Like with any new coaching staff, one of the first things Jason Garrett and his assistants have done is look at the quality of the roster they just took over. Garrett himself, as well as the coaches that have stayed on with the Cowboys, probably have a pretty good idea of the needs and gaps in the roster. The new coaches have had a couple of weeks to study game tape, get to know their new players and determine which positions on the team need to be upgraded.
There are two basic avenues from which to acquire new personnel, you upgrade your roster via the draft or through free agency. Today, I'd like to focus a little on free agency and one peculiarity of the Garrett regime that may impact what the Cowboys do in free agency.
Each of the past two coaches prior to Garrett, Bill Parcells and Wade Phillips, was brought in from outside. Each one was active in free agency, and each one brought in some players who had played for that coach before.
Parcells brought in quite a slew of free agents in his four-year tenure in Dallas, some of them decent, some of them not. His best acquisitions were arguably Terry Glenn and Marc Colombo. Glenn was acquired from the Packers for a 6th round pick and Colombo was picked off the Bears' injured list. Quite remarkably, nine of the 17 free agents Parcells brought in had played for him before, either with the Jets or the Patriots.
|Bill's Guys||Other FA's|
|Terry Glenn||WR||Marco Rivera||OG|
|Ryan Young||OT||Ryan Hannam||TE|
|Jason Fabini||OT||Akin Ayodele||ILB|
|Keyshawn Johnson||WR||Rocky Boiman||ILB|
|Richie Anderson||RB||Anthony Henry||CB|
|Jason Ferguson||NT||Mike Vanderjagt||K|
Drew Bledsoe and Terry Glenn were drafted by Parcells in New England, the other "Parcells Guys" in the list above had played for Parcells while he coached the New York Jets.
Wade Phillips on the other hand brought in only two veteran players in Igor Olshansky and Keith Brooking who had played for him previously. Gerald Sensabaugh had played for Coach Joe DeCamillis in Jacksonville previously and we'll consider him an honorary "Wade Guy". Seeing how the second column in the table below is headed up by two WR's that Jerry brought in, we'll call this column "Jerry's Guys"
|Wade's Guys||Jerry's Guys
|Igor Olshansky||DE||Terrell Owens||WR|
|Keith Brooking||ILB||Roy Williams||WR|
|Gerald Sensabaugh||SS||Leonard Davis||OG|
When Garrett was announced as the new head coach, Jerry Jones made it (relatively) clear that Garrett would be handed full control over all personnel decisions:
There won't be a player on this team that Jason does not want on the team. I wanna be real clear, we're gonna operate on the basis that he has the final say of any person thats on the staff, or joining the staff and there won't be a player on this team that Jason hasn't approved of. I think we've had criticism in the past, or maybe some ambiguity, are we clear with that? What I just said?
So who could Garrett's Guys be? Garrett has obviously been with the Cowboys for quite a while. Before joining the Cowboys in 2007, Garret was QB coach in Miami from 2005-2006, but thinking that he might bring in a Dolphins player familiar to him from that time might be a stretch. Funnily enough, there are two players who fit the bill: RBs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are both free agents, and both were in Miami when Garrett was there as well, but RB isn't exactly a high priority for the Cowboys.
That leaves Garrett's new assistant coach hires as potential sources for free agents. Will they be bearing gifts as they come to Dallas? Here's a look at the free agents that played for some of the new hires recently:
Brian Baker, D-Line coach for the Panthers last year, could bring along one of the most sought-after DE's in the league at the moment, the Panthers' Charles Johnson.
The 24-year-old Johnson had a breakout 2010 season with 11½ sacks. Pro Football Focus have him as their 2nd top DE in free agency. His PFF grade was an astonishing +43.8, and he led all DE’s in the league in Defensive Stops (48) and in QB Disruptions (81). Plus, he’s the youngest of the top DEs.
Johnson did not receive the Panther's franchise tag this season, and while the Panthers plan on slapping him with an RFA tender, the 4-year player could be a free agent depending on how the new CBA shakes out. Johnson will be part of a large class of players with four years or more of accrued NFL experience who under the old rules would have been unrestricted free agents.
Rob Ryan and Matt Eberflus have a truckload of candidates from Cleveland, including safety Abram Elam, ILB did a writeupOLB
Additionally, Ryan might be able to pull some strings with safeties Brodney Pool and Michael Huff. Pool played for Ryan in Cleveland in 2009 before moving to the Jets, and Huff spent his first three years in the league playing for Ryan in Oakland. Huff is the second highest ranked free agent safety according to PFF. Incidentally, both are Texas natives.
Jimmy Robinson could have Roy Williams' replacement in his back pocket. Wide receiver James Jones, a third round pick for the Packers in 2007, has four years of accrued experience and would likely be available if offered a starter's salary.
Who do you think could or should be Garrett's Guys, if and when free agency happens?