In an earlier post, we broached the question of obtaining Shaun Rogers in free agency, based on his size, ability and connection to defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. He's just one of a host of Browns defensive players that have been released or scheduled to hit the market because of expiring contracts. The Ranch Report noted that the Cowboys may have interest in four other players, three linebackers and safety Abram Elam. I'll cover the linebackers (D'Qwell Jackson, Matt Roth and Chris Gocong) in another post, but wanted to zoom in on the possibility of ex-Cowboys player Elam returning to Big D.
Elam played his 2006 season in Dallas under coach Bill Parcells. He was mostly used as a special teams guy, and was later released after the season and caught on with the Jets. After a couple of years there, he was traded to Cleveland and spent the last two seasons with the Browns, under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. He was a starter both years, and had some good seasons statistically. Elam played strong safety for the Browns, but could play either safety spot.
The Cowboys are still trying to solve the problems at safety, and converted cornberback Alan Ball had a tough year in 2010. Now, Elam isn't the kind of player you'd immediately say is the answer, he's been good enough to remain a starter in Cleveland, but his ranking from Pro Football Focus (via Dawgs by Nature) isn't that impressive.
His partner at safety this past season was Abe Elam, who played only eight fewer snaps than [T.J.] Ward. Elam ranked No. 43 among the 61 safeties.
But in looking around for more information about Elam's time in Cleveland, I stumbled on an article that was very effusive in its praise for Elam, based on quotes from his teammates and coach. Elam, it seems, was something of a leader for the team, not vocally, but by what he does on the field. As we mentioned, he's been somewhat productive; they note that Elam has made plays.
Elam is second to [T.J.] Ward on the team in tackles with 61, has two sacks, two interceptions, eight pass breakups, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
He finished the season with 79 tackles. Here's more description of his progress.
Elam has always been regarded as a solid run defender, but has made strides as a blitzer — two sacks against Carolina — and in pass coverage.
But, there may be a more intangible reason that the Cowboys would want him. Just listen to what his teammates, and what former Browns coach Eric Mangini, had to say about him
Mangini has consistently applauded Elam’s role in directing traffic at the back of the defense. He’s eased [T.J.] Ward’s transition into life as an NFL safety and worked with the linebackers to get all 11 guys set in coordinator Rob Ryan’s complex defense.
Even if they don't plan to start him, I'm sure Rob Ryan would love to have a guy at training camp and at practices who can help implement his system. A lot of the quotes from the Cowboys defenders about Ryan's defense have contained verbiage about its complexity, it's multiple looks, and they talk about 'once we master it'.
If that's the case, Elam could be an asset even if he's not starting. Here's what another Browns cornerback said.
"He’s definitely the quarterback in the back end," Brown said. "Ol’, wily veteran in this defense and he does a tremendous job of getting us in the proper places, where we’re ready to play. He probably knows the game plan better than any other player on the defense."
Sounds like someone the Cowboys could use. They often looked confused in the secondary in 2010.
Interestingly, Elam still has a connection With Bill Parcells.
Elam probably wouldn’t be where he is without Bill Parcells, his former coach in Dallas. When the Cowboys cut Elam, Parcells recommended him to Mangini.
"We talk probably two or three times during the offseason," Elam said of Parcells. "I’m thankful to have a great guy like that in my corner that’s been very supportive of me. "I’m going to continue to make him proud, because he’s done a lot for me."
So what do you think? Could Abe Elam end up back in Dallas? And would you welcome such a move?