As free agency draws ever nearer, we must start there, and then move on to draft business later in the post. And away we go...
Scouting Report: Grading Tape On Newly Signed Linebacker Keith Rivers - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership
Broaddus offers a brief film study of veteran linebacker Keith Rivers, who the Cowboys signed to a one-year contract on Wednesday evening. His report is not exactly encouraging:
Doesn’t cover the ground like he once did. Good reactions to what is happening to him – but I would not call him a fluid, moving athlete. Would have liked to seen better change of direction but most likely because of that lack of quickness. Felt like his upper body strength was good along with that ability to play with his hands. When stood up over the tight ends against the Texans, he was able to control them off the line.
Whether or not Rivers proves to be a success, the Cowboys still need to add quality linebackers:
Adding to the Cowboys woes at linebacker is the fact that Bruce Carter will almost certainly be playing elsewhere in 2015. Here's George's opinion on why Carter won't return:
Though he closed strong in 2014, the Cowboys must decide whether they can count on him to be that player in December more so than the one who has been hit-and-miss over four seasons. Carter started only eight games in 2014, and the Cowboys could have better options at linebacker with a healthy Sean Lee in 2015 and the emergence of rookie Anthony Hitchens.
Archer's series on the Cowboys' free agent needs continues with a look at what is arguably their most understaffed position group: linebacker. Archer offers an intriguing candidate to add to the team:
Best Cowboys fit: Malcolm Smith was the MVP of Super Bowl XLVIII after returning an interception for a touchdown in the Seattle Seahawks’ victory. He is a bit of a projection because he has never been a full-time starter. But he has what the Cowboys want in their linebackers: athleticism and speed.
The former Buccaneers GM proposes that Suh is "this generation's Reggie White": a franchise-altering defensive player who is hitting the open market.He outlines Suh's virtues and then offers a list of teams who should make a run at the former Lion. Guess who makes the list? Yep:
Dallas Cowboys: The team doesn't appear to have a ton of money to spend but could definitely find a way to create the necessary room if it wants Suh badly enough....Do you think Jerry Jones wouldn't do that if he thought Suh could bring him a championship? Suh would completely change that defense, which was adequate last season but not at a high enough level to get the Cowboys to the Super Bowl. They're a legit championship contender with Suh.
Archer reviews the list of players recently jettisoned by their teams to see if any represent a good fit in Big D. Of all the names he lists, this one is the best fit from where I sit:
Trent Cole: He turns 32 in October, but he has been durable and productive. He has 14.5 sacks the last two years and has four double-digit sack seasons. He is a bridge player to where the Cowboys can cover themselves for a year or two as they look to rebuild the line in the draft. If he’s looking for some good coin, then I think the Cowboys pass, but he would fill a need and give the Cowboys another pretty good pass-rusher to go with Jeremy Mincey and DeMarcus Lawrence.
As Moore points out, the Cowboys have signed twelve players during in Jason Garrett’s four offseasons at the helm. His review of that dirty dozen settles upon safety Will Allen, he of the "we hardly knew ye" fame. Here's Moore:
Another veteran safety signed to a one-year deal because the Cowboys had so many young, unproven players at the position. Allen opened the season as the starter. He had 17 tackles, an interception and broke up two passes in the first two games before he was replaced by rookie J.J. Wilcox in the starting lineup. The Cowboys released Allen in October.
Yep, that pretty much covers it.
And the DeMarco Murray news onslaught continues...
Murray crafts a nice long-form piece on Murray, his spectacular 2014 season, and where he and the team stand. Many parts struck me; here's one moment that I particularly enjoyed:
He is, for the most part, a smoldering, unsmiling young man whose demeanor made this reporter wonder: What is pissing this guy off? During a brief, unscheduled one-on-one with Murray in a Cowboys Stadium corridor after the team’s wild-card win over the Lions, I noted that he seemed to play with a measure of anger, then asked him (not in so many words), Is something pissing you off?
..."It’s a physical game, and the way you earn respect, the way you get guys ignited, is making big plays, obviously, but also being physical. You can’t outrun everyone; you can’t make everyone miss. So sometimes you’ve gotta try to impose your will on the opposition." Ever so briefly, he smiled.
Filed under "I didn't know that": Pete Carroll tried to recruit Murray to come to USC...as a cornerback.
From a reprinted story that originally ran in 2011, we learn that Murray caught Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops's attention with a ridiculous dunk:
Murray bounced a basketball off the floor, angled it off the wall so it could carom back over a side backboard. While the ball pin-balled, Murray exploded into the air, performed a 360-degree pirouette, extended his arms and slammed the ball through the basket.
"Tell that kid," Stoops told White, "he has a scholarship to Oklahoma."
Kirwin offers a look at every team's three priciest players, to see who is spending what percentage of thier cap on the top three salaries. Any team allocating over 35 percent of their cap to the top three, Kirwin writes, is really top heavy and may struggle to fill out a quality roster in 2015. As it turns out, Tyron Smith, Tony Romo and a tagged Dez Bryant take up 37% of the Cowboys cap, which puts Dallas at the top the list.
And here's an added concern; Kirwin tells us to "look for the teams that have all three players from the same side of the ball because it could provide a clue as to why they aren't very good on the opposite side of the ball." Well, that is certainly the situation with our Beloved 'boys.
Archer bases his article on a simple question: Would you voluntarily take a cut in pay if you had your best year with your company? I'm sure most of us would be with Romo on this one: not bloody likely...
Today's Roster Rundown feature at the team site looks at kicker Dan Bailey. here's Broaddus's lengthy assessment of the man who is, pound for pound, the team's best player:
Elected as a team captain, he is one of the hardest workers on the squad at any position. Bailey takes a great deal of pride in his conditioning and preparation. He’s one of the best athletes on this squad and was a member of the Off Season Award team for his work in the team's conditioning program. It is no accident that he has enjoyed the success he has had during his career because of his offseason work....He is a weapon from any position on the field and is also an exceptional kickoff man. Doesn’t surprise me about the leg strength due to how hard he works in the weight room and on the field at his craft. Does an outstanding job of getting quickly to the ball with the smooth mechanics to get it home. Is very consistent in how he approaches each kick. It's rare that you see him struggle with his technique or the operation of the kick.
The Sturminators draft profile series continues with one of the 2015 draft's more difficult prospects to assess. Sturm cuts through the interpretive quagmire with a clear, and surprising take:
Unfortunately, there was a lot here that I didn’t care for. He is just not very interested in going up to help in run support much or in attacking the multiple bubble screens or quick outs that we see in the game these days. I need my corner to be a physical man on the flank – especially at that size – who wants to mix it up and take a toll on those who dare mess with him underneath. I just don’t see that consistently as you could accuse him of too many "business decisions" as a corner that may count Deion Sanders as an inspiration.
In a defensive system that requires cornerbacks to be willing tacklers, especially in short zones and on perimeter runs, a Deion-like CB isn't going to enjoy much success...
Archer reports on Mel Kiper's latest mock, which sees the Cowboys selecting Wake Forest corner Kevin Johnson. While going corner in round one might confuse a lot of people, to Archer, it makes a lot of sense:
The Cowboys need cornerbacks. We’ve talked a lot about Brandon Carr's $12.7 million cap figure and $8 million base salary. We’ve talked about Morris Claiborne's return from knee surgery. We’ve talked about how the team might not tender restricted free agent Sterling Moore.
Indeed, the more the Cowboys needs, the more I think corner might be their most pressing concern...