The NFL season is here. Don't miss any of the action with our daily updates: news, notes and more throughout the Cowboys' off-season. Presented by Sleep Number
Feb. 28 Updates
1:33 p.m. – Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was rather optimistic when asked about many players on Thursday, stating that he would like to keep everyone. One of them was Tyrone Crawford, who missed most of last year with a hip injury.
"We have every reason to believe he is going to be productive," Jones said. "I know he has been outstanding in rehab as we sit right here. I don't want to equivocate but the answer is yes (to returning in 2020.)
However, Crawford is scheduled to count $9.1 million on the cap, including $8 million in salary. Jones was asked if Crawford might need to take a salary reduction to stay.
"I don't have an answer to that. The answer to being on the team … yes," Jones said. "What we do as we work through putting the whole thing together we more than likely are going to be asking for several restructures to the get the most out of what we have available."
10: 22 a.m. – When it comes time for the Cowboys to possibly draft a tight end in the upcoming draft, expect new position coach Lunda Wells to share his thoughts. While that would likely be the case anyway, considering he would be the person in charge of coaching the new player, he should have a good idea about the rookie, especially if he went to the combine.
Wells runs the position drills for the tight ends here in Indy. He's on the field working them through the cones, the blocking drills and giving them on-field instruction.
No tight ends coach in the NFL will have a better look at these players than Wells.
Feb. 27 Updates
6:03 p.m. – One day after Mike McCarthy said he would prefer to re-sign Randall Cobb, a player he coached in Green Bay, Jerry Jones echoed a similar message on Thursday.
"I thought he had a great year, as well. To step in with a fresh group and have the leadership that he had," Jones said of Cobb. "He was respected the minute he walked out there. The word we often use was he was and is just so professional. And I feel good about his health because of last year. It would be an advantage to have him here, with his background with Mike."
2 p.m. – We all know predicting win/loss records is a tall task in the parity-driven NFL, particularly in late February.
The complete schedule likely won't be announced until April. But we do know the Cowboys' 2020 opponents, and the league has also announced each teams' strength of schedule for next season.
Where does the Cowboys' schedule rank? On paper, it's considered the third easiest in the league (and easiest in the NFC) based on their opponents' combined .459 winning percentage last season. Only the Ravens and Steelers have a weaker schedule strength.
Of course, numbers aside, winning games in the NFL is far from easy.
Feb. 26 Updates
3:12 p.m. - From the combine in Indy, head coach Mike McCarthy said he was excited about coaching a veteran team this year. Whether or not that includes vets Sean Lee and Jason Witten remains to be seen. As expected, McCarthy was asked to comment on their status.
"I've had a chance to talk to both Jason and Sean. Sean is traveling right now," McCarthy said. "Jason, we had a chance to sit down at length and talk about a number of things that he's thinking about. Those decisions and how we move forward, we'll see how it shakes out."
9:30 a.m. – The Cowboys don't exactly have their tight end position locked down just yet. But you can bet they'll keep an eye on available targets either in free agency or the draft.
One name that could be available is Pro Bowler Austin Hooper. Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said Tuesday the team will allow Hooper to explore free agency rather than applying their franchise tag in order to retain him, Jason Butt of The Athletic has reported.
This news will make Hooper the top young tight end in free agency this off-season. Hooper is entering his fifth season and is coming off his second straight Pro Bowl year. In 2019 he recorded 787 yards and six touchdowns despite missing three games with a sprained MCL. The Falcons could still technically re-sign him but are unlikely to pay the approximate $10.7 million that the franchise tag would have cost them. A number of teams, including the Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills, could use a dynamic tight end in their offense and may be aggressive in pursuing Hooper.
The Cowboys may have very little cap flexibility if they indeed sign Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper to large contracts, but there's no question tight end is a top need for the roster in an off-season in which there does not look to be a tight end with first-round value in the draft. Dallas has not received top-level production at the position since at least 2017. Jason Witten has declared that he hopes to return to the team in 2020, but the Cowboys have yet to confirm that the interest is mutual.
Feb. 25 Updates
7:36 a.m. – Expect Leighton Vander Esch to ease his way back into action in 2020.
The Cowboys continue to express their optimism about Vander Esch's return from offseason neck surgery, though that's going to come with a recovery plan.
"Obviously, once we see him, we'll have a better feel for it," said team chief operating officer Stephen Jones on Monday. "But he'll have some limitations up until training camp before we really turn him loose."
Vander Esch missed seven games last season, including the final six of the year after incurring the injury. He underwent neck surgery after the season, and while it's unclear what his workload will look like in 2020, the organization continues to express optimism about his recovery.
"The feedback is good. We feel good about it," Jones said.
Feb. 19 Updates
2:30 p.m. - Keith O'Quinn is headed back to where he started – in the scouting department. After spending the last 10 seasons on the Cowboys' coaching staff, including the last three years as the special teams coordinator, O'Quinn will join the team's scouting department, working directly with Will McClay, the team's VP of player personnel.
O'Quinn initially joined the Cowboys in 2006, serving as a pro scout for three years. He went to Cleveland for one year as the director of player personnel, before returning to Dallas and his family, to transition into coaching.
Family is one of the biggest reasons O'Quinn chose to stay in Dallas this time and not continue into coaching for another team.
O'Quinn's contract was not renewed this past season after the special teams struggled consistently in 2019. John Fassel was one of the first hires by Mike McCarthy as the new special teams coordinator.
Feb. 18 Updates
8:51 p.m. – Trey Smith has been named the winner of the third annual Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award.
It's a bit of a coincidence, as Smith attends the same school as the award's namesake – the University of Tennessee. But beyond being a top-tier offensive lineman, Smith's recognition goes far beyond that.
The Jackson, Tenn., native recently announced he was returning to Tennessee for his senior season after fighting through tremendous adversity during his college career. Smith lost his mother when he was in high school, and he missed most of his sophomore season at Tennessee when blood clots were discovered in his lungs.
Not only did Smith rebound from that illness to play at an All-SEC level in 2019, he also spearheaded community efforts in Knoxville, where he worked as a speaker to youth groups and led a community coat drive that saw more than 1,000 coats donated in the area.
It's for those reasons and many others that Smith was awarded on Tuesday night for an honor that rewards excellence both on and off the field.
Feb. 10 Updates
4:15 p.m. – Jerry Jones and the Cowboys have stated on numerous occasions that re-signing Cooper, who they traded a first round pick to acquire, will be treated with an urgency on par with retaining quarterback Dak Prescott. Likewise, Cooper has repeated more than once that he wants to return to Dallas and play the rest of his career as a Cowboy. But words in December and January are not the same as a name on a contract. With the possible exception of A.J. Green, who is six years older, Cooper would be the best wide receiver on the free agent market in an offseason in which a number of teams will be looking for a number one receiver.
The Raiders, who traded Cooper to the Cowboys, are coming off a failed experiment with former All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown. With a move to Las Vegas coming, Jon Gruden would likely love to have his cake and eat it too by bringing back Cooper. Here's what GM Mike Mayock said last month: "We don't have enough speed outside...If we're going to take it to another level, that position has to get better."
The Buffalo Bills are coming off a playoff appearance behind a dominant defense despite no number-one receiver for their young quarterback Josh Allen. The New England Patriots will be looking for a play making receiver, as well. The Carolina Panthers will look to add weapons to take defensive focus off running back Christian McCaffrey. The Cardinals would love to surround Kyler Murray with more talent.
And that's just three of the teams looking for a receiver, just more of a reason the Cowboys will likely give Cooper either a new contract, or give him a franchise or transition tag.
1:27 p.m. – The speculation about Dez Bryant's future has reached a fever pitch at this point, so it's not surprising that a member of the Cowboys' front office has weighed in.
Speaking to the Fort Worth Star-Telegramthis week, Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones acknowledged that he's been in contact with Bryant.
"He has texted me that he would like to come back," Jones said. "We have nothing but great respect for Dez and what he accomplished here. Certainly, as we look forward into the future we look at all opportunities and all potential players that could maybe help us out."
That's not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it's at least noteworthy that there has been contact between the two sides. Bryant was released by the Cowboys in 2018 after eight seasons with the team, in which he cemented himself as the franchise's all-time leader in touchdowns with 73.
The three-time Pro Bowler signed briefly with the New Orleans Saints during the 2018 season, but he tore his Achilles during his first practice there. He hasn't played in the NFL since 2017, but he has said repeatedly on social media that he's considering a return – preferably with the Cowboys.
Feb. 9 Updates
3:00 p.m. – After three years wearing No. 27, Jourdan Lewis is making a change. Actually, it won't be a new number for Lewis, who is going back to No. 26, the jersey number he wore in college at Michigan.
Previously, the Cowboys issued No. 26 to safety Josh Jones, who was released near the end of the season.
Lewis, who tied for the team lead last year with two interceptions, is entering the fourth and final year of his contract and should be a candidate for a starting spot, either as an outside cornerback or in the slot.
2:45 p.m. – The market will be interesting for many of the Cowboys' free agents next month. While the big names will dominate the headlines, don't forget about guys like Jeff Heath, who is an unrestricted free agent.
Not only has he started 54 games at safety, Heath has been one of the Cowboys' best special teams players. And don't think that won't factor into the decision wherever he goes.
Don't forget, two other teams should have plenty of knowledge on Heath as player, aside from the Cowboys. Some of Heath's best years were with Rich Bisaccia, the Raiders' ST coach and certainly he knows Jason Garrett and Jerome Henderson (his first DB coach) with the Giants.
Heath is one of 25 unrestricted free agents for the Cowboys this offseason.
Feb. 1 Updates
2:39 p.m. – With Super Bowl LIV over, the NFL is now in full offseason mode.
Here are some key dates for teams over the next few weeks, leading up to the start of the new league year and free agency in mid-March:
- Feb. 3: Waiver system begins for 2020.
- Feb. 11: Beginning at 11 a.m. Central, NFL teams may begin to sign players whose 2020 CFL contracts have expired.
- Feb. 24-March 2: NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
- Feb. 25: First day for teams to designate franchise or transition players.
- March 10: Deadline for teams to designate franchise or transition players (prior to 3 p.m. Central).
- March 16-18: Teams can contact and negotiate with the certified agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents upon the expiration of their 2019 player contracts at 3 p.m. Central on March 18.
- March 18: The 2020 new league year begins at 3 p.m. Central. All 2019 player contracts expire then. It's the start of free agency and the trading period. Prior to the 3 p.m. deadline, teams must be under the salary cap, must exercise 2020 options on players if applicable, and must submit qualifying offers to restricted free agents.
Jan. 31 Updates
1:57 p.m. – Kellen Moore is excited to be back as offensive coordinator and continue his work with quarterback Dak Prescott, who set career highs in passing yards and touchdowns in 2019.
Where did Prescott improve in his fourth season?
"His command," Moore said Monday. "I think he had really a good command, a lot of confidence to him. He was running the show – run game, pass game, involved in all aspects of the offense. Certainly that's something we can build on."
New head coach Mike McCarthy has said he wants to keep the offense's terminology similar this season, which will provide some continuity for Prescott in 2020.
Prescott has an expiring contract, but Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones said last week that the team's No. 1 priority this offseason is to work out a long-term deal with Prescott.
Jan. 28 Updates
10:12 a.m. – Defensive lineman Antwaun Woods is recovering well from recent surgery on his left hip. Although still on crutches, he is expecting a smooth recovery this offseason.
Woods is an exclusive rights unrestricted free agent and expected to be back for the 2020 season.