Few teams were as active as the Cowboys when free agency started this spring, but the question is: Was the money spent wisely, and if so, who makes the immediate impact for the team?
Any team can throw money around, but only the truly successful ones make the financial commitment to the right guys. It was obvious Dallas had some glaring needs that had to be addressed in order to make the next step and become serious playoff contenders.
First up was their secondary, and especially their cornerbacks, that resembled more of a porous sponge than a lock down unit.
The marquee signing was Brandon Carr, who the Cowboys locked up for five years at $50.1 million. That's a high price, but for the shape the secondary was in, a worthwhile gamble—now Brandon provides that physical corner to lock up with a team’s top receiver compared to the more matador style Terrence Newman played during his time in Dallas.
At only 26 years old, the Cowboys now have Brandon Carr under contract for the prime of his career and can team him with first-round pick Morris Claiborne for many seasons. It should eliminate the fourth quarter blunders that plagued the team last year on defense.
Carr is a textbook Rob Ryan style of corner, and he will allow Ryan the freedom to blitz even more, knowing that Carr is patrolling one side of the field for his defense.
The next most glaring area to improve on Dallas last season was the linebacker spot next to the talented Sean Lee.
Keith Brooking and Bradie James always carried themselves as true professionals for their careers, but it was painfully obvious they no longer played at a high enough level to warrant a starting spot. The Cowboys certainly upgraded the spot with the signing of Dan Connor from the Panthers, and also have the availability of 2011 second-round pick, Bruce Carter, for a full camp.
Connor (26 years old) and Carter (24 years old) give the Cowboys young talented inside linebackers to not only split the duties of working with Sean Lee, but also provide quality depth behind Lee, should any injury occur.
Last year was Connor’s best season with 75 tackles with the Panthers, and now that he's teaming back up with Lee and Carter, the Cowboys will have guys flying around the middle of the field and making plays instead of hanging on, hoping someone falls over.
On the offensive side with questions still hanging over the team regarding center and guard, the signing of former Pro Bowl fullback, Lawrence Vickers, is showing to be even be more critical to the team’s success this year.
Jason Garrett is a big believer in having a fullback in his system, and the Cowboys thought they had the position filled last year with Tony Fiammetta, but some questions regarding dedication and commitment appear to have spelled his doom in Dallas. Plus, when Vickers hit the market, the Cowboys could not contain themselves to get a new lead blocker for DeMarco Murray and body guard for Tony Romo.
If you question Vickers impact, look at the numbers of the last two running backs he blocked for in 2011, Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Vickers clearly has the makings of being the best fullback the Cowboys have had in nearly 20 years.
The jury is still out on what improvement guys like Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings will have on the team this season as the boys continue to bring in bodies to camp, but a few names to mark down to keep on the radar for upcoming seasons include: Tyrone Crawford, Ronald Leary and Adrian Hamilton.
All three of these guys, along with a few others, lay a great foundation for future seasons for the Dallas Cowboys.