Each Sunday I provide 10 quick hits on the Dallas Cowboys. Which players are the most worthy of contract extensions or new contracts in free agency? What's the truth behind Rolando McClain's absence. And an update on Darren McFadden's off-the-field reality in this edition of First and 10.
1. Earlier this week in Fish Tips our Mike Fisher explored the possibilities of wide receiver Terrance Williams getting an extension. Building on that, here are the five players that, in the next three offseasons, are most worthy of a new contract or an extension, in my opinion:
Zack Martin (2018): Interior linemen aren't always indispensable and I'm not certain that Martin is. But we all saw what happened when he joined the offensive line in 2014. The entire unit certainly took a step forward. The Cowboys have the fifth-round option they can use since Martin is a first-round pick.
Demarcus Lawrence (2018): Lawrence has two more seasons to prove to the Cowboys that he can be one of their lead pass rushers. Right now I probably wouldn't give him an extension. I'd make him prove he can be the guy and then sign him to a new deal. More risk, but he hasn't shown consistency yet.
Barry Church (2017): Besides Byron Jones (who technically isn't a safety just yet), you tell me what other player you trust at safety? I'd try to find a way to keep Church on a team-friendly deal. He's only 28 after all.
Byron Jones (2019): He had an encouraging first season. I think he will greatly benefit from playing just one position. Like Martin, the Cowboys have the advantage of the fifth-year option because he's a first-round pick.
La'el Collins (2018): It may seem redundant to tie up another guard long term, until you remember that Collins can play tackle, too. Doug Free's contract comes up right around that time. You just re-sign Collins and slide him over to the right side.
2. What about Travis Frederick? The Cowboys have been consistent in their love for him and he's one of the best centers in the game. But it's a tough call to spend big money on a center. Of the five offensive line positions, that one is, shall we say, the most expendable? No knock on Frederick. But in the NFL you spend your big money on tackles and, occasionally, guards. I remember covering Tampa Bay when they had money to burn and they invested $37.5 million over six years on Saints center Jeff Faine. He played four years of his deal in Tampa and never made a Pro Bowl. Faine was solid, but he never elevated that offensive line. At that kind of money, you need to elevate your unit. I'm not saying Frederick doesn't or can't, but you have to weight that against players like Zack Martin and La'el Collins, who might have better odds of doing that because they play other positions.
3. We finally have some clarity on Rolando McClain's family issues. Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones expounded on those reasons on Friday on 105.3 The Fan. Basically, McClain has three kids back in Alabama and wants to spend more time with them. Can't fault him for that.
But a couple of things. First, why not just SAY THAT three weeks ago so we could write the story once and stop writing about it? I guess that would defeat the purpose of my job, I suppose. But, second, why not just bring the kids to Dallas during the summer? Sure, school probably ended at the end of May, but McClain could have brought them with him this week and next week for mandatory mini-camp.
So while Jones is telling listeners that they've been cutting McClain some "slack" the past couple of years, head coach Jason Garrett didn't seem all that thrilled about McClain's absence. But if the GM is going to cut the guy some slack, what can you do?
The bigger news? Jones isn't sure if McClain will be here next week for mandatory mini-camp. Forget the fine that will come with that. That's small potatoes compared to whether or not McClain is physically ready for the coming season. No one really knows.
Which makes the competition at middle linebacker between Andrew Gachkar and Mark Nzeocha all the more important — and scary. One of these guys could be your starter, if things fall the wrong way.
4. On the topic of Andrew Gachkar, he's been a starter before, though, admittedly, not full-time. His best season came in 2014 when he managed 38 tackles and a sack for the San Diego Chargers. He started five games that year and his best game was against Denver late in that season when he put together six tackles and two assists. It should be noted that he was playing left inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme with the Chargers.
At 6-foot-2, 224 pounds, he's a big undersized to man the middle, even in a scheme like defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's where he likes the linebackers quick and mobile.
Mark Nzeocha, of course, doesn't have a single NFL tackle because he was on injured reserve last year.
Perhaps that's why Rolando McClain is getting some "slack" — until Jaylon Smith his healthy next season.
5. It's another week of great OTA news from CowboysHQ.com. This week we have a premium Q&A with Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant, who received good news on his foot examination and talked about a range of topics that Cowboys fans will want to know about entering mandatory mini-camp next week. You may have heard the quote, "We're gonna be damn good." Here, Bryant expounds on why. And don't miss our mini-camp preview coming up shortly from Mark Lane.
So this is a premium story at CowboysHQ.com and I'll tell you why it's a great idea to get a premium subscription. It's $5.99 a month. That's less than a tall coffee at Starbuck's (or Venti. I don’t drink coffee and I don't know how their sizes work). Skip one cup of coffee and get everything you need to be a Cowboys fans. And here's what they sometimes don't tell you — a premium subscription to CowboysHQ.com gets on access to premium content for every team in the Scout.com Network. So if you're a TCU fan and a Dallas Cowboys fan, it's an easy decision. Get one today. It keeps us out of trouble.
6. Cowboys running back Darren McFadden is suing his former business manager for $15 million. Sadly this story has two humorous elements. First, the business manager in question is a man named Michael Vick (not THAT Michael Vick). Second, McFadden caught Vick red-handed when Vick tried to sell McFadden a property purchased with McFadden's money, according to an ESPN report.
Hopefully McFadden can get some of his money back. Vince Young sure wasn't able to.
7. Meanwhile, I spent a few minutes with Wess Moore and Fox Sports Arkansas earlier this week to talk about the final week of OTAs. We previewed mini-camp, talked about Dez Bryant and got everyone in Jerry Jones' home state caught up on the Cowboys.
Plus, our Mark Lane joined the guys at The Buzz in Tulsa (94.1 FM) to talk about OTAs as well.
8. It's our Tweet of the Week:
I'm all for chasing dreams. But given that no one has bitten on signing Wallace, it might be time to try alternatives. No, not McDonald's. The Canadian Football League. The CFL needs linebackers just like the NFL does.
9. This week's Great Moments in Headline Porn? "Ex-Cowboys coach Wade Phillips' wardrobe, lack of any dance skills put on blast during roast in his honor" from sportsday.dallasnews.com.
Check out the embedded videos. They're awesome. I've always liked Phillips. Great assistant coach, perhaps one of the best we've ever seen.
10. Farewell to Terrence Mitchell. I think it may be for good this time. The Cowboys released their former seventh-round pick on Friday. Frankly, I liked this guy when the Cowboys drafted him two years ago. But perhaps our Mark Lane put it best after Mitchell's release: