According to unofficial reports from sources inside Valley Ranch, Dallas has come up with a creative capology castoff exchange that has hooked a wounded bear and released a (better on) paper lion along with toothless tigers and some cats few outside of big D or the emerald city have Hurd of. Details after the jump...
With targets of a free agent safety net (Elam?) still being tracked, the midnight gambler (JJ) has freed valuable cap space while continuing to shore up a rebuilding offensive line and continue to get younger and more athletic at linebacker. Dallas parted ways with the bloated contracts and diminishing returns from Roy Williams and Marion Barber III, swapped the aging Keith Brooking , and threw in Sam Hurd to obtain stalwart Bears line anchor Olin Kreutz and former Seahawks defensive quarterback LB Lofa Tatupu. The 12 year veteran center has been named to six pro bowls and four All-Pro teams in his accomplished career, while the ex Seattle LB was named to three pro bowls and one All-Pro team.
After contract negotiations with Chicago stalled, the Bears chose instead to line up with former Seahawks center Chris Spencer. Dallas is expected to structure deals with the veteran line and linebacking leaders for incentive laden two (Kreutz) and three (Tatupu) year contracts in the neighborhood of $3-3.5M per season. With only the first year fully guaranteed, the move actually frees up cap space, adds depth, provides mentors for developing draft picks, leaves flexibility towards the '12 cap, and leaves room for the expected reunion of S Abram Elam with the Cowboys and their new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan who coached him last season in Cleveland under similar terms.
As the Cowboys retool their line after jettisoning declining veterans Leonard (Bigg) Davis and Marc Colombo and drafting USC rookie Tyron Smith with the #9 overall pick, some may see this as an inconsistent move. Many expected the 'Boys to bolster their interior line with a veteran guard to bridge the transition to younger players such as draft picks Arkin and Nagy and holdovers Phil Costa and Montrae Holland. However, acquiring the savvy snapper from Chicago allows the grooming of the youngsters while sliding fellow perennial pro-bowler Andre Gurode over to RG next to the projected starting RT the rookie Smith. Kreutz will wind up in the HOF, and I would rather have him groom our next snapper than Gurode. This should ease some of the growing pains for the Cowboys' first rounder, allow Gurode to move back to the spot he manned as a rookie and starred at as a collegian, provide an upgrade in protection calls and shotgun snaps from the center position, and improves the depth and experience along the entire line. Projected 1st team depth chart: LT Free, LG Kosier, C Kreutz, RG Gurode, RT Smith. Smith would be the swing tackle as second year player Sam Young backs up the right side, Costa and Holland would back up the interior positions.
Tatupu is coming off of injuries that have limited his production, and the new regime in Seattle has now parted ways with not only quarterback Matt Hasselbeck but now also their defensive signal caller. Tatupu offers an instinctive veteran option to compete with sophomore ILB Sean Lee opposite fellow veteran leader Bradie James, can serve as another mentor for Lee and second round pick Bruce Carter, and again provides either a motivated pro-bowler below market value, or at the least quality depth. His body of work has been as a MLB but his playmaking ability should translate to WILB in Rob Ryan's new D. Dallas has had success in the past with slightly undersized, instinctive linebackers who served as emotional leaders of the defense such as Dexter Coakley and Dat Nguyen and are hoping for lightning in a bottle although their modest investment would not preclude parting ways after 2011 if Tatupu is unable to hold off Lee and/or Carter down the road. If he regains his previous form, he is younger than James and provides insurance against the injury history of Chia's Bruce/Lee combo.
As the free agent safety market sorts out, the Cowboys are set to add Abram Elam to their secondary. Subpar safety play has been the albatross around the neck of the D since the retirement of Dallas legend Darren Woodson. While Elam is not considered an elite option, he knows Ryan's defense, and most certainly would help get everyone in the right place. Having a safety in the right place at the right time will be a welcome sight for not only Cowboys fans subjected to the Alan Ball project in 2010, but his CB teammates who were let down repeatedly by the first (and only) year starter at FS. In an about face from the porous secondary of a season ago, fingers will be pointed as opposing receivers line up and not at each other after completions. In his stints in New Jersey and Ohio after being cut by son of a Bum, Elam displayed solid tackling, playmaking ability, and willingess in run support. He will rejoin his original NFL home when the new CBA is ratified along with other acquisitions and re-signed Cowboys free agents.
Liberties have been taken in this satirical recreation of the last 120+ hours. The underlying premise remains that signing my suggestions and adding Brooking to the outbox that ushered out the cap casualties leaves ME feeling better about pretty much every position that needed addressing heading into the offseason with the possible exception of DE. OT has Free and Smith as bookends for the next 4+ seasons. Kosier, Gurode, and Kreutz can hold the fort at least as replacements are groomed or drafted inside the Tackles. LB is younger, faster, and deeper than at season's end. Elam and the youngsters at safety would have a higher floor and certainly a higher ceiling than Sensi and Ball. At CB a healthy TNew, a chastened Jenkins, Scandrick in a contract year, and a more experienced McCann will benefit if the safety play is merely steady. Throw in Ball and possibly AOA into the mix also and that's a long way from 3CB's heading into last season. There was talk that we needed to hold onto RW because of the riffraff behind him at WR. Ogletree figures to get first crack, but the 3rd WR is about the 6th option behind Witten, Austin, Dez, not to mention Bennett and Phillips, along with Felix and Murray. That said, if you can get the 3 guys I have targeted above the glaring weaknesses have been addressed and we are shopping the clearance rack for the balance of free agency for a possible DE, WR, CB, or second FA safety. The idea of Ty Warren intrigues as might Derrick Mason to come in and move the chains in the slot or play outside and let Miles roam inside the hashes if the price is right. Murray, AOA, Sendejo, Church, Lee, Lissemore, McCann, Brent, Ogletree, Chapas and Harris don't have big money long term vets to hold them back. Camp is a competition that Garrett, Ryan, and the Jones's can use to get an educated jump on the churn others on here are predicting in '12 and '13. Three guys for something like $10M against the salary purged dead weight Chicago has been dumpster diving for. I would gladly flip that player pipeline around and ink a couple of motivated veteran RKG's at a third or half off of their asking prices to their former teams.