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2013 NFL Offseason: Dallas Cowboys

Draft Grades, Season Previews, Team Needs, Free Agents

Dallas Cowboys (Last Year: 8-8)

2013 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
OLB Justin Durant, S Will Allen.
Early Draft Picks:
C/G Travis Frederick, TE Gavin Escobar, WR Terrance Williams, S J.J. Wilcox, CB B.W. Webb, RB Joseph Randle. Cowboys Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
RB Felix Jones, WR Kevin Ogletree, TE John Phillips, DE/DT Kenyon Coleman, DE/DT Marcus Spears, DE/OLB VIctor Butler, ILB Dan Connor, CB Mike Jenkins, S Gerald Sensabaugh, S Eric Frampton.

2013 Dallas Cowboys Offense:
Tony Romo is the player who takes all the blame for the Cowboys' late-season collapses. Sometimes it's not warranted. For example, Romo had a five-game stretch between Weeks 12 and 16 in which he threw 11 touchdowns to just three interceptions, all while averaging 353.8 yards per contest. Dallas went 3-2 in that span - and one of the losses came to the Saints when Romo had a 26-of-43, 416-yard, four-touchdown, no-pick line.

Then again, Romo does have his fair share of clunkers. All the Cowboys had to do is win their final game against the Redskins, and they would've advanced to the playoffs. Romo gagged, going 20-of-37 for 218 yards, two scores and three interceptions. Romo is very talented - he threw for 4,903 yards in total this season - but he tends to come up small in the biggest moment each year. Dallas will be competitive most weeks when Romo is on the field, but his health status could be in jeopardy. Romo had back surgery this offseason and has been held out of minicamps. This has been done as a precaution, but no back procedure is ever minor. If Romo can't take the field, Dallas won't win many games.

Romo should have another strong campaign as long as he's healthy because he has a great supporting cast to help him. Dez Bryant finally lived up to his billing last year, emerging in the second half of the season as a dominant force. Beginning in Week 10, he caught 50 passes for 879 yards and 10 touchdowns in his final eight games. This translates to 100 receptions for 1,758 yards and 20 scores over a whole season. It finally clicked for him, so he's expected to have a huge year. Things aren't as optimistic for Miles Austin-Jones, who has dealt with leg injuries the past couple of campaigns. He has spent the entire offseason trying to strengthen his leg muscles, so maybe he'll revert back to 2010 form when he caught 69 balls for 1,041 yards and seven touchdowns. If Austin-Jones can't stay healthy, perhaps third-round rookie Terrence Williams will be able to step in.

Romo's favorite target over the years has been Jason Witten, who caught a career-high 110 passes for 1,039 yards in 2012. He just turned 31, so he should have a couple of high-quality seasons left in the tank. Dallas also spent an early-round selection on tight end Gavin Escobar, so the team could run multiple-tight end sets.

The running game is once again a question mark, however. DeMarco Murray is talented, but he's more known for injury-prone. He has missed nine games in his two NFL seasons. He already dealt with a hamstring problem this offseason that sidelined him for a week. Murray will undoubtedly miss a chunk of action this year, so fifth-round rookie Joseph Randle could be called upon to start.

Something that Dallas had to do this offseason was improve the offensive line. Romo took a beating last year, and keeping him healthy is paramount. Perhaps that's why Jerry Jones reached for center Travis Frederick at the end of the first round. Frederick was a third-round prospect - and Jason Garrett admitted as much afterward - but he'll still step in and be somewhat of an upgrade in the middle of the offensive line. If so, he'll be the only quality player in the interior, as guards Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings combined to allow 13 sacks - a ridiculously high number for two inside linemen.

The Cowboys' worst blocker last year was Doug Free. There was some speculation he would be released, but Jones kept him around after slashing his salary. Free was responsible for six sacks and an obscene 15 penalties in 2012, but he'll once again start across from 2011 first-rounder Tyron Smith, who took a step backward last season after a solid rookie campaign. Smith has the talent to rebound, however.

2013 Dallas Cowboys Defense:
The Cowboys are bidding their 3-4 farewell and moving to a 4-3 scheme, run by legendary defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. They were expected to make wholesale changes after hiring Tampa Bay's former coach, but that never materialized. In fact, the four projected starters on the defensive line were all on the team last year.

Anthony Spencer was projected to leave the team because he didn't fit as a left end in the 4-3, but Jerry Jones decided to franchise him for some strange reason. Now, the Cowboys have Spencer in a position that does not fit his skills for an absurd $10.6 million salary in 2013. Spencer had an awesome year in terms of rushing the passer (11 sacks), but 2012 was the first time in his career that he ever logged more than six sacks in a single campaign. Spencer is unreliable, even though opposing coordinators will still be entirely focused on DeMarcus Ware, one of the top pass-rushers in the NFL. Ware had 11.5 sacks last year despite dealing with an arm injury. He notched 19.5 sacks the season before.

The starters in the interior of the defensive line will be Jason Hatcher and Jay Ratliff. The former had a dynamic 2012 campaign, accumulating four sacks (a solid number for a 3-4 lineman) and stuffing the run effectively. Ratliff, meanwhile, was expected to be released because he's been very lethargic since signing a 7-year, $48.6 million deal in September 2011. Ratliff played in just six contests last season, and was accused of nursing injuries too long in an effort to delay his return to the field as long as possible. He was also arrested for a DWI on Jan. 22, so it really makes zero sense that Jones decided to retain him.

Kiffin's linebacking corps actually features a new player on the team. Justin Durant was signed over from the Lions. He figures to be limited to two downs, but he stops the run very well. The incumbents, Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, will definitely be featured more prominently. Lee is an outstanding talent who was missed when he was lost for the final 10 games after tearing a ligament in his toe. Meanwhile, Carter, a 2011 second-rounder, was also knocked out for the season when he dislocated his ankle on Thanksgiving.

The type of defense Kiffin runs doesn't require a team to have very talented cornerbacks, but it's the safety position that happens to be the problem in Dallas' secondary. The two starters in that area are Will Allen and Barry Church. The latter is coming off a torn Achilles. He has been fully cleared, but it's highly unlikely that he'll be 100 percent in his first year back. Allen, meanwhile, was a free-agent signing this offseason. He's not nearly skilled enough to be a starter in this league, but that's what he'll be asked to do this year - unless third-round rookie J.J. Wilcox shines in training camp and the preseason.

Dallas spent another mid-round pick on cornerback B.W. Webb. He was much-needed depth behind two solid starters. Morris Claiborne, chosen as the team's first-rounder in 2012, didn't surrender a touchdown after Week 10 in his rookie campaign, though he was flagged often (8 penalties). The other starter, Brandon Carr, signed a 5-year, $50.1 million contract last March. He didn't live up to his deal by being an exceptional, lock-down corner, but he still proved to be a pretty capable starter.

2013 Dallas Cowboys Schedule and Intangibles:
Jerry Jones opened up his fancy new stadium with its giant video screen in 2009. It all looked great - until the players took the field. In the four years at Cowboys Stadium, the host is just 18-15, compared to 16-17 on the road.

Undrafted rookie Dan Bailey came out of nowhere in 2011 to perform as one of the league's top kickers. He was sharp again last season, hitting 29-of-31 tries, including 3-of-5 from 50-plus.

Punter Mat McBriar was released. His replacement, Chris Jones, finished in the middle of the pack in terms of net average.

Dallas scored once on special teams - a punt return by Dwayne Harris. However, the team gave up two touchdowns to the opposition.

The Cowboys have a balanced schedule. They battle five teams that made the playoffs last year (Redskins twice, Packers, Vikings, Broncos), but they also have much easier contests against the Chargers, Raiders, Chiefs, Lions and Eagles twice.

2013 Dallas Cowboys Rookies:
Go here for the Cowboys Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2013 Dallas Cowboys Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):

Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2013 Dallas Cowboys Analysis: Something always seems to go wrong with the Cowboys. They botch a hold. They ice their own kicker. Their quarterback gets hurt in a must-win game. They whiff on a potential game-winning field goal. It has always been something, and it'll always continue to be something as long as Jason Garrett and Tony Romo are paired together. This Dallas team will likely win anywhere between six and nine games in 2013, all while choking at the end of the year, of course.

Projection: 7-9 (3rd in NFC East)

2013 Fantasy Football Rankings

More 2013 NFL Season Previews


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A1catraz 04-25-2014 03:54 pm (total posts: 1)
3     2

I know a lot of people don't want him back (I am not one of them), but I wonder if Brent may be able to come back and excel as a 1-tech in Marinelli's defense. That would, IMO, give this line a huge boost in run situations. If we could land Easley in 2nd round, we could rotate him with Brent depending on down and situation. Gives Easley a easier year and a chance to recover more.
Wharthog 03-17-2014 02:00 pm (total posts: 7)
3     1

On the ticket this morning they mentioned Spencer isn't close to getting a good deal so he may come back to Dallas w/a much smaller contract. Hopefully they'll be able to land him at a discount or maybe even a one year prove-it deal.
Josh 01-30-2014 10:52 am (total posts: 8)
19     7

Lots of shoulda, woulda, coulda. My biggest complaint from last draft is that they did not get enough in their trade down. They should have been able to acquire another pick or something with how far they moved.

I was very against the Frederick pick at the time, but saying you could get him in the 3rd round is stupid. You can't know that... so you pick based on how you think they will perform. Did Frederick play like a first round center? Yes- therefore I'm OK with it. Just give me good players.

Not a huge fan of the Escobar pick, but I'll eat crow gladly if he turns into a solid starter. Witten's career at this point will be shorter than longer.
Wharthog 01-21-2014 03:04 pm (total posts: 7)
2     2

Alan B,

I like your scenario because we would've loved a talent like Elam at S this year instead of continuing to draft small school safeties every year.
Wharthog 01-20-2014 02:50 pm (total posts: 7)
6     35

Look, Frederick is our Center for years to come (barring injury) but considering Larry Warford went early third round it's amazing to think we could have had Sharif Floyd-1, Larry Warford-2, & Travis Frederick-3. Warford had an amazing rookie year for Detroit and was projected in the 2nd round.

Jerry does not know what he's doing player personnel-wise. He loves his team and we love that about him but he needs a football guy to make the decisions in the draft and in free-agency. We obtained zero defensive lineman via the draft and none in the undrafted free agent pool this past offseason. That is unacceptable - especially considering we knew we'd be without Brent and would probably miss Ratliff for at least some games due to suspension.
Alan B 01-19-2014 04:08 pm (total posts: 1)
12     12

Frederick was a terrific pick and would have been an even better 2nd rnd pick with Matt Elam being the 1st rnder. T Williams was a good pick, rest of the draft only so-so (bad). Did not address offensive line again, defensive line at all and Why does he have to reach when there wer higher projected players available at same positions but he thinks he know better than the so called experts. Hire a GM or at least a draft consultant.
Another terrible write-up 01-17-2014 04:10 am (total posts: 1)
3     11

I wish walt would stop talking about the cowboys because it is clear he has no idea about the team and the players on the team. Leave it to him and no team would develop later round players and just try to fill out their teams with 1st and 2nd rounders along with FAs. Do us a favor and stick to your obsession with andrew luck and the colts
Mark Nutt 01-16-2014 07:19 pm (total posts: 1)
43     8

"even when he drafts third-round centers in the first round", wasn't Frederick one of the very few 1st round picks to actually justify his draft spot. When you consider the Cowboys traded down to get him and used the additional pick to select an absolute steal in Terrance Williams, the decision looks even better. Jerry makes a bunch of mistakes ever year but its hard to consider that decision one of them.
Mike 01-16-2014 11:14 am (total posts: 1)
35     2

Didn't you give Frederick a 2-3 grade? And I thought Holloman did a solid job against the Eagles.
Marilyn 01-03-2014 10:18 am (total posts: 2)
2     3

Deleted and banned
Mert 01-03-2014 07:12 am (total posts: 1)
3     6

Hey,I'd wear the ring on my right thumb (because I have very long fingers ;)) or on my chain as a charm, toeeghtr with a little silver cross I got from my sister :).Thanks for giving the chance to win the ring!!!
Davi 01-03-2014 01:02 am (total posts: 1)
2     5

My new favorite thing is a haufndl of rings! My current #1 choice is the ring I got in Jackson Hole, WY after climbing the Grand Tetons. But thats on my right ring finger, and my left index finger would appreciate some lovin' ;)I'd pair with a long sleeve striped boat neck tunic, the kind where the sleeves are so long you cant help but cuddle yourself, then a draped open-front cardi with sleeves rolled to 3/4 length so the stripes underneath are showing, a pair of leggings and maybe slouchy knee socks or legwarmers, sexy booties and a floppy hat or maybe a fedora!Thanks for the chance to win! Ps you're beautiful and I'm so glad to have found your blog, its really
Roxana 01-03-2014 12:31 am (total posts: 1)
3     3

i will be going to Thailand in April and I want to be taking phoots just like this! they are all amazing and i can smell the ocean even from here!so pumped for Thailand!! eeeeeeeeeeee!!wonderful post :)x Your Only Blackswan
Natali 01-02-2014 11:39 pm (total posts: 2)
3     3

gogeuors gogeuors gogeuors shots, sandra!i want to hoard this post and return to it again & again. it's great that you waited a month to upload it. well worth the wait. someday.. when we finally go to thailand i'll be asking your advice on everything, where to eat, what beaches to go to, where to stay.. you've got such a great eye & i like how you think. and it's great to see the henna in process!off to miami/w. palm beach thurs see you when i'm back - will visit your blog while i'm gone tho xx
ElmaeVitor 01-02-2014 04:08 am (total posts: 1)
3     2

Hi Fleur, this is gorgeous, I love how you've dtsriessed and coloured her it's all so reminiscent of long ago:)Thank you for your kind comments on my blog, sorry it's taken Blogger a long time to sort himself out! I totally lost a picture on one of my posts and had to reload it, well I never!!!! :)

2013 NFL Draft Grade: C

Please note that the overall grade is not an average of all the individual grades. Other things are taken into account like team needs and goals.

Goals Entering the 2013 NFL Draft: The Cowboys have decided to stick with Tony Romo for the long term, so they absolutely need to make sure he's protected for a change. They need help at right tackle, guard and center. Some pieces for their new 4-3 also have to be obtained.

2013 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Everyone quickly forgot about the Bills' antics with E.J. Manuel when the Cowboys spent the 31st-overall selection on third-round prospect Travis Frederick. If there are any Dallas homers who still believe that this wasn't a reach, head coach Jason Garrett admitted as much. Garrett said the team panicked when all of the guards were flying off the board. This is exactly why the Cowboys need a real general manager.

Dallas wasted another selection with Gavin Escobar in the second round, but quickly recovered in Round 3. I liked many of the team's later picks, including J.J. Wilcox and B.W. Webb. Both were taken in the right range, and they'll undoubtedly help a mediocre secondary. Terrance Williams and Joseph Randle will be nice weapons for Tony Romo down the road.

Having said that, a "C" grade feels about right. There were more good picks than bad ones, and I liked that the Cowboys at least moved down in the first round. However, taking Frederick was inexcusable, and I don't know why Dallas refrained from adding any new pieces to its new 4-3 until the 185th pick. Why was Sharrif Floyd not an option at No. 18? He would have been a force in between DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, and he was a perfect fit as a three-technique in Monte Kiffin's defense.

2013 NFL Draft Individual Grades:

Travis Frederick!?!? The Wisconsin lineman who was considered a third-round prospect? There were other reaches in the first round, but this takes the cake. It seems like the Cowboys panicked with all of the guards flying off the board, which is the worst thing you can ever do in the NFL Draft. It's never been more obvious that Dallas needs a real general manager.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

47. Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego State: D Grade
Jerruh sure loves his third-round prospects. Gavin Escobar belonged in the third frame. Even worse, he doesn't fill a need. The Cowboys have so many defensive issues, especially considering that they're moving into a new 4-3, that it's a big head-scratcher that they haven't addressed their stop unit yet.

74. Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor: B+ Grade
Terrance Williams' stock has fallen over the pre-draft process; he was once considered a first-round possibility. This should probably be the right range for him, so this is a rare quality pick for Dallas, as Miles Austin-Jones won't be around much longer.

80. J.J. Wilcox, S, Georgia Southern: B+ Grade
It's funny that Dallas' third-round picks could be considered better players than the guys they obtained in the first and second rounds. J.J. Wilcox fills a big need at safety and could have easily gone a bit earlier than this.

114. B.W. Webb, CB, William & Mary: B+ Grade
Once again, Dallas' later players are better than their earlier ones. Some viewed B.W. Webb as a late second-round prospect, so this is very good value. The Cowboys had to add a corner, as they had just four of them on the roster.

151. Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State: A- Grade
This is a pretty solid pick. I feel like Joseph Randle should have gone earlier than this. The Cowboys were desperate for a second running back with Felix Jones gone, as DeMarco Murray is too injury-prone.

185. DeVonte Holloman, OLB, South Carolina: B+ Grade
Finally, a front-seven piece for Monte Kiffin's defense. It's not the defensive lineman that Dallas sorely has to acquire, but DeVonte Holloman fills the need for depth. I thought he'd go a bit earlier than this.

Season Summary:
It's always something with the Cowboys. If they're not missing tackles while the other team is trying to ice the game, they're dropping touchdowns. If they're not dropping touchdowns, the coach is icing his own kicker. If the coach isn't icing his own kicker, he's wasting timeouts. If it's none of that, perhaps it's a DeMarco Murray fumble. Or a Dez Bryant finger out of bounds. Or an infield fly rule interception by Tony Romo. The Cowboys always find a way to lose.

Offseason Moves:
  • Eagles sign RB Felix Jones
  • Raiders sign CB Mike Jenkins
  • Cowboys re-sign WR Anthony Armstrong
  • Saints sign DE/DT Kenyon Coleman
  • Saints sign DE/OLB Victor Butler
  • Cowboys sign S Will Allen
  • Cowboys cut WR Anthony Armstrong
  • Cowboys sign OLB Justin Durant
  • Cowboys re-sign OLB Ernie Sims
  • Ravens sign DE/DT Marcus Spears
  • Buccaneers sign WR Kevin Ogletree
  • Cowboys cut DE/DT Marcus Spears
  • Chargers sign TE John Phillips
  • Cowboys cut ILB Dan Connor
  • Cowboys tender S Danny McCray
  • Cowboys franchise DE/OLB Anthony Spencer
  • Cowboys cut S Gerald Sensabaugh
  • Cowboys re-sign C Phil Costa

    Team Needs:
    1. Two Interior Linemen: There's some talk about the Cowboys moving Mackenzy Bernadeau from right guard to center. I have my doubts about that helping at all. Regardless, Dallas needs help at both guard and center. Drafted Travis Frederick; re-signed Phil Costa

    2. Two Linebackers: A strongside linebacker is needed in the new 4-3. Depth also has to be acquired. Signed Justin Durant

    3. Two Safeties: Dallas had major issues at strong safety this past season, and it all started when Barry Church went on injured reserve. Church tore his Achilles, so he may not be 100 percent next year. Meanwhile, Gerald Sensabaugh was inexplicably released in early March. Signed Will Allen; drafted J.J. Wilcox

    4. Defensive End: Anthony Spencer is a free agent, as is Victor Butler. If the Cowboys don't re-sign Spencer, they'll have to find a worthy complement for DeMarcus Ware in their new 4-3. They could still use depth regardless though. Franchised Anthony Spencer

    5. Defensive Tackle: Jay Ratliff could back next year, but he hasn't played well since signing a big contract. Help is needed at defensive tackle.

    6. Right Tackle: Doug Free has been terrible ever since signing a $32 million contract nearly two years ago. Jerry Jones needs to find some competition for him (assuming he's even on the roster).

    7. Quarterback: It seems like yesterday when Tony Romo took over as Dallas' starting quarterback, but he'll be 33 in April. Jerry Jones needs to think about finding a potential successor.

    8. Running Back: Felix Jones is a free agent, so the Cowboys may want to add some depth. Drafted Joseph Randle

    9. Cornerback: Another position where depth should be acquired. Drafted B.W. Webb

    2013 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Justin Durant, OLB, Lions. Age: 27.
      Signed with Cowboys

      Justin Durant has been very solid in run support for the Lions over the past couple of years. He should be limited to two downs though because he's not that good in coverage.

    2. Will Allen, S, Steelers. Age: 31. -- Signed with Cowboys

    Dallas Cowboys Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Anthony Spencer, DE/OLB, Cowboys. Age: 29.
      Re-signed with Cowboys (1 year, $10.6 million)

      Anthony Spencer dealt with consistency issues early in his career, but he was amazing for the Cowboys this past season, both in terms of stopping the run and getting to the quarterback.

    2. Gerald Sensabaugh, S, Cowboys. Age: 30.
      Cutting Gerald Sensabugh saved the Cowboys just $1.4 million in cap space, so this was a strange move. Sensabaugh isn't very good in run support, but he's pretty solid in coverage. He can be a good starter for some team, though he'll have to fight through a very competitive free-agent safety class.

    3. Phil Costa (RFA), C, Cowboys. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Cowboys (2 years)

      Phil Costa is a serviceable starting center, but he's coming off foot surgery and may not be ready for the start of the season.

    4. Victor Butler, DE/OLB, Cowboys. Age: 26.
      Signed with Saints

      Victor Butler has shown some solid pass-rushing ability in his brief action behind DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.

    5. Mike Jenkins, CB, Cowboys. Age: 28.
      Signed with Raiders (1 year)

      Mike Jenkins has talent, but he's a head case who hasn't put it together yet. Maybe some coach can salvage his career.

    6. Dan Connor, ILB, Cowboys. Age: 28.
      Signed with Giants

      Dan Connor has been a disappointment in his pro career thus far, but he's a very good reserve linebacker and an OK spot starter in the middle of a 3-4 defense.

    7. Marcus Spears, DE/DT, Cowboys. Age: 30. -- Signed with Ravens (2 years)
    8. Kenyon Coleman, DE/DT, Cowboys. Age: 34. -- Signed with Saints
    9. Eric Frampton, S, Cowboys. Age: 29.
    10. Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys. Age: 26. -- Signed with Eagles
    11. Kevin Ogletree, WR, Cowboys. Age: 26. -- Signed with Buccaneers
    12. Danny McCray (RFA), S, Cowboys. Age: 25. -- Tendered by Cowboys
    13. John Phillips, TE, Cowboys. Age: 26. -- Signed with Chargers (3 years)
    14. Ernie Sims, OLB, Cowboys. Age: 28. -- Re-signed with Cowboys
    15. Derrick Dockery, G, Cowboys. Age: 33.
    16. Charlie Peprah, S, Cowboys. Age: 30.
    17. Brian Schaefering, DE/DT, Cowboys. Age: 30.
    18. Brian Moorman, P, Cowboys. Age: 37.
    19. Anthony Armstrong, WR, Cowboys. Age: 30. -- Re-signed with Cowboys
    20. Brady Poppinga, ILB, Cowboys. Age: 33.
    21. Michael Coe, CB, Cowboys. Age: 29.

    2013 NFL Free Agent Positions:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades

    Fantasy Football Rankings - July 28

    2016 NFL Mock Draft - July 24

    2015 NFL Mock Draft - July 23

    2015 NBA Mock Draft - July 1

    NFL Free Agents

    NFL Picks - Feb. 2

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