Just decided to update this post with arguments I've made elsewhere. In my Tempering Expectations post I guessed that the Cowboys and Waters are likely only $1-1.5 million apart, based on the $2 million Dallas offered Brandon Moore versus the $3.25 million contract ($1.75 million of which were incentives) that Waters played for in 2011. I also noted that Waters does want to play under the right circumstances.
My main argument now is that Dallas should raise it's offer to Waters until he says YES. The reason is that the MARGINAL VALUE of adding Waters far exceeds the MARGINAL COST of signing him.
A. MARGINAL VALUE: Right now, after we've seen Doug Free return to decent performance at right tackle, I think almost everyone on this site would agree that the weakest link on the Dallas offense is at right guard. This would be true no matter who you pencil into that spot -- Nate Livings, Mackenzy Bernardeau, or David Arkin.
Compared to these three underwhelming choices at right guard, Brian Waters is a 6-time Pro Bowl guard, who was rated by PFF as the 4th best guard in the NFL in 2011 with NE, and the best overall pass blocking guard. His play helped NE reach the Super Bowl that year. By any measure, he would instantly become Dallas's best offensive lineman.
Compared to Waters +26.4 rating in 2011, Nate Livings ranked 17th last year at +11.3, but has since had knee surgery, Mackenzy Bernardeau ranked 48th last year at -4.0, and has also had surgery, while David Arkin has never played a regular season NFL snap.
To sub in Waters for Livings, Bernardeau or Arkin would be like swapping Jason Witten (+19) for Tony Fasano (+4.2) at TE, or Jason Hatcher (+25.7) at DT for BJ Raji (+8.9).
And remember, Brian Waters played 1340 snaps for NE in 2011. That's 200 more than Nate Livings managed and almost 400 more than Bernardeau played last year.
B. MARGINAL COST: Not only would Waters add more value to the team than any other player Dallas has signed in the last several years, but the cost to do so would be a comparative pittance.
Above, I have assumed that Waters could be had for $3.25 million on a one-year deal, as that's what NE signed him for in 2011, and due to the collective bargaining agreement, many contracts have declined, not increased since then. But let's say it cost as much as $4 million to sign him. You could save more than half of that money by cutting Ryan Cook ($1.1 million saved) and Danny McCray ($1.3 million).
Or, another way of looking at it is that you paid Nate Livings a $3.5 million signing bonus last year. And are wasting millions more on Mackenzy Bernardeau.
CONCLUSION: We all know how Cowboys' seasons turn out when the offensive line undermines the ability to run Jason Garrett's offense. Not good. Adding Brian Waters would be the single best free agent signing since -- Terrell Owens? His marginal value far exceeds his marginal cost. For a team on the cusp of the playoffs, and potentially a significant run into the playoffs, it's a no brainer.
ORIGINAL POST BELOW
Given all the injuries and last season's poor play on the offensive line, why don't the Cowboys sign Brian Waters to play guard this season?
Brian Waters is 36 years old, and won't turn 37 until next February. He was originally signed by the Cowboys as a undrafted free agent. They tried him as a tight end, but cut him in 1999. In 2000, KC signed him and played him at guard, where he played 6 games. From 2001-2010, he played all but 3 games at guard for KC. New England signed him as a free agent in 2011, and he played all 16 games for them, making the Pro Bowl. But he wanted to play closer to home in Texas, so he didn't report to NE in 2012, and they didn't cut him loose until April of this year.
Some of Water's achievements include the Walter Payton award in 2009. The offensive player of the week award in 2004, when he helped KC to 8 rushing TDs in one game. He's the only AFC lineman to receive the award, and the first to receive it since 1992.
- He made six Pro Bowls: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2011.
- He was All Pro twice: 2004, 2005.
- He receive the Madden Most Valuable Protector Award in 2011.
- He's played 179 NFL games, and started 165.
Waters is still performing at a high level and is a big reason this Chiefs team is back at the top of the NFL in rushing. He still is getting it done after 11seasons in the NFL. Brian's ability to pull, zone block, or drive block makes him a valuable commodity in the NFL.
- His pass blocking is rated better than his run blocking: the former is superb, and the latter is just excellent. He apparently gave up only 1.5 sacks in 2011 for NE, the best on the team.
- At KC, they ran a zone blocking scheme, so Waters would fit right in with the design Callahan and Pollack are installing.
Per PFF Brian Waters, 2011, NE: +25.9
Pass Blocking: +18.4, Run & Screen Blocking: +7.5, Penalties: +0.0
Compared to Waters, what do we have at guard?
- Nate Livings. Had his knee scoped for the second time in 6 months. A journeyman who has never been close to Brian Waters' skill level, with injury issues that make you wonder how effective he could be this year.
- Mackenzy Bernardeau. Also with injury issues. Nicknamed "the turnstyle" by Carolina fans, who were happy to see him go last year. Played very poorly for Dallas. Pressure rate: 3.2%. Overall, he had far more negatively rated games than positively rated ones last year.
- Ron Leary. A young guy with some promise. Could crack the starting lineup. But he's only one guy.
- David Arkin. Third year guy who's yet to see any NFL game action, and who's only been active perhaps one game in his career.
- Killer Kowalski. Out 2-4 weeks with knee problems.
- Phil Costa. A decent backup center, but not really stout enough to be a full-time guard.
- Travis Frederick. Best suited to anchor the line at center.
Livings and Bernardeau were signed as stop-gaps until the younger guys like Leary and Arkin developed.
How well has that gone? Neither one seems capable of being healthy enough in training camp or preseason to do the prep work leading into the season. Then, during the year last year they were part of the worst run-blocking line in the history of the Dallas Cowboys.
How much better would the line be if you plugged Brian Waters in at right guard? It would be DRAMATICALLY better.
Waters would be the veteran stabilizing presence that has always helped Doug Free play better.
Waters, Frederick and Leary would likely be much more stout against the pass rush, giving Romo a much better pocket to throw from, and a little more time to unleash the deep passes that were much harder to come by last year.
We don't need Waters to play for several more years. We need someone to bring some excellence to the line THIS SEASON, when we sitll have Anthony Spencer, Jay Ratliff, and Jason Hatcher, when DeMarcus Ware is still a beast, when Witten and Romo are still at the top or near the top of their games.
Maybe Brian Waters is happier retired. Maybe he doesn't want to play again. But the Cowboys ought to do everything in their power to try to coax him into playing for them this year.
Waters wouldn't be slowing the growth of anyone on the roster. It would allow us to jettison either Nate Livings or Mackenzy Bernardeau, or both.
You would have a line of Smith, Leary, Frederick, Waters, and Free (or Parnell). It would still be one of the youngest O-lines in the NFL. Backups could be Arkin, Costa, and Kowalski.
The Cowboys need to cut their losses with Livings and Bernardeau. These were mistakes just like signing Dan Connor was a mistake. And Arkin is NOT ready for full time action.
With a decent offensive line, Dallas could be a Super Bowl team this year. Brian Waters would improve our chances considerably.