would have had him, they could have survived the famine of offense much better this year - even with Dez and Romo hurt. I am cynical there, but it sure didn't help the situation. Let's be honest, the concept of Lance Dunbar is much more impactful to this point of his career than the reality of Lance Dunbar. They have talked at length on making him a real weapon and their version of Reggie Bush/Darren Sproles and the real devastating wildcard that is too fast to defend underneath. But, in 4 seasons, he has never had a season of more than 316 yards of total offense (2014). That isn't much production to get excited about. Yet, they still think he can be that guy.
Now, there are a million miles to travel in this offseason and there are ways to replace Lance Dunbar in the draft for sure, but I really do feel that they want to keep him and with his knee still on the mend, I am sure that can happen. He needed a big year to maximize his deals and he got hurt, which means his best offers will be much smaller and his best chance will certainly be right in Dallas. We should wait and see, but I think he will be here in 2016.
Q: Would you be willing to look at the free agent class to see who we are going to attempt to keep? - Rob in Sachse
Sure, Rob. Let's look at the list.
Morris Claiborne, CB - This one is tricky for sure. My first inclination is that the Cowboys and Claiborne both want to go in a different direction. But, they might also be close to the end with Brandon Carr and with Scandrick returning and year 2 of Byron Jones, they might be able to survive a complete overhaul with a drafting of a corner or two in the spring. But, if you use picks on corners, they have to be near the top of the draft and then you are running to stand still with the roster upgrades. It seems to me that you have to keep one or the other. I am thinking they keep Carr - because it still costs a lot of dead money to cut him loose. So, my first impression of the spring is that Claiborne is gone. Like Mike Jenkins before him, they picked a corner in the first round and anticipated he would get a 2nd contract to lead the defense past his 30th birthday. Then, when the time came, they really never wanted to even offer a deal for the 2nd contract. Unlike Jenkins, they paid beyond premium prices to Claiborne. This one is a pretty painful miss.
Greg Hardy, DE - Confusing for sure, because his price has really dropped. But, all signs say they are done. We may never know the level of headaches that he presented everyone around him, but Jerry, Stephen, and Jason have all had a chance to say anything about their desire to keep him around and all 3 have passed. I am not thinking they want Hardy back in their room.
MacKenzy Bernadeau, G - He was a very useful part around here and seemed like a solid pro. But, they have finally pushed him out by acquiring so many young OL. Last spring it was La'el Collins and Chaz Green. I assume they will keep Ron Leary and let Bernadeau walk. But, I am sure he can catch on somewhere because he was a nice utility player with his positional versatility on game day.
Rolando McClain - LB - I have mixed emotions on the run of Rolando McClain. At times he was great, but in both years, it seems like as the season goes on, his effectiveness fizzles and he looks slower and less durable. I would not say it is out of the question he returns, but it sure seems like they are ready to turn the page and either add a rookie stud in the draft or promote from within with the candidates they have taken in 2014 and 2015. He teased, but the consistency just doesn't really seem possible.
Jeremy Mincey - DE - Good pro and I have no problem keeping him around. But, it would be at a low rate and low snap count. He is good depth to have around and he plays hard.
Matt Cassel - QB - Not bloody likely.
Lance Dunbar - RB - See the answer above. I expect him back.
Kyle Wilber - LB - I have always felt I like Wilber more than the Cowboys do. I assume he would also value from a change in scenery and maybe a 3-4 defense again (as he was drafted for). He is solid depth, but maybe not above the minimum here.
James Hanna - TE - Another player I think I like more than the Cowboys. I never understood the Gavin Escobar pick because I never saw him do anything better than Hanna. That said, he can now leave and while the Cowboys need a Tight End, I am not sure they will give him much of an offer. I might be reading this wrong, but I assume this part of the 2012 draft is also gone.
Jack Crawford - DE - Here is one that I think might be staying. I think they really like Jack Crawford for their defensive rotation. He can stay if he wants, I am sure. Good motor and fine productivity when he gets a chance.
Robert Turbin - RB - Here is a big not sure. I like him, but there are a lot of things to consider at RB.
Others that are now unrestricted, but I am not sure will be offered: Danny McCray, Tyler Clutts, Charles Brown, and Josh Thomas. I suppose all could get a 1-year minimum deal late in the spring.
In other words, the 2012 draft class is pretty much down to Tyrone Crawford as we head into 2016. Not great.
Q: Bob, if you could add 3 impact players in the 1st 3 rounds to give this team a shot in the arm...who would you add? - Rowdy
A: Rowdy, it is too early to have 3 rounds figured out. But, I am thinking I would want to grab my highest available QB at #4 in the 1st round. Wentz, Lynch, or Goff. It is time to take care of this as I try to keep Romo healthy for a few more years. Then, in the 2nd round, we have WR (Josh Doctson or Corey Coleman, maybe?) or DT or LB or perhaps even RB Derrick Henry from Alabama? In Round 3, there should still be a very nice option at pick #67. And there, I will be trying to grab another top player at one of those spots. This team should be able to get a very nice haul with their positioning and the strengths of this draft matching up with their shopping list. I will try to give you more specific names as I continue to work my way through this draft.
Q: How does a coach look at a (prospective) player differently than a scout? - Jack Burton
A: This is a good question and the reason I assume it is being asked was what I said earlier in the week on the DMN podcast "Ballzy." Here it is "On how valuable the Senior Bowl will be for the Cowboys to determine if Carson Wentz is the right fit for the organization:"
"It depends who you ask. If you were to ask a coach they would say it's incredibly valuable. 'We get to basically ask him to do anything we want him to do over the course of an entire week.' Usually at a pro day, he'll be put through a workout, but as a team you're just kind of observing, and at the combine you'll get 15 minutes with him, but this is unprecedented to Carson Wentz that they don't have for Jared Goff and they won't have Paxton Lynch. You can bring the guy in for the personal team workouts, but this should be even better because you can put him on a field in 22-man drills, you can see him in a game carrying out your game plan. That's very very valuable. Now if you ask a scout, they'll recoil a little bit and say, 'Man, the worst thing that can happen sometimes is the coaches getting to meet some of these guys and suddenly thinking they're scouts.' "
I think scouts will tell you that they have a very rigid and exhaustive look at players through cold and calculating eyes. Whereas a coach uses personal interaction, anecdotal data, and a much smaller collection of information to make their decisions. Coaches are said to go on feel and scouts are said to have a real tested process. Both sides will say their way is superior, by the way. But as to the question of how much benefit is there to having your coaches work with him, many will say it is big. But, some scouts fear that coaches falling in love with Wentz will build a bias where they will not more fairly examine Goff or Lynch. Tough to say for sure.
Q: If DeMarcus Ware plays another season, should we consider letting him go a mistake? Or is it already?
A: Well, you are asking a DeMarcus Ware fan and someone who definitely has strong opinions about his body of work in Dallas. I realize the breakup had to happen because it takes 2 to come to an agreement. On one hand you want Ware only at the right price. But, he sees himself as worth more. Also, at the time, he might have been pretty bothered by the direction of the franchise, and going to play with a team that was coming off a Super Bowl seemed pretty appealing. From the Cowboys standpoint, the idea of "not being able to afford" Ware and then turning around 12 months later and putting the same money on Greg Hardy is frustrating.
Basically, it seemed like it had to happen and the other element is that in Denver he did not need to be the #1 pass rusher anymore. Instead of being constantly double and triple teamed, he would be the beneficiary of Von Miller being that guy. He never had a book-end like Miller here and this has obviously made him a real stud again. I am rooting for Ware, but I don't really think we can second guess his decision to try to go to a more advantageous situation rather than stay on a pay-cut.
Q: A couple weeks ago I didn't think there was anyone worth drafting in this upcoming draft. Now, thanks to the TV coverage -- and your Draft Profile Series -- there are some potential cornerstones out there at No. 4! Oddly, the build up for the draft is more exciting to me than the build up to the Super Bowl. Your thoughts? - Mark M
A: Well, I find that this is a fantastic time of year to get to know the next wave of NFL superstars. I know some drafts are better than others, but you need not look further than the 2011 draft as to how quickly the NFL changes and how vital getting your drafts right truly are. Look at the top 2 picks in 2011: Cam Newton and Von Miller. Then, Marcell Dareus, AJ Green, Patrick Peterson, Julio Jones, Tyron Smith, and JJ Watt are all in the Top 11 picks! That was just 4 years ago. The NFL is a sport that doesn't have much longevity - despite Brady and Manning and other exceptions - so the draft of a few years back can fill the league with guys who are running the league by the age of 25 or 26.
That means this current group - which I try to learn a new one each weekday until the draft - is another treasure chest of talent. Some are household names now and some are not, but you can believe by 2018 or 2019, the teams that did well in this draft might just be the same teams getting ready to play in Super Bowl 54. The wheels on the truck keep on turning. And more specifically, the Cowboys should be able to find something really special at #4. The real question is whether that player can be so good that you don't have to pick high again anytime soon. Like the Panthers.