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MEET 'THE PERFECTIONIST': There is no denying that Dallas Cowboys rookie wide receiver Devin Street faces a learning curve here as his first NFL training camp approaches. But he's already learned one thing.
"This is going to be a great offense, an explosive offense." Street tells us. "Only time will tell, but I really think there are great things in store."
One of the reasons many are excited about this offense is Street's fellow wide receiver, Dez Bryant. Dez, who has become one of the most exiting receivers in the league, is now the longest-tenured veteran in the WR room. When you become the veteran of the group, you are expected to take on more leadership. Dez has seemingly welcomed that new role, and has already made an impression on Street.
"Dez is one of those guys that always helps others," said the 6-4, 190-pound Street, Dallas' fifth-round pick. "He's been through this process and helps me get through it, too. He doesn't say, 'oh, you're a rookie' or anything like that. He's really embraced me and I've learned a lot from him."
There are other weapons here, too, of course. (A must-read: KD Drummond' breakdown of "Fourth Fiddle'' candidates.)
But this isn't just a talent business. It's also a relationship business. While Street is starting to get to know some of his teammates, he is looking forward to seeing friendships start to develop in the future.
"I feel like those relationships will be built over time," Street said, "but I see how the veterans interact with each other. They go out to dinner and stuff. As a rookie, I have to earn that."
Being a rookie in the NFL can certainly be overwhelming. The players are bigger, stronger and faster than ever before. The practices and games are more intense. The NFL is a different kind of monster than what these young guys are used to. Still, in his short time in the pros, Street can already notice a difference in the way he's playing.
"I think I've improved," Street said. "I feel like I still have a lot to learn. It's a different atmosphere than in college. I just want to go about all of the little things the right way. Whether it's a mental rep or physical, I'm just trying to get better every day, every rep."
One player who has played a big part in Street's so-far development is his quarterback, Tony Romo. Street told us that he and Tony (even while the QB is rehabbing) have spent substantial time during practice going over plays and routes. He says that Dez and Romo have aided him more than anyone.
What does Devin say to those who say Tony Romo lacks leadership qualities?
"The fans are entitled to their own opinions,'' Devon said, laughing. "All I know is that they're not in the locker room or in practice. He's definitely a leader. He commands respect from the other guys. I've been around great leaders, and he's one of the greatest I've ever seen. He's the No. 1 leader in that locker room. Some people are quick to judge, but you just don't know (Romo) until you're around him."
Another hoped-for plus: the hiring of Scott Linehan as the new offensive play-caller. Linehan has a history of moving players around and utilizing the strengths of each individual guy. This has been the case for Street, who has spent this offseason lining up in the slot, as well as out wide.
"I feel like I can be productive inside and outside," Street said. "I think I'm getting a great feel for what they expect from me. Going through practice, it's pretty similar to the offense I came from. I'm used to running these same routes I ran in college. There's nothing really new. It's just about getting it down and being a technician, being a perfectionist."
"Perfection'' is a ways away. But "explosion''? Devin Street might help Dallas realize that goal very, very soon.
ORTON OUT: The offseason-long saga about a backup quarterback with a questionable skillset comes to an end with the word that the Dallas Cowboys are releasing quarterback Kyle Orton from his contract. The team is set to report for training camp in just seven days, and apparently have decided that the game of chicken had exhausted its entertainment value.
KD Drummond's financial breakdown: The move actually saves the Cowboys space against the 2014 cap and brings their available money to over $11 million. Dallas is already in negotiations with WR Dez Bryant and LT Tyron Smith about extensions to their rookie deals.
Orton started exactly one game in his Cowboys career, and was paid quite handsomely for it. Dallas signed the former Bear, Bronco and Chief to a three-year, $10.5 million contract prior to the 2012 season to be the “starter-quality” backup to Tony Romo. He had performed mop-up duty in a three games prior to last season’s NFC East Championship game that the team lost to the Philadelphia Eagles. Dallas was down by two with the ball when Orton threw behind Miles Austin for an interception.
After the season was over, Orton apparently told the team that he was contemplating retirement. Whether or not the team believed Orton or considered it a move to gain his freedom, a la Jay Ratliff’s injury situation, is uncertain. However, the Cowboys seemed to be highly interested in a clause in the CBA that allows teams to recoup money given to a player for salary cap purposes.
Orton’s 2012 deal was structured as follows: $5 million signing bonus, $900,000 base salary in 2012, $1.35 million base salary in 2013 and $3.25 million base salary for 2014. Prior to the 2013 season, Orton’s deal was restructured to create cap space like so many other Dallas contracts. That converted $510,000 of his 2013 base salary into signing bonus.
The reason for that is simple. For accounting purposes, signing bonuses can be spread evenly over the remaining years of a contract, up to a maximum of five years. So while Orton was paid $5.9m during the 2012 season, his cap hit was actually only $2.57m at the time. When the team moved some of his base salary to bonus in 2013, they employed a method of spreading the signing bonus out even more, called voidable years. Dallas added two years, 2015 and 2016 to Orton’s deal; years that didn’t really exist because a clause was written in the contract that he wouldn’t actually play for the team in those seasons.
What that move does is allow the original bonus to now be allocated over five years ($5 million over 5 years = $1 million hit per year). Also, the new bonus of $510,000 would be spread over the remaining four years (2013-2016) evenly, at a cost at $127,500 per season.
All that adds up to the Cowboys, due to the CBA clause mentioned earlier, to be entitled to demand repayment of the bonus money allocated to years 2014, 2015 and 2016. That would be $1,127,500 x 3, or $3,382,500.
That’s where the game of chicken comes into play. Dallas would love to recoup the cash from the transaction if Orton had officially retired. However, they were in a position of little leverage considering the probably couldn’t have kept him on an active roster to wait him out. They could have gone through training camp and it’s expanded rosters, but would they have cut “Mr. 53” to force Orton’s hand?
So in the end, they have released Orton. If he had played, Orton would have counted $4.3775m against the 2014 cap. With his release, there is no base salary to pay, so only his prorated signing bonuses count against the cap. With a cap hit of $1.1275m, the move actually gives Dallas $3.25 million of more space. However, the remaining unamortized bonus that was to be charged to 2015 and 2016 ($1.1275m respectively) now hits the 2015 cap as “dead money”, totaling $2.255m.
If Orton had retired, Dallas would have gained $4.3775 million of 2014 space, and had no future dead money. But CowboysHQ spoke to Cowboys COO Stephen Jones immediately following the initial ESPN report, heard him use the word "cut," and notes that Stephen didn't seem very happy about it.
It will be interesting to see how the Cowboys classify Orton's release, and if they do it in a way to prevent his signing with another club; something they seemed to be concerned with. It’s a strange day when the biggest offseason “controversy” around the Dallas Cowboys circles around their backup quarterback, but now that drama is over. Brandon Weeden is the undisputed backup for Tony Romo and his yet-to-be-tested surgically repaired back.
WELCOME TO 'THE RIDE': If you are a Dallas Cowboys fan and are new to CowboysHQ, welcome! Best way for us to get acquainted? Come ride shotgun with Troy Aikman and me for "The Ride'' ...
SPEAKING OF LINEHAN: Our Camp Cowboys offensive preview is here: "Adept and Adapt.'' You'll enjoy this.
RANKING THE ROSTER: Our man KD Drummond did a heck of a job but it doesn't sound like he enjoyed it all that much.
To wit, KD writes:
It must be said, putting together this initial list has been a bit disheartening. I'm normally an extremely optimistic person when it comes to this team. I think it's imperative that when things are up in the air, you lean towards a positive outcome and I'll continue to do so. This team has so many question marks surrounding it though, it's difficult to project enough of them going right to achieve success. Success is now defined as simply reaching the playoffs for the Dallas Cowboys. Let that sink in for a minute.
Looking back on my projected Top 6 from last year lets one know immediately what has changed. The top defenders on my list from August 22nd, 2013? DeMarcus Ware (1st), Sean Lee (5), and Jason Hatcher (6). All gone. Anthony Spencer was seventh. Yikes.
Who are the best players on the Cowboys roster? What will the makeup of the season-starting roster be? You'll enjoy KD's work here ... maybe even more than he did.
ONSIDE KICKS: Funny stuff: Cowboys players read "Mean Tweets." ... We've got Cowboys Camp Roster Battles Part 1 here ... and Cowboys Camp Roster Battles Part 2 here ... ... So FOX employed Pam Oliver for 19 years as a highly-compensated top-of-the-heap reporter but having demoted her to the second team this week NOW they're racist? Gotcha.
KEEP IT HERE!: More Cowboys thrills and chills throughout the coming days. Keep it here on CowboysHQ as we will keep you posted in a variety of ways from inside Valley Ranch and in a few days Fish live from Oxnard! ... Here on the HOME page, here on CowboysHQ Discussion Boards, and on Twitter, where we encourage you to follow Mike Fisher, KD Drummond, Mark Lane and Jordan Ross along with our 105.3 The Fan colleague Bryan Broaddus.
Oh, and this hear "Fish on The Fan'' with throughout the day on THE Cowboys Station, 105.3 The Fan. ... and 7-to-11 p.m. hosting all this week!
THE FINAL WORD: It's getting lots of acclaim from Cowboys fans: Mark Lane's "Top 10 Cowboys Management Gaffes ... and you will be stunned to learn the history-laden story has nothing to do with anybody named "Jones.''