Dallas Cowboys 2011 Free Agent, Roster Analysis: Michael Huff Still in Plans?

Jonathan BalesAnalyst IJuly 27, 2011

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 31:  Mike Williams #17 of the Seattle Seahawks catches the ball while defended by Michael Huff #24 of the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on October 31, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After a not-so-brief hiatus from Cowboys-related writing, the end of the NFL lockout has coincided with the end of my own personal lockout, and Jon Burgundy is thus back to deliver the news.  A lot has happened in the NFL over the past 48 hours, including a ton of Cowboys transactions.  Below are my thoughts on some of the Cowboys’ major moves.

  • Marion Barber, Marc Colombo, Leonard Davis, Roy Williams and Kris Brown have all been released.

Barber and Colombo come as no surprise.  I gave Barber a 71.3 percent (C-) in my 2010 Running Back Grades—one of the worst of anyone I graded at any position.  That was really a bit too high in hindsight, as Barber’s pass protection was the only thing that saved him from a worse percentage.  He converted just 66.7 percent of runs with 1-3 yards-to-go (compared to 88.2 percent for Felix Jones).  Due to the drafting of DeMarco Murray, Barber will not be back with the team.

The same is not certain for Colombo.  Some are claiming the Cowboys could bring him back, but I still do not see that happening.  Colombo was absolutely atrocious in 2010, receiving a 63.0 percent from me—the worst grade I have ever handed out.  He gave up nine sacks, 11 hits and a ridiculous 40 pressures last season.  With the signing of Doug Free to a four-year deal, I can’t see how the ‘Boys could bring back Colombo (although they did cut both Robert Brewster and Davis, so perhaps they see him moving to guard?).

The releases of Davis and Williams come as a bit more of a surprise.  I graded Davis as the third-best offensive lineman on the team in my 2010 Offensive Line Grades with an 80.6 percent (B-).  Davis is known as a mauler, but I gave him a high grade in pass protection because he yielded just one quarterback hit all season.  He is not supposed to be back in Dallas, so it is quite unclear who will be starting at right guard for the Cowboys this season.  Phil Costa? A free agent?

Williams’ departure from Dallas will come as a pleasant surprise to a lot of Dallas fans.  I’m for it as of now, as Williams was contributing very little to the team in the back half of the 2010 season and his release paves the path for increased production from Dez Bryant and Kevin Ogletree.  It will be interesting to see if the ‘Boys re-sign Sam Hurd or look to the free agent market for their fifth receiver.

Kicker Kris Brown’s release comes as somewhat of a surprise, but the Cowboys are planning to have David Buehler compete with undrafted rookie Dan Bailey of Oklahoma State.  Buehler looks to be on track to win all kicking duties, which I do not support.

  • Terence Newman, Alan Ball, Alex Barron, Keith Brooking and Igor Olshansky all remain on the roster, as of now.

The Cowboys could have saved quite a bit of money by releasing Newman, but I think retaining him is the right move.  He had a horrible season in 2010 (by his standards), and I ranked him as just the 22nd-best player on the team in my 2010 Player Rankings.  His status is not sealed, however, as cornerbacks like Nnamdi Asomugha and Johnathan Joseph are still on the market.  Asomugha is a long-shot for sure, but the chances of the Cowboys signing Joseph are higher.  Still, I think the Cowboys 2011 cornerback crop is already on the team.

With no chance of Ball starting at free safety in 2011, it will be interesting to see what the Cowboys do with him and who will fill his shoes.  I think they will keep him on the roster as a cornerback/emergency free safety.  Current free safety options might include Michael Huff and Donte Whitner.

With Colombo and Brewster currently off of the roster, it will be interesting to see if the Cowboys keep Barron for insurance purposes.  He does have the ability to play both left and right tackle, and his 2010 season was marred by that dreadful opening night game in Washington.

As of now, I think you can expect Brooking and Olshansky to stay on the team in 2011.  I would have cut both players, but a case can be made for the pair as well.  Brooking offers obvious leadership ability, while Olshansky is one of the only defensive ends currently under contract.  The ‘Boys will likely let Marcus Spears walk and sign Stephen Bowen or Jason Hatcher (or perhaps both).  If the team decides to splurge for veteran end Cullen Jenkins, Olshansky could still be released.  Here are my 2010 Defensive Line Grades.

  • The Cowboys have agreed to a four-year, $32 million deal with Doug Free.

And $17 million of that is guaranteed.  The deal is huge for Dallas, as they now have their offensive tackles of the future in place for the next four years.  It should also seal Colombo’s fate, although that is not yet a certainty.

Free will probably stay on the left side of the line in 2011 before possibly switching places with rookie Tyron Smith.  I think that scenario is ideal.  I graded Free lower than most in 2010 with a 83 percent (B-)—lower than players like Orlando Scandrick, Anthony Spencer Gerald Sensabaugh and fellow lineman Kyle Kosier.   Still, he has improved throughout his career and I think he has the potential to be one of the best right tackles in the NFL.

Check back for more free agent updates, news and analysis.