The Cowboys had made the most out of their drafts in recent years, but the same can also be said about how well they have done when signing undrafted free agents. Cole Beasley, Dan Bailey, and Jeff Heath are some key UDFA players who have found a home on the Cowboys roster. And the team continues to do well as our own Tom Ryle wrote a piece about how the Cowboys have graded out as one of the best groups of 2017. Players like defensive end Lewis Neal, offensive lineman Dan Skipper, and quarterback Cooper Rush lead the way as potential players with upside that could eventually develop into an important member on the team. Anytime an undrafted quarterback is taken, people are quick to remind others that fellow UDFA Tony Romo came out of nowhere to have a great NFL career. It would be tough to find a Cowboys undrafted free agent who has made such a significant impact to his team as what Romo has done. But that didn’t stop the staff over at dallascowboys.com from trying.
The Mothership proposed the question - where does Tony Romo rank among all-time rookie free agents? Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and look at some of the team’s greatest gems that have never heard their name called during the NFL Draft.
10. Miles Austin – In his rookie season, he wasn’t even the best rookie free agent receiver on the team, as he was constantly getting out-performed by Sam Hurd. But as time went on, Austin not only developed into a starting receiver, but earned two Pro Bowls. His 250-yard receiving game, including the game-winning overtime TD to beat Kansas City is one of the best individual performances in club history.
Austin would spend eight years in Dallas and have over 300 catches for 4,481 yards. He had Pro Bowl seasons in 2009 and 2010 where he had over 1,000 yards receiving both years. He had trouble staying healthy as he missed 11 games over the last three seasons with the team. Number 19 would make some big plays for the Cowboys throughout his career, but it was when he wore number 14 that brings about one of my favorite Austin memories. During his rookie year, he took a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown to give the Cowboys a 17-13 lead over the Seattle Seahawks in a Wild Card playoff game. In a back and forth affair that featured many tough breaks (Jason Witten fumble, Terry Glenn fumble that resulted in a safety, and the infamous Romo bobble during a potential game-winning field goal), Austin had one of the few big plays that went the Cowboys way.
6. Everson Walls – While he put together one of the best rookie seasons of any player in NFL history with 11 interceptions in 1981, Walls didn’t stop there. He went on to make three Pro Bowls as one of the best corners in the league for most of the decade. Walls ranks second in Cowboys history with 44 interceptions.
2. Drew Pearson – A quarterback in college at Tulsa, Pearson made a rather seamless transition to receiver, and quickly became one of Roger Staubach’s favorite targets. Over the course of his career, Pearson found himself involved in some of the Cowboys’ best memorable moments., including his clutch TD against the Falcons in the 1980 playoffs, his long touchdown catch from Clint Longley in the 1974 Thanksgiving Day comeback, his downfield blocking for Tony Dorsett’s 99-yard run, and of course, the Hail Mary touchdown to beat the Vikings in the 1975 playoffs.
The original 88 doesn’t have the stats that Michael Irvin has. He never had the athleticism that Dez Bryant has. And like the others on this list, he was never touted enough in college to where a team drafted him. But that didn’t stop Pearson from having a remarkable career in Dallas.
Of course, he gained even more popularity among Cowboys fans with an epic announcement of Awuzie last month. That video never gets old, so if you want to see it again, you can watch it here. Look how angry this Philadelphia Eagles fan got.
1. Tony Romo – While he’s not in the Ring of Honor – just yet – Romo takes the No. 1 spot simply for his jump from Eastern Illinois to the face of the franchise for America’s Team. It’s been well-documented that Romo won just two playoff games as a starter, but considering the state of the franchise when he took over, he gets credit for elevating the team to a more competitive level. He left the Cowboys this offseason as the leader in passing yards, touchdowns and QB rating.
If the last decade of Cowboys football has brought you excitement, then you can thank Tony Romo for that. During his first year as a starter, he broke Cowboys records and gave the team new hope that they could contend. It’s been rocky at times, but the Cowboys undrafted quarterback has make so many big plays for this team during his 13 year career. There may never be a UDFA find as big as this one for the Cowboys.
Who are your favorite undrafted free agent players?