Last weekend's stunning loss of former Hamilton Tiger Cats pass rusher Jerry Brown in a suspected drunken driving crash and the signing of another Tiger Cat, DT/DE Robert Rose to the active roster have brought to fans attention how important finding talent in the Canadian Football League (or anywhere else besides the draft and big ticket free agency) could be for the Cowboys going forward. The OCC details in today's post how compelled both by tragedy and game day necessity, Jason Garrett is churning the bottom of the Cowboys roster like never before in his 2 1/2 year tenure as head coach, bringing in both young journeymen free agents like former New York Giants cornerback Michael Coe and raw "projects" such as tight end Andre Smith and defensive back Micah Pellerin. Young relatively little known players like former SMU defensive back Sterling Moore are also receiving increasing snaps along with more prominent playing time for Jeremy Parnell at right tackle and Cole Beasley at receiver.
Given the uphill climb the injury-ravaged Cowboys face in winning out their remaining games, it seems prudent that the coaching staff is already evaluating talent on the roster and available through street free agency prior to the 2013 NFL Draft. After running multiple draft projections including with six rounds mocked, I can say confidently there's no way Dallas can fill all the holes this team has in one draft. The salary cap crunch involved in trying to re-sign Tony Romo, Anthony Spencer and likely cutting Doug Free also necessitates digging deep for quality depth players.
The relationship the Cowboys seem to have with the Hamilton Tiger Cats suggests there could be at least one if not two more CFL players brought in before the CFL's deadline for players to decide whether to entre NFL free agency in mid-February 2013. And it just so happens that the Tiger Cats have one of the top free agents in the CFL at a position of need for the Cowboys.
CFL FA Target 1: OL Peter Dyakowski, Hamilton Tiger Cats (LSU)
According to the Winnepeg Sun's Kirk Penton, the list of top CFL free agents this winter is highlighted by No. 67 for the Tiger Cats, offensive lineman Peter Dyakowski. The 6"3 315 pound player began his football career relatively late in the 10th grade in Vancouver, B.C. before playing college football at LSU.
Despite an injury marred CFL season in 2012 Dyakowski will still be 29 years old this April appears to have a few good seasons of football left in him. Above all what Dyakowski brings to the table for Jason Garrett's offense besides good size to play guard is the intelligence to make line calls and recognize what pass rushers are doing prior to the snap. Dyakowski was on the All-SEC academic team at LSU in 2004 and recently competed on "Canada's Smartest Person" TV show. He's definitely worth bringing in to compete for the right guard spot with Mackenzy Bernadeau, Kevin Kowalski, Ronald Leary and David Arkin this offseason, particularly as Kowalski and Arkin might slide inside to play center in training camp.
Note: the Cowboys might find themselves in a slight bidding contest for his services with other interior OL needy teams like the Philadelphia Eagles and the Miami Dolphins, who have their own history of signing CFL stars in recent years.
CFL FA Target 2: OT Jeff Perrett, Montreal Alouttes (Tulsa)
If the Cowboys appeared to be set at right tackle Perrett probably wouldn't get consideration here, given the fact that he's already 29 and has played in the CFL almost his whole career. But the Alberta native has nice RT mauler size at 6"7 320 and has been one of the CFL's top o-linemen for several seasons. However, the tackle needy Philadelphia Eagles might decide after cutting King Dunlap to bring in Perrett to compete for a third or fourth tackle spot behind the returning Jason Peters and one of their top two draft picks.
CFL FA Target 3: Marcus Howard, Edmonton Eskimos (Georgia)
Howard was a 5th round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in the 2008 draft. He has started to blossom in the CFL with 12 sacks in his last 19 games. At 6"1 245 it's not certain whether Howard can play pass rushing outside linebacker in the pros or better projects as an inside backer in the 3-4, but Rob Ryan runs enough 4-3 looks that Howard could get some playing time in preseason if the Cowboys sign him.
CFL FA Target 4: Evan McCollough, Toronto Argonauts (James Madison)
McCollough plays a position for the CFL's biggest market team, the Argonauts, where the Cowboys already appear to be stacked with young and raw cornerbacks. However if McCollough can give Sterling Moore a run for his money as a slot corner and tackler he'd be a great pickup. If a couple of guys get banged up in training camp McCollough could make a bid for a roster spot while Pellerin gets re-signed to the practice squad. Worth bringing in for a workout in February.
CFL FA Target 5: OT Jovan Olafioye, British Columbia Lions (North Carolina Central University)
The winner of the CFL's Most Outstanding Lineman Award started his career young after a short stint at NC Central University. Olafioye is a load at 6"6 325. The St. Louis Rams attempted to sign him last February. Unfortunately a kidney issue led to Olafioye failing a team physical. However the Detroit native has yet to see his 25th birthday this December 16th, and it's unclear why the issue prevents him from playing in the NFL but not taking on pass rushers in the pass-happy CFL. The kidney issue might scare off many teams but Olafioye could be worth a look by the Cowboys scouting department this offseason if not bringing in for a workout.
Who didn't make the cut from the Winnepeg Sun list:
Odell Willis, Saskatchewan Roughriders
I doubt that the soon to be 28-year-old OLB/DE Willis can beat out Adrian Hamilton or someone else the Cowboys could grab off another team's practice squad before the 2012 season ends. Willis has bounced around a lot of Arena League and NFL teams prior to breaking out with the Roughriders this past season.