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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.

Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones to Meet with WR Dez Bryant on Friday

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will meet with Dez Bryant on Friday to discuss the receiver’s contract, Josh Clark of 105.3 the Fan in Dallas.

The timing couldn’t be any more important as the team will hold their first official workout on Monday.

105.3 The Fan’s Mike Fisher reported on Tuesday that the Cowboys could be prepared to say goodbye to Bryant in that meeting.

“The ‘Dump Dez’ concept was born about two months ago, when Cowboys COO Stephen Jones openly noted that Bryant’s contract needed to “be addressed.” Stephen at different times used the word “distraction” in conjunction with the player. At the time, I assumed Stephen was attempting to negotiate Bryant’s contract via the media, sure, but more, was attempting to “negotiate behavior,” Fish said in his piece.

Bryant, who has a $12.5 million base salary and a $16.5 million cap number for 2018, has been caught up in numerous rumors throughout the offseason. With the Cowboys signing receivers Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson in free agency, Dallas suddenly has a plethora of receivers on the roster.

Stephen Jones told 105.3 The Fan last week that the team had not yet met with Bryant but that his father, Jerry, would let everyone know when it happens.

“No, we haven’t. And when we (do), we’ll let you know, and the guy who will do that will be Jerry,” Stephen Jones told the Ben and Skin Show on 105.3 The Fan. “You’re talking to the wrong guy,” Jones added while chuckling.

Dez Bryant Rival Josh Norman Says the Cowboys Receiver Has a Lot ‘Left in the Tank’

Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant and Redskins cornerback Josh Norman tend to make for must-see TV whenever their rival teams match up. And sparks can really fly now and again. The two men’s rivalry has even expanded into the commercial breaks in games.

But on Thursday, Norman said he has faith that Bryant, whose productivity has slid since his 2014 peak season, “has a lot left in the tank” if he can just access it, the Dallas Morning News reports.

“He has a lot left in the tank. It’s what he gets out of it, that’s the thing,” Norman said. “I mean he can be whatever he wants to be.”

“I’m not here to down the man, I’m not gonna down him. He plays the game at the highest level. I think for him, it’s all between here [points to brain]. Once he figures that out and once he feels that ‘When I step on the field I’m going to dominate whether it’s Josh Norman or a rookie coming into the league [lined up against me].’ … Everybody’s got to figure that out. I’m still figuring it out.”

Cowboys Come to Terms with Former Jets DE Kony Ealy

The Cowboys have added another piece to their defensive puzzle, as the team has inked free agent DE Kony Ealy, who formerly played with the New York Jets.

The Jets claimed Ealy off waivers after the Patriots cut him loose in late August. New England had acquired the former second-round pick from the Carolina Panthers in an offseason trade in 2017, but coach Bill Belichick told reporters upon Ealy’s release the pairing just “didn’t work out.”

Ealy recorded 14 tackles, one sack and one interception in his lone season with the Jets. Had New York not placed a claim on the edge rusher, he could have ended up in Dallas, which also placed a claim on him. Due to the waiver order at the time, the Jets were awarded Ealy.

Cowboys Jump to SeatGeek, Leave NFL’s Deal with Ticketmaster

The Cowboys announced on Tuesday that they have opted out of the NFL’s deal with Ticketmaster and have elected to give their primary box office business to ticket reseller SeatGeek, Darren Rovell of ESPN reports.

Terms were not disclosed. The Cowboys also have purchased an undisclosed stake in the company.

“We honestly thought we would continue with Ticketmaster,” said Chad Estis, the team’s executive vice president of business operations. “But we have a commitment to have the best in class and we thought that SeatGeek’s technology from a fan standpoint and the ease of use and flexibility on the back end with our folks internally made this deal the right one.”

The Cowboys aren’t the first team to opt out of the Ticketmaster deal. The Detroit Lions switched primary ticketing to Veritix for the 2013 season but will return to Ticketmaster for the 2018 season. The Cowboys and New Orleans Saints, who signed with SeatGeek in November, will be the only teams not currently part of the league deal.

The move is consistent with the history of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who famously struck deals with Pepsi and American Express in the 1990s, when the league had deals with Coca-Cola and Visa. The NFL sued but eventually dropped the case.

In 2002, Jones became only the owner to opt out of the NFL’s licensing deal, which split revenues equally. Jones felt that the Cowboys contributed a disproportionate share and sought to be rewarded by going on his own to distribute and choose where he wanted the Cowboys gear to be sold. Sixteen years later, the Cowboys are still the only team that does that.

“The financials had to be right, but we also have an owner who isn’t afraid to take a little risk,” Estis said of the SeatGeek decision. “We expect there could be a bump or two along the way.”