I haven't done a military analogy in a while, and this seems like the perfect time for one.
Back on December 8th, 1941, the Japanese Navy was having a heck of a celebration over the crippling blow they had struck against the United States at Pearl Harbor. The one dissenting voice recorded was that of the designer and commander of the attack, Admiral Yamamoto, who had served with the Japanese Embassy in the US and had traveled the country extensively. He looked a little deeper at the overall situation, and remarked "I fear that all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."
Looking at what seems to be a very impressive group of free agents signed by the Dallas Cowboys, I wonder just how much motivation Roger Goodell and the 28 whiny owners who complained gave to Jerry Jones and his son Stephen.
I have tried very hard to keep away from the Koolaid. But even the national media is saying mostly good things about what Dallas has done in this year's free agency, and I am getting really thirsty.
Some of what I say below may be a bit of a best case scenario, but this is the time of year where we can let our hopes run high. Feel free to disagree, but you aren't bringing me down for a while.
My optimistic feelings after the jump
A lot of times a free agent signing is a forced step back, like the one the New Orleans Saints were forced into. They lost Carl Nicks to free agency, and then signed Ben Grubbs from the Baltimore Ravens. Now, while Grubbs certainly is no scrub, Nicks was acknowledged to be the best guard available in free agency this year, so the Saints were forced by cost considerations to step down a bit.
So far, with six new players added, the Cowboys have not stepped back on a single one. Everyone has been signed to address a need, and each offers improvement, ranging from marginal to truly significant.
- CB Brandon Carr was the top cornerback available by most estimates, and a significant upgrade over Terence Newman. And he is already hard at work.
- Backup QB Kyle Orton is an experienced NFL starter with some history of success, like Jon Kitna, but nearly a decade younger and much more mobile.
- ILB Dan Connor is young and improving, and already pretty good in his own right. He offers more than either Bradie James or Keith Brooking.
- S Brodney Pool has been called a copy of , but he is (again) younger. Last year, Elam seemed to fade significantly at midseason, and at a minimum, Pool would be much more likely to keep his level of performance up to the end of the year.
- FB Lawrence Vickers seems to be somewhat less versatile but more effective as a pure blocker than Tony Fiammetta. His track record the past few years speaks for itself, and there seems to be no history of mysterious ailments. I love how often the word "road-grader" gets used describing him.
- Only Mackenzy Bernadeau seems to have some questions as to whether he is truly an upgrade, but all indications are that the coaching staff sees something in him they think they can work with, and he continues the youth movement. He is most likely to bump Derrick Dockery off the roster.
The key to me is who each is likely to replace, and every one of these seems like a step up. (In Carr and Conner's cases, really big steps.) And with all indications being that the Cowboys still have some cap room to work with, there will likely be a few more acquisitions prior to the draft, hopefully to help address center or tight end. Dallas has gotten a lot of the needs handled, and can now let free agency come to it.
I have to admit, I am a bit staggered by how successful a team that supposedly is being punished with a salary cap reduction has done. I have to give all the credit to Stephen Jones and Jerry Jones. I list them in that order because managing the cap is believed to be primarily Stephen's area of responsibility, but I am sure Jerry is very closely following what is happening. And they are setting the team up to continue to thrive, with careful structure of Carr's contract and of the other deals available as given over on ESPN by Todd Archer.
If you check out OCC's article referenced above, you can see how they are keeping the 2012 cap hits down and setting up to make use of the expected cap increases in the coming years.
More importantly, I think this is model of how the team is going to be built under Jason Garrett. You sign free agents to address needs, then you draft for talent. JG5000 has come out and said that:
"I think this year is a little bit different. It's different from the standpoint that free agency is prior to the draft like it usually is and we do have a little more salary cap space than in previous years. Hopefully we can address some of the issues we feel like we have on our team with some players we feel are attractive, and then we can go into the draft and draft as purely as possible."
And that is exactly what is happening. The team has gone out and found some pieces to fit into the gaps in the puzzle. Now, they can make those crucial draft day decisions based on which available player is the best talent, not the most crucial need. That is the way you build contenders.
As for those of you who are scoffing a bit at signing players like Pool and Bernadeau, consider this article from the mothership's Nick Eatman.
They might be gone, but shouldn't be forgotten.
And not just for what they did, but who brought them here. Be honest when you ask yourself if you had ever heard of any of those guys before the Cowboys signed them.
My point (is) about the fact the pro scouting department had a pretty good year in 2011. Let's see how they fare here in 2012.
The Cowboys had Pool on their radar in 2011. And they tried to snap up Orton after he was found less worthy than Tim Tebow. So maybe we can start to have a little confidence in the scouting department, which has grown and evolved under Jason Garrett. The Process is alive and well, and I am really liking what it is bringing about.
I am starting to crave that blue Koolaid. I am definitely looking forward to the draft.
And I'm kinda starting to wish Goodell would tick Jerry off every year. Looks like it couldn't hurt.