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Offseason | 2024

Mick Shots: Jaguars putting $$$ in Micah's eyes


FRISCO, Texas – Well, here we go – that still applies doesn't it? – the official start to the 2024 NFL offseason begins April 15, simultaneously with the deadline for filing your 2023 tax returns.

Of course, this start, and we do know what "voluntary means," is significantly more forgiving than the IRS deadline to not only file but pay any taxes you owe. So let's not start overreacting if any particular player is not out here at The Star going through the Cowboys' Phase 1 to the offseason, strength and conditioning work, with only strength and conditioning coaches and the training staff allowed.
That's why, if you caught this from head coach Mike McCarthy's interview session at the NFL meetings two weeks ago, he pointed out how players already were getting back into work, saying he saw Jake Ferguson already in there working out and how his players already are engaged with starting over this offseason.

And before the next question was asked, McCarthy made a point of quickly interjecting, "I didn't talk to Ferguson, because that would have been against the rules. Just said hi to him, and I appreciate him being in there on his own time. So let's get that straight, OK."

He smiled, sorta, since goodness knows McCarthy doesn't need any more of these offseason fines cutting into his bank account. Or the Cowboys losing a week's worth of OTA sessions this spring, limited to just two of the allotted three from reportedly being too physical during these non-padded workouts last spring.

With the NFL Draft now just two weeks away, and the coaches, scouts and front office personnel hunkered down getting their draftable players ranked by position, followed by getting their players ranked by round, there will also be football players on the football field starting next Monday.

More meaty shots on the way.

  • Micah Smile: The Jacksonville Jaguars sure didn't do the Cowboys any favors this week, agreeing with their five-year veteran linebacker, edge rusher and sack leader Josh Allen to a whopping five-year, $150 million deal, with $88 million of it guaranteed. For sure leaving Micah Parsons rubbing his hands together in glee and probably shouting, "Thank you very much!" That's because he will be, or already is, in the same boat with a new contract on the way, an extension possibly this year or next with market value soaring higher. See, with Allen heading into his sixth season, the Jaguars placed the franchise tag on their 2019 first-round draft choice that came with a $24 million cap hit if no extension was reached. Allen is a two-time Pro Bowler with 45 sacks in five seasons, 17½ of those this past season. You know Micah is sitting there going, well, in three seasons I already have three Pro Bowls and a total of 40½ sacks, joining Reggie White, Derrick Thomas, Aldon Smith and Dwight Freeney as the only five players to produce at least 40 sacks in their first three seasons since sacks became an official NFL stat in 1982. Hey, you can bet Micah and his "people" are sitting there sending out congrats for setting the bar for players like Micah at $30 million a year, now third highest among edge rushers, led by Nick Bosa at $34 million, Chris Jones at $31.7 million and now Allen at $30 million. And the $88 million guaranteed matches Bosa's high for that position. Now you understand the Cowboys' future salary cap complications while already picking up Micah's $21 million fifth-year option for 2024, this all setting a high bar if trying to negotiate an early extension. Good luck here.
  • Happy Caps: A 9-8 team in 2023 and having beaten the Cowboys in OT during the 2022 season, Jacksonville entered free agency with nearly $30 million of cap space available. That mostly thanks to starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence set to count just $11.7 million against the cap as he's still only on the fourth year of his rookie deal. The Jags certainly could afford to splurge like that with now just seven players hitting the cap for at least $10 million, but only a high of $24 million belonging to wide receiver Christian Kirk. The Cowboys in comparison have eight players counting at least $10 million, (that includes June 1 release Michael Gallup's $13.8 million until June 2) and Dak's high of $55 million.
  • More Micah: During a recent interview after the NFL passed the new kickoff rules someone asked Cowboys special teams coach John Fassel if he would consider having Micah, the former high school decorated running back return kickoffs. Remember, if he had returned for his third season at Penn State (2020 interrupted by COVID), head coach James Franklin said he had plans to let the former decorated high school running back return kickoffs. Seriously. Said Fassel, "Absolutely, would love to see him back there. He'd be fantastic," but in the next breath quickly added, "But that' ain't happening." Cute, but you know, just Google his high school highlights.
  • La'el Surfaces: Was recently thinking might the Cowboys re-sign La'el Collins to an incentive-laden, one-year deal as backup insurance since he was here at the end of the season for playoff insurance at tackle, making just practice squad pay. Ha, Buffalo reportedly stacked big bills in front of him, like $6.5 million for their own insurance purposes. The Cowboys, well, that's all the cap space the Cowboys have left at this point, why they released Gallup and need to sign CeeDee Lamb to an extension to reduce his fifth-year option $17.99 million cap hit.
  • Randy, Randy: Well, former Cowboys 2015 second-round gamble Randy Gregory, who reneged on his five-year, $70 million deal the Cowboys offered to instead sign for the same structure with Denver in 2022, is now on to his fourth team. The Broncos traded Gregory to San Francisco in the middle of the 2023 season and he became a free agent in 2024. Tampa Bay has signed the edge rusher to a one-year contract worth at least $2.9 million but upwards of $5 million with incentives and a guarantee of $1.36 million. For his sake, money should be no problem for Gregory at this point, since he was guaranteed $28 million in his Denver deal, the Broncos incurring $22.4 million in dead money, nearly $7 million of that still this year.
  • Short Shots: Reminder with Monday's start to the allowed offseason workouts, the only mandatory attendance will be the full team minicamp scheduled for June 4-6, when fines can be levied for absences … Oh, always a ploy for those engaged in contract negotiations by withholding services, though chancy if suffering an injury working out on their own, thus facing non-football injury list accompanied by no pay … Believe Zack Martin, fishing for a well-deserved pay raise last year, had that hamstring/groin issue during the offseason and then held out of training camp until receiving the pay bump in the middle of August … The team's rookie minicamp is schedule for May 10-12 … Taking a chance to go out on an encouraging limb with so many disappointed in last season's first-round playoff loss to Green Bay, but the Cowboys' 2023 plus-10 turnover differential marked a third consecutive season finishing with a plus-10-or-better, a first in franchise history and the first NFL team to do so since Kansas City from 2015-17 … And at least we now know for sure the Cowboys won't be trapsing to Brazil to play the Eagles in the Week 1 season opener, that chore belonging to Green Bay.

And let's go back to McCarthy at the NFL meetings the end of March since the NFL Draft is now just two weeks away, speaking about the process his staff, the scouting department and the front office personnel go through preparing for April 25-27 draft.

"It's a great process, it's intense," McCarthy began. "As a coaching staff, all the organizations I've been able to work with, this is the most involved the coaching staff is in the personnel process. Our personnel department does an incredible job as far as their process, and to be on the road with Mitch [LaPoint, director of college scouting] has been really cool, so I get to spend some time with him. Mitch knows every player in the draft already, same with Will [McClay, vice president of player personnel]. Will and I are in constant communication. These guys are on top of it.

"But to get out there and see these college programs and see these (players) in person is always a huge benefit and even more so the conversations you are able to have. Alabama, Notre Dame and Michigan were all great Pro Days. Really enjoyed the conversations and the people you get to meet or reconnect with, and the information you get just really gives you a bigger insight. Really, I don't spend a whole lot of time on college football during the season. The most college football I get to watch is maybe Saturday night at the hotel on away games. … As the head coach, the fresh eyes that it gives me now when we get into this draft process is very beneficial, and just using the University of Michigan, that was really cool to watch Michigan march out 20 guys for their Pro Day. You're like, OK, this is what a national champion looks like.

"When I get back after Easter, I'll spend the whole month of April in the draft room."

And now we're at 15 days and counting before the Cowboys go on the clock.

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