Just before the frenzied start to free agency, Cowboys Nation was treated to an extended discussion with two scouting insiders--both of whom are BTB members--Birddog26 and Long Ball, who evaluated the Cowboys' roster, paid special attention to the position groups the Cowboys must upgrade this offseason, looked at available free agents at Dallas' positions of need, and shared possible free agent plans of attack. On Friday, the last of the Cowboys eight free agents, wide receiver Kevin Ogletree, signed his one-year contract; with all the 2012 haul in the fold, I thought it a great opportunity to ask these two fine gentleman their takes on the eight players who they brought aboard in a busy week.
In this, the first half of the discussion, we'll cover the offensive free agents; later today, we'll cover the defensive guys plus share some thoughts on Dallas's strategy and how this sets them up for the draft.
BTB: Let's assess the Cowboys’ offensive free agent signings. For each, if you can share with us: what do you think of the player and his skillset? How do you see him being used in Dallas?
Birddog: Orton was a surprise pickup. I knew the Cowboys had interest in him and there were rumors that he had an interest in coming to Dallas but he had stated last year he wanted to be a starter anywhere he went. I see this as a very smart move by the Cowboys and Orton. He is a very good backup who can come in and be very effective if he ever has to and this will give Orton time to develop more and learn under Garrett and Wilson. This move is a win/ win for both.
Long Ball: Quite frankly, I’m surprised, from two fronts: 1) I thought he would look for a starting opportunity, and 2) the contract he was willing to sign, based on what he made last year. He’s the perfect number two quarterback; he should be able to come in with a minimum number of snaps and play well. I guess he’s so perfect that I thought there was no way we could sign him.
More expert analysis after the jump...Lawrence Vickers:
Long Ball: This should really be no surprise to BTB followers: the Cowboy front office made this acquisition to shut me up for complaining about them drafting Chapas instead of Hynoski! Vickers is a load (I love that clip of him blowing up Ray Lewis) and is a stronger version of Fiammetta (who I loved), sans concussions. Our rushing game just improved by a factor of at least 15%.
Birddog: I think one word can describe Vickers, BEAST. He has been described as an old school FB, but that was more in the role that Cleveland played him in. I went back and took a look at Vickers in college as well as his time in the NFL. What I saw is a guy who can also be a short yardage threat and someone who was also a receiving threat. The Browns never tapped that receiving potential from him, but I am sure we can see Garrett using him as a receiving threat one or two times a game.
Long Ball: As it stands right now, based on his contract I would project Bernadeau to start at right guard (next to Free). He is powerful for his size (does anyone else remember when 308 lbs was a huge man?). I do not think Bernadeau and Livings are the last moves the Cowboys will make on the O-line, whether via draft, trade or other free agent signings. I went back through my old grading cards. He was from the 2008 draft class, out of Bentley. That class had Brandon Albert and Chad Rinehart (who we discussed in our earlier round table). I had Bernadeau graded as a late round draft choice (6/7/UDFA), and didn’t even have him as a "dark horse," mainly because of limited game tape (and what little I saw, he was beating up on Larry, Moe and Curly Joe). He was not invited to the Combine, but at Boston College’s Pro Day he performed pretty well: 5.25 forty (1.76 ten yard split), 4.56 shuttle, 7.47 3-cone, 28.5" vertical, 9'01" broad jump and 26 bench reps. That gave him an explosion factor of 64 and lateral agility of 0.69. Carolina took him in the sixth round (pick number 250).
Birddog: Big Mac was a guy I like a lot. He brings in a big upgrade over Holland and I believe Kosier. He is solid in pass protecting and I think underrated in run blocking. He has been used to working with a mobile QB. He provides the real competition and depth the Cowboys need on the O-line.
Long Ball: Old Big Boy took the "long, hard road" from the draft class of 2006. Back then, I had him as one of my UDFA "dark horses" to watch. The 2006 OG class was pretty weak; you may remember Davin Joseph and Max Jean-Giles. Like Bernadeau, Livings didn’t receive an invite to the Combine. He was less than 310 lbs when he came out of LSU. At his pro day, he ran a 5.45 forty, 23.5" vertical, 7’11" broad jump and 26 reps (explosion factor of 57). That’s okay; however, his game tape was impressive. He was moving up the ranks when I was grading his 2004-05 seasons. The Bengals signed him as UDFA, and placed him on the practice squad his rookie year. He didn’t get on the field in 2007, but started 6 games in 2008, 9 in 2009, and all of ’em the last 2 years. I gotta cheer for a hard-worker who comes up through the ranks. Based on his contract, he will probably be the starting left guard next to Smith next year.
Birddog: Nate is another guard signing that provides starting experience, depth and competition to the Oline. I think he is very good in pass protection and a solid run blocker. I was one of the first to come out and applaud the signings of Nate and Big Mac when the opposing fans and analyst were roasting them. After a week of analyst going back and looking at their actual game tape, I think many now agree these were solid signings by the Cowboys.
Birddog: The Tree is being brought in as a camp body that is familiar with the Cowboys scheme. While he will have a chance to compete, I do not think he makes it past the final cuts this year.
Long Ball: A "JIC" signing: Just In Case they don’t find a better option, or JIC one of the young ‘uns (Radway, Holmes or Harris) don’t come through.
BTB: Thanks, gentlemen. Now, if you could have made one different pickup (but at the same position, for about the same money) who would that have been?
Long Ball: I’m going to cheat a little bit on the answer to this question. I would have explored what it would take to pry Kraig Urbik out of Buffalo. I know, I know, he was a RFA instead of a UFA, but I think Dallas could have signed him for similar money to what they paid for Bernadeau and Livings. On those two, I’m going to trust that Bill Callahan is a little smarter than I think I am!
Birddog: I think I would have stuck with giving up a draft pick and signing either Urbik or Rinehart. Both can be signed in that 5 year 20 mil range.
BTB: Interesting. I wonder if they saw too much value in the third round, particularly at positions of need (OG and CB) to pull the trigger on a deal like that? Or perhaps they knew that Buffalo was likely to match any reasonable deal?
Okay, that's it until later today, when we'll take a look at the defensive players. In the meantime, BTBers, if you like what you read from Long Ball and Birddog, go to the comments section and let them know!