AmericasBoys Free Agency Edition
All of this is contingent on the NFLPA and the owners coming to an agreement, which I believe will be in place before the lockout date. With the excitement generated this week; having two of the NFL’s greatest franchises (along with ours) face off and the prospect of setting the Super Bowl attendance record, neither side will endanger the popularity of the sport. The players have taken a beating in the courts over the last week. Particularly, with the ruling, that they will lose health benefits in the event of a lockout.
In any job the health coverage of an individual and their family is a major component, which the players cannot continue without. Without medical coverage, players requiring surgery and rehab could stand to lose a chunk of the season. This is certainly an underlying issue that may push this entire process along. For a team like the Cowboys with approximately $25 million in cap space (under the old structure), and holes to fill, it will be vital to sign free agents prior to the draft, thus allowing the team to draft the BPA for most of their draft positions.
Jason Garrett will be afforded the opportunity by Jerry Jones to purge the roster of players who stand to undermine the culture he is seeking to institute, regardless of how much the players are owed. This season stung the entire franchise from the top down to us fans more than any season before. The return on Jones's investment in Garrett’s culture is far greater than the players. This team will get significantly younger, and slightly mirror the Pats model under Garrett. Garrett shares similar values to Belichick and brought in Rob Ryan because of the same ideology. Garrett, Ryan, and Stephen Jones will begin to sway Jerry’s outlook on the team and long term success.
As target Number 1, don’t think Garrett has forgotten about Williams’s involvement in the trio of whiners who complained in highly publicized "private" meetings about Romo’s targets and Garrett’s play calling. TO and Crayton have been shown the door and RW is next on Garrett’s hit list. Williams also threatens to challenge the quiet, workmanlike approach Garrett expects from his team. If we can get a late round pick for him great, but it isn’t likely and cutting him will send a bigger message. MBIII chose a more subtle approach by violating Garrett’s dress code, but the final game of the season indicated what Garrett thinks of Barber’s antics.
Colombo and Brooking have declined too much to keep on the roster. Barron never had it to begin with. Sensabaugh can be upgraded, but I wouldn’t be disappointed having him back. Hurd is extremely valuable on ST, but I think McCray proved he is ready to be our ace. Ball and Hatcher could be retained for depth, but need to be let go to avoid being progress stoppers. The next two players are the toughest to decide on. It would be a tough call to let Kosier walk in lieu of cutting Davis, but Bigg graded out better than Kosier and will improve with an upgrade at RT. Also the team can only take so many cap hits in one off season.
Newman is in italics because he is the one which is most up in the air. He has enough value to remain a starting CB, but his release creates significant cap space that may net the team more FA flexibility. Our CB play WILL greatly improve this season under Ryan’s defense and actually getting help from our safeties.
Doug Free needs no explanation. Bowen has already peaked Rob Ryan’s interest and Marcus Spears will return after learning his market value is not as high as he believes it to be. Spears’ responsibilities as a 34 end are often overlooked, but he adequately fills a role. Spears and Anthony Spencer are not the flashy 1st round picks we hoped they would be, but they both do a good job holding the line in run support, which allows Ware and Ratliff to get pressure. The cap space saved by releasing heavy contracts will allow the team to re-sign these few players, and add to the cap space available to sign other players in FA.
Free Agent Signing
Jerry will make a splash signing but not the big name we all expected. RR will ask Jones to get him a traditional nose tackle to push the pocket, and Franklin fits that need. This opens up many stunting possibilities for Ratliff coming off the end with Spencer and Ware. The thought of Spears holding the LOS, Franklin pushing the pocket backward, and Ratliff, Ware, and hopefully Spencer terrorizing QB’s is incredible. Wait and we’ll be bringing MLBs and DBs on the blitz as well!!
Ryan’s tendencies to blitz his DB’s means the team will need athletic safeties, a spot Michael Huff will fill perfectly. He has decent ball skills, is a willing tackler, and has experience in Ryan’s system. Huff will have no problem filling Sensabaugh’s SS spot.
Blalock will step in for Kosier, and hopefully give the team a hometown discount. We all know Kosier makes the calls and holds the line together, but it’s time to get younger on the OL. It starts this year with replacing Kosier and Bigg and Gurode in succession each season after. Gaither is a risk/ reward signing who will compete with a mid round RT and may come cheaper due to his injury risks. Jerry may relent on some issues, but I just don’t see him drafting a RT before the 2nd Round. He has always shown a desire to pay for his line rather than develop it.
If Newman is indeed released a couple of other players to keep an eye on may be Mike Sims-Walker, D’Qwell Jackson, and Chris Gocong. Sims- Walker performed better in one game at Dallas Stadium than RW has in 3+ seasons, he can fill Roy’s spot without the mouth depending on his asking price. Otherwise Roy’s spot will be fought for by Ogletree/ Drafted Rookie. Jackson and Gocong both have the experience in Ryan’s system and he may sign the player he values more. I believe RR will try to bring Huff and one of these MLBs to help lead his defense up the middle.
Prior to the draft I think our starting lineup will fill out as shown below. I’m not convinced Newman is gone before draft day, as that may tip Jerry’s hand for his draft plans. Outside of Jenkins and Huff the secondary is very fluid. Depending on our selections Newman’s release post draft may see AOA moved back to CB, and will free up the money to plug holes we may not be able to rely on rookies for (3rd WR/ 3rd MLB).
WR- Bryant LT- Free LG- Blalock C- Gurode RG- Davis RT- Gaither WR- Austin
TE- Witten QB- Romo HB- Jones H-Back- Phillips
OLB- Spencer DE- Spears NT- Franklin DE- Ratliff OLB- Ware
MLB- James MLB- Lee
CB- Jenkins FS- AOA SS- Huff CB- Newman/ Scandrick
Draft Edition is coming in the next day or two- Jerry will upgrade the trenches in FA because he loves to draft shiny new toys. Our first selection will be a big time player with the balance of our draft spent on depth. My gut feeling before doing the draft edition: With Garrett’s ability to lead the offense in the top of the league, not much needs to change. Jerry and Ryan are targeting a LB/ DB to wreak havoc on defense.