FRISCO, Texas – Shots galore!
Felt like scraping the bottom of the barrel the last couple of weeks, but all we needed is the Cowboys signing Dak Prescott to that four-year, $160 million contract to create a flash flood of shots.
That, and thanks to Wednesday's some 90-minute presser featuring the man of the hour, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and COO Stephen Jones.
Just enough time to get my answer to why the Cowboys hired Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator two months ago.
Remember when pointing out a few weeks back that the Cowboys' hiring of Quinn will become the biggest, most major improvement the team will make to turn this gosh-awful defense around? From giving up the most points in a single season in franchise history this past year (29.6), to oh, a reasonable level, say, back to 2019 when the Dallas defense finished ninth in the NFL, giving up 20 points a game?
Well, confirmation came during this press conference. From Stephen. From Jerry. Heck, even the multi-million dollar Dak chimed in.
"I failed to mention that we've already taken a major step with Dan Quinn," Stephen Jones said of improving the defense. "I think he's going to be very special. … There was nothing but rave reviews. His players, they want to play hard for him. I think we've got a lot of great players on defense. … I think he's going to put a system in where they can play hard and fast and be confident in what they're doing."
Then there was Jerry Jones: "Quinn, in my view, has some great skins on the wall. He's got great experience. He is people-skilled. When you're around him, you'll see that. … He was absolutely perfect for us to fit this situation."
And then even Dak had an opinion on Quinn and the defense: "Coach Quinn, I've met him throughout the building. He's a guy who jumps off at you with his demeanor and everything that he carries. But what was most prominent and fulfilling to me was hearing the guys he's coached, and former teammates of mine, whether it be Keith Smith or other guys saying, 'Hey you're going to love this guy.'"
As I've said, Dan Quinn might be the best "free agent" the Cowboys sign this offseason.
- New Cap: So the NFL set this year's salary cap at $182.5 million, a reduction from last year's $198.2 million, a tad higher than the previous floor that was set at $180 million but a tad lower than the $185 million some were hoping for. As you will see explicitly this year with the Cowboys, every million counts.
- Men At Work: The Cowboys barely took a deep breath after getting Dak signed, knowing his 2021 cap hit will be $22.2 million, which would have brought the Cowboys down to just a few millions dollars available on their cap. They got right to work creating roughly $17 million in additional space by restructuring the contracts of Zack Martin, Tyron Smith and La'el Collins. Basically, they do so by turning a portion of those players' 2021 base salaries, pay that up front as restructured bonus, and then add a year to the contract to spread that bonus over the remaining years, which lowers cap charges for this year. I'm told there will be a few more restructures to come. The Cowboys still need to create room to fund their draft, create like a $7 million nest egg for seasonal expenses and space to sign a few free agents. They even cleared $550,000 by releasing fullback Jamize Olawale, who opted out this past season.
- Fair Compensation: That is with compensatory picks, the NFL granted the Cowboys a league-high four, with a third, fourth, fifth and sixth, upping their grand total to 10 picks in this year's NFL Draft. That's great ammo to trade around in the rounds, and could possibly pick up more high picks if they decide to trade down a few spots in the first round and still come away with a dynamic defensive player. The Cowboys' 47 compensatory picks are second all-time behind just Baltimore's 53 since choices were first awarded in 1994.
- Beast Of The East: Toward the end of the press conference, Jerry and Stephen were asked with the signing of Dak do they feel they have the best team in the NFC East. Before Jerry could answer came this: Dak said, "Yes," simultaneously with Stephen saying, "Absolutely." Then Jerry said, "Do I have to answer that?" and Dak, being the quarterback and leader, interjected, "I answered it. I answered it. It's OK."
- Health Report: As if signing Dak to his historic contract wasn't evidence enough, he still was asked for his current health status after surgery to repair the compound fracture and ankle dislocation and then a clean-up surgery in December. Said Dak, "I'm healthy. Like I said, I control what I can control. I'm going to follow the doctor's orders the whole time, put in my own work ethic to it. You saw me walk out here. I'm getting close, but I'll be ready when it matters." And can vouch for that, having seen a rehab session or two on the field.
- Who's Dat? So the other day saw this huge guy out on the practice field. Looked like a perfect nose tackle. Big. Tall. Barrel-chested. Reminded me of the late Jerome Brown. Thought the Cowboys were working out some defensive lineman. Turns out, it's newly-hired strength and conditioning assistant Cedric Smith, a former Kansas City and Houston head strength and conditioning coach who had last been a Broncos assistant since 2017. Then I found out he's a former University of Florida fullback who in 1987-89 paved the way for one Emmitt Smith. Geesh, with a guy that size, formerly 6-foot, 275, no wonder Emmitt had such a fine career with the Gators.
- Quick Shots: Music to our ears when Jerry Jones invoked the word "Oxnard" for this year's training camp … The Cowboys could pick up another $2.5 million in cap space by moving on from veteran punter Chris Jones, who ended up on IR last season following surgery to repair an abdominal muscle, missing the final eight games of the season while his replacement, rookie Hunter Niswander, did a fine job the rest of the way, averaging 47.2 yards and pinning 10 of his 26 punts downed inside the 20, with a few more nullified inside the 10 by penalties … Starting to sound like nine-year veteran defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford might be hanging 'em up after returning last year to play in all 16 games following offseason surgeries to both hips.
And the final word goes to Dak, clearing up a whole lot of perceptions out there that he didn't want to remain with the Cowboys, that he was trolling Washington, that he just wanted another franchise tag and then leave the following season to sign with another team. Blah, blah, blah. That he had to feel unappreciated because the Cowboys supposedly were dragging their feet during the negotiations: "Through this whole time, I never had any doubt in my mind I wouldn't be here. I'm a guy who lives and stands and moves every part of his body off the word faith. … I just know from a little boy falling in love with this game to where I am now, this love has grown further. I've put a lot into it and I've got a lot more to give, so with that being said, never had any doubt I wouldn't be here, that the deal wouldn't get done and be right for the both of us and be right as I said for the organization and everybody invested, so I'm just thankful."
So are the Cowboys, with 160 million reasons to prove it.