Dallas Cowboys: Texas-Sized Winners of 2011 NFL Lockout

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Dallas Cowboys: Texas-Sized Winners of 2011 NFL Lockout
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Believe it or not, this mob scene -- the Manhattan court where lawyers dotted the i's and crossed t's on a new CBA -- bodes better for the Cowboys than most.

I'm done with it. You're done with it. The this NFL lockout has worn out its welcome.

Except, of course, in Dallas, the biggest beneficiaries. Really—the Fort Worth area should be in bedlam.

For one, there's Tony Romo, who doubles as established quarterback and foremost reason the Cowboys make out. You can love him. Hate him. Waffle about him.

But he's familiar with Jason Garrett's system at worst, and a top-seven quarterback at best.

That means he's not Alex Smith. He's not Chad Henne. He's not (insert whoever Washington and Arizona stick under center)—or anyone else pitted against Dallas in 2011.

There's another colossal victory. The schedule favors Dallas considerably, with soft stretches like the 49ers and Lions (Weeks 2 and 3) and Seahawks, Bills, Redskins, Dolphins and Cardinals (Weeks 9 through 13), all of whom could use the sessions they're missing as Day (insert lockout day count) rolls on.

Even at its toughest, like New England in Week 6, a preceding bye week makes it less so.

Seven opposing coaches—Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco, Mike Shanahan in Washington (twice), Pete Carroll in Seattle, Chan Gailey in Buffalo, Steve Spagnuolo in St. Louis and Tony Sporano in Miami—have minimal experience with their current teams or waning patience from their front offices.

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For newbies like Harbaugh, that complicates installing systems. For fringe firings like Shanahan, Gailey and Sporano, that exacerbates the anxiousness from above.

That pressure always bubbles, and ripples onto the field.

More so with stoppage skittishness.

Add eight opponents with uncertain quarterback situations—the 49ers, Redskins (twice), Lions (Stafford's shoulder is iffy), Bills, Seahawks, Dolphins and Cardinals—and you're staring at 10-6, conservatively. Pencil in a win against Tampa Bay (Week 15) and a better than .500 mark against the Eagles and Giants, plenty likely possibilities, and this could be the 2007 regular season all over again.

Difference between then and now: Romo 2.0—he's more hardened and talented)—and Jason Garrett.

And the lockout.

Dallas doesn't have to worry about either its signal- or shot-caller, with Jason Garrett settled in Arlington. No awkward introductions. No feeling out boundaries. No new system (organizationally and offensively, at least).

Then there's new-hire defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. He's something of a wild card in this mix, bringing a bronzed resume and bold personality to Dallas, the kind that makes you skittish about a mid-season meltdown. 

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
So long as the stoppage is on, and Tony Romo (above) is driving golf balls and not driven through the turf, his injuries will have time to heal. Same goes for DeMarcus Ware's neck.

But he was quiet in Cleveland and utilizes a patently simple 3-4 scheme, making his transition the most seamless of any league-wide.

You can't say that about most teams in this league, with this stoppage.

And those are just the dividends come September 11. The payouts started earlier, when OTAs and mini camps starting getting nixed, and injured players started getting healthy.

Both Romo and DeMarcus Ware have creaks needing oiling, and a football-less summer seems as good a WD-40 as any. The longer this drags on, the more red blotches on the off-season calendar.

And the more reps Romo's shoulder and Ware's neck finagle out of. That's a plus.

Then there are the guys who aren't on the team. (Yet.)

Not to bang on Dallas' draft—I raved about it earlier—but it didn't address crucial positions of need. Great ancillary players like Bruce Carter and DeMarco Murray and Dwayne Harris (my lock for a future overrated for being underrated surprise). But taking only one big-four player (Tyron Smith was the only relevant tackle, defensive end quarterback, wide receiver taken) and no defensive linemen or capable defensive backs left holes needing plugging.

David Maxwell/Getty Images
An expedited free agency period and new CBA rules help Dallas greatly, whereas teams like Cincinnati might have trouble re-signing Johnathan Joseph (above), giving Jerry Jones an opening.

But, however long it lasts, the protracted stoppage plays into Dallas' free agency plans.

The language of the latest (and likely last) proposal rewrote the book on restricted vs. unrestricted free agency, shuttling players with only four years of service (as opposed to six) into the open market, saturating the total pool up to 150 available players.

Roll that in with a leaned out July, and you've got the makings of a frenetic, wild-wheeling, "tag 'em and bag 'em" signing period.

Now, say what you want about Jerry Jones as a talent evaluator—he's not Bill Belichick, Baltimore's Ozzie Newsome or Indy's Bill Polian—but he's handily the best businessman. With time likely a scarcity, Jones will ink expedited deals quicker than most.

Might that mean showering undeserved dollars on unworthy players? Maybe. But Jones can afford it.

In fact, he can benefit from it.

Another nugget of the soon-to-be ratified CBA is its salary cap rules, which largely benefit cash-rich teams, like your Dallas Cowboys. Forcing ownership to use, in liquid assets, nearly the entirety of any spending allotment, hurts league paupers like Buffalo and Cincinnati (who'll have a tough time re-signing free-agent corner Johnathan Joseph—a guy who Dallas would be nuttier than a schizophrenic Ferrero Rocher to not pursue).

It helps your 'Boys—more so if the lockout spills into September.

The NFL's lockout contingency schedule would slip teams' Week 1 through 3 dates later in the season, meaning Dallas would get the New York Jets (toughest date on the calendar) well after the season-opener, when the Cowboys haven't yet gelled. It would also roll the cupcake couple, San Francisco and Washington, into a tough stretch that features the Giants and Eagles three times in four weeks.

That, and everything, makes life a little easier for Dallas.

So long as the lockout stays complicated, of course.

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