The "legal tampering" period of NFL free agency kicked off, and the rumors have been flying all over the place. For the Dallas Cowboys, the only solid news involved a couple of their own free agents. But elsewhere in the NFC East, a couple of teams are working really hard to get bad tastes out of their mouths. And we are just getting started.
The Cowboys have two restricted free agents, Ron Leary and Jeff Heath, and as expected they tendered both of them. Heath gets the lower tender that just gives the Cowboys the right to match any outside offers, but they went further in trying to keep Leary, assigning him a second round tender.
Being an undrafted free agent, Dallas had to go with this level of tender to force compensation from another team. Leary has starter talent in the NFL as evidenced by the couple of years he was the starting left guard, especially the considerable success that Demarco Murray had in 2015.
The tenders by Dallas were expected, and otherwise the team was fairly quiet (although we don't know what is working behind the scenes). This is all in line with the way the Cowboys have approached free agency of late, as Stephen Jones outlined.
"It's not a great way to put your team together, but I think sometimes there are necessities that you need to jump out and do some things," Jones said. "Hopefully you're not really needing to have something that you're paying a good player like he's a great player. We've done it before, it doesn't mean we won't do it ever again, but you try not to. Obviously you'd like to build your team through the draft and keep your players that hopefully you drafted well and keep those type of players so we're not out there in free agency."
Both Lamar Miller and Olivier Vernon have been linked to the Cowboys - at least by the fans. Now they are available for all NFL teams to contact. Social media got especially giddy when word got out that Miller's pricetag was likely in the $5-6 million range, but that is not exactly how he is approaching things.
Miller is reportedly looking for DeMarco Murray type money - Murray received a five-year $40 million contract last season.
The Dolphins believe he's worth more in the $5-to-6 million range.
However Miller sees his own value, the reality is that running backs are much less valuable on the free agent market than offensive tackles, cornerbacks, edge rushers, and quarterbacks. And Sturm makes the case that Miller is the one "splash" player the Cowboys need to go after.
Well, the "right guy" is going to be a short list. But, he has to be an all-purpose back who can get tough yards and has outside juice. He has to be a weapon in the passing game and he has to have plenty of tread left on the tires. In this case, I believe I am pitching you the premise -- albeit, a bit of a long shot with reports that Miami is scrambling to get him signed -- of Lamar Miller.
There are a lot of cautionary tales about free agents not working out as hoped, and Greg Hardy is one, although some still think the Cowboys need to make an attempt to keep him. It doesn't look likely, though.
He just wasn't worth the hassle. The Cowboys used Charles Haley as an example of a success story in inheriting a trouble player elsewhere and having him flourish in their system. Haley helped deliver Super Bowl wins on teams. Hardy was part of a team that went 4-12 and 1-11 without Tony Romo. He was not able to sustain success, and being late for meetings and his disruptiveness wore on the coaches as the year went on even if Jason Garrett never took away playing time. It's one thing to put up with issues when the individual has a great run of success; it's another when the player was simply average.
Our old friend and colleague KD Drummond (on his new site) takes a different view, and feels that the Cowboys can't play it too cautiously in free agency given the needs of the team.
Now, Dallas needs to augment their talent base with players who can contribute immediately. The draft is only going to be capable of bringing 2-3 impact players, and that's if the selections are at positions that transition quickly. Defensive end and cornerback are rarely two of those positions, so free agency must be the route.
Special schadenfreude section.
While the Cowboys continue with their established philosophy for free agency, a couple of our NFC East rivals are busy cleaning up after some real messes.
Outside of Sam Bradford, the Eagles seem bent on getting rid of every player acquired during Chip Kelly's Philadelphia Experiment.
The Miami Dolphins made the first big trade of 2016, acquiring defensive starters Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell from the Philadelphia Eagles, a league source tells ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
The Eagles will get draft compensation, and the trade will go through later this week after the NFL's new league year begins.
This has to be one of the great "we told you so's" of all times. The Eagles' fan base was wildly gleeful about poaching him from the Cowboys, and we all just shook our heads over what a poor fit he was for Kelly's scheme.
DeMarco Murray's rocky tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles is suddenly over.
That basically leaves Ryan Matthews from Kelly's mad scientist personnel moves, and he is reportedly being shopped, as well.
This comes as a surprise to absolutely no one. Robert Griffin III was another ridiculously costly move that has not panned out in Washington. He is still linked to the Cowboys, but that is not going to happen.
Griffin's release ends one of the more dramatic and emotional periods in Redskins history. Washington traded up in the 2012 draft, giving up two first-round and one second-round pick and swapping first-rounders with St. Louis. With the No. 2 overall pick, the Redskins selected a player who quickly became a fan favorite.
Not a favorite anymore. One current rumor is that the Houston Texans are interested in him.
Meanwhile, the draft is still coming, and there is an interesting opinion in a mock draft article about the effect the Cowboys will have on it.
With all due respect to the bottom-feeding clubs picking first in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys face arguably the most critical decision with their choice at No 4 overall.
The Cowboys are clearly more talented than the others with a top-five pick and therefore a gambler like owner Jerry Jones might be tempted to add an immediate impact player in the hopes of competing for a Super Bowl. Of course, picking earlier than at any point since 1991 (when the Cowboys drafted Miami defensive tackle Russell Maryland No. 1 overall) also could put the franchise in position to build for the future, adding a young quarterback to groom behind the 35-year old (and increasingly injury-prone) Tony Romo.
Rob Rang, the author, has Dallas taking Ohio State DE Joey Bosa
We close with a double dip from Sturm as he looks at a possible target later in the draft. If the Cowboys don't take Bosa at four, Emmanuel Ogbah may be a target later - like maybe at 34.
I tend to believe Ogbah is worth taking in the 1st round at a certain point. He is very athletic and closes down plays around the pocket with a ferocity that looks like DeMarcus Ware at times. I am not suggesting he is ever going to get 100 NFL sacks, but I do like the traits of a guy like Ogbah in a draft that isn't exactly loaded with pass rushers from DE.