Monday, February 27, 2012

Some Offseason Thoughts

It is sounding more and more like the Cowboys are going to put the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer. I'm not thrilled by the idea of paying Spencer $8.8 million for a season but I do support the move if it means the Cowboys are planning to work out a longer deal for a much lower cap hit. Like I've said before, I think Spencer is a solid player, but I don't think he is worth $8.8 million for a season.

There are a lot of rumors flying that the Cowboys will be going after Brandon Carr when free agency opens up. Carr looks like a good player who could step in for Newman at cornerback and allow Orlando Scandrick to remain playing his slot role where he has been over the last few years. I like the idea as long as the Cowboys don't overpay for Carr. He is only 25 and the Cowboys might be able to lock him up for several years at a reasonable price. If the asking price is too high then the Cowboys would be better off going after one of the big name free agents.

It is sounding more and more like this will be a defense focused draft for the Cowboys. Stephen Jones basically said what many people have come to realize. The Cowboys just don't have enough talent on defense. And there are just too many holes on the defensive side of the ball to think that all of the problems can be fixed in free agency. Signing a bunch of high price free agents usually doesn't work out in the long run anyway. Hopefully the Cowboys can hit on two or three guys in the draft that can make an immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball this season.

The Cowboys are in the market for a veteran free agent quarterback. That is pretty obvious with only Stephen McGee on the roster as a viable backup to Tony Romo. Just like a lot of positions there are a lot of players the Cowboys would be interested in but the price has to be right. I'd like to see the Cowboys bring in solid veteran with starting experience like Kyle Orton or Jason Campbell. The Cowboys were interested in Orton last season so I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him end up on the team next season.

I'm torn on the decision that needs to be made with Bradie James. On one hand, the Cowboys need to move on and allow Sean Lee to step into a leadership role on the defense. Brooking should be gone without a doubt, but cutting James would leave the Cowboys with Sean Lee and Bruce Carter who would enter next season as a starter with exactly zero career starts and very little meaningful playing time at the NFL level. I'd like to see a veteran backup behind those two. And if Bradie James is willing to let Lee take over the defense and be a spot player I wouldn't mind seeing him back on the team next season if he'll rework his contract.

I'm ready to move on from Abe Elam. He proved last season that he isn't an impact player. I'd rather see Barry Church get a shot or even find a mid-round draft pick at safety with starting potential. The Cowboys need someone who will be around the ball and Elam proved he just isn't that type of player.

Doug Free and Tyron Smith will switch sides next season on the offensive line. It was pretty easy to see this move coming and it definitely appears that Free is better as a right tackle. Now the Cowboys need to fix the middle of the line.

Free agency will be kicking off soon and I can't wait. The Cowboys have a lot of work to do and I'm excited to see how the team will be built for next season. We are sure to see several of the overpaid, aging veterans cut loose but there are a lot of unknowns about the roster right now. My favorite part about this point in the offseason is that everything seems possible for next year. The Cowboys have a lot of work to do but it isn't impossible that they can be a contender next season if they play their cards right this offseason.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Is Keeping Anthony Spencer a Priority?

There is a lot of debate going on these days concerning the future of Anthony Spencer with the Dallas Cowboys. Rumor has it that the Cowboys are considering using the franchise tag on Spencer to keep him from testing the free agent market. I've got some major concerns with the Cowboys considering what I believe to be severely overpaying Spencer for even one season.

I do understand that Spencer has value beyond pressuring the quarterback. If you want to base his value to the team purely on sacks then it looks like Spencer should be allowed to move on since he doesn't put up big sack numbers. But Spencer's real value comes from his ability to play against the run. He is a very good run defender. Unfortunately he is inconsistent at best in getting pressure on the quarterback.

So the Cowboys need to decide if it is worth it to hit Spencer with the franchise tag and guarantee him $8.8 million to be a very good run defender. That seems like a big price to pay for a guy who isn't a premier player and doesn't make many game changing plays. I think the Cowboys would be making a mistake to franchise Spencer.

I'd like to see the Cowboys allow Spencer to test the free agent market. He'll likely find that his free agent value isn't anywhere close to $8.8 million per year. And, if by some miracle, another team makes him an offer like that then the Cowboys should let him walk.

I think Spencer should only be back if he can be signed to a reasonable deal. Somewhere along the lines of 3 years for $15 million or 4 years for $20 million sounds about right. The Cowboys have a lot of areas of need and the last thing they need to do is overpay because they are afraid to go find another outside linebacker who can play the run.

Outside linebackers who can play the run are much easier to find then outside linebackers who are good/great pass rushers. So, if the Cowboys make an offer that is reasonable and Spencer finds a better deal elsewhere, then let him go. I have no doubt that a combination of Victor Butler and a reasonably priced free agent can provide just as much as Spencer has over the last few years.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Biggest Offseason Need

There are plenty of holes in the Cowboys roster heading into the 2012 offseason. And it is pretty easy to spot most of them. There are major problems on the offensive line, the defensive line, outside linebacker, and in the secondary. But I think there is something that is needed beyond the obvious talent needs.

The defense needs a leader. And I don't mean to say that Demarcus Ware isn't a leader. He gets pressure on the quarterback and he leads by example. He is a great guy by all accounts. But, in some ways, that is exactly what is wrong.

The defense doesn't play with any attitude. They need a Ray Lewis type of player. They need a Brian Dawkins type of guy. What I getting at here is that they need a guy who will get the defense to play with some attitude. There is talent on the defense. But they are soft. The Cowboys don't have the killer instinct that is needed to dominate an opponent.

Unfortunately it isn't easy to find a guy that be the emotional leader of a defense. I love Sean Lee...he isn't that type of guy. I love Jay Ratliff...he is emotional but he isn't a guy who rallies the troops. It doesn't appear that there is anyone on the roster who can step into the role that is needed.

Scouring the top potential free agents there aren't any obvious names that stand out in terms of being a fiery leader. But there is one player that brings a big attitude with him every time he steps on the field. Cortland Finnegan.

I'm not a big fan of having low character guys on the roster. But there is something to be said for having a guy who is willing to mix it up with the opposing team. A guy who won't back down when challenged. And Finnegan isn't a guy who gets in trouble off the field. He just isn't a nice guy on the field.

For that reason I'm hoping that Cortland Finnegan is a target for the Cowboys. I know he isn't the greatest cornerback ever, but he brings the attitude I'm looking for. He isn't afraid to stand up to Andre Johnson in his battles twice a year against him. He won't back down. Sure, he makes dumb plays now and then because he goes a little too far. But he could bring the attitude to the defense that they are missing.

What I don't know about Finnegan is if he has the personality that the defensive players can follow. But the way I see it the Cowboys have a big need at cornerback with the sure to be coming cut of Terence Newman. And Finnegan is a good cornerback who also brings some major attitude to the field. It seems like a match made in heaven to me.