An appetizer before we begin:
50 days from right now, the 1st round of the NFL Draft will be in progress. Get your mind right.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) March 12, 2015
In this time of fleeting stories based on hearsay and Twitter-hyped nonsense, let's begin with what we know to be concrete:
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carter agreed to a four-year contract on Wednesday, officially making him a former Cowboys linebacker.
Archer writes that the loss of Carter, one day after Justin Durant signed with Atlanta, increases the team's need at linebacker, where only Rolando McClain remains on the open market. The Cowboys have apparently been in discussions with McClain’s agent but, as with everything in recent days, will not overpay.
From 2003-10, Archer points out, the Cowboys have had seven second-round picks, and only Sean Lee (Class of 2010) has signed a second contract with the team. A lovely history it ain't:
Al Johnson (2003), Julius Jones (2004), Jacob Rogers (2004), Kevin Burnett (2005), Anthony Fasano (2006) and Martellus Bennett (2008) either never played a game (Rogers), were traded before the rookie deal ended (Fasano) or left via free agency (Johnson, Jones, Burnett, Bennett). The Cowboys took tight end Gavin Escobar in the second round in 2013, and he hasn't done much to think he will get a second contract with the Cowboys either.
The second round is about value and finding long-term fits. The Cowboys haven’t found enough of them, and that has to change.
The latest look at the Cowboys roster settles on the most under-the-radar of the Cowboys' Big Uglies. Here's Broaddus:
If you were to ask the five starters along the offensive line who is the nastiest player among the group...Ronald Leary would win the vote. Of the five he is clearly the least talented when you talk about [sic] athlete ability but he doesn’t take a backseat to anyone when it comes to strength and competes....Physically beat up on J.J. Watt and others during the season. Can be a load to deal with when he comes off the ball....In talking with people in the organization about his game, he has worked harder to become more of a pro with his practice habits and that has translated into his overall game improving.
PFF's annual deal grader divides free agent signings into several categories, from "Tremendous Value!" to "You're Bringing Back Brett Favre?" The second best of these is "That'll Work Nicely," and that's where they situate the Doug Free signing. Here's the scoop:
Impact: Dallas returns all their starting line which was our top ranked unit in 2014. That’s huge with their line a big reason for their success in winning the NFC East and getting to the Divisional Round of the Playoffs. Free is coming off an injury marred year but when he was on the field proved an able pass blocker and strong run blocker. Attributes you’d expect him to carry on into his age-31 year.
Value: Just $6m guaranteed? The Cowboys have got value in the short term given the right tackle market and ensured that if Free ages rapidly they aren’t caught with something that hurts them down the road. Big win for the team.
On the other hand, they're not so keen on the Cole Beasley deal, placing it under the "Did You Really Need To Make That Move?" heading. To wit:
Impact: Including the postseason Beasley has 98 career receptions. His 1.22 yards per slot reception don’t exactly blow us away either, with the general feeling you can find a similar talent to Beasley around the league relatively comfortably. Not a bad player just not a good one.
Value: This is where the deal falls down. The Cowboys have paid him like Andrew Hawkins, and Andrew Hawkins he is not. Dependable target that they’ve ever so slightly overpaid for.
Archer argues that Harris' departure will cost the Cowboys valuable "hidden yardage":
Harris offered the Cowboys a dangerous returner. His numbers were down in 2014...but he did average 12.8 yards per punt return and 30.6 yards per kick return in 2013. He flipped field position on a number of occasions after a Cowboys' opponent had scored to give the Cowboys momentum. He was the Cowboys' best coverage guy too, leading the team in special teams tackles with 18 in 2014.
And now it's time for today's Twitter Break, free agency style:
Cowboys reaching out to lots of players but only at their $$. Weren't going to go to $5m a year in Paea— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) March 11, 2015
@smartfootball Every good team has at least 1 big acquisition via free agency. Just don't see many adding multiple core plyrs & working out.— NFL Philosophy (@NFLosophy) March 11, 2015
So DeMarco Murray called the Eagles. Isn't that about on the level of Cromartie saying he was missing piece for Dallas? Interest 1 way?— Tom Ryle (@TomRyleBTB) March 11, 2015
As Toddzilla points out, the Cowboys will face the AFC East next season, a division that has seen all four of its teams make big free agent acquisitions. Dallas went 4-0 against the AFC in 2015; that will be a hard feat to repeat.
At last! A free agent visit. Even if it's only a former Lions fullback who averaged a mere 15.4 offensive plays per game, we'll take it. Ger 'er done, Jerruh!
And the DeMarco Murray saga continues...
On Tuesday night, at the American Airlines Center, where both were in attendance at a Mavericks game, Jason Garrett met with DeMarco Murray in what Fish writes was a "significant" session.
Moore writes that DeMarco needs "leverage" to move the Cowboys off of their $5 million a year offer. He appeared to have that Tuesday evening with reports that Oakland, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia all expressed varying degrees of interest, with all of those teams capable of giving him the big money his agent has been pursuing.
Moore updates his previous story after the Raiders signed Roy Helu and the Eagles scheduled a visit with Ryan Mathews on the expectation he’ll sign, developments that saw the leverage advantage Murray enjoyed earlier in the day evaporate.
The Goose reminds us that the Cowboys are smart to sit on their hands when dealing with Murray:
Understand that every free agent who signs a contract this week is going to be overpaid. And that’s the concern the Cowboys have in their dealings with their Pro Bowl runner. Someone is liable to throw crazy money at Murray. That’s the free-agent culture. If you want a player bad enough, you convince yourself to overspend for him...
Unless I’m buying a quarterback or pass rusher, I’m not spending that kind of money in March. But this is a league that does not learn its lessons well.
And the story takes a bizarre, bitter turn...
According to Mort, Murray personally reached out to Eagles coach Chip Kelly on Wednesday morning, expressing his desire to play in Kelly's spread offense and with former Oklahoma roommate and quarterback Sam Bradford.
Of course, that was before the Eagles sealed the deal with Matthews...
To add insult to injury, Murray's old college roommate was working the phones, trying to get him to join him in Philadelphia:
When asked if he is trying to recruit Murray, Sam Bradford said Wednesday, "Absolutely. I've been trying my hardest. I called him. I've texted him. I've done everything. We've been in communication and I think if we could somehow land DeMarco it would be a great pickup.
"Not only is he a great player, but he's a great person. He's a really great friend of mine, too. I really think that he could help this ball club."
And then this:
Cowboys officials have been told that RB DeMarco Murray will fly to Philadelphia Thursday to meet with the Eagles.— David Moore (@DavidMooreDMN) March 12, 2015
In need of solace? A little taste of the environment Murray is traveling to, a city reeking of distrust in a team that appears to be in disarray:
"This is really, truly a day for the fans of the Philadelphia Eagles to speak and speak loudly and speak strongly. Because what we witnessed yesterday was catastrophic, in my opinion. It was one of the worst trades I have ever heard in my life. There is no other shoe to drop. The only other shoe to drop is a big heavy boot and it’s gonna land right on our heads. That’s what happening with Chip Kelly, a complete and utter incompetent general manager who has completely destroyed the roster of his football [team]."