Stephen Jones put his players on blast last week, but his criticism and overall strategy concerning David Irving is misguided and the Cowboys may suffer as a result.
The Dallas Cowboys fell well short of expectations this past season so it’s probably a good thing Stephen Jones has been putting players on blast. As I discussed last week, publicly critiquing player performances is a welcomed sight around these parts, because pats on the back sure as hell ain’t getting it done.
But within Stephen Jones’ candor and critique came a passive and possibly misguided approach to defensive lineman, David Irving:
Irving, 24, is about to be a restricted free agent. Stephen Jones, disappointed by Irving’s inability to stay healthy, doesn’t want to offer him a long-term deal unless he plays a full season. Therefore Stephen is planning to tender him on a 1-year deal and see how 2018 plays out.
Normally this type of responsible spending should be applauded. I mean, if you’re going to sign a player to a big money multi-million dollar deal, you better be darn sure who you’re investing in, right?
If Irving succeeds and gets the sacks, the Cowboys lose (because they can’t afford him). If he fails, then the Cowboys lose (because he didn’t get the sacks).
The only problem with that logic is if Irving does prove himself and plays a complete season, the Dallas Cowboys probably won’t be able to afford him. As such, it’s a lose-lose scenario Stephen Jones is employing. Because the only way the Cowboys will be able to afford him, is if Irving falls on his face in 2018. Lose-lose.
As I’ve stated before, in the last 12 games David Irving has played, he’s collected 10 sacks.
That’s a rate of .833 sacks per game and projects to over 13 sacks in a 16-game season. Do you know how many interior linemen had 13 or more sacks in 2017? Zero.
Aaron Donald led NFL interior linemen with 11 sacks and Geno Atkins came in second place with nine sacks. Atkins is playing on an old deal averaging over $10 million per season while Aaron Donald has his eyes set on figure roughly twice that.
If David Irving successfully plays 16 games next season and he continues his current production he’ll get 13 sacks. Do you know how much 13+ sacks will fetch on the open market? Probably pretty close to that Aaron Donald range, I’d say.
Since getting a long-term deal done for DeMarcus Lawrence remains Priority No. 1, and that’s probably going to cost $100 million itself, the chances of Dallas affording Irving at a similar rate is slim to none. That’s why this “wait and see” attitude is so dangerous. If Irving succeeds and gets the sacks, the Cowboys lose (because they can’t afford him). If he fails, then the Cowboys lose (because he didn’t get the sacks).
As with most cases, this is all about player evaluation. Scouts and personnel need to sit down and decide what they have in Irving. I’ve watched the All-22 and I see a perennial double-digit sack man, Do they? The Cowboys just can’t afford to do what Stephen Jones is asking because that’s a lose-lose scenario.
Not too long ago the Cowboys evaluated another interior linemen, Tyrone Crawford. They saw double-digit sack potential so they not only let a double-digit sack veteran in Jason Hatcher leave, but they extended Craw (sight unseen) for roughly $10 million per season. That move blew up in their face since Crawford never remotely approached those expectations and now faces the chopping block this March.
But that misevaluation can’t let it deter them here. Unlike Crawford, Irving has provided enough tangible proof that he can produce. It’s not wild speculation.
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Case in point
Actually we have a few: A couple years back we had two budding stars entering their contract years. Instead of proactively re-signing them to manageable deals, the Cowboys waited.
Had the Cowboys proactively extend them they may have been able to afford to keep them both.
If they had they wouldn’t have felt the need to spend a top-4 draft pick on a running back in 2016, but I digress…
Jay Ratliff is a fine example of getting it right. Ratliff provided just enough proof on film to show the Cowboys he’s about to explode. The Cowboys got in front of it and signed Ratliff to an affordable long-term deal. It was risky but they trusted what they saw and made the commitment. Dollar for dollar, Ratliff proved to one of the best value players for Dallas.
Stephen Jones’ high expectations are admirable but it can’t let him get in the way of roster building. If the Cowboys can affordably lock Irving in now, before his stock soars through the roof, they could keep the Lawrence-Irving tandem together for the next five seasons. If they play this year-to-year, they’ll probably only be able to afford one of them.