As we get closer and closer to the onset of the new NFL season, it becomes clear how difficult the road ahead will be to traverse for Jason Garrett, Stephen Jones and the Dallas Cowboys. The Scouting Combine gets underway today, and the drills to come in the next couple of days will probably be used to finalize the order of the hundreds of prospects that Dallas has on their big board. Free agency kicks off in earnest two weeks after, and the slow grind to improving the franchise begins.
One of the leading areas where the Cowboys need improvement is the secondary; that's no secret. Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick are penciled in as the starters for 2012 and the Cowboys will need to bring in at least three bodies to supplement the cornerback position. They could go in a multitude of directions; big ticket free agent, draft picks from any of seven rounds or inexpensive vet. None would be surprising. About the only move the Cowboys could make that would shock people would be if they didn't release veteran Terence Newman.
When the Oakland Raiders released Stanford Routt, he was quickly connected to the Cowboys under false pretenses. He has now signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, which led to this "domino chain" wonderment from ESPN's Dan Graziano.
The Cowboys had some interest in cornerback Stanford Routt, but not as much as some other teams did, and Routt signed Monday with the Chiefs. What this means, however, is that the Chiefs are likely to let talented 25-year-old cornerback Brandon Carr leave via free agency, and that adds Carr to the mix of available cornerbacks for the Cowboys to target. Carr is better than Routt, but with star wide receiver Dwayne Bowe still to worry about, the Chiefs appear to have decided to go with a cheaper option.
I'm on the fence between Carr and Falcons FA Brent Grimes. I like both players a lot and want one to have a star on his helmet. The question is whether or not Dallas would enter, or win, a bidding war for either. Even as Dallas has $20 million in cap space, there are plenty of other teams that have more, and Dallas has multiple holes to fill, as Rabble pointed out.
Are they going to use up 40-50% of their 2012 cap space on one player?
To me, that's a question of long-term philosophy, and it might just differ from conventional wisdom.
Follow the jump to see why, and get more of the latest in Cowboys news.
If Dallas does spend a large part of it's cap on a premiere free agent, to me that indicates that they aren't just trying to win now. The cap is expected to increase significantly when the new television contracts are locked in. The club has already publicly committed to a BPA approach to the draft. In my eyes, a big free agent splash means Dallas wants top tier talent and is willing to play with lesser players at certain positions in 2012, with hopes to replace them with draft picks and free agents in future years. I am so on board with this strategy, you'd think I was planking.
Get the big fish, draft BPAPN (best player at a position of need, since we have so many) and then see which players develop within your organization. I'd much rather do that than sign six average free agents to two, three or four year contracts; and end up with zero impact newbies. Obviously, it has to be at the positions of the highest need, meaning the secondary. We could survive with what we have on the defensive line, and in my humble opinion the linebackers as well. Even without Anthony Spencer returning. I'm in the school of thought that he is rather easily replaced, although I've been proven wrong before. I think it was 1989 or so.
Of course I want to compete for a championship every season. However, a team needs elite talent to win, and Dallas needs more of it. The draft is one way to get it, and a financially preferred model, but sometimes you must use free agency to do more than just tread water.
DMN's Rainer Sabin checks in with some straight forward responses from the only straight forward shooter in power in Big D. VP Stephen Jones says the club is still contemplating using the franchise tag on Spencer.
"It's certainly a possibility but it hasn't been determined," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said Tuesday. "I think he's a hell of a player. I think he is a good pro football player. Then the question is obviously when you franchise a player you're putting him at even another level. But that happens. That's the business we're dealing in and that's what we'll have to figure out -- if that's worth it."
...it should be noted that Spencer dropped into coverage last season twice as many times as the Cowboys' other starting linebacker, DeMarcus Ware, according to ProFootballFocus.com...
"Everybody wants to automatically say, 'Outside linebacker -- how many sacks?'" Jones said. "A good football player can impact a game in a lot more ways than just how many sacks he has. Pressure is important in our league and we pay for pressure. But you also pay for good football players. And I think Anthony fits in that mold. I think up until this point evidence speaks for itself. He's never been a big sack guy. But he is a good football player."
Rick Gosselin of DMN held a chat, and discussed his reason for thinking the Cowboys need to go interior offensive line early in this April's draft. The players come up small, and they can't do anything about it. Gosselin expects the players to beef up, but thinks the height disadvantage of Phil Costa, Kevin Kowalski and Bill Nagy, all 6'3" will keep them from being able to compete with the big uglies across from them.
I think Costa, Nagy, Kowalski and Arkin will all beef up. As you get older in this league and spend more hours in the weight room, bigger bodies become a byproduct. The problem is they won't get any taller. Costa, Kowalski and Nagy are all in the 6-3 range. DeCastro goes 6-5. That's also why I'm anxious to see what Arkin can do -- he's 6-5. Those shorter guys tend to get engulfed by those 330-pound defensive tackles. The Cowboys need height as well as bulk in their 2012 offensive line.
I mentioned this in the comment section of my One Man's Gang article last week before I took a mini-vacation. I don't subscribe to the theory that a player who makes negligible contributions on one side of the ball deserves a roster spot because of what he does on special teams. To me, the leading special teams guy has those stats because the coverage schemes are made to free up the top two guys. Meaning, the stats are a bit inflated and could be approached by a lesser coverage guy given the same opportunities.
That's not to say I think Danny McCray isn't important to this team, but people that think that auto-earns him a 2012 roster spot are exaggerating his impact in my opinion. Regardless, he should be thanked for his tireless work, and that's exactly what the Mothership did in this article as their writers discuss his impact.
On a personal note, I've been a bit missing in action over the last few weeks, with sporadic posting and manning of the social media versions of BTB. I've had good reason, though. This past Friday morning, at 12:25 am the newest addition to my, and the Cowboys, families arrived in this world. I have a new baby boy that I am extremely proud of, as witnessed by me changing my profile pic for SB Nation. I'm sure he'll be making his appearances in the background of future podcasts to let you know his opinion of my musings.
And yes, he's already pledged his allegiance, as he left the hospital in full Dallas Cowboys regalia; much to the chagrin of some nurses who have the misfortune to root for the local team. Go Cowboys!