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Why Did The Cowboys Sign UDFA Linebacker Donnie Baggs?

Among the personnel moves Dallas made on Thursday was the acquisition of an unheralded player out of Texas A&M.

Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

The big personnel moves are probably over for the Dallas Cowboys until training camp. This is excluding contract negotiations with Dez Bryant and possibly Orlando Scandrick and Brandon Carr. In this case, we are talking about new players coming to the team, and ones currently on the roster being released. Now we are watching churn in action, and most if not all of the action will deal with names located at or near the bottom of the depth chart. On Thursday, the Cowboys signed former team member and safety Danny McCray, likely looking to replace some of the special teams production of wide receiver Dwayne Harris, lost in free agency to the New York Giants. They also signed a player that was invited to the rookie minicamp, Texas A&M linebacker Donnie Baggs. To make room for them on the 90 man roster, they released second-year linebackers Keith Smith and Will Smith.

As detailed in a report at, the linebacking corps is getting a lot of attention this year after seeing recurring issues with depth the past couple of seasons. While the team is looking for better health this year for Sean Lee and Rolando McClain, they have added six new linebackers so far this offseason. Andrew Gachkar, Keith Rivers, and Jasper Brinkley were signed as free agents, Damien Wilson and Mark Nzeocha were drafted, and now Baggs comes in as a UDFA. That is out of eleven total LBs on the roster, so more than half are new faces.

Baggs must have impressed the team as being a better option than either of the Smiths. While he may end up as no more than a camp body, he may surprise everyone and win a spot on the roster. But the more likely role that he is being considered for is a future member of the practice squad.

The PS offers a ready pool of depth for injured players, letting the team promote someone they know and who already is familiar with the playbook. This is better than the street free agents that the team found itself having to rely on at times in recent years. In a  sense, Baggs provides some insurance for Nzeocha making the roster (most likely for his own ability to play special teams). Otherwise the Wyoming product, who is still somewhat raw, would be an excellent candidate to stash and coach. But you always like to see your draft picks make the roster, even the seventh round ones. If he works out, then Baggs can be kept around for the future as well as a resource if needed during the season.

It is a kind of long-range thinking that is not always obvious to outside observers. It also fits the constant youth movement that has become so central to the team strategy under Jason Garrett. Baggs obviously has to prove himself in the OTAs and training camp, but the logic behind giving him that chance is pretty sound. And who knows what might happen once he gets a chance to develop and show what he has against the rest of the roster?

Follow me @TomRyleBTB

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