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Spagnola: Let’s Sort Through A Bunch This Free Weekend

Posted May 3, 2013


IRVING, Texas – Take last week’s draft, add in a bushel-full of interviews over those three days – owner, COO, head coach, assistant coaches, assistant player personnel director and players – along with this past Wednesday’s Jerry Jones conference call with season ticket holders, and here rests a bundle of tidbits.

So let’s see how many we can squeeze into your – and my – attention span over this somewhat football-less, free weekend. Here we go.

The Cowboys apparently are keeping their options open – for now – at right tackle. Keep Doug Free. Make Doug Free a June 1 release for cap purposes. Sign Doug Free to a reduced-base salary for 2013, what the Cowboys optimally would like to do, and soon. Just seems the alternatives to Free, combined with dead money incurred without him, sure don’t seem ideal.

OK, Bryant McKinnie just re-signed with the Ravens, and me smells reports of Cowboys interest in him was some agent-negotiating shenanigans with Ravens. Plus, big deal. McKinnie had lost his starting job this past season, only forced back into the starting lineup because of injury. Hear all this stuff about Eric Winston. Really? He had just signed a four-year, $22 million deal with the Chiefs last year and lasted but one season before getting cut, and it wasn’t because his base salary for 2013 was exorbitant ($4.9 million). He just wasn’t any good. So you want him?

And there seems to be a consensus that Tyson Clabo is the best guy out there, so good the Falcons decided to unload a five-year starter who still had just more than $4 million of guaranteed money uncounted for (i.e. dead money) on the cap, the release really only saving the Falcons $1.4 million.

Hmmmm.

Just remember this: All the talk about the Cowboys saving Free’s $7 million base salary in 2013 is accurate. What’s not being reported is that Free’s unaccounted prorated signing bonus and restructure bonus would cost the Cowboys $3.06 million in dead money this year if designated a June 1 release and then a robust $7 million next year. A high price to do business. …

And before you say, why, Jermey Parnell split time with him last year and could take over the starting role, I’d suggest you go watch some tape from those last four games – and do yourself a favor by skipping the plays he came in as the third, blocking tight end. …

Seems to be an assumption out there that the Cowboys want to live with Anthony Spencer’s one-year, $10.6 million franchise deal for 2013 since a long-term contract has not been finalized. Not so said Jones to season ticket holders: “We can live with it, but we don’t want to. We’d like to have him under a long-term contract, and that was an after-the-draft thing where we thought that would be a good time” to start negotiations. …

See where San Francisco GM Trent Baalke had this to say after the first-round trade down with the Cowboys that netted the 49ers LSU safety Eric Reid at No. 18: "Yeah, it's something I was visiting with Stephen Jones about the last couple of days. We had worked out the details really (Thursday morning), as to if our guy was there and if they were still willing to move back, we had the parameters worked out. It was really an easy trade on the clock." That’s not uncommon for teams to discuss draft-day trade possibilities before they are on the clock, and not an indication the Cowboys had no intention of staying at No. 18. By the way, Jones said the Cowboys had a higher grade on eventual first-round pick Travis Frederick than Reid. …

Yes, the Cowboys have won only one playoff game the past 10 years. Yes, the Cowboys have won only two NFC East titles over the last 10 seasons, neither of those campaigns ending in an NFC title-game appearance – the last after the 1995 season. And yes, the Cowboys have finished 8-8 the last two years, although they are the only NFC East team to play in – and lose, of course – the final game of each of those seasons for the division title. But since the start of the 2003 season, when Bill Parcells took over, the Cowboys are 89-71, if anyone is counting. Only team in the NFC East better over those 10 seasons is Philadelphia, by three games (92-68). Giants are third at 87-73 and the resurgent Redskins last at 68-92. During that span, the Cowboys, Giants and Eagles each have had two losing seasons and two .500 seasons. Randomly picking a team from each of the other three NFC divisions, tops is Green Bay at 98-62, averaging like one win a year better than the Cowboys, then New Orleans at 88-72, followed by San Francisco at 71-89. …

While many have accused the Cowboys of reaching at No. 31 for Frederick, the Cowboys seemed intent on drafting a center/guard (interior lineman) with their first pick, and as we know, the six best offensive linemen in the draft were gone by No. 11. Said Jones to his season ticket holders, “We didn’t like what we saw after (Frederick).” Evidently neither did anyone else at center. The next one taken was Brian Schwenke (Titans) with the 10th pick in the fourth round. The next guard taken was Larry Warford (a favorite of mine from the Senior Bowl) with the third pick in the third round (Lions). And the next tackle taken was Menelik Watson (Raiders) with the 10th pick in the second round, and not another tackle was taken until the third round. So if you are scoring at home, after the Cowboys selected Frederick, only one offensive lineman was drafted over the next 35 picks. …

Someone asked Jones about Dez Bryant’s offseason, and with things going so well off the field he didn’t want to jinx anything, conservatively saying Dez was having “a good offseason,” and that when it comes to on the field, “we are going to give him a lot of responsibility.” Certainly makes sense since the guy exploded the second half of last year to finish with 92 catches for 1,382 yards and 12 receiving touchdowns. That is the most receptions by a Cowboys wide receiver in a single season since Hall of Famer Michael Irvin had 111 in 1995. Think about that. I’m told one reputable NFL preview mag will have him ranked as the No. 2 wide receiver in the league coming into 2013, behind only Calvin Johnson. …

When will these young whippersnappers ever learn? Remember this past fall when DT Sheldon Richardson (No. 13 to Jets) remarked before Missouri made its SEC debut against run-oriented Georgia that the Dogs “played old man football,” then were soundly beaten 41-20? Well ol’ “Shady” McCoy, all of 24, must have figured teammate Michael Vick, a month away from 33, was an “old man,” challenging him to a race in the 40-yard dash. Ha, McCoy was left five yards behind in the “old-man’s” shade. …

For the third time in eight seasons the Cowboys have drafted a tight end in the second round – Anthony Fasano (2006), Martellus Bennett (2008) and now Gavin Escobar. Let’s see if they finally got this one right, and to think that “old man” Witten (turns 31 on Monday) was a third-round pick. “We might not have drafted a tight end if he wasn’t the tight end,” Jones said of Escobar. …

Cool war room aside after the Cowboys selected Baylor wide receiver Terrance Williams in the third round. Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett asked Cowboys PR assistant Jancy Briles, daughter of Baylor head coach Art Briles, unbeknownst to step in and give everyone a scouting report on Williams, who she probably saw play in person more than any of the Cowboys scouts or coaches. After being initially flustered, Jancy stepped right up to the plate to knock one out of the park. …

The Cowboys finished with seven draft choices, and at this point are planning on signing 16 rookie free agents next week before Friday’s start to the rookie minicamp. When speaking of his seven-man draft class, the ever-optimistic Jones said this is the team’s “greatest chance” of having an entire draft class active” on game day. Injury aside, and that certainly nearly wiped out last year’s draft class, he might have a point. If these guys are what the Cowboys think they are, there are viable game-day roles for at least the first six picks, and we’ll see if DeVonte Holloman can initially carve out a special teams role, what you’d at least hope for from a linebacker, and also fourth corner candidate (B.W. Webb) and safety candidate (J.J. Wilcox.). …

There you have it, now have a good Derby Day while I’m bunkered down in Cowboys Stadium the next two days having the tedious task of sorting sort through more than 300 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader candidates for the 2013 squad during the first two rounds of this year’s tryouts. Hey, someone has to shoulder that responsibility, and I’m told you will have a chance on DallasCowboys.com to choose your favorite heading into the May 18 finals, so no wisecracks, you hear.

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