Dallas Cowboys: The Five Worst Free-Agent Signings in Franchise History

Stephen UrbaniakCorrespondent IJuly 21, 2011

Dallas Cowboys: The Five Worst Free-Agent Signings in Franchise History

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    Free agency is a crucial period in the NFL where teams that did not hoist the Lombardi Trophy try to sign players from other teams to try to close the talent gap and unseat the defending Super Bowl champion.

    Stars move from one team to the next, looking to cash in on their big season and lead their new team to the promised land. Teams often try to be aggressive in free agency and often end up not being successful. 

    Just ask Daniel Snyder and the Washington Redskins how that has worked the past decade or so.

    With the first lockout since 1987, free agency has been stalled, and stars such as Oakland's Nnamdi Asomugha, Green Bay's Cullen Jenkins and the Jets' Antonio Cromartie have all been stuck in limbo.

    So while we wait for the NFL and the players to resolve their months-long battle to cobble together and establish a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, we are all speculating as to which star will go where or what team will overreach and overspend on a guy (Albert Haynesworth, anyone?).

    Here are five of the worst free-agent signings in Dallas Cowboys history.

5. Mike Vanderjagt

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    A kicker is a guy who is expected to come onto the field and when the game is on the line, make a kick to bring his team back to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

    When one thinks of a clutch kicker, one example would be Indianapolis' Adam Vinatieri. He has made game-winning kicks in the biggest of all games, the Super Bowl.

    The Cowboys have not had a reliable kicker since Chris Boniol nailed, "87.1 percent of his field goal attempts while playing for the Cowboys in the mid-1990s."

    Mike Vanderjagt was brought in to provide some long overdue stability to the position, but he failed, as he cost the Cowboys a crucial Week 9 game against the Redskins. He had a game-winning field goal blocked in what's now called the "Hand of God" game.

    Vanderjagt was eventually replaced by Shaun Suisham and was released by the Cowboys in November of 2006, and was replaced by Martin Gramatica.

    The Cowboys still do not have a viable option at kicker, as David Buehler has struggled to find accuracy on his kicks.

4. Eddie George

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    The former Tennessee Titans running back hit a Titan-sized wall when he came to the Cowboys in 2004 after being released by his former team due to salary cap concerns.

    The former Ohio State product was at the twilight of his career in Dallas, and he was very limited, as he only started eight games for the Cowboys and only rushed for 432 yards. George retired following the 2004 season.

    The Cowboys would still go on for five more years searching for an effective replacement at running back until they drafted Felix Jones from the University of Arkansas.

    Eddie George was best known for his time with Houston, then eventually Tennessee. His career stats are modest, yet steady:

    "He retired with 10,441 rushing yards, 268 receptions, 2,227 receiving yards, and 78 touchdowns."

3. Randall Cunningham

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    The ageless quarterback came to Dallas as a backup for Troy Aikman, and after Aikman suffered his career-ending injury in Washington, Cunningham was again called upon to take the reins of the suddenly-average Cowboys offense.

    In his return to face the team that drafted him decades ago in the 1985 NFL Draft, Cunningham faced off against the then-future of the quarterback position for the Eagles, Donovan McNabb

    The game ended with an overtime field goal to give the Birds a 16-13 victory over Cunningham and the Cowboys.

    Cunningham would post a record of 1-2 during his time as the starting quarterback for the Cowboys, but a 5-11 year for the team prompted his release.

    The Cowboys would go another 6.5 years on the quarterback carousel until they found Tony Romo, and thus hopped off the carousel that destroys and has set back some NFL teams to this very day. 

2. Joey Galloway

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    One of the biggest disappointments in free agency/trade history, the Cowboys traded for the former Seattle Seahawk in 2000, looking for a viable replacement after Michael Irvin's career-ending injury.

    The Cowboys gave up two first-round selections in the 2000 and 2001 NFL Drafts to grab Galloway in order to provide another receiving option opposite Raghib Ismail.

    This was the trade that ultimately set the Cowboys back talent-wise for years. 

    Called by many as the worst trade in NFL history, the team was in salary cap purgatory for the first few years of the decade and was thus dead in the water.

    The Cowboys have since stabilized the wide receiver position by cultivating Miles Austin into an NFL star, drafting the much-maligned but all-worldly talented Dez Bryant, and they have Roy Williams, Kevin Ogletree and Sam Hurd as depth to possibly form one of the best receiving corps in the NFL.

1. Ryan Leaf

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    During the opening of the decade, the WORST free-agent signing in Cowboys' history was, in my opinion...

    If you guessed Ryan Leaf, then you are absolutely correct. Leaf is considered the biggest bust in NFL draft history.

    After being drafted No. 2 overall by the San Diego Chargers, Leaf's career was highlighted by injuries, inconsistent play and overall bad decision-making. 

    With on and off-the-field incidents, the Chargers parted ways with him after he injured his throwing wrist, but refused to have surgery. 

    Leaf attempted a comeback with the Cowboys in 2002, but again was ineffective. In four games, he threw for 494 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions, all losses.

    He was released by the team and had floated around the league to Seattle, but eventually retired, citing injuries as the reason for his sudden retirement at age 26.

    In the years since, the Cowboys have found their franchise quarterback in Tony Romo, and Leaf has faded from the memory of the NFL.