FRISCO, Texas – At the time, March 29, Cowboys COO Stephen Jones was asked what he thought the team needed to do in the coming weeks in order to "keep the draft pure."
Meaning covering themselves possibly in free agency so there would be no reaching come April 28-30 in the annual NFL Draft emanating out of Las Vegas this year where gambling is highly more appropriate than during the draft.
Stephen's sort of off-the-cuff response sort of caught the reporters there at the NFL meetings by surprise.
"Right now, we probably need a kicker," he said.
"We've got a young guy on the roster," Stephen said, referring to Chris Naggar, a first-year guy out of SMU. "Obviously we got to figure out the kicking situation and we got a few other situations we got to shore things up."
Well, it's 16 days since he said that, and now just 15 days before the draft kicks off, and nothing having to do with a kicker has been shorn up. In fact, their first option of bringing back their released free agent kicker Greg Zuerlein for less money expired when the Cowboys kicker these past two seasons was signed away by the New York Jets to compete with incumbent Eddie Pineiro.
So don't scoff at the notion the Cowboys needing to shore up this position. They desperately need to do so one way or another since it would be a gigantic leap of faith for the Cowboys to hand the job to Naggar without significant competition. After all, the 24-year-old born in Arlington only kicked one year at SMU, making 17 of 21 field-goal attempts and went undrafted in 2021, transferring to the Hilltop after serving as a punter and kickoff specialist at the University of Texas his redshirt junior year.
Naggar was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Jets in 2021 and was waived Aug. 16 during training camp. The Lou Groza Award semifinalist at SMU was claimed by Cleveland and placed on the practice squad. He eventually kicked in one game, making a 37-yard field goal and just one of two extra point attempts.
As for shoring up? Good luck. I've discovered just three considered unsigned NFL free agents out there: Michael Badgley, Sam Ficken and Matt Ammendola. Combined the three have made 115 of 158 field goal attempts, Badgley the best at 70 of 87 during three years with the Chargers (80.5 percent) and 18 of 21 in six games with Indy last year.
So, nothing earth shattering.
And as for the draft, and the Cowboys do have four fifth-rounders, the best are considered San Diego State's Matt Araiza, Texas-ex Cameron Dicker, LSU's Cade York of nearby Prosper and OU's Gabe Brkic. York hit 33 of 39 attempts his past two years for the Tigers, including five of seven from 50-plus and 164 of 168 extra points in three seasons. And as for "Dicker The Kicker," over four seasons at Texas, he converted 60 of 79 field-goal attempts, but 11 of those misses came in his first two seasons. And in 2021 Dicker hit 13 of 15 field-goal attempts and was 12 of 13 between 20-49 yards. From 50-plus over four seasons, the part-time punter, too, connected on four of eight, with a long of 57 during his career.
So yeah, kicker.
- Straight Talk: I'm pretty sure this statement from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will be exaggerated out of context from his brief interview out here at The Star on Wednesday following the team's press conference announcing a partnership with Blockchain.com, a cryptocurrency company becoming the official digital asset platform of the Dallas Cowboys. When he was asked if there is a possibility of trading up from their 24th spot in the first round of the NFL Draft, Jones said, "I would trade up since we're down as low as we are in the first three rounds." Get that, Jerry didn't say he "wanted" to trade up in the first. He said, "first three rounds." And again, with four fifth-round picks and nine overall, he should consider using those picks to maneuver around over the first two days. No way will a potential nine picks all make the team.
- Good Reminder: Former Cowboys nine-year head coach Jason Garrett is about to show folks he has more than the robotic personality he portrayed during on-camera interviews, hired by NBC Sports as one of its three analysts on the upcoming USFL TV broadcasts, starting this weekend with the New Jersey Generals meeting the Birmingham Stallions. Garrett reminded me that in the offseasons between 2001-2004, he did a couple of NFL Europe game broadcasts each of those four years. He will be quite insightful.
- Pricey Baker: The Cleveland Browns certainly have themselves in a cp predicament after tying their QB ship to Deshaun Watson with that five-year $230 million guaranteed deal. Now his first-year cap hit is just $10 million, but the problem becomes what to do with Baker Mayfield and his 2022 guaranteed cap hit of $18.858 million. Certainly, he wants out. The Browns probably want him out. But cutting him will cost them $18.58 million in dead money against the cap. Trade? Why would any team give them more than a seventh knowing the Browns want to unload him to avoid an untenable situation? Plus, that team would be doing the Browns a salary cap favor trading for that final year on his Cleveland contract.
- Tough Few Weeks: First Cowboys longtime administrative assistant Marylyn love passes away. Then Rayfield Wright does, too, whose memorial service hasn't even taken place yet (Friday). And now former running backs coach Gary Brown passes away Sunday, losing his longtime battle with cancer. All rest in peace.
- Happy 90th: This one passed me by, and that should never happen when someone turns 90, especially when I spoke with him last week. But on March 4, Gil Brandt turned 90, and bless him. You know, he's the last living member of that original Cowboys crew bringing the franchise into the NFL in 1960. And you know what, the Cowboys original player personnel director's Top 100 list for this upcoming draft still is worth reading.
- Catch 85: As pointed out on Friday documenting the career of Rayfield Wright, he started off his career as No. 85 with the Cowboys, a tight end before going on to become a Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive tackle. In 1968, his second year in the NFL, Wright caught the only pass of his career, a 15-yard touchdown from Cowboys Ring of Honor QB Don Meredith. Years later, Wright reminded Meredith of that play, saying, "Don, do you remember throwing me that touchdown pass?" But in Meredith's quick-witted fashion, he responds, "Hell Rayfield, I wasn't throwing you the ball. You're so damn tall you just got in the way!" Claims he was trying to hit Bob Hayes over the middle.
- Move Over Dak: When Dak Prescott signed his four-year, $160 million contract, on March 10, 2021, he became the third highest paid quarterback in average salary at $40 million a year. Now 13 months later, he no longer is in the Top Five: Aaron Rodgers $50.21 M, Deshaun Watson $46 M, Patrick Mahomes $45 M, Josh Allen $43 M and now Derek Carr $40.5 M. That leaves Dak tied with now Matthew Stafford for sixth at a $40 M average.
- Leftovers: Poor Patriots. Owner Robert Kraft is bemoaning New England having not won a playoff game in the past three seasons, going winless in their only two chances. But that's what happens when you've been spoiled, New England producing a 30-10 playoff record from 2001-2018 and 12-2 from 2014-18 . . . Read where the NFL is mandating these soft-shell pads on player helmets called Guardian Caps to be worn by offensive and defensive linemen, tight ends and linebackers between the start of training camp and the second preseason game, the caps reportedly reducing impacts by 20 percent . . . How 'bout that Matthew Stafford, spending $11 million to buy not one, but two houses on 3.6 acres in the San Fernando Valley?
And for this week's last word, we go back to newly-signed wide receiver James Washington when asked what he knows about the Cowboys offense from last year, the one that led the NFL not only in total yards but also points scored, and if it creates more opportunities for receivers like him.
"The Cowboys offense, it's like a highlight reel every Sunday," Washington says. "They always have something crazy going on."
And "crazy" needs to continue despite the losses of Amari Cooper, Cedrick Wilson and now Malik Turner, having signed with the 49ers on but a one-year deal.