Correct me if I am wrong, but the last time the Dallas Cowboys went all in on the first day of free agency was back in 2012 when the team decided to invest in a shiny new Carr. Many of us were in agreement with that choice, at least at the time, since cornerback was a serious position of need for the franchise. In retrospect, that move was not a good one, but we are not here to rehash old mistakes. Now is the time to look forward.
What has emerged since that signing is a Dallas team that has looked around for players who could come in and give the team solid productivity without breaking the bank. According to Cowboys Executive Vice-President Stephen Jones, fans can expect to see more of the same this off-season.
"I think active can get you in trouble in free agency. I think you have to be efficient and look for your values, and you can do good things. We did it last year with a player like Mincey where we got a lot of great value out of him. But at the same time, we've been in situations where you have to pay too much for players. You got to be very careful there. We're certainly going to be that way. We're going to look to be efficient. If that proves to be productive then that would be good." - Stephen Jones
There is a school of thought around the National Football League that states that you 'build through the draft and plug gaps through free agency'. More and more it is becoming obvious that the Dallas brain-trust is subscribing to this philosophy. In recent seasons we have witnessed 'value' guys like Mackenzy Bernadeau, Laurent Robinson, and Jeremy Mincey come in and make an impact without a major influx of money being invested in their acquisition. This is the type of investment strategy that Jones appears ready to follow again in 2015. With that in mind. Lets take a look at some places that the Cowboys can find some value.
Cleveland cornerback Buster Skrine could be on the team's radar. Four years ago Skrine entered the league as a fifth-round draft pick and promptly proved himself to be an asset in the Cleveland secondary. The problem is that the Browns cannot afford to pay him starter money when they have Joe Haden and last year's number eight overall selection, Justin Gilbert, in their plans. Skrine proved to be a solid performer for the Browns but he is being edged out by his higher profile counterparts. He will not be cheap, his play has been too good for that. Still, Buster Skrine is a good value at what is likely to be half the cost of Brandon Carr.
Corey Peters is a solid, but not great, interior defensive lineman for the Atlanta Falcons. Although he has been much maligned in Atlanta, Peters has been a solid football player. (In that regard, I see him in the same light that Bernie was referred to when Dallas signed him.) He played 2014 on a one year, prove it deal after suffering a torn Achilles tendon in 2013. He was the one disruptive feature in the Falcons defense. Peters has proven reliable in both run defense and in getting inside pressure on the passer. He will likely never provide the heat that we saw from Jason Hatcher two seasons ago, but he will get a consistent push, and working for Rod Marinelli would likely help him elevate his game to the next level. The cost to secure his services will likely be somewhere in the range of $3.5 million per year.
Another guy who played last season on a prove it deal is O'Brien Schofield of the Seattle Seahawks. In 2014 he was a jack of all trades for Seattle, and he was poised to cash in on a good deal from the New York Giants when he failed his physical. The exam revealed the potential for developing arthritis in his knee. After going without a team for several months, Schofield got a $730,000 deal to play as a situational defensive end for Pete Carroll's team. After bulking up a bit to fill the role, he proved himself capable of being a solid if not spectacular piece of the Seattle defense. His primary role was as a designated pass rusher in the nickel, but as the season wore on, O'Brien proved capable of playing as an every down guy. The Cowboys can likely sign him for somewhere in the $3-3.5 million dollar realm. If Scofield continues to progress the way he did in Seattle, that would be a bargain.
There are some values to be had in free agency this year. The Cowboys pro scouting department has done a good job of late turning up some solid finds. This year the front office will be expecting more of the same. There is little doubt in my mind that Dallas has their eye on a couple hidden gems that will have an impact. Now you and I are left to wonder who they will turn up this time around.