As I was clicking through stories about the Kansas City Chiefs signing Stanford Routt yesterday, I stumbled over a report from the Associated Press that had this little nugget buried in the middle:
Routt spent several days in Kansas City before choosing the Chiefs over competing offers from Buffalo, Cincinnati, Houston, New Orleans, Minnesota and Tennessee.
Conspicuously absent from that list: your Dallas Cowboys.
Just last week, news reached us via the NFL Network's Jason La Canfora that free agent CB Stanford Routt would visit the Cowboys later in the week. Apparently, La Confora's sources were wrong about Routt taking a trip to Dallas. But the fact that players or their agents name-drop or even use Dallas to ostensibly drive up their price or bargaining position is nothing new.
You probably remember the Nnamdi episode in training camp last year. You may also remember when Julius Peppers, Ray Lewis and Chad Ochocinco hit free agency a couple of years ago. All of them said they wanted to play for the Cowboys at the time. In hindsight, it's fairly clear that throwing the Cowboys into the ring as potential suitors was little more than an attempt to gain leverage heading into free agency.
Okay, so Dallas may have gained just the slightest reputation over the years for handing out big paydays to free agents. But is that enough to lure free agents to Dallas?
There's a common belief among many NFL fans that the only thing that counts for free agents are the numbers on the contract they sign. And recent comments by the Lions' Cliff Avril for example, indicate that that may well be a common sentiment among free agents:
"There’s no such thing as a hometown discount in the NFL," Avril said, via the Detroit Free Press. "Once you can’t play anymore, they’re going to let you go, so you definitely have to strike gold when you can."
But is that really all the free agents are looking at? Here are some of the most frequent non-monetary reasons given for signing a contract with a given team:
The appeal of a star player, team or coach: Like it or not, the Philadelphia Eagles, and perhaps Michael Vick in particular, are a team and a player that many players are attracted to. Many players have stated publicly that they'd like to play with Vick, some even went and got his autograph after a game. Last year's Eagles free agent haul was possible, in part, because those players liked the idea of playing for the Eagles and were willing to structure their contracts accordingly.
A very recent example of a player wanting to play for a specific coach is the Rams' Brandon Lloyd, who stated that he would like to be reunited with Josh McDaniels in New England:
"I would like to entertain that and see where that goes. I’ve made no bones about that," Lloyd said. "I’ve been very successful in Josh’s offense. I admire Tom Brady. I admire what that organization has done. I admire that organization and how they run things over there. I’d definitely be interested in hearing how I could possibly fit into that equation."
Playing for a contender: Offensive guard Brian Waters was a hot topic as a potential free agent acquisition for the Cowboys last offseason - at least among many fans. According to Waters, he and the Cowboys did have some 'minor conversations' but those didn't really lead anywhere.
Instead, he signed with the Patriots. Here's why:
"Once the decision was made for me to leave Kansas City, the target was definitely going to be on teams that I felt had a chance to be in this game," Waters said Sunday at the first media session of Super Bowl week. "This was definitely the focal point for me."
Chance for more playing time or stuck behind an elite and/or high-cost player: You can think what you want about a player like Martellus Bennett, but sometimes your position on a roster behind a multiple Pro Bowler like Jason Witten dictates your role:
"Sometimes I get stuck in a role of block, block, block and I get criticized a lot because I don’t catch a lot of balls," Bennett said, ignoring the fact that he’s dropped a lot of balls. "But my role on this team has been to pass block and run block. I’m just thankful to make some plays when I got the opportunity."
And whether Bennett will play a bigger role anywhere else remains to be seen, but you can't blame the guy for wanting to:
"I feel like I am a guy that can start for a lot of teams in the NFL. That’s what I want to do. I don't want to be behind a Hall of Famer all of my career."
I'm sure there are many more reasons why a free agent signs with a given team. But the real question is, why would he sign with the Dallas Cowboys? What exactly, apart from no state income tax and a great stadium, could be reasons for a free agent to come to Dallas?
Imagine you're a member of the Dallas Cowboys organization and you're recruiting a free agent. What would you say to him when he says: "Why should I sign with the Cowboys and not with team XYZ?"