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Cowboys Have Idea to Keep LB Sean Lee Healthy in 2018

The Cowboys have a plan to keep oft injured linebacker Sean Lee healthy this upcoming season which involves him missing workouts, Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News reports.

“I get the governor put on me and have to be smart this time of year,” Lee said. “It’s tough not being out there because you want to be out there trying to lead from the front, but there’s perspective that’s kept this time of year that we’ve got to build toward training camp and build towards the year.”

It’s not always easy for the Cowboys’ athletic trainers and strength and conditioning staff to convince Lee that this plan is best for him.

“It’s like ‘Groundhog Day’ for me,” Lee said. “I kind of fight them and they put perspective on me and I listen to them.”

Lee, 31, missed five games because of a hamstring injury last season. The Cowboys defense has suffered significantly when the two-time Pro Bowler hasn’t been on the field. Dallas is 1-7 without Lee over the last three seasons.

Lee tore the ACL in his left knee during an OTA practice in 2014, causing him to miss the entire season.

“I’ve had an issue staying on the field,” Lee said. “Really, two years ago, I felt in ’15 and ’16, we did a good job staying on the field. Last year, I didn’t. So I think we have a great game plan to try to keep me out there.”

Third-Year Cowboys TE Rico Gathers Set to Return After Concussion

Third-year Cowboys tight end Rico Gathers has fully recovered from the concussion that cost him the entire 2017 season according to Todd Archer of ESPN.

Gathers suffered the concussion last summer and its effects were compounded by jaw and neck injuries. A star basketball player at Baylor, the Cowboys took a sixth-round flyer on Gathers in the 2016 and the coaching staff had been high on his potential prior to the concussion.

The 24-year-old has yet to appear in a regular season game in the NFL but t flashed big-time potential last preseason to the tune the mix to replace retired Jason Witten in an offense desperate for playmakers in the passing game. At the very least, his 6’6″, 285-pound frame should make him an enticing target in the redzone.

Cowboys Come to Terms with First-Round Pick Leighton Vander Esch

The Cowboys have signed first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch to a four-year contract worth $11.847 million guaranteed, Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas reports.

He will receive a signing bonus of $6.696 million. Only third round pick Michael Gallup is unsigned as the Cowboys get all their players inked with training camp about two months away.

Cowboys TE Jason Witten Announces Retirement to Join ESPN on MNF

Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said ‘so long’ on Thursday, walking away after 15 seasons with the Cowboys to take a position with ESPN as part of the Monday Night Football crew.

Witten wrestled with the decision for the past week, alternating almost hourly between taking the job and playing a record 16th season for the Cowboys, sources said. He has informed owner and general manager Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett of his decision.

Sources said he leaned heavily on Jones in coming to a conclusion.

Witten, who turns 36 on Sunday, could not be reached for comment. On Wednesday, executive vice president Stephen Jones said there was no timeline on when Witten would make a decision.

Jason Witten Still Mulling Broadcasting Offers as Jason Garrett Wants Him to Return

Cowboys tight end Jason Witten continues to contemplate his decision to retire in order to join ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcast team, but a source said another network has made an “interesting” last-minute proposal that is also being pondered by Witten, Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is actively trying to persuade Witten to play a 16th season in 2018, a team source said.

Witten hopes to have a final decision in the next 48 hours, with an announcement likely by Wednesday, a source said.

During a news conference to introduce first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch on Friday, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he had spoken with Witten several times this week. Jones did not address what he and Witten discussed and said the tight end still needed time to contemplate his future — “at least through the weekend.”

“He has some things to think about and discuss with his family from a professional perspective,” Jones said.

Cowboys Earn an ‘B-‘ for Their Draft According to ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.

The draft grades from ‘Draft Guru’ Mel Kiper Jr. are out, and one team that got a good grade is that of the Cowboys, who according to Kiper got an ‘B-‘ for their collection of players over the two days.

Here’s what he had to say:

The Cowboys had clear needs in this draft, and there were more than three. After Anthony Hitchens signed a big-money deal with the Chiefs in free agency, Dallas knew it needed to find a middle linebacker. After the Cowboys cut Dez Bryant earlier this month, they had to target a wide receiver, even with the signings of Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson. They needed to figure out whether La’el Collins was going to stick at right tackle or move back to left guard. They needed a one-technique defensive tackle. And they needed a tight end, which looks even more pressing now with Jason Witten on the brink of retirement.

So I can see what Jerry Jones & Co. did on the first two days of the draft. I had Bama linebacker Rashaan Evans higher on my board, but I can’t deny Leighton Vander Esch’s high ceiling. The Cowboys see him as a Rolando McClain-type middle linebacker, who can be a playmaker against the pass and stick backs behind the line of scrimmage. Vander Esch surged up boards after the combine, but he only had one great year of tape at Boise State.

I see Connor Williams as more likely to move inside to guard, so that means Collins could stick at tackle. And that’s a good value at No. 50 — Williams looked like a top-15 pick in 2016, but dipped a bit on play and measurables — his arms are a little short. I said on Friday night that Dallas grabbing wide receiver Michael Gallup was one of my favorite picks of the third round. He’s an underrated player, but don’t expect him to replace Bryant. Dorance Armstrong Jr. (116) had an injury-plagued 2017 season but had 10 sacks in 2016. You trust defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to get the best out of him. Dalton Schultz (137) isn’t going to replace Witten, but at least Schultz isn’t allergic to blocking. I thought Mike White (171) could have gone late in the second round, so that’s a good pick. If Bo Scarbrough can play special teams, that’s a good pick late in the seventh round.

Where was the defensive tackle, though? That’s still a weakness, and maybe Dallas can find a street free agent to play a role. And if Witten does retire, do they have a starting-caliber tight end on the roster?

Round/Pick Name Pos College
1/19 Leighton Vander Esch ILB BOISE STATE
2/50 Connor Williams G TEXAS
3/81 Michael Gallup WR COLORADO STATE
4/116 Dorance Armstrong Jr. DE KANSAS
4/137 Dalton Schultz TE STANFORD
5/171 Mike White QB WESTERN KENTUCKY
6/193 Chris Covington OLB INDIANA
6/208 Cedrick Wilson WR BOISE STATE
7/236 Bo Scarbrough RB ALABAMA

Jerry Jones Say Dez Bryant Won’t Be Making a Return to the Cowboys

Cowboys’ team owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday the timing of the release of Dez Bryant earlier this month was “as good a time as any from the end of the season,” the Dallas Morning News reports.

At the team’s pre-NFL draft news conference, Jones was asked about the release of the Pro Bowl receiver who played for the Cowboys for eight seasons.

“I have no thoughts about the timing of when we decided to move on,” Jones started. “For everyone concerned, that was as good a time as any from the end of the season.”

Jones added that he didn’t want to diminish the team’s feelings about Bryant as a person or his past contributions to the team.

Also, Jones appeared to shut the door on the idea of Bryant returning to the Cowboys if the free-agent market for him has indeed cooled off.

“I think a nice crisp time to call it a day is the way to do this. And I thought it was the case as far as when we discussed his future with the Cowboys, and I think that would pertain to your question about is the door still open,” Jones told reporters. “I think we need to keep this real crisp and the lines real bright. Consequently, we need to move on knowing that we don’t have Dez. And that sounds a little intangible, but it’s a little more than that.”

Cowboys DL David Irving Signs His Free Agent Tender

As the Cowboys’ offseason program officially opened on Monday, defensive lineman David Irving signed his restricted free agent tender, ensuring that he will return to the team for 2018, Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News reports.

Irving will receive $2.91 million for this season, and he’ll have plenty of motivation. A complete and solid season could help him demand a major payday when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next offseason.

The Cowboys had placed a second-round tender on Irving last month, meaning any team competing for Irving’s services would’ve had to have given up a second-round draft pick for the three-year veteran. The Cowboys also had the right to match any team’s offer. In addition, an outside deal would’ve had to be substantial for Irving to agree to be locked up a year out from free agency.

Irving had seven sacks, 19 quarterback pressures and six deflected passes in just eight games last season. But he missed half the season — the first four games to suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs and the last four after suffering a concussion.

The deadline to sign the tender was Friday.