Less than a month into free agency the Dallas Cowboys have already signed seven free agents, re-signed and franchised two Cowboys and released a former first-round pick. The Cowboys signings came fast and furious and Jason Garrett used his plan to strengthen the roster and create competition at every position.
There is no doubt that the Cowboys look to be on the right track for the 2012 season. They overcame their cap penalties and added quality players to improve the entire roster. Hopefully the Cowboys are not done. They still have needs especially on defense.
Rob Ryan still needs more pass-rushers and secondary help for the Cowboys defense to be ready for the 2012 season. If the Cowboys want to win the Super Bowl they need to continue to improve their defense. Here are the grades for every move made by the Cowboys thus far in free agency.
Even though Anthony Spencer has not lived up to his potential in terms of sacks, he was still going to be one of the best outside linebackers on the market. The Cowboys made sure they were not going to regress opposite of DeMarcus Ware by franchising Spencer.
The Cowboys can still draft an outside linebacker to replace Spencer in the future. For the time being, however, the job is still Spencer’s. Spencer is strong against the run and has the potential to make plays in the backfield. Even though this was not the most popular move with Cowboys’ fans, it still could be a smart move for the franchise.
Terence Newman struggled toward the end of the 2011 season signaling the end of his tenure with the Cowboys. Releasing Newman was expected because of his large contract and was made necessary when the Cowboys lost cap room.
Newman had a very solid career after being selected in the first round by the Cowboys. Newman was productive and reliable. There is no doubt Newman can still play cornerback at the NFL level—the Cowboys just could not pay his salary any longer.
Offensive line has seen the most change during free agency for the Cowboys. Kyle Kosier has dealt with many injuries in the past season and could no longer be relied upon as a starter. Kosier still played well when he was on the field but his recent knee injury worried the Cowboys enough to look elsewhere for 2012.
Releasing Kosier was a smart move for the Cowboys. Jason Garrett started the youth movement on the offensive line last season and continued the trend when they released Kosier. The door is now open for a young guard to prove himself and take over on a potential very talented offensive line.
One of the Cowboys main concerns entering the 2012 offseason was their depth on the offensive line. The Cowboys helped ease that concern when they signed Mackenzy Bernadeau. Bernadeau could challenge for a starting spot on the line but it is more likely Bernadeau will fill in during injuries.
Last season the Cowboys had a revolving door at left guard. Bernadeau gives the Cowboys a reliable replacement if injury strikes their starters.
Brandon Carr was the headline name for the Cowboys 2012 free-agency class. The Cowboys will replace Terence Newman with Brandon Carr and should see the benefits immediately. Carr is extremely talented and has already showed his competitive nature with his recent comments about Victor Cruz.
Carr immediately upgraded the Cowboys secondary and gave the Cowboys a talented duo of starting cornerbacks with Mike Jenkins. Carr is physical and has the height to cover the big receivers that the Cowboys struggled against in 2012. The Cowboys spent a lot of money on Carr and he needs to prove he was worth it every Sunday.
Jason Garrett has preached competition since he took over for Wade Phillips as head coach. The signing of Dan Connor proves that notion. Bruce Carter was the favorite to start at inside linebacker in his second season but Garrett was not ready to hand over the job.
Instead Garrett signed Dan Connor, who will compete with Carter for the starting job. Both players could win the job and the other player should still find time on the field in Rob Ryan’s defense. There is no doubt Connor will be productive for the Cowboys and they hope he brings out the best in Carter.
The Cowboys looked to retool their offensive line during the offseason and will replace Kyle Kosier with Nate Livings in 2012. Livings will be the starter entering training camp and should hold off the challenges of the young players behind him.
When Kosier is healthy, Livings is not a huge upgrade but Kosier’s injuries made him unreliable. Livings can stabilize the Cowboys offensive line. The Cowboys need improved offensive line play in 2012 to ensure they reach the playoffs. Signing Livings was a step in the right direction for the Cowboys offensive line.
Re-signing Kevin Ogletree was the most shocking signing of the offseason thus far. Ogletree has been given every opportunity to perform the past few seasons and has not delivered. Romo seems to spend more time yelling at him about routes than actually throwing him passes.
The Cowboys need to find a way to replace Laurent Robinson in their offense and hopefully they know Ogletree is not the answer. Maybe Ogletree can fulfill his potential in 2012, but I think it is more likely he is cut before the season.
Jon Kitna’s retirement left the Cowboys at a crossroad with their backup quarterback behind Tony Romo. The Cowboys decided they were not going to rely on Stephen McGee when Romo goes to the locker room and signed a veteran instead.
Kyle Orton is a veteran quarterback who Jason Garrett believes can win games when Romo is sidelined. Orton is a great signing for the Cowboys and gives them a reliable quarterback if Romo is injured. The only reason this signing did not earn an A is because hopefully Orton does not see the field at all in 2012.
Abraham Elam started for the Cowboys in 2011 and failed to deliver a substantial impact. Elam was a Rob Ryan guy and signed a one-year deal before the year. The Cowboys turned to Brodney Pool, another Rob Ryan guy, on a one-year deal to replace him.
Pool has a little more talent than Elam but not much. Pool will fill in adequately while the Cowboys look for a more permanent solution at safety in the draft. The Cowboys made a small upgrade for the 2012 season by signing Pool.
I personally love this move. The Cowboys have not had a talented true fullback in quite some time. Now they have one of the best. Vickers was signed instead of re-signing Tony Fiammetta. Fiammetta played well at times in 2011 but missed significant time nursing injuries and illnesses.
Vickers led the way for Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Tate and Foster may have been the best running back combination in the league and Vickers was a big part of that. The Cowboys hope DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones will have similar success in 2012 running behind Vickers. Vickers improves the running game and should lead to more rushing touchdowns this season.