After almost twenty-four hours of waiting and wondering, fans of the Dallas Cowboys saw the team sign four free agents during the second day of free agency, and also saw some other players leave for good. Although there are indications that the team is not done yet, we at least have an idea of what the team has going into the draft
I feel a huge sense of relief. After the last minute announcement of the railroading . . . er, assessment of penalties against the Cowboys and the Washington Redskins, there was some uncertainty about just what this meant for the teams in free agency. The answer seems to be that it doesn't mean jack, as Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones got some players the team wanted, with more still possible.
The big name acquisition for the day was CB Brandon Carr from the Kansas City Chiefs. A talented player who was considered one of the top available cornerbacks, and thought by many to be the best, he is a welcome addition to a team that was getting a tad desperate for quality defensive backs by the end of last season. The only negative is the five year/$50.1 million contract, but when Cortland Finnegan signed his five year/$50 million deal with the St. Louis Rams, it was pretty obvious that the price tag for Carr was going to be steep. Having to top the Finnegan deal by only $100,000 is actually pretty good, and the negotiations to keep it that close may be why we had to wait a day to get word that it was done. Carr certainly talked like he was all for the deal from the very start, describing himself as "blown away" by the way the team treated him.
The consensus is that if there was one free agent deal that the Cowboys needed to get done, this was it. But the team certainly did not stop there.
The other major developments after the jump.
Carr was the big one that we couldn't let get away. Signing QB Kyle Orton, most recently from the Chiefs, was the one we needed to have just in case. With Jon Kitna gone, the recent history of needing someone to fill in for Tony Romo at some point during the season, and the less than overwhelming faith in Stephen McGee's ability to step up; a quality replacement for Kitna was a must. Dallas had shown interest in Orton last year when he was Tebowed out of Denver, and he may be the best backup quarterback available. The speculation before free agency was whether he would be content with less than a starting job, but he has signed a three-year deal and was surely aware that the starting job belongs to Tony Romo. At age 29, he is younger than Tony and a veritable child compared to Kitna, and may harbor dreams of getting another chance after his contract in Dallas is up, or perhaps even serving as a bridge starter when Tony decides to retire. Even if he has just decided that he is willing to collect the paycheck as a backup, he is certainly a competent option to handle a short-term situation, and would give the team some hope of success in a more disastrous one.
The other two signings were much further under the radar, but both addressed needs. First was a signing to provide depth along the troubled interior of the offensive line, picking up G/C Mackenzy Bernadeau from the Carolina Panthers. He comes to the team as a bit of an unknown quantity. Comments from the SBN Panthers site, Cat Scratch Reader, are pretty negative, and have inspired some comparisons to Alex Barron, a rather horrifying thought. But he is also a remarkably strong player. We may find out just how good Bill Callahan is at developing young talent with him. He does continue a theme that runs through all of the Dallas signings, and that is youth. The Cowboys stayed away from older veterans. Although there are still other signings likely to come, this does seem to fit into a more long-term and strategic approach, or, as someone once said, a process. Bernadeau (who I'm sure we will all be calling Mac if he works out for the team) is almost certainly going to bump Derrick Dockery off the roster. If he is any good at all, he could be a nice, bargain price pickup.
The last name acquired is one that, like Mac, caught most of us totally by surprise. Unlike him, almost everyone thinks that FB Lawrence Vickers is a great pickup. With the team unable to come to terms for a longer deal with Tony Fiammetta and apparently unhappy about paying $1.26 million for a one year deal, there was suddenly a void for a lead blocker. Even though the position is not used on a majority of plays for the Cowboys, the 2011 season and the health problems of Fiammetta seemed to show how important a good lead blocker is for the running game. And when you consider that Vickers was contributing to the totals of Peyton Hillis and Arian Foster, he seems a very likely candidate to continue blasting some holes for DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones.
Tony Fiammetta was the flip side, a player that Dallas lost. In his case, it was strictly the Cowboys' decision, as was the cutting of David Buehler and Terence Newman, and no one is particularly heartbroken about any of them at this point. But Laurent Robinson was a player most of us would like to have kept. Instead, he parlayed his chemistry with Tony Romo into a five year/$32.5 million dollar deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars which put him over the Cowboys' budget. He will be missed, and when he is trying to catch passes from Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne, he may miss Tony just a little himself. But I have nothing but good wishes for him, given the lift he gave the Cowboys in a lackluster year.
Robinson's departure created some sadness among us. Martellus Bennett signing with the New York Giants created something more akin to wicked glee. I found some interesting echoes of his time in Dallas in this article on how the Giants will help him reach his potential.
GM Jerry Reese is one who can read between the lines when it comes to players and their potential. He said today that he thought "the sky is the limit for him here". Head coach Tom Coughlin is glad not only to be getting a healthy TE, but one with considerable upside...
"What you have is a talented athlete who played behind an all-pro," Coughlin said as per the team's official website. "Who is not very satisfied, is not very fulfilled, is anxious. He is anxious to prove the quality of athlete and football player that he can be. If you go back to '08, '09, '10, '11, you can see spots where he flashes as what he could be.
It is interesting that the G-Men only gave him a one year contract. Maybe they are hedging their bets a bit. The team was more or less forced into making a move at tight end by their injury problems. MartyB sees it a bit differently.
Martellus Bennett told New York reporters he is ready to show the Giants the player he really is. The former Cowboys tight end signed a one-year deal worth $2.5 million with the Giants on Wednesday, and he said the one-year deal is just right for him.
"For me, it's a performance thing, so they get to see who I am as a player, and I get to come in and show them what I can do," he said in a conference call with the media that will now cover him full-time.
I don't wish anyone ill. But I will be rather surprised if the situation works out for him in the only NFL market that puts its players under more intense scrutiny than Dallas.
The team is seen as one of the movers and shakers so far this year, according to the Sporting News.
The Tampa Buccaneers proved they weren't finished spending big money, and the Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers also made some good opening moves.
Dallas did have one failure in free agency, when TE Kellen Davis elected to re-sign with the Chicago Bears even after a visit to Dallas. He seemed to have placed a lot of value on being the #1 tight end, which was not going to happen while future Ring of Honor honoree Jason Witten is still healthy. However, the Cowboys still have other irons in the fire. Panthers ILB Dan Connor (and former college teammate of a certain Sean Lee) is still in play, as is New York Jets S Brodney Pool. And late word from ESPN Dallas/Ft. Worth has another OG headed to visit.
The Cowboys might not be done addressing the interior of their offensive line with Cincinnati guard Nate Livings expected to visit with the team, according to multiple sources.
Livings, who turns 30 later this month, has started every game the last two years at left guard for the Bengals and has made 47 starts in the last four years. At 6-foot-5, 332 pounds, Livings has the size the Cowboys seem to want to plug the interior of the line.
Looks like the fun may not be over with yet.