FRISCO, Texas – Somewhat of a lull in the action now.
The Super Bowl is over. So is the parade.
The NFL Scouting Combine is roughly two weeks away, getting underway on Feb. 24 in Indianapolis. The next day teams can begin to designate franchise and transition players to reserve rights of first refusal, and that period extends until March 10. And we're still just more than a month away (March 18) from the official start to free agency.
Not that there is any (wink, wink) claim jumpers out there during this intended non-game season timeout doing some behind the scenes work.
But nevertheless, our shots must go on.
- Think Room: Not to overly grind on this Dak Prescott contract thing, but this occurred to me the other day while sitting in the steam room at the health club. Wonder if Dak's people would welcome a franchise tag before potentially knocking out a long-term contract? That would give them a true opportunity to better research what his market value really is, right? Because right now, all they can do is compare Dak's value to what other quarterbacks have received. And as from the Cowboys point of view, they are probably hesitant to reset market value with any offers. One side goes low, the other goes high. Sort of like the days gone by when negotiating a car deal. But under the franchise tag, remember, other teams could talk smack with Dak if possibly considering signing him to an offer sheet that the Cowboys could always match or reject in exchange for two first-round picks. Just a thought.
- Never A Doubt: So Sean Lee and his people say he still wants to play in 2020. Did you ever have a doubt? Come on, he's Sean Lee. He'll only turn 34 on July 22. He was able to play all 16 games in 2019 for the first time in his 10-year career, which was the most since 15 in 2016. That's just two short of his previous two-year combined total. He was able to start 13 games, and once Leighton Vander Esch suffered his neck injury, played at least 46 snaps in the eight games Vander Esch either didn't start or finish. And his 109 tackles were second most for the Cowboys. Sure, he wants to play, and from the Cowboys standpoint, they need him to play – for them. Plus, remember, after being healthy enough to play only seven games in 2018, he reduced the final year of his contract $4 million. If nothing else, Lee sure seems like a valuable insurance policy for the Cowboys against Vander Esch successfully returning from his neck surgery and the Cowboys finding a better replacement on the strong side.
- Triple Crown: That would be of contracts, if the Cowboys could sign Dak to a long-term deal before March 10, then, if they wanted and needed to, could franchise wide receiver Amari Cooper and use the transition tag on Byron Jones to reserve their rights of first refusal, affording them additional time to continue working on those long-term deals. The franchise/transition tag for a wide receiver is projected to be $18.5 million/$16 million and for a cornerback it's $16.5 million/$14.5 million. Again, if indeed that's the way the Cowboys want to go. Just a thought. But an expensive one at that, since long-term deals with signing bonuses enables accounting to spread the signing bonus over the length of the deal for cap purposes.
- Tight Decision: And this doesn't have to do solely with Jason Witten, who like Lee says he wants to play another season. Shocking, right? Same answer. Of course, he does. He's Jason Witten. Now the question is where and for how much. Most times the "how much" trumps the where, though in the 16-year veteran's case, maybe not by much since he only played for $4.5 million last year. Either way, the Cowboys will likely tender restricted free agent tight end Blake Jarwin at the second-round compensation level for a projected $3.278 million. Easy for me to spend the "upstairs" money.
- Sound Familiar: Maybe there is something in the Arlington water. In the Dallas Renegades' XFL debut Sunday at Globe Life Park, a 15-9 loss to St. Louis, the highly-favored home team failed to score a touchdown, kicking three field goals, and gave up 192 yards rushing – 72 by the St. Louis BattleHawks quarterback. Any of that sound familiar? In three of the Cowboys' eight losses they totaled just one touchdown and three times they gave up at least 151 yards rushing in 2019, along with four quarterbacks rushing for at least 43 yards, with a high of 63.
- 28th Anniversary: Yesterday, that is of the Atlanta Falcons trading Brett Favre to the Green Bay Packers on Feb. 11, 1992, the Packers giving up their second, 1992 first-round pick that turned out to be running back Tony Smith for the guy taken with the 33rd pick in the 1991 draft (second round) who ended up throwing for 71,838 yards and 508 career touchdowns in his 20-year career. Back story here, and I've told the story before, this trade took place 11 days following Super Bowl XXVI. Just happened to be walking out of the NFL official hotel that bitterly cold Minnesota night after the game at the same time Falcons head coach Jerry Glanville did when my Southern Mississippi alum writer friend asked Glanville if Favre, who had only played two games his rookie year, could ever become a successful NFL starting quarterback. Glanville's response, and I paraphrase here: Maybe if he ever learns to quit partying by Wednesday's practice.
- Lull Shots: Maybe somewhat instructive, but Tony Dorsett, after playing 11 years with the Cowboys, wanted out and spent one more year playing in Denver. Emmitt Smith, after a 13-year career with the Cowboys, went on to play two more with Arizona. Now, all these years later, the two Hall of Fame running backs say they wished they had ended their careers with the Cowboys … We are quite aware that Byron Jones did not have an interception this season, but should mean something he is one of five cornerbacks in 2019 to allow no more than three touchdowns and less than 120 yards in run-after-catch … Only two quarterbacks were selected in that 1991 NFL Draft ahead of Favre: Dan McGwire at 16 to Seattle and Todd Marinovich at 24 to Oakland. They combined for seven years and eight starts in the NFL … The Cowboys' pass defense wasn't all that bad in 2019, finishing 10th, giving up no more than 250 yards passing in 12 of 16 games … Neither was the Cowboys' third-down defense, finishing tied for second at 33.3 percent with San Francisco and behind just New England (24.1 percent).