When the Cowboys released Roy Williams, it allowed them to start their two best wide receivers, with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant playing on the outside. But it did create a void for the #3 role. The Cowboys struck gold when they signed wide receiver Laurent Robinson to bolster their depth at the receiver position. Perhaps the signing of Robinson never would have happened had UDFA Raymond Radway not suffered that devastating leg injury in the last seconds of the final pre-season game of 2011.
Kevin Ogletree will get one last shot to show the Cowboys and perhaps the NFL that he can be a reliable wide receiver. Ogletree had his opportunity to seize the role last year in training camp, but all he did was disappoint and barely made the team. Dwayne Harris was a sixth-round draft pick from ECU that has some upside, but he also failed to make an impact at wide receiver.
This led to Jason Garrett taking a recommendation from one of his former coaches, Norv Turner. Robinson was highly recommended to Garrett from Turner, who had to release Robinson in San Diego due to a stacked depth chart at wide receiver. Robinson went on to be one of the Cowboys' best players in 2011 and he instantly developed chemistry with quarterback Tony Romo. Robinson parlayed a breakout season into a five-year $32.5 million dollar deal from the Jacksonville Jaguars, but had the Cowboys had the money to spend, they probably would have re-signed him.
Can the Cowboys replace his 54 receptions, 858 yards and 11 TDs? It won't be easy and they are hoping one of their young wide receivers steps up and seizes the #3 role, but what about the free agent options on the open market? Is there another Laurent Robinson waiting to be found?
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The wide receiver position will be the most talked about position battle in training camp. With Garrett running a three wide receiver set 30 percent of the time, it should come as no surprise that our head coach likes to throw the football. Right now does Garrett have the right personnel to run the three wide receiver set effectively? This is something the Cowboys will have to analyze this training camp and make a decision on whether to bring in a veteran to compete for the job.
Wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson believes that the position is wide open and he wants one of the young guys to step up.
"Honestly we have to have somebody step up and say, 'Hey this is my job,' and if we don't then it's going to be by committee if nothing else. We're not even close to saying who that guy is. We got a number of guys who are going to work in the slot and we'll see how it goes. It will take us all the way through training camp and preseason games before we know, I think."
Whoever wins the job will need to develop a chemistry with Tony Romo. Romo told reporters that the young wide receivers need to work hard in order to succeed.
"We want somebody to come in and grab that spot," Romo said during the first week of organized team activities. "Guys have got to work their butt off. They’ve got to develop a rapport with me and they’ve got to know the offense. When they do that, they’ll have a great chance, because we’ve got some guys who have some ability in this room."
As much as we may like Andre Holmes, Dwayne Harris, Raymond Radway, Danny Coale and Cole Beasley, none of them have produced in the NFL and all remain unproven. All are young and talented, but the #3 wide receiver must be a reliable option that can produce when his number is called. There is also the need for the #3 to possibly step in and play a big role on the offense if one of the starters goes down with an injury, which we saw happen last year, and which resulted in Robinson being inserted into the starting lineup.
Bringing in a veteran wide receiver doesn't neccasarily mean that he would prevent the progress of the other wide receivers, in fact it would only enhance the competition this summer. The Cowboys want to breed competition at every position, but they are also more reluctant to sign a veteran than they were in the past.
At one point in his career, Ochocinco was one of the premier receivers in the league. At 34 years old, does he have anything left in the tank? He put up pedestrian numbers in New England last year, 15 receptions for 276 yards and 1 TD. Ochocinco would love to play in Miami where he spends a lot of his time and the Dolphins have a gaping hole at the wide receiver position, but could Dallas be in play for his services?
It doesn't look like Ochocinco will be a member of the Cowboys. Tom Ryle pointed out in his recent article that Bryan Broaddus from the mothership said that the Cowboys' organization isn't very high on bringing in the veteran wide receiver.
Related: "Talking Cowboys" Reviews The OTAs
Len Pasquarelli reports that the Cowboys have taken a closer look at Ochocinco's game tape and didn't come away overly impressed.
Dallas is seeking a No. 3 receiver, but for now at least, neither Terrell Owens nor Chad Ochocinco seems to be the answer. A Cowboys scout said on Thursday night that the club's personnel people had previously looked at tape of Owens, and then broke out video of Ochocinco after he was released by New England earlier in the day, and were "fairly unimpressed."
From a pure football standpoint, Ocho would make a lot of sense for the Cowboys. He has the ability to be a reliable #3 wide receiver due to his excellent footwork and good route running, but he doesn't possess great hands. Ocho could also fill in as a starting wide receiver on the outside if Austin or Dez happen to suffer an injury. This is probably a signing that will never happen due to the fact that Ocho probably isn't the type of player Jason Garrett would want on his team.
While he is 34 years old, he still may have something left in the tank and could be a very good option for the Cowboys, I just don't see us signing him due to his on and off-the-field antics. A couple years ago Jerry Jones would have loved to get Ochocinco, but the Cowboys are clearly attempting to avoid distractions from colorful characters such as Ochocinco. The times are changing in Dallas when Jerry Jones is held back from signing a former superstar wide receiver.
Sims-Walker had a breakout season in 2009 for the Jacksonville Jaguars when he had 63 receptions for 869 yards and 7 TD. He followed that up in 2010 with just 43 receptions for 562 yards, but did produce another 7 TD. Sims-Walker left the Jaguars and signed a free agent deal with the St. Louis Rams in 2011, but suffered a variety of injuries and was later released. The Jaguars re-signed him hoping he would bolster their receiving core, but he suffered another knee injury and was placed on the injured reserve.
He has the size (6'2, 212) that the Cowboys like in their wide receivers. Sims-Walker is 27 years old and has the talent to be a reliable wide receiver, but he has been wildly inconsistent. Laurent Robinson suffered injuries and was inconsistent, so there is still a chance that Sims-Walker could become a good player in the NFL.
While he has his flaws as a wide receiver, Sims-Walker has experience and a decent skill set. I can't say that he would be a dynamic player for us, but he would be a good receiver to bring in for training camp. Would it be ironic that Robinson bolts to Jacksonville, we sign a former Jaguars wide receiver and he turns into a good player for us?
Gonzalez was a great college player who had a very productive career for Ohio State. The Colts selected him with the 32nd pick in the 2007 NFL Draft hoping he would become another weapon for Peyton Manning. Gonzalez is very similar to Laurent Robinson in that he is a talented player whose injuries have derailed his career. Gonzalez has suffered PCL and ACL injuries the past few years and that has kept him from seeing the field.
After producing 94 receptions and 7 TD during 2007 and 2008, he has only appeared in 10 games the past three seasons and has only registered 5 receptions during that span. Gonzalez is only 27 years old, so there is still a lot of time left for him to be a productive player in the NFL. The Patriots recently released him and he didn't take part in the OTA sessions, so there are probably still some issues with his health that we do not know about.
I would be willing to give a former first-round talent a low level contract and enter him into the position battle this summer. Gonzalez has the skill set that would be ideal for the slot, and he can play on the outside. Will the Cowboys take a chance on him?
Crayton is a familiar name that still hasn't found a home and is currently a free agent. Crayton entered the league as a seventh-round pick and spent six seasons with the Cowboys. While he was never a dynamic player for us, he was serviceable and provided consistent production for us as the #3 wide receiver. Crayton can play in the slot, but he also has the ability to play on the outside. One added benefit of adding Crayton to the roster is his ability to return punts.
He doesn't have great speed, but Crayton finds ways to get open and make plays. If you throw out his drop on a what could have been a touchdown in the 2007 playoff game against the Giants, Crayton was a very good player for us. What will probably prevent him from ever returning to Dallas is his mouth. Crayton may be the right kind of guy who works and practices hard, but he can be a little rough around the edges.
Crayton spent a lot of time in this offense and developed a good chemistry with Tony Romo. By now we have seen that trust is a major factor with Romo, so the #3 wide receiver must gel with our franchise quarterback. If the Cowboys don't like what they see from their young guns this summer, Crayton would be an ideal signing to make.
Another Laurent Robinson? Not Likely
After looking at what is available on the market, there doesn't appear to be another Laurent Robinson waiting to be discovered. Even though the Cowboys' pro scouting department did a fantastic job last year, it is highly unlikely that there will be another signing this year that develops into what Robinson did for us in 2011. We all want to believe in our young wide receivers, but deep down there is some concern that none of them may step up and seize the role this summer.
There is a strong possibility that the #3 wide receiver isn't on our roster right now. These are a few of the free agent options available that I believe would make sense for the Cowboys, but drop a comment below on what free agent wide receiver tickles your fancy.