5 Free Agency Moves the Dallas Cowboys Did Not Make That Will Haunt Them
The Dallas Cowboys ended their 2011 season in disappointment. That disappointment turned into a deep depression after their division rival made a second Super Bowl run with Eli Manning. For Cowboy fans, the debate between Romo and Manning is endless, but for most of the other football fans, the debate ends quickly in Manning’s favor.
Romo’s one playoff victory does not hold a lot of weight in a conversation with a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback. Cowboy fans point to the obviously lack of depth and even talent at some positions to excuse Romo’s lack of championships. In my opinion, that was more evident than ever before in Romo’s career. The Giants had more talent at almost every position.
Free agency has been the Cowboys’ first opportunity to change their fortunes for the 2012 season. The Cowboys started fast, landing seven players in the first couple days, headlined by Brandon Carr. Some of those players will start in 2012, and others, such as Kyle Orton, will provide competition and depth to the roster.
Obviously, the Cowboys could not sign every player or fill every need, so the NFL draft will be their next chance to further build a championship-level team. Even though the Cowboys deserve high praise for the efforts in free agency, there are still a couple moves that will haunt them in 2012.
Signed with Tampa Bay
Arguably the least talented position on the field for the Cowboys last season was their offensive guards. Kyle Kosier was decent at times, but the rotation at left guard was less than adequate. Carl Nicks was the best guard on the market and arguably the best football player available. The Cowboys' desperate need at guard, combined with Nicks’ former college head coach on Dallas’ staff, made Nicks to Dallas look like a match.
Unfortunately, the Cowboys were slapped with a salary cap violation resulting in less cap room. Tampa Bay went on a spending spree and bought Nicks’ services. Whether or not the Cowboys would have been able to compete with Tampa Bay’s offer had they not been fined is debatable. Either way, if the Cowboys cannot protect Romo better this season, they will be regret not making Nicks their top priority.
Signed with Jacksonville
Even after Laurent Robinson’s breakout 2011 season, he was not going to overtake Dez Bryant or Miles Austin as one of the Cowboys' starting wide receivers. Bryant is too talented, and Austin is the Cowboys’ most complete receiver. Even though Robinson would not compete for a starting position, the Cowboys will still feel his absence.
The Cowboys really had no chance at signing Robinson once he decided money was more important than winning or contributing to a team. The Cowboys could not offer the amount of money Jacksonville did for numerous reasons, including their salary cap situation. Fortunately for Cowboy fans, Robinson is replaceable.
The Cowboys can find another receiver that can develop chemistry with Romo and play in the slot. However, the fact that the Cowboys failed to replace Robinson with anyone but Kevin Ogletree will haunt the Cowboys in 2012.
Any Upgrade at Center
Phil Costa should not be the Cowboys center in 2012. Neither should Kevin Kowalski. The Cowboys chose to add two guards and no centers in free agency. There could have been many contributing factors into that decision by Jason Garrett.
Garrett may not have thought any of the centers available were worth their asking price. He may have thought the best available centers were too old and did not fit their youth movement. Hopefully, he does not believe Costa is the answer in 2012. If Garrett does not add a center in the NFL draft, his decision not to sign a center in free agency will haunt the Cowboys.
A Second Tight End
Martellus Bennett defected to the New York Giants, leaving behind a forgettable start to his NFL career. Bennett failed to develop into a consistent and reliable option opposite Jason Witten. However, Bennett did find his niche in the Cowboys offense as their blocking tight end.
In 2012, the Cowboys will not miss Bennett in the passing game. Jon Phillips may actually develop into a better option dispite Bennett’s having more natural ability. The Cowboys running game, however, will struggle.
The Cowboys needed to add a big blocking tight end to replace Bennett’s production in the offense. DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones both benefited from Bennett’s blocking, and if the Cowboys do not fill his role, they will be haunted by the decision.
Signed with San Diego
Eddie Royal would have filled two needs for the Dallas Cowboys. Royal would have given the Cowboys an elusive receiver to play Laurent Robinson’s role and a dynamic returner on both kick and punt returns. Royal could have been one of the most productive under-the-radar signings in Cowboys history.
Unfortunately for Dallas, San Diego lost Vincent Jackson to Tampa Bay’s spending spree and needed to replace him. The Chargers divided the money for Jackson between Royal and Robert Meachem, and Royal signed with San Diego. There is no question Royal could have been an extremely valuable Cowboy, and the Cowboys will be haunted for not signing him.
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