Many of us have lamented the lack of action so far this preseason. Is it hypocritical? Probably.
We talk about Jerry making ill-advised moves: signing so-so players to oh-no! contracts, trading premium picks for the second-best receiver on a terrible team, and even simply doing things - because it seems anything Jerry does is an embarrassment to football and solely a publicity stunt.
...and despite all that, we still want something to happen. It's okay. We don't have to dismiss the paradox; it's a part of fandom.
Anyway, our task now is to take a look at how the Cowboys have done so far in this free agency period. Let's recap the moves so far:
Cut Gerald Sensabaugh: Many of us believe that Gerald Sensabaugh was released because the new coaches (and maybe even holdover Jerome Henderson) felt he could not fit into the new scheme. Sensabaugh is good when given only half of the field to watch, however Kiffin's scheme, despite inheriting a name from 'Cover 2,' features just as much single-high-safety action as double, and Sensabaugh's ability to read the entire field rather than just half of it is apparently what got him cut. His salary was likely no benefit, either.
Cut Dan Connor: You could say Dan Connor was a cap casualty, but there's really more to it than that. He was a backup linebacker last year, and was ineffective when asked to fill in for injured starters, as well as being ineffective in his regular special teams responsibilities.
Cut Marcus Spears: Where would Marcus Spears have fit in our 4-3 defensive front? I can't name a position. Kiffin and Marinelli use pass rushers all along the D Line, and Spears is not exactly a threat in that element. He can stop the run, but his salary was far larger than role would have been (basically a Goal Line extra DT).
Re-Signed Phil Costa: If you don't like this move, take that up with OCC. They get a player who is at worst a far better center than Mackenzy Bernadeau, and at best a very good lineman, all for near the veteran minimum. If Costa can put together a season of games where he plays like he did against the Ravens last year, he'll be looking for a $5M/yr contract once this deal expires.
Re-Signed Ernie Sims: Sims is an athlete. When he came into Dallas, he showed he could work hard, and even impressed with his ability to figure out his assignments in a complex defense. Along with Sterling Moore, he was one of the more effective backups that kept this team afloat with the hull all but destroyed. Again, this deal comes at near the league minimum. Is being near the salary cap a benefit in negotiations? This is all we've got; just read the news. Take it or leave it.
Franchised Anthony Spencer: I can't name a better DE or OLB that was on the market this year. Elvis Dumervil? Maybe for past performance. Dumervil equaled Spencer in sacks and forced more fumbles, but he ended the season with about half the number of tackles, and only a single stuff to Spencer's seven. If the two were both available, I believe Spencer would be the higher paid of the two; teams value players who don't disappear in the run game, especially if they're proven pass rushers.
(Attempting to) Extend Tony Romo: You've seen the quarterbacks that are getting signed by teams this offseason, and you know there's not much to look toward as far as a first-round pick at the position, either. If Tony Romo hits the market, he will be the highest paid player in league history. Players at his position and on his level simply do not see the open market. We've seen how much teams are willing to pay to keep their guys, but we haven't seen how valuable a quarterback gets during a full-fledged bidding war.
Mickey Spagnola discusses his reaction (and others' as well) in an article that's not built to be directly quoted here. I recommend it if you need a pick-me-up regarding the Cowboys' relative inactivity.
Now, let's reconsider these cuts. You could argue that the team wouldn't have made those moves if there wasn't a salary cap to worry about. And why not? If you can afford to, you let these guys get to camp and compete for jobs. Unfortunately, we do have to worry about the cap, and so we cut the players least likely to win jobs out of camp.
Would you believe me if I said none of them were RKGs (Garrett's Right Kind of Guys)? That's right, not even Marcus Spears. I know, when Spears was cut, the first thing most people said was 'total RKG,' primarily because he's a good man. There's a prevalent misconception of what is and is not an RKG; it is not a personality test, and it is a player evaluation term.
You can read about what exactly an RKG is in this article by OCC. In short, a primary requirement is being physically prepared to play your position at a high level. Sensabaugh can't cover the width of the field, Connor can't seem to execute any of his assignments, and Spears doesn't have a position on our four-man line at which he can excel. Therefore they are all not the Right Kind of Guys. They aren't the Wrong Kind of Guys, either, which Garrett defines as a sort of laziness or lack of love for the game. There is a middle ground, and the players that occupy it are always in danger of losing their jobs.
So how have the Cowboys done thus far this offseason? They've released three players who were not ideal fits on the team. They've signed two players for deals at or near the league minimum who played key roles with the team last year or in the past, and they're working to retain two of the best players in the league at their respective positions.
More important than not making a big splash so far has been the fact that the moves they've made, so far, haven't guaranteed future money to players with uncertain futures. The worst this year can be is 'meh,' while at best it could set this team up for a few successful seasons (if Romo and Spencer are re-signed). A free agency period that isn't a disaster is a good start, and we still have time to address the holes on the roster.