So how do you characterize the past few days for the Dallas Cowboys? Is the team lucky at finding some parts it really needed to add after training camp and the cut down to 53? Good at scouring the available talent and getting pieces that fit? Or is it all just a mirage, with us getting fooled by the shiny new toys?
We won't know until we have a chance to review the players in question on the field, but it sure is looking like the plan may have come together in Dallas.
After the pre-season wrapped up and the initial roster was established, there seemed to be three main problems still facing the Cowboys: A very shaky-looking special teams group, depth on the defensive line, and a need for a dependable starting offensive guard. Those issues were all looming over the team four days ago. Now, all have been addressed after a very active few days where the Cowboys were involved in multiple trades, finishing up with a move that proves it ain't over 'til it's over, even when everyone says it's over.
Rabblerousr already has taken a very deep look at the acquisition of Edgar Jones and Kyle Bosworth , and what they indicate about the plans of the staff. Both players look like very good tools for Rich Bisaccia as he attempts to provide better field position for the offense and defense to work with. In a film review of the two players, Bryan Broaddus saw two guys who fit the description the Cowboys had of what they were looking for: Players who are very good at special teams, and also bring some decent value as backup linebackers.
It also looked like this was the way the team was planning to go all along, because one of the things that was noticeable about the original 53 man roster was that it went short at the linebacker position. As we subsequently found out, three of the players on that roster, Nate Livings, Sean Lissemore, and Dante Rosario, were likely placeholders all along. Livings went to IR, which is a way to open his slot on the roster without accelerating the cap hit the way an outright cut would. And Lissemore and Rosario were both the subject of deals the Cowboys were working on. Once all that was done, the Cowboys now had a much more robust linebacking group and a vacant spot on the roster.
That was filled with the Caesar Rayford signing. This addresses the growing likelihood that Anthony Spencer will not be ready to go against the New York Giants, and in the best case would be limited in how many snaps he could manage. As Dawn Macelli observed in her Fanpost on Rayford, he was getting some major attention for his performance with the Indianapolis Colts, racking up five sacks in four pre-season games. Technically a rookie, the 27-year-old has spent years in the CFL and AFL. He's been seen as the opposite of Sean Lissemore. Lissemore is better suited for a 3-4 than a 4-3, and was traded. Then Dallas went for Rayford because he is apparently seen as more of a 4-3 DE than the 3-4 OLB role he filled with the Colts. Broaddus, at least, thinks so after watching his video.
Can see why the Colts kept him in the first place because of his production but really not a great fit in their 3-4 scheme at outside linebacker. Has a chance here as a rotational defensive end and kick blocker on special teams with his height. Can work with guys like this because of their physical traits and effort. Low risk, high reward type of player that was productive against everyone he played.
I do wonder if there is another similarity between the Lissemore situation and Rayford's. Word has gotten out that the trades that sent Lissemore and Rosario away from Dallas may have been in the works for at least a few days before they happened, and given how things seemed to fit together with Rayford, I wonder if his deal was not being worked parallel with the Lissemore move. For that matter, it may involve one of the draft picks Dallas acquired while all this was going on.
Now, the last and perhaps biggest piece of the puzzle has fallen into place, as the Cowboys have signed a deal with Brian Waters. It is for one year, with a base of $1.5 million, and possibly worth $3 million total. Waters has been someone many have wanted to see the Cowboys sign, and there appear to be some good reasons for that.
Cowboys will have NFL Man of the Year from 2009 (Brian Waters) and 2012 (Jason Witten). #RightKindOfGuy— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) September 4, 2013
However, he does have something of a reputation for doing everything he can to avoid training camp. This means that he will not be available for the first game against the Giants, but is expected to be ready for week two against his old team, the Kansas City Chiefs. To make room for him, the Cowboys will waive Eric Frampton, and likely give him an injury settlement for the calf problem that sidelined him late in camp.
Given all the public pronouncements about a deal with Waters being dead, particularly from Stephen Jones, this is a really lucky development. Unless it wasn't. It seems a bit odd that there just happened to be a player sitting on the roster who may no longer have been in the plans for the season. I have to wonder if there was not a little dezinformatsia going on here. The team was no doubt very aware that Waters had no desire to make it into training camp, and I have to believe that the lines of communication stayed open at the very least. I would not be surprised that the deal was largely worked out in advance with every intention to close the deal once the Cowboys had the other signings they had to get done in place, and could sort out exactly where they were with the salary cap. Waters is the biggest cost, and with the other things all taken care of, they knew exactly where they stood. The team also had the advantage of Waters' clearly expressed preference to play in Texas, which meant they really did not have to worry about any real competition for him. Even so, it does make sense to be rather public about how he was not really looking to play this year, just to encourage everyone else to stay the heck away from him.
Am I just imagining things to see a plan underlying all of these moves? To my mind, these fit together a bit too well and answer too many questions to have just been an accident. I don't think the staff knew in advance that all this was going to fall so nicely into place, but I have to think they had a blueprint for this. Perhaps it had some other parts that may have been substituted in, but I think all these names were on a list of options that the team started putting together at least a few weeks ago, (remember the Brandon Moore situation, which shows they had more than one way to go at guard). As for the rest, I don't know if they were all the first choice for the job at hand, but they all look pretty good. I just don't think this was all done by accident.