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Cowboys Free Agency '10: Jerry 2.0's First Off-season At Bat

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I get some awkward comments when I point out, and I frequently do, that Jerry 2.0 has been better in respects that Tuna 1.0, better known as the Parcells Era.  

Many people take it as permission to again flog the was-Big Bill-a-success-or-failure corpse.  I'd like to steer people clear of that issue.  The Parcells Era was clearly a success.  He pulled the team out of a losing streak, brought some order to the draft process and hit some rookie grand slams.  Jason Witten and Demarcus Ware are on Canton trajectories.  Tony Romo has been a low-risk, high-reward poster boy.

People must understand that personnel is acquired from two sources.  You re-stock through the draft and through free agency.  While I feel Parcells was a success, his offensive line draft picks notwithstanding, I give Jerry 2.0 the nod because Jerry and Stephen have been better, much better, at playing the free agency game.  Consider:

Take a look at Parcells free-agency buys and trade acquisitions, big and small:

  1. QB VInnie Testaverde
  2. QB Drew Bledsoe
  3. OT Ryan Young
  4. OT Jason Fabini
  5. OT Marc Colombo
  6. OG Marco Rivera
  7. OG Kyle Kosier
  8. TE Ryan Hannam
  9. WR Terry Glenn
  10. WR Keyshawn Johnson
  11. RB Richie Anderson
  12. NT Jason Ferguson
  13. ILB Akin Ayodele
  14. ILB Rocky Boiman
  15. CB Anthony Henry
  16. CB Aaron Glenn
  17. K Mike Vanderjagt

Parcells found some decent players.  His biggest bargains were probably Glenn, who was swiped from Green Bay for a 6th round pick, and Colombo, who was a no-risk, all-reward bargain off the Bears injured list.

The bigger theme here is short-term gratification.  Most of these guys were "Parcells guys" who had played for Bill in New York or New England.  Ferguson, Anderson, Young, Testaverde, Fabini, Glenn and Johnson were Parcells Jets.  Bledsoe and Glenn were high draftees during Bill's Patriots tenure. 

They produced good and in cases very good seasons in Cowboys uniforms, but none gave the Cowboys sustained quality play.  Kosier and Colombo have been steady Eddies, but not one of these seventeen players has made the Pro Bowl as a Cowboy.  None could be considered a big hit.

Let's look at Jerry's free agents, since he assumed control of the free agent acquisition duties:

  1. WR Terrell Owens
  2. WR Roy Williams
  3. OG Leonard Davis
  4. OG Montrae Holland
  5. NT Junior Siavii
  6. DE Igor Olshansky
  7. ILB Zach Thomas
  8. ILB Keith Brooking
  9. SS Gerald Sensabaugh
  10. FS Ken Hamlin

Wide receiver has been the lightning rod position for Jerry 2.0.  Owens was his expected talented, mercurial, turmoil-creating self.  He also produced big numbers his first two years.  Williams, right now, looks like the biggest bust of either regime. 

Look at the top-side and the bottom side.  Jones has three Pro Bowlers in Owens, Davis and Hamlin. Six of his guys are current starters.   His hit rate has been very good, when you consider Siavii and Holland, the two non-starters on the roster, were obtained to be backups.  And Jerry has excelled at implementing the old Patriots blueprint, signing talented players coming off down years or injured years and getting value production for them. 

Last year's trio of signings, Olshansky, Brooking and Sensabaugh all fit this description.   Olshansky cost roughly more than half what the Giants paid Chris Canty, yet he produced the consistency Canty never showed in Dallas.  Sensabaugh was the best strong safety since Roy Williams was a rookie, and came at a fraction of Roy Willie's price tag.  Brooking was considered washed up in Atlanta's 4-3 and was reborn in Phillips' 3-4.

(A closer look at both lists also should point you to the positions the Cowboys will target on draft day.  Notice how many free agent offensive linemen this team has had to buy?  How both safety spots were filled that way?)

Dallas will operate under financial free agent constraints, as one of the Final Eight teams in this year's playoffs.  Take a close look at last year's free agent crop and you'll see that those limits should not be crippling.  None of last year's key acquistions were big ticket buys.  All of them gave big money performance.

Another player or two like those will get Dallas closer to the mark.  Jerry's pro personnel record suggests he and his staff should again be able to find another bargain or two.