Dallas Cowboys: Looking at the Free-Agency Plan so Far
The Dallas Cowboys seemed like a focused organization with a defined direction during the first week of free agency.
First, the Cowboys placed their franchise tag on Anthony Spencer, keeping the former first-round pick on the Cowboys for at least another season.
Then, after the Cowboys were penalized by the NFL, costing them $5 million in cap space, the Cowboys cut Terence Newman and Kyle Kosier and restructured the contracts of many Cowboys. This gave the Cowboys the flexibility to spend money on players they believe will help the Cowboys make a long playoff run in 2012.
Jason Garrett focused the Cowboys’ resources on players he thinks can add to the talent base on the Cowboys’ roster. Garrett was behind all of the moves by the Cowboys this week.
Jerry Jones is letting Garrett be heavily involved in the Cowboys’ personnel, and it has shown in the acquisitions.
5. Upgrade Need Positions
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The Cowboys entered free agency with plenty of needs on their roster.
Cornerback and offensive line were two of their more glaring weaknesses.
The Cowboys focused on bringing in a top-tier cornerback to replace Terence Newman in the starting lineup and signed Brandon Carr to a lucrative contract.
Brandon Carr immediately upgrades their secondary, while two free-agent signing on the offensive line will give the Cowboys depth and flexibility during the draft and the 2012 season.
The Cowboys also needed to address the safety position and find Tony Romo’s backup. The Cowboys signed Brodney Pool to start at safety and Kyle Orton to back up Romo to solve those issues.
Look for the Cowboys to continue addressing need positions like secondary, tight end and offensive line in the upcoming draft.
4. Protect Tony Romo
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Tony Romo has been beaten up a lot during his career.
In the past two seasons, he has dealt with broken ribs and a broken collarbone.
In 2010, Romo broke his collarbone when fullback Chris Gronkowski blew his blocking assignment.
The Cowboys attempted to solve some of their problems on the offensive line and upgrade at fullback quickly in free agency.
The Cowboys signed two guards to compete for starting jobs in Bill Nagy and David Arkin. They also signed Lawrence Vickers to upgrade their fullback position.
The Cowboys are determined to protect Romo better. These signings are a start in a long process of building their new offensive line.
Look for the Cowboys to continue this process during the NFL draft.
3. Insurance on Tony Romo
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Entering free agency, the Cowboys had to decide if they were comfortable with Stephen McGee as Tony Romo’s backup.
The Cowboys quickly answered "no," and they signed veteran Kyle Orton.
Jason Garrett has stated that he believes the Cowboys can win games with Kyle Orton starting. I assume the same was not felt if McGee was starting.
Ever since the debacle of Brad Johnson in 2008, the Cowboys have realized how important the backup quarterback position is.
Jon Kitna was traded for in 2009, and Kyle Orton will take over now that Kitna has retired.
Orton gives the Cowboys stability at quarterback when Romo eventually finds his way to the trainer’s room in 2012.
The Cowboys are now complete at the quarterback position for the upcoming seasons.
2. Give Rob Ryan Help
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Rob Ryan should not shoulder the entire blame for the Cowboys' defensive disaster in 2011.
The Cowboys showed little to no resistance in big moments.
Ryan deserves some of that blame, because he is hyped to be a defensive genius, but with the lockout, he was not given the right players to succeed.
The Cowboys started the process of making their defense Ryan-friendly during free agency. Brandon Carr gives the Cowboys a tall, athletic cornerback who can play man-to-man to pair with Mike Jenkins.
Dan Connor will give the Cowboys flexibility at linebacker with Sean Lee and Bruce Carter. Lee is figured to play almost every snap, but now Carter and Connor will give Ryan the ability to show offenses different looks with quality players.
Brodney Pool is a slight upgrade over Abram Elam, but he is another Ryan-friendly player. Pool can contribute to their defense while they look for their playmaking safety of the future.
The Cowboys will contribute to aid Ryan during the NFL draft—most likely adding to their secondary or pass rush early in the draft.
1. Build Competition
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Jason Garrett entered the Cowboys as their head coach preaching competition at every position.
Garrett proved his point quickly in free agency.
At the very least, the Cowboys upgraded the talent base of their roster with their seven free-agent signings and shed the declining weight on the roster.
Garrett has shown that no player is given anything and all players need to earn their opportunities.
Many people believed drafting DeMarco Murray was a mistake last year, but Garrett was not going to give Felix Jones more opportunities than he had earned. Murray has looked like a steal after his first season.
Look for the Cowboys to continue this trend. There will not be any position on the Cowboys roster that does not have competition.
Garrett believes that competition breeds winners. This means Cowboys fans can look forward to more free agencies like 2012—where the Cowboys focus on many players instead of the biggest names.