Friday, March 16, 2012

The Cowboys Continue Signing Players

The Cowboys aren't messing around this year. It appears that they are fully aware of what everyone else has noticed about the 2011 roster as well. There were holes all over the place. And they couldn't sit back and wait this year if they want to be a real contender next season.

After signing 4 players on Wednesday (Brandon Carr, Kyle Orton, Lawrence Vickers, Mackenzy Bernadeau) they have also added Dan Connor (ILB), Brodney Pool (S), and Nate Livings (G). That is now 7 players that are directly addressing the obvious needs that the Cowboys had heading into the offseason.

In Dan Connor the Cowboys got an inside linebacker with starting experience who can push Bruce Carter this offseason. And he will act as insurance if Bruce Carter doesn't turn out to be what the Cowboys are expecting him to be. This moves seems to signal that Bradie James and Keith Brooking won't be coming back next season. They assigned Connor jersey #56 so that says everything you need to know about Bradie James coming back.

Brodney Pool is a decent safety with experience in Rob Ryan's defense. He isn't the ball hawking type of safety we are all hoping for, but he does appear to be a slight upgrade over Abe Elam. I'm not sure if the Cowboys are counting on Pool to start or provide depth but he does make the safety position much deeper heading into the draft. He only got a one year deal for the Cowboys so it is likely that the Cowboys aren't done at safety and have plans in the draft.

The surprising move to me took place today. The Cowboys signed a sure-fire starter to shore up the interior line with Nate Livings. He has size (6' 5", 332 lbs) and he has started every game for the last two seasons for the Bengals. I have a feeling that Kyle Kosier is about to be shown the door after this signing. The Cowboys have now signed two guards and they have several on the roster who appear to be capable of developing into starters.

I have to say I am very impressed with the results the Cowboys have had early in free agency. They have managed to address many of the most glaring roster needs without destroying the salary cap this year or in the future. They are signing solid players, many who will start, and aren't breaking the bank to get them. It appears Jason Garrett and Jerry Jones are planning to get this team turned around next season. Last years roster purge / mini-rebuilding is over and it is time to start focusing on playoff victories again.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Free Agency Frenzy

Wow! Things moved fast on Wednesday for the Dallas Cowboys. By the time the dust settled at the end of the day the Cowboys had a new starting cornerback, a new backup QB, a new starting fullback, and possibly a new starting guard. So much for the reports that the bogus cap penalty the Cowboys were hit with was going to limit their activity in free agency.

I don't think we're talking about Washington Redskin or Philadelphia Eagle type of free agency signings here either. The Cowboys have been busy but they aren't going after every top guy available. For the most part they have been signing mid-level free agents who are reasonably priced.

Brandon Carr was a good signing. A good defense needs three quality cornerbacks at a minimum nowadays. And Carr is no slouch. He will be an upgrade over Terance Newman and Orlando Scandrick can do what he does best in the slot. My concern about this signing is the price. I was hoping to see a deal in the $8 to $9 million range but at least the Cowboys locked up a top player at a primary need position.

I love the Kyle Orton signing. Stephen McGee has not shown enough to be counted on as the #2 QB heading into next season. Orton, like Kitna before him, has had a decent run as a starting QB and is ready to accept the role of Romo's backup.

Lawrence Vickers was a great move for the Cowboys. It was obvious how much the fullback helped the Cowboys when Tony Fiammetta was healthy last season. Now the Cowboys have a dependable fullback locked up for three years.

And finally, the Cowboys added depth on the offensive line by signing Mackenzy Bernadeau. He has good size and has been in the league for 3 years as a reliable backup and has some starting experience. I guess we know what the Cowboys really think of their young talent at guard. I have to assume that one or more of the guards from last season won't be back. The Cowboys need all the help in the interior of the offensive line they can get.

The signings aren't over yet. The Cowboys are hosting Brodney Pool on Thursday. I'd love to see a new starting safety locked up before the draft so the Cowboys can focus on defensive line and outside linebacker without reaching for a safety early on. Pool is a former 2nd round pick and has been a solid starter in the league.

So far I am very happy with the moves the Cowboys have made in free agency. I'm glad they are active because there are a lot of holes to fill. I don't mind seeing a flurry of activity as long as they aren't mortgaging the future with huge contracts.

I'm interested to know how other fans are feeling about the moves made in free agency so far. Please tell me how you feel about what the Cowboys have done so far in the comments section.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Get Ready for RGIII Twice a Year

It looks like the Washington Redskins have made a deal to move up to the #2 position in this year's NFL draft. And it appears to be a certainty that Andrew Luck will go #1 to the Colts and Robert Griffith III will be going to the Redskins.

Is this something we should be worried about? It is hard to tell but the guy is certainly a phenomenal athlete. He is going to be a tough guy to defend since he is such a fast runner.

The good news is that the Cowboys have been exposed to this type of quarterback for a couple of years now with Michael Vick starting for the Eagles. I'm not saying RGIII is the next Michael Vick but he certainly appears to have that potential.

If nothing else it will make the games against the Redskins entertaining. I don't know that the Cowboys currently have the defense to deal with guys like Vick and RGIII but at least Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett know heading into free agency what they need to focus on with their defense.

The thing I like the best about the Redskins moving up in the draft to get RGIII is how much they gave up to move up just 4 spots in the draft. It sounds like the Rams and Redskins swapped first round picks this year and the Rams get 2 future 1st round picks and additional picks. That is a steep price to pay to move up just a few spots in the draft. They may have landed RGIII but he better be a freakishly good player because they have handcuffed themselves in the draft for the next few years.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Spencer Gets the Franchise Tag

The rumors that have been circulating for the last few weeks about Anthony Spencer and the Cowboys finally proved to be true today. The Cowboys placed the franchise tag on Spencer this afternoon. I've got mixed emotions about the move.

I said a few weeks ago that I didn't like the idea of putting the tag on Spencer. And the reason I don't like it is because it guarantees Spencer $8.8 million this season if he chooses to sign the offer sheet. The good news is that the Cowboys can lower his cap number if they can come to a long term agreement with him. I'm not so sure I like the idea of a long term contract now.

I was hoping the Cowboys would either get Spencer signed to a reasonable deal prior to the start of free agency or just let him test the market if there wasn't an agreement in place before free agency kicks off. But apparently Jerry and Stephen Jones didn't want to roll the dice and risk losing Spencer to another team if they blew him away with a big offer like the Giants did with Chris Canty a few years ago.

I like Spencer as a player but I don't love him. I think he is a solid run defender and a decent pass rusher, but I certainly don't think he is worth the $8.8 million he is guaranteed now. And what's worse to me is that Spencer now has a lot of leverage in any ongoing negotiations. If he doesn't like the long term number the Cowboys are presenting him in an offer than he can just sign the one year franchise tag deal and the Cowboys are stuck with a giant cap hit of $8.8 million for an above average but far from great player.

The Cowboys have a lot of options they can use to free up more cap space if they still want to go after a big name free agent. But it doesn't sit well with me that Spencer is being paid so much money to be a good run defender and decent pass rusher. I'd love to see the Cowboys work out a reasonable 3-4 year deal with a better cap number, but why would Spencer go for a lesser deal now? He would be a fool to take a deal that takes any money out of his pocket.

And, if the contract is going to be a big one, that means Spencer will be the guy at strong side linebacker for several more years. It makes it hard to draft high for another pass rusher if you are going to commit so much money to Spencer. Maybe the Cowboys have decided to bite the bullet for one season and draft another outside linebacker early in the draft. A one year deal would make sense in that scenario since Spencer's replacement would get one year to learn the system and get comfortable at the NFL level.

I'm hoping now that Spencer has the franchise tag that it will turn out to be a one year deal. Spencer will have loads of motivation to earn his next contract and the Cowboys can draft to find his replacement after one more season. I do understand that it would have left a gaping hole heading into the draft if the Cowboys had lost Spencer in free agency. I just don't like the idea of paying a guy of his level so much money.