Cowboys Breaking: Plan To Sign Greg Hardy
CowboysHQ.com's Mike Fisher broke the story on Tuesday of Dallas' interest in Greg Hardy live on 105.3 The Fan. It's 24 hours later and let's do it again: Pro Bowl DE Greg Hardy is en route to Valley Ranch, with COO Stephen Jones saying openly that the Cowboys intend on signing him.
This would be a second-tier get, as the top players in free agency have signed. (And of course Hardy has the right to engage Seattle and whomever else in talks/visits, though Stephen Jones' intends to never let him leave Valley Ranch.) There's a reason, however, that Hardy remains available: those off-field red flags that includes a judge-ruled conviction for domestic battery.
Is this pursuit "morally right''? Each fan can judge for himself, and we won't argue. For the Cowboys, there is a "pain tolerance'' that comes depending on talent and price, and there is a belief in a Valley Ranch system that aids troubled players. There is also, as Fish has pointed out, Jerry Jones' lifelong belief in second chances as part of the "American Way.''
This is, frankly, especially so if the Dallas Cowboys' chances for contention are aided by someone with Hardy's football credentials.
The 26 combined sacks he recorded over the 2012-13 seasons ... The powerful, coordinated athlete at 6-4, 275 pounds who proved one of the elite players in the SEC during an injury-plagued career at Mississippi and who is yet to turn 27 ... The way to get him as affordably as once was the case when he slipped to the sixth round because of several factors to the Carolina Panthers, who no longer want his services even though he was the team's franchise-tagged player last year making $13 mil.
He didn't earn that money, of course, playing just one game before being shut down by the commissioner. (Our KD Drummond wonders if Dallas can construct a "Not Likely To Be Earned'' contract that is team-friendly.) Peter King reported that there is a "good chance" Hardy will be suspended for the first six games of the 2015 season for the initial conviction but CowboysHQ.com sources are told some close to Hardy's situation think this can be a four-game suspension. In either event, Dallas' contract offer will reflect those missed games.
We'll never know if agent Drew Rosenhaus was telling the truth about six clubs having expressed interest. But we are in Day 2 of knowing the truth about Dallas' interest in Greg Hardy.
The 2014 season ended in heartbreak for the Dallas Cowboys. On 4th down, Tony Romo threw deep to Dez Bryant, who was in 1-on-1 coverage. Dez acrobatically jumped in the air and snagged the ball before falling and reaching for the goal line. However, as you all know, the play was reversed and the Packers got the ball back. However, that's not how the game ended. The Cowboys defense had an opportunity to force a three-and-out and get the ball back to their offense. With two minutes remaining, Aaron Rodgers dropped back to throw on 3rd-and-11. Right as the ball left his hand, Cowboys DT Tyrone Crawford jumped up and got his hand on it. For a moment it looked like Tony Romo and Dez Bryant would get another chance to win this thing, but alas, the ball fell right into the arms of Randall Cobb for a 12-yard gain and a new set of downs.
"I thought I disrupted the pass when I hit it," Crawford told CowboysHQ in an exclusive interview. "I didn't think it was catchable, so I was shocked when I turned around and saw that he had it. It was upsetting but I had to move on."
The Cowboys had high hopes for Tyrone Crawford in 2013. Those hopes came crumbling down when Crawford tore his Achilles on the first day of Training Camp in Oxnard. However, after a year of rehab and hard work, Crawford built those expectations back up for the 2014 season - and this time he was able to live up to them. .. so much so that he is this year's winner of The Ed Block Courage Award.
Although he was finally healthy, the team wasn't sure where to play Tyrone at first. He saw snaps at defensive end and defensive tackle during OTA's and into training camp. At one point he even told me that he preferred to play at defensive end since that was his position in college and he thought he could be more effective there. Well, the coaches had a different opinion. In Week 4, the coaches permanently switched Crawford to the 3-tech DT spot, eventually taking over the starting job. Now, he says that defensive tackle is by far his favorite position.
"My feelings have changed completely," Crawford said. "I feel more comfortable now. I realized that I can get off the ball quicker and play my type of game better at the 3-tech."
Crawford finished the season with 29 QB hurries, 12 QB hits, 4 sacks, 3 pass breakups and a forced fumble. Crawford was also a millisecond away from recording about 3 or 4 more sacks as well. It was clear that this former defensive end had found a home after having a breakout year at his new position - but that's not to say there isn't still room to improve.
"The fact that I had my best year in the NFL definitely boosted my confidence," Crawford said. "I showed myself that I can play in this league and make an impact. I need to improve on a lot of things though. I've been watching guys like Warren Sapp and Jason Hatcher from 2013. I want to feel even more comfortable at this position."
While Tyrone saw major improvements in 2014 personally, so did the rest of the defensive unit as a whole. In 2013, the Cowboys defense was ranked 32nd in yards allowed. In 2014, they moved up to the 19th-ranked group. It's still not great, but it was enough to help make the difference between eight wins and 12 wins and earn this team a trip to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Still, if this team wants to get even further, the defense must make another jump in 2015.
"We just have to continue doing what we're doing,'' Tyrone said. "Marinelli has us on the right track to become a great defense. Another year under him and in his system will make us better and better."
Rod Marinelli signed a three-year contract extension after the season, which will certainly help. Continuity is always a good thing in sports. However, the continued presence of Rod Marinelli isn't the only reason that Crawford thinks the defense will improve. Tyrone mentioned a couple of his teammates that could play a big part in the defense taking the next step as well.. The first of which was Sean Lee.
"It's going to be huge for us to get Sean Lee back," Tyrone said. "Sean's the quarterback of our defense. He knows everything about the system. He knows plays before they're coming. That's going to help us a lot."
Crawford's other teammate he mentioned was rookie DE Demarcus Lawrence. Lawrence came into his own during the Cowboys playoff run, with 2 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries and a forced fumble vs the Lions and Packers.
"I'm not gonna put a ceiling on Demarcus,'' Crawford said. "He can be as great as he wants to be. He knows what he wants and if he just keeps working at it, he'll get there."
I attended a draft party with Crawford and some of his teammates last year. As we all waited to see who the Cowboys would pick in the first round, Crawford couldn't say enough about fellow Boise State alum, Demarcus Lawrence. He wanted so badly for the Cowboys to take Lawrence with their 1st round pick. Instead, the Cowboys selected OG Zack Martin (who was a Pro Bowler and All Pro in his rookie year). However, the Cowboys apparently shared Crawford's admiration of the talented pass rusher and they traded up in the 2nd round to grab him the next day. Now, there's another Boise State Bronco that Crawford says his team should keep an eye on. ...
"We've got our running back Jay Ajayi coming out,'' he said. "There are a some other guys that are good, but Ajayi is the one that comes to mind right away."
Crawford told me there have been no talks about extending his deal yet, which expires after the 2015 season. Rather, his focus is team-building.
"We've just got to improve on what we've been building," Crawford said. "We've set up a good thing. The way the Jones family is building this team - I feel like we've just gotta keep going and stick to the plan."
So much of this offseason hinges on Dez and the Cowboys coming together. What could Dallas do here, sensibly?
Both sides are certainly happy to get to the football business of Bryant's "Cowboys For Life'' deal ... and here's what such a deal can look like.
You consider yourself a Cowboys draftnik? Please read "The Cowboys' Six Tells and Tendencies in the Draft.'' ...
Cowboys goodies today presented by the gang at Red Rock Bar & Grill, our North Dallas hangout for sports and live music.
Let's meet at Red Rock this week!
Why Andrew Gachkar? Well, why not? After losing special teams ace Dwayne Harris to the New York Giants, the Cowboys needed to fill the void left at special teams while also stocking the shelves at linebacker.
Gachkar racked up 14 special-teams tackles in 2014, tied for the 14th-most in the league. It's what he did for Rich Bisaccia in 2011 when the Chargers drafted Gachkar in the seventh and head coach Norv Turner played him all 16 games. The only other Charger who had more special teams tackles than Gachkar's 12 in '11 was future Cowboy C.J. Spillman with 18.
"Rich kind of drafted me and bring me into the NFL," Gachkar told CowboysHQ.
Was it really Bisaccia who wanted Gachkar in Dallas, or did his former college defensive coordinator, Matt Eberflus, want the Overland Park Blue Valley star to come to Valley Ranch?
"Honestly, equally, they're very important people in my decision coming to Dallas," Gachkar said. "Eberflus brought me up and is kind of like a dad to me. Coach Eberflus, he was with me at Mizzou, and I love the way he coaches and his intensity and everything like that."
Dallas can certainly use his services at linebacker with the departure of Justin Durant to the Falcons, Bruce Carter to the Buccaneers, and the uncertainty of Rolando McClain. Gachkar started five out of 15 games last season with the Chargers, recording a sack and also returning a fumble recovery for a 13-yard touchdown.
For the past four pro seasons, Gachkar has played in the 3-4 defense. Can he get back to his old college-day familiarity with the 4-3 under Eberflus?
Said Gachkar: "Learning to play a 4-3 again, it's a task, but I don't think it'll be too hard. I spent four years in college. We played the 4-3, and coming to the NFL to play in the 3-4 was an adjustment itself."
Poor Andrew had to wait three hours on the tarmac at Logan International in Boston waiting for his flight to take off due to the snow blasting the Northeast. However, the excitement of coming to Big D sustained him.
"I was excited to get here, and I was texting my wife the whole time on the plane," Gachkar said. "Talking about the excitement of being in Dallas where she's from. So, it's awesome."
*How the Cowboys will cash in on compensatory picks for this spring's losses. Great work by KD here.
*The Cowboys didn't tender cornerback Sterling Moore. They have claimed cornerback Corey White off waivers from New Orleans, where he started nine games in 2014 before losing his first-team job and ending up playing some safety. Do you like Moore better than White? Or does it matter that the Marinellis and the McClays like White better than Moore?
*Here's the "why'' of Dallas' signing of Darren McFadden. ... to a deal that includes a 2015 salary of what we're told is just $900,000. Heads-up here: What if McFadden isn't meant as DeMarco's replacement, but rather the replacement for any backup runner who happens to put his fist through a windshield? Dallas has also signed middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley and fullbacks Jed Collins and Ray Agnew. Brinkley might end up starting at MIKE depending on how the McClain talks go.
*And speaking of running backs: There is simply no logic to Dallas being "out'' on an Adrian Peterson deal until their "out.'' The guaranteed-money demands, the trade demands, the other bidders ... factors all. But why would a runner back out of a race -- no matter how unlikely a win -- before the race even begins? We detail some truths about AD and Dallas here.
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