NFC East: Dallas Cowboys

Defensive end Lavar Edwards, a fifth-round pick of the Tennessee Titans last season, is happy to be with the Dallas Cowboys because he believes he’ll fit better in the Cowboys’ 4-3 scheme than the Titans' 3-4 defense.

The 6-foot-4, 277-pound Edwards had nine tackles in seven games as a rookie. The Cowboys acquired him on Saturday for a conditional 2015 seventh-round pick.

“I think I’m a little better fit in the 4-3,” Edwards said. “I was the only defensive end they kept on the line last year. They moved all the others to outside linebacker. I had no idea I was going to get traded, but it’s good to be employed. That’s the most important thing.”

Coach Jason Garrett said the Cowboys view Edwards as a left defensive end, which means he’ll usually line up against tight ends and tackles and will need to be strong against the run.

He'll join George Selvie, Tyrone Crawford and Jeremy Mincey as part of the Cowboys' defensive end rotation.

“He was a guy we really liked coming out of school,” Garrett said. “We feel like he can be part of our rotation -- a big strong guy who plays with really good effort.”
IRVING, Texas -- There are parts of his job that twice-retired middle linebacker Rolando McClain readily admits he does not enjoy.

For example, he could definitely do without dealing with the media, as McClain said as politely as possible as a swarm of reporters surrounded him Monday, six days before his debut with the Dallas Cowboys.

McClain
McClain at least sees the value in training camp, especially after a 20-month layoff from football. That doesn’t mean he liked it, especially as his body got used to the grind again after his long break from the game.

"If I lied and said I did enjoy camp, then you shouldn’t ask me any more questions," McClain said, laughing.

The real fun starts soon for McClain, who will likely start at middle linebacker for a Dallas defense desperate for playmakers.

McClain cut off questions about Sunday’s season opener against the San Francisco 49ers. He is adamant that he has to simply focus on the next practice, a fair point for a guy who has had problems staying on the practice field this summer. But he is clearly anxious for his first regular-season action since November 2012.

This is the kind of opportunity that makes the work worth it.

"I still love the game like I’m an 8-, 9-year old kid," McClain said. "It’s just about getting back into it, building chemistry with some of these guys, some trust, and just playing and having fun really."

The 25-year-old McClain’s passion for the game can certainly be questioned after he gave it up twice after being selected with the eighth overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Oakland Raiders, but he insisted that was never his problem. He had to learn how to be a professional, which required a lot of growing up for a guy whose rocky road has included three arrests.

Over the past year, McClain has cut ties with a lot of his friends and family from his Alabama hometown, attempting to eliminate the bad influences from his life. He has made his two sons his priority and made his faith his foundation.

McClain doesn’t want to be the same guy who came into the league with such high expectations after being an All-American at Alabama. That guy failed in football and life.

"I’m just an overall better man," McClain said. "That makes me a better football player, a better boyfriend, a better father. You’ve got to start with the base, man, get yourself right and then fill in the blanks from there. That’s what I had to do."

The Cowboys acquired McClain’s rights in a minimum-risk deal with the Baltimore Ravens because they had a massive void at middle linebacker after Sean Lee's injury. After consulting with Alabama coach Nick Saban, head coach Jason Garrett and the Dallas decision-makers determined that it was worth taking a chance on McClain.

Given the low risk and Saban’s recommendation, the Cowboys could deal with McClain’s character red flags. Of course, that is the case only because of his rare talent.

The Cowboys really need McClain to live up to his potential to have any realistic hope of fielding a respectable defense.

"If you live up or care about somebody’s expectations, you’ll always let them down," McClain said. "So you set your own expectations.

"What are my expectations? I don’t have to reveal them."

McClain punctuated the thought with a laugh. At least football is fun for him again as the regular season approaches.

Dallas Cowboys waive Ahmad Dixon

September, 1, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- In order to make room for veteran safety C.J. Spillman on the 53-man roster, the Dallas Cowboys have waived Ahmad Dixon.

Dixon had an eventful summer, leading the Cowboys with 12 tackles in their preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers, showing up late to a walk-through that left him benched for the second preseason game and earning a $22,050 fine for hitting a defenseless receiver in the third preseason game.

If Dixon clears waivers, he could be brought back to the practice squad.

At the time Dixon was drafted, the Cowboys hoped he would develop into a special teams' ace, but they opted to keep Jemea Thomas, who was claimed off waivers from the New England Patriots last week, and go with Spillman, who led the San Francisco 49ers with 19 special teams' stops in 2013.

Dixon was one of the Cowboys' five seventh-round picks and the third to be cut, joining Will Smith and Terrance Mitchell. Ben Gardner is on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. The only seventh-rounder currently on the 53-man roster is defensive tackle Ken Bishop.

Five wonders: All about the roster

August, 31, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Five Wonders is usually a Tuesday staple during the regular season, but after Saturday's final cuts we decided to break it out on Sunday.
  1. For the first time since 2011 with Stephen McGee the Cowboys have kept three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster with Dustin Vaughan joining Tony Romo and Brandon Weeden. I wonder if the Cowboys did not want to risk losing Vaughan at the final cuts and might look to cut him in the next day or two after the opposing teams settle their roster. It would be a way to sneak him through waivers and onto the practice squad. It might be a reach and nobody truly can “sneak” a player through waivers these days, but I believe teams are reluctant to add young quarterbacks to the roster in which they have no previous relationship. Vaughan really progressed since signing in May. He was erratic in the spring but started to come on in camp and in the preseason. Will he ever be a starter? I wouldn't go that far, but he has enough tools to make him worth developing. He has a big arm and he showed some surprising mobility.
  2. Last week Jerry Jones said there would be no additions to the Ring of Honor this year, but that could be subject to change. I wonder if he will put Ryan Williams in there after the 112 yards he put up on the ground in three preseason games. I kid, I kid. But the Cowboys' decision to cut Williams was panned by a lot of people. I had one guy tell me Williams was the Cowboys' best runner, and I wonder if I needed to introduce him to DeMarco Murray. Williams had a good summer. He ran hard. He showed some good vision against the Baltimore Ravens and the Miami Dolphins. But there is more to being a backup running back than just running the ball. The fourth tailback has to play special teams. Williams was only OK and certainly not as good as Joseph Randle, who is the third tailback. When it was ones against ones in the first preseason game, Randle did a nice job and enough to show the Cowboys he was worth keeping but he would have been inactive every week. If Williams clears waivers, which is a distinct possibility because of his injury history and lack of production with the Arizona Cardinals, then he could be brought back to the practice squad and signed to the active roster at any point.
  3. On Tuesday I expect the Cowboys to put rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence on injured reserve with a designation to return. Lawrence can't go on that list sooner than Tuesday. I wonder if the Cowboys look to bring back Kenneth Boatright or Dartwan Bush to the active roster. Boatright and Bush were among the final cuts and also practice-squad eligible. To me, I would put Boatright on the active roster because he has more pass rush. Even with the addition of Lavar Edwards, I don't see enough natural pass-rushers on this roster.
  4. If you're wondering about whether the Cowboys will add veteran players after these cuts, I think you should stop. Maybe Kevin Vickerson of the Denver Broncos would make sense. He was hard for the Cowboys to block in the last preseason game. But I had people ask via Twitter if the Cowboys would go after Champ Bailey. Well, if it was the Bailey everybody remembered, I would say yes, but that guy never would have been available. But here's the big reason as to why I don't think they'll go after many (or any) vested veterans: if they are on the roster the first week of the regular season, they are guaranteed their base salary for the rest of the season. I believe that played a part in the departure of veteran guard Uche Nwaneri at the final cuts.
  5. I wonder who the 53rd player on the roster is right now. Could it be tackles Darrion Weems or John Wetzel. I wonder if Wetzel played better in the Broncos game that it would have spelled the end for Weems, who hurt his shoulder the first week of camp. I wonder if it is safety Jemea Thomas, who has yet to have a full practice with the club after getting picked up off waivers from the New England Patriots. I wonder if it is linebacker Cameron Lawrence, who figures to be a key special teamer, or fullback Tyler Clutts. The bottom of this roster should not exhale for quite some time. The Cowboys will be rolling through players over the next few days, weeks and months.
IRVING, Texas -- As expected, defensive end Anthony Spencer is on the Dallas Cowboys' active roster.

Spencer
The Cowboys had to remove Spencer from the active/physically unable to perform list to add him to the 53-man roster. He will not play in the Sept. 7 regular-season opener against the San Francisco 49ers, but if he was kept on reserve/PUP, he would have missed the first six games of the season.

On Friday, coach Jason Garrett said he was not sure when Spencer would be able to practice. Spencer, who will play right defensive end, had microfracture surgery on his left knee last fall and has gone through a painstaking rehab process. In the last few weeks, the Cowboys have said Spencer is ahead of schedule on his comeback.

The Cowboys also have rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence on the active roster despite a broken foot. He is likely to be placed on injured reserve with a designation to return. He needs to be on the 53-man roster through Tuesday in order to be placed on the short-term IR. With this designation, he would miss the first eight games of the season but be eligible to practice starting in Week 6.

Dallas Cowboys cut-down analysis

August, 30, 2014
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Most significant move: It’s not so much who the Dallas Cowboys cut, but who they kept. For the first time since 2011, the Cowboys will keep three quarterbacks. In 2011 they had Tony Romo, Jon Kitna and Stephen McGee. Undrafted rookie Dustin Vaughan will join Romo and Brandon Weeden. For now. Vaughan has made great strides since May and finished the preseason with 212 yards on 22-of-43 passing with a touchdown. With Romo’s return from back surgery at least a minor issue, the Cowboys figured it was worth keeping Vaughan as a developmental player. It’s possible the Cowboys could cut Vaughan if they need help elsewhere in the next few days, which potentially would give them a chance to sneak the West Texas A&M product through waivers. Tailback Ryan Williams led the Cowboys in the preseason with 112 rushing yards and caught a team-high nine passes but was among the final cuts. With needs elsewhere, the Cowboys did not deem it necessary to keep four tailbacks. If Williams clears waivers, he could be brought back to the practice squad.

See you in a month: Cornerback Orlando Scandrick and safety Jakar Hamilton cannot have contact with the Cowboys for the next month now that they are on the suspended list. Both players will miss four games with Scandrick violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy and Hamilton violating the substance abuse policy. They will be allowed back on Sept. 29 and eligible to play Oct. 5 against the Houston Texans. Despite losing Scandrick, the Cowboys opted only to keep four corners on the roster: Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Sterling Moore and Tyler Patmon.

Changes coming: The Cowboys kept 11 defensive linemen, but by Tuesday that number is expected to be 10 when rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence is moved to short-term injured reserve as he returns from foot surgery. Lawrence will have to miss the first eight games, but can start practicing after six weeks. The Cowboys hope Lawrence will be able to be a designated pass rusher over the final eight weeks of the season. When he broke his foot in training camp, he was close to becoming the starting right defensive end. By putting Lawrence on short-term injured reserve, the Cowboys would not be able to use the designation on another player this season.

What’s next: A word to the wise for those on the bottom of the Cowboys’ roster: don’t celebrate. The Cowboys will be active in adding players either through trades, waivers or free agency. It’s not just about upgrading the bottom of the roster. The Cowboys need to upgrade starters and key backup roles at every level of their defense. Last year the Cowboys added four players after the final cuts before the season opener. They could potentially add more players this year, so dire is the state of the defense.

Cowboys moves: RB Ryan Williams, RB Phillip Tanner, RB D.J. Adams, WR LaRon Byrd, WR Jamar Newsome, WR Dezmon Briscoe, TE Asa Watson, T Josh Aladenoye, G Uche Nwaneri, G Stephen Goodin, C Ronald Patrick, DT Zach Minter, DE Kenneth Boatright, DE Caesar Rayford, DE Dartwan Bush, LB Will Smith, LB Orie Lemon, LB Keith Smith, LB Dontavis Sapp, CB Terrance Mitchell, S Keith Smith, Orlando Scandrick (suspended), Jakar Hamilton (suspended)
IRVING, Texas -- Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready. In it we discuss:
  • Jerry Jones, the general manager
  • Wondering about Michael Sam
  • Predicting the record
  • Josh Brent's production
If you want to see Part 1, click here. Away we go: @toddarcher: I guess I've missed how he's been given a pass on this matter. But this is where Jerry can't win. If he professed Super Bowl expectations, then he would be ridiculed for overselling a team that clearly needs a lot of help. Jones has been more realistic (mostly) about this team, although saying this defense is much improved seems to be a stretch after what was witnessed in the preseason. The failings of this team's personnel are squarely on Jones. He's the general manager. He's responsible for this. But that doesn't mean he will be changing the general manager anytime soon or ever. Jason Garrett or others will have to pay for the sins of how Jones has constructed the team.

@toddarcher: I don't think Michael Sam would fit on this defense even with the need for pass-rushing help. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli wants speed. That's the No. 1 trait. Sam is not a speed player. He plays faster than he is timed and he had an excellent college career, but the Cowboys were dubious about his pro chances entering the draft and nothing really changed their opinion in the preseason. At the time of this writing, Sam is still with the Rams, so it's a moot point. But the Cowboys' decision (should it come up) would have nothing to do with Sam's sexual preference and everything to do with the position he plays. He's a left defensive end and the Cowboys have enough of those.

@toddarcher: Can I get a do-over? I've predicted an 8-8 finish, which is always something of a copout, but at the time I made the prediction I though this team would be able to overcome enough of the defensive shortcomings to win half of their games for the fourth straight season. Now I'm not so sure. Let me use a baseball analogy: The Cowboys have a bunch of fourth and fifth pitchers in first- and second-pitcher roles. You like some of these guys as role players, but the Cowboys need them to play way above their heads and need almost all of them to do so. If I had to do it over again, I'd probably say 6-10.

@toddarcher: It's hard to imagine he would be anything but a bit player, a backup. He hasn't played since 2012. He hasn't been in a team's conditioning program in two years. He was a solid player in a 3-4 scheme, but hardly a star. He was functional. If he can do that again, then the Cowboys would be happy. But I don't think he would appreciably change the Cowboys' defense. If/when he is reinstated, he will face a suspension, so he would need even more time to get on the field. Once he is ready to play, then maybe he takes the spot of a Ken Bishop, but the rookie seventh-round pick has done nice things this summer to see what he can become.  
ARLINGTON, Texas -- In a half-joking manner, Jerry Jones declared this spring that the Dallas Cowboys’ defense would get better because it couldn’t be any worse.

When you rank dead last in the league in total defense, there’s only one way to go, he figured. Of course, it’s completely possible for the Cowboys to have the worst-ranked defense again and give up more yards than last season’s franchise record, but Jones would rather not view the situation that way.

“I think the defense is much improved, much improved,” Jones said after the preseason finale. “Awareness, the player we’re going to ask to do the job, I think we’re much improved from the team that was on the field the last four games when we ended the season. This is a better defense.”

Jones attempts to muster hope for a defense that lost arguably its three best players from last season with linebacker Sean Lee tearing up his knee, defensive tackle Jason Hatcher leaving in free agency and defensive end DeMarcus Ware being released. Plus, Orlando Scandrick will serve a four-game suspension to start the season after performing the best among the Cowboys cornerbacks last season.

The Cowboys certainly upgraded at defensive coordinator by demoting Monte Kiffin, who the game has clearly passed by and promoting Rod Marinelli. The Cowboys have recent evidence that Marinelli is a quality coordinator from his tenure with the Chicago Bears before coming to Dallas last year.

But Marinelli is no miracle worker. Just look at the Detroit Lions defensive rankings from his tenure as head coach: 28th, 32nd and 32nd in yards and 30th, 32nd and 32nd in scoring.

Marinelli needs playmakers to make his scheme work. Where are they on the Dallas defense?

The reality is this defense is in even worse shape than anticipated when training camp opened. They lost rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who they desperately needed to develop as an edge pass-rushing threat, for several weeks due to a broken foot. Defensive tackles Henry Melton and Terrell McClain didn’t play a down in the preseason due to injuries, with Melton still working to chip off rust after missing the last 13 games last season with a torn ACL. Defensive end George Selvie is dealing wth soreness in his surgically repaired right shoulder. Cornerback Morris Claiborne sat out the entire preseason -- again -- and will need to take pain-killing injections to play with a sprained AC joint in his shoulder. Scandrick is suspended four games.

“We know our limitations,” Jones said. “We know our scheme better, and we got players [who] can execute. We’ve got better players, healthier players to execute the scheme.”

That's the hope for the Dallas defense. But it’s definitely not the reality as they get ready for the regular season.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys clearly hoped that Rolando McClain would claim the starting job at middle linebacker.

The fact of the matter is McClain, the twice-retired eighth overall pick of the 2010 draft, might not be ready for such a prominent role as he continues to chip off the rust and work his way into football shape.

Owner and general manager Jerry Jones has heaped praise on McClain throughout training camp and the preseason, but Jones dialed down the hype after the preseason finale, which McClain started and played two series.

McClain
“I don’t think Rolando is going to be the savior of this team,” Jones said. “We don’t have Sean Lee, but Rolando does have the skill level to come in here and really add to what we can do. But we’re going to need of him. But I don’t want anybody to think I expect him to be Dick Butkus or even Sean Lee. That’s not there.

“You’re a little excited when you see some of the things he does physically, but he hasn’t played for a year and a half. Let’s let him just come in here and when he gets in a game, he may be the fifth guy in or he may be coming in after we’ve had a couple of series, but let’s watch him come in here and let us play. I say that because I don’t want him or anybody else to think that we think he’s the savior of our defense. That’s not the way it is.”

Justin Durant, fourth-round pick Anthony Hitchens and McClain have all taken first-team reps at middle linebacker this summer as the Cowboys attempt to replace Lee, who will miss the season with a knee injury. Bruce Carter, Kyle Wilber, Durant and Hitchens have worked with the starters at the outside linebacker spots, with Carter seeing time at both the strong side and weak side.

Asked which linebacker combination will start Week 1, coach Jason Garrett said, “We haven’t made that decision yet.” Jones is braced for it not to include McClain.
Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is in the final year of his four-year contract.

Garrett
Garrett
He’ll tell you he’s too consumed with today’s to-do list to spend any time thinking about his contract situation and whether he’ll get an extension.

At the same time, Garrett spends a lot of time talking about building a program and how the process of building a team with staying power takes time.

Garrett is 29-27 as a head coach and has missed the playoffs each of his three full seasons as head coach.

For now, Jerry Jones isn’t interested in committing to Garrett beyond this season.

“Well if I said that, I’d be giving him a contract and that’s not how we’re operating here,” Jones said of committing to Garrett beyond this season.

“I have in no way shut that door, but I have already decided that we were going to operate this year with his contract status the way that it is.”

As you would expect, Jones declined to rule out altering Garrett’s contract status during the season.

“I’m just saying as we sit here right now and as we enter the season, then I thought it was in the best interest of the team for us to keep the status of the coaches’ contracts the way that they generally are across the board,” Jones said. “And I haven’t changed that from the way you started training camp.”
ARLINGTON, Texas – Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne missed the entire preseason. Again.

That didn’t work out well last year, when the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft struggled and lost his starting job. But Claiborne isn’t sweating it after sitting out the preseason opener due to tendinitis in his right knee and the last three games due to a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder, saying the media seems more concerned about it than him.

Claiborne
“I’m not frustrated at all,” Claiborne said. “Where I’m at right now, I’m happy. I’m not upset at missing time or anything. I’m in a good place.”

Claiborne practiced all week. The original plan was for him to play a series or two in the preseason finale to chip off some rust, but executive vice president Stephen Jones said the team opted to sit Claiborne to avoid the risk of re-injuring the shoulder.

Claiborne said another factor was that “it wasn’t worth it” for the medical staff and him to do everything they would have needed to get him ready to play for just a handful of snaps. He anticipates taking a pain-killing injection before next week’s season opener against the San Francisco 49ers and probably several games after that.

“I have all my range of motion,” said Claiborne, who sprained the AC joint in his left shoulder during last season’s opener and had offseason surgery to repair it. “The biggest thing is the pain. Can you tolerate the pain? The pain is there and it’s not going anywhere.”

Claiborne’s career trajectory hasn’t gone anywhere in his first two seasons. He plans for that to change this year despite standing on the sideline for the entire preseason again.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The hardest part for teams when they make their final cuts is trimming the last few spots.

For the Dallas Cowboys that will be difficult as well, but for a different reason. They might not have 53 players worth keeping. Seriously.

After Thursday's 27-3 loss to the Denver Broncos left the Cowboys winless in the preseason, coach Jason Garrett talked about the effort he received from players fighting for their lives. And he was right. There was plenty of effort. That's not been an issue. The players have bought into Garrett's "fight" mantra.

The problem is talent, especially on defense.

The Cowboys had their worst defense in franchise history last year and you would be hard-pressed to find enough players to fill out this year's defense to make it better. That's not a good thing going into the regular season against the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 7.

"We believe we have guys that are worthy of making this football team," Garrett said. "You saw a lot of those guys out there tonight. Guys who made plays and kind of stuck their hand up in the air saying 'Hey, I deserve to be here.' But unfortunately some of those guys aren't going to be able to be with us. So that's what makes it hard."

That's a nice thing for the coach to say, but is it really true?

In the past the Cowboys have cut players who have gone on and had success with other teams. This year it looks like the Cowboys are choosing among different levels of backups.

Of the players on the bubble Thursday, only Kenneth Boatright and Dartwan Bush might have helped their chances. Backup offensive linemen Uche Nwaneri and John Wetzel struggled. You didn't see many plays from linebackers Will Smith or Keith Smith.

At safety Jemea Thomas was claimed off waivers from the New England Patriots on Wednesday and played Thursday. Can he beat out Ryan Smith, who has been with the Cowboys since May, now that Jakar Hamilton has been suspended the first four games of the season?

Those are the kinds of decisions the Cowboys have to make over the next 24 hours.

Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys will be active in looking to add players before, during and after the final cuts. Last year the Cowboys added four players the first week of the season. It's possible they could add more this season.

The Cowboys named Will McClay the assistant director of player personnel because of his ability to find players off the street to contribute. He's done it with guys like Laurent Robinson, Tony Fiammetta, Ernie Sims and Eric Frampton.

The Cowboys will study the waiver wire hard. They will look to potentially make trades to bolster the back end of the roster, but not the top-end. This isn't a team that is one player away from a Super Bowl.

The game is trying to find players that are "better than." In other words better than they have right now or could be better than in a few weeks.

The Cowboys might have to find a lot of "better than" players.
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has had a pair of one-on-one meetings with Dez Bryant to discuss the Pro Bowl receiver’s potential contract extension, but no deal is imminent.

The parties are working to get a deal done before the regular season begins -- as Bryant will cut off negotiations until next offseason -- but neither side is certain an agreement will be reached over the next week.

[+] EnlargeBryant
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsThe Cowboys have a week to sign Dez Bryant to a contract extension before the regular season begins.
“I don’t know,” Jones said. “Certainly I don’t mean to say anything is a given or easy, but I do want what’s in his best interest and I want him to be a long-term player for the Cowboys. He knows that. I’m proud of the progress he’s made and we’ll just see if we can make this work for everybody.”

Bryant, who is due to make $1.78 million this season in the final year of his rookie deal, is encouraged by the individual attention he has received from Jones this week. They met to talk about a contract Tuesday and Wednesday.

It’s extremely rare for Jones to personally meet with a player to discuss a deal without the presence of an agent in the room.

“We have had good visits,” Jones said. “It’s a little different to be talking directly, for me to be talking directly with the player. I know of two that I’ve spent a lot of time directly talking with in some pretty sensitive areas when you’re talking about money. We all understand what that means. One of them Michael Irvin. He asked me to induct him into the Hall of Fame later and Emmitt Smith, he asked me to induct him into the Hall of Fame later. Troy [Aikman] always had Leigh Steinberg there, but we kind of talked straight in there together.

“But Dez and I have been visiting for years, ever since he’s been a Cowboy regarding things, and so it is a fairly unique situation that we’ve talked as much as we’ve talked, made it pretty easy and maybe propitious to be able to talk to him about his contract. That’s why we were actually talking there.”

Bryant has made it clear that he believes he’s one of the NFL’s top five receivers and wants to be paid as such, meaning his annual salary would be in the neighborhood of $12 million.

The Cowboys opened negotiations with a significantly lower number, attempting to use DeSean Jackson's three-year, $24 million deal with the Washington Redskins as a starting point. However, Jones said he has no issue with Bryant’s insistence that he’s one of the league’s highest-paid receivers.

“I will say this, that all Hall of Famers and great players are as competitive with their business as they are on the field,” Jones said. “I understand that. I had hundreds of negotiations and I understand that it is a natural thing to get your back up a little bit when you’re talking about your money.

“...I’m saying that, I understand the competitiveness or the sensation you get when someone won’t agree with you over money. I understand that as well as anybody breathing.”

The Cowboys have the option of using the franchise tag on Bryant the next three offseasons if a long-term deal isn’t reached. But that’d be expensive, starting at more than $12 million next year, rising to 120 percent of that figure the following year and skyrocketing to the quarterback’s franchise-tag number in the third year.

Jones would much prefer to sign Bryant to an extension, perhaps as soon as before the regular season begins. However, Jones said he couldn’t measure how far apart the sides are in the talks.

“You can’t because it takes two to tango,” Jones said. “So you just don’t have any measure of how far you are away from the other person’s expectation or where they will arrive at. You know we’re having good visits, but why wouldn’t we? We do. We’ve had good visits when all of these guys we’re talking about, one of the reasons we have good visits is because we’ve had them in good times and bad times.”
ARLINGTON, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys' Henry Melton and Morris Claiborne will go into the regular season without having played a preseason snap.

Melton
For Claiborne, that wasn’t a surprise because he of a shoulder injury suffered Aug. 13 in practice against the Oakland Raiders. Melton, however, was expected to see at least a few snaps in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Denver Broncos but worked only in warmups.

“We wanted to get those guys an opportunity if we could to just come out and have a little game action,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We’ve had this situation a number of times in the past where you just make a decision that says, ‘Let’s not play them this situation. Let’s give him 10 more days before he’s in a game and hopefully that will help him.’”

Melton missed the last three preseason games with a groin injury but has always said he would be ready for the Sept. 7 regular-season opener against the San Francisco 49ers. But he has not played since Week 3 last season with the Chicago Bears when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament.

The knee has not given him any issues in the summer.

Claiborne is used to not playing in the preseason. He has missed every game in the past two preseasons.

“Nothing like the game,” cornerback Brandon Carr said when asked what Claiborne missed by sitting. “Just for him, it’s conditioning and those things, but he’s done a great job this year of just taking care of his body and things he can control as far as that and making sure his footwork is right. I’m confident he’s going to be ready to play. You get to this level it’s more so of a mindset. It’s the mental part of the game that gets people but I think he’s turned that corner as well.”

Observation deck: Dallas Cowboys

August, 28, 2014
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Mercifully, the Dallas Cowboys’ preseason came to an end on Thursday with their 27-3 loss to the Denver Broncos.

For the first time since 2000 -- and fifth time overall -- the Cowboys did not win a preseason game. Of the four previous winless preseasons, the Cowboys finished above .500 just once, making the playoffs in 1998 with a 10-6 record.

The Cowboys enter the Sept. 7 regular-season opener with low outside expectations in part because of their three straight 8-8 finishes and due to a defense that lacks playmakers and will be counting on role players to play in big-time positions.

The Cowboys were outscored 116-60 in the preseason.

Here are some other thoughts on the Cowboys' fourth preseason game:
  • The Cowboys will go into the San Francisco game with starting defensive tackle Henry Melton and cornerback Morris Claiborne not taking a preseason snap. Melton went through pregame warmups Thursday and was expected to at least see a handful of plays after missing the last two preseason games with a groin injury. Claiborne, who will start with Orlando Scandrick missing the first four games because of a suspension, has not played in a preseason game the last two seasons. A shoulder injury limited his work the last two-plus weeks of the preseason. Cornerback Brandon Carr saw less than 30 snaps in the preseason, including only 12 Thursday, after missing the first two exhibition games following the death of his mother.
  • Justin Durant did not start, so the Cowboys used Rolando McClain at middle linebacker for the first two series. McClain was active in his short time on the field, making three tackles. The Cowboys have attempted to speed up McClain’s learning curve with this defense and his conditioning but both times they gave him first-team work he was unable to finish practice. Has he done enough in the preseason to be a starter? The Cowboys might have to make a projection here with a linebacker who has not played since Nov. 2012 and retired twice since then.
  • The Cowboys will go into the season with their most inexperienced backup quarterback since Tony Romo in 2006 in Brandon Weeden. Starting his second preseason game, Weeden completed seven of 13 passes for 83 yards and an interception. His turnover was the result of a forced throw to Devin Street on a roll out that cornerback Tony Carter was able to pick off, and the Broncos scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive. Weeden was able to respond with a field goal drive the next time he had the ball, completing two third-down throws and hitting LaRon Byrd with a 26-yard completion while taking a big hit. On third-and-goal he wisely chose to run the ball instead of forcing a pass, making sure the Cowboys got points.
  • Ronald Leary started every game at left guard in 2013 and appears to be the frontrunner to hold the job again this season, but he played the first half Thursday. Mackenzy Bernadeau, who was splitting time with Leary in camp, did not play, getting the same treatment as starting linemen Doug Free, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin. Leary missed the early part of training camp with a hamstring injury suffered in a conditioning test.

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