The on the field headlines out of Cowboys camp have centered Jason Wittens spleen, Miles Austins hamstring and Dez Bryants ankle. No doubt those receivers are incredibly important to what Dallas is hoping to do offensively this year, but theconcern focused their way has perhaps taken awayattention from the real issue: those big guys up front.Last week after Dallas faced Oakland in the preseason, the Cowboys blog Blue Star crafted a headline, Offensive line is as bad as advertised. Ouch. Outside of stud left tackle Tyron Smith, little is settled or at least not steady among Tony Romos blockers. For starters, the injuries extend beyond those well-known skill players. Starting guard and ex-Bengal Nate Livings, signed as a free agent this offseason, is just now back from a hamstring injury while center Phil Costa (back) is expected to miss his third straight preseason game. As for the tackles, Smith and Doug Free, Blue Star wrote this:Doug Free didn't look any better at right tackle than he did when he was on the other side of the line last season. Tyron Smith was the only starter who doesn't need to step up his game, although we're starting to wonder if he's as good as he looks or if he's just the prettiest belle at a ball full of uglier options. Double ouch. Smith and Free flopped sides of the line this offseason.The Cowboys wont be able to ease into the regular season as they face the pass-rushing New York Giants in the season opener.Witten, who suffered a lacerated spleen during a preseason game, is said to be improving, but his status for the start of the regular season remains uncertain. There is a sense season-ending surgery is not in the forecast for the rugged tight end, who has not missed a regular season game since 2003.Owner Jerry Jones has stated he expects Austin back for the Giants game, but not before. Austin missed preseason games and six regular season games last season due to multiple hamstring injuries so the bubble wrap plan is in effect.Speaking of injuries, the Cowboys SBNation blog, appropriately called Blogging the Boys, notes only of the Cowboy rookies has avoided missing practice due to injury this training camp. First-round pickMorris Claiborne is projected as the starting corner opposite Brandon Carr while nickelback Mike Jenkins remains sidelined. Following Laurent Robinsons departure this offseason, the Cowboys had serious question marks at receiver beyond Austin and Bryant. The stunner is that Cole Beasley, a 5-foot-8, undrafted rookie appears poised to fill the void. One thing the Redskins and Cowboys might have in common this year: unearthing finds out of the SMU football program. While cornerback and returner Richard Crawford has turned heads in Ashburn, Cole Beasley has done the same in Cowboys camp, rising from deep reserve to starting slot receiver.
Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 24, 18 days before NFL free agency starts.
I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.
The five highest-paid Redskins in 2018
Originally published 1/12/18
This is how the five highest-paid Redskins per their 2018 salary cap numbers stack up as of now. The list could change, of course during free agency and if a particular quarterback returns. Cap numbers via Over the Cap.
CB Josh Norman, $17 million—The Redskins do have a window which would allow them to move on from Norman. His $13.5 million salary for this year doesn’t become guaranteed until the fifth day of the league year so it would be “only” a $9 million cap charge to move on from Norman, who turned 30 in December. Don’t look for that to happen but the possibility is there.
OT Trent Williams, $13.86 million—He is one of the best left tackles in the business. Those of you out there who have advocated moving him to left guard should look at this cap number, which is way out of line for what a team can afford to pay a guard. At his pay, he needs to be playing on the edge.
OLB Ryan Kerrigan, $12.45 million—He has delivered double-digit sacks in each of the two seasons that his contract extension has been in effect. That’s good value in a league that values the ability to get to the quarterback.
TE Jordan Reed, $10.14 million—The Redskins knew that he might have a year like last year when he played in only six games when they agreed to Reed’s five-year, $50 million extension. They can live with one such season. If he has another one in 2018 they may rethink things.
G Brandon Scherff, $6.75 million—The fact that a rookie contract is No. 5 on this list is a good sign that, as of now, the Redskins’ cap is not top heavy like it was last year. The top three cap hits from Norman, Williams, and Kirk Cousins totaled $59 million, which was about 35 percent of the cap. This year the total cap numbers of the top three come to $43.3 million, 24.3 percent of the estimated $178 million salary cap.
Next five: OT Morgan Moses ($5.4 million), TE Vernon Davis ($5.33 million), DL Stacy McGee ($4.8 million), DL Terrell McClain ($4.75 million), S D.J. Swearinger ($4.33 million)
—NFL Combine (3/1) 5
—NFL Draft (4/26) 61
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 197
A 2017 midseason trade for Martavis Bryant made no sense for the Redskins. A 2018 offseason trade for Martavis Bryant, however, might make sense for the Redskins.
Bryant is on the trade block, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, and will be an intriguing prospect for receiver-needy teams across the NFL. In parts of three seasons with the Steelers, Bryant has 17 touchdowns and a 15.2 yards-per-reception average.
A big play threat from any place on the field, Bryant would immediately make the Redskins receiving unit more athletic and explosive.
It's not all good news with Bryant, though.
He was suspended for the entire 2016 season after repeated drug violations and caused some distraction for Pittsburgh during the 2017 season when he asked for a trade via social media.
Is the talent enough to overcome the off-field distractions? Many would say it is.
Last year, in just eight starts, Bryant grabbed 50 catches for more than 600 yards and three TDs. In their lone playoff loss to the Jaguars, Bryant caught two passes for 78 yards and a TD.
Remember, too, the Steelers have an explosive offense, and Bryant is coupled with Antonio Brown on the receiver front along with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback and Le'Veon Bell at running back. The Pittsburgh offense is loaded.
Washington's offense is not nearly the prolific unit that the Steelers send out, but Jay Gruden does design a good offense.
The real question surrounding any talk of trading for Bryant is the cost.
The Redskins are not in a position to send away any more draft picks this offseason after giving up a third-round pick, in addition to Kendall Fuller, to acquire Alex Smith. Bruce Allen and the Redskins front office need to improve their team in plenty of spots, and the team's draft picks are quite valuable.
Bryant only has one year remaining on his rookie deal, and it's hard to balance that sort of short-term investment with the value of adding a rookie committed to the team for at least four years. Perhaps a late-round pick would make sense, but it would need to be a sixth-rounder.
This could be one of those rare situations in the NFL where a player for player swap could work, though pulling that type of maneuver requires a lot of moving parts.
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