Now that the big franchise tag argument over Anthony Spencer is no longer sucking the oxygen out of the room, we can move on, and the dominoes can start to fall for the Dallas Cowboys.
Or, maybe not. If there was one thing that almost all the readers here seemed to expect, it was that Keith Brooking, the geriatric inside linebacker for the Cowboys, would be hanging his jersey up after this season. He had seemed to obviously struggle throughout the season, and the expected emergence of Bruce Carter for next season was believed to render him expendable. If the team was going to keep a veteran backup along with Orie Lemon, it would surely be Bradie James, right?
But now Keith is saying that the team is still interested in his services.
Following the finish of the 2011 season, many experts believed Brooking had played his last down as a Cowboy. Sean Lee and Bruce Carter are the future of the middle linebacker position in Dallas, however, Brooking could serve as a reserve.
According to Brooking, the Cowboys have reached out to his agent.
Is there some merit to keeping Keith, or is this just wrong? More after the jump.
My first reaction to this was a bit of despair. The Cowboys have a history of hanging on to aging players far too long. Recently, there have been some encouraging signs that this may have finally ended, but the thought of keeping Brooking around raises sudden fear that the old ways are upon us again.
If the team is looking at retaining Keith in a backup role, this would look like an open admission that there is a serious issue with depth at the ILB position. Although he did make 50 tackles for the team last year, he just looked too slow out there, particularly when he was trying to drop back in pass coverage.
As I mentioned, I would have expected the team to turn to Bradie James if they were wanting to keep a veteran around for depth. But perhaps they have already spoken with his agent, and he is not interested in a one-year deal. I would not expect the team to want to do anything else, and it is possible that this was the sticking point, with James and his agent feeling he could get something better from another team. I would question that a bit myself, but it is not totally unimaginable, I suppose. At 36, Brooking almost surely would realize that he is only going to get a one-year deal, and that at the league minimum (still almost $1 million).
Or maybe it is just performance. James only had 44 tackles for the year, and the coaching staff may just feel that Brooking does a better job despite his age.
It also may just be an insurance policy. I am not sure about all the contract issues, but if the team signed him to the veteran minimum, would they be required to offer any guaranteed money, or could it all be contingent on him making the team? After a brief look at the CBA, I don't think there is any requirement to have guaranteed money, although I will not be offended if someone corrects me on that. I don't know what kind of deal Keith might be open to, but if he was willing to go with no guaranteed money and just see if he could make the team, I don't see that it would be any particular risk for the team. He could bring his considerable knowledge to the OTAs and training camp, and if no one could beat him out, then he would deserve to be on the team.
I still am not exactly wild about the whole idea, but at least I figure that this could be done in a way that has minimal downside for the Cowboys. At this stage of things, perhaps they are just trying to cover all contingencies.