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Pro Football Focus grades for every Cowboys free agent signing

Based on PFF’s grades and free agent guide, how did the Cowboys do?

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville Jaguars Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Over the course of the last week and change, the Cowboys have completed a list of moves in hopes to improve from the 9-7 letdown in 2017:

-Swapped pick 173 with Raiders for pick 192 and FB Jamize Olawale

-Signed UFA LB Joe Thomas (GB)

-Signed UFA WR Deonte Thompson (BUF)

-Signed UFA WR Allen Hurns (JAX)

-Expected to sign UFA OT Cameron Fleming (NE)

-Expected to sign UFA OG Marcus Martin (CLE)

Earlier in the offseason, PFF had a list of six free agents they thought would fit the Cowboys, we had a write-up right here. The only player on their list that the Cowboys even made a play for was Sammy Watkins but he got paid a heck of a lot more than the $2-3 million they projected.

Pro Football Focus isn’t everyone’s favorite source for information but they still have value as an additional source in multiple areas. When it comes to grades, there are always going to be differing of opinions and room for error. Still, it’s always interesting to compare opinions, so we decided to look back at PFF’s Free Agency Guide and their grades from 2017 to see what they think of the newest Dallas Cowboys.

FB Jamize Olawale

Jamize Olawale
Total Snaps Run Blocking Grade Pass Blocking Grade PFF Grade Pos. Rank
84 53.6 75.2 64.4 N/A

Olawale didn’t play in enough snaps to qualify for a ranking with PFF but his overall rating of 64.4 was a steady improvement from the year prior where PFF graded him at 45.4. Jamize is a different type of fullback from the departing Keith Smith (PFF Rank 13th, 40.3 grade). For instance, Smith played in 97 run blocking snaps to Olawale’s 16 snaps. So, when you see that Olawale is graded higher than Smith, keep those snap counts in mind.

For what it’s worth, Olawale’s strengths are in pass blocking and 40 of his snaps were in the passing game. Olawale had nine rushes for 43 yards, a 4.8 YPC, and a rushing touchdown. He also had six receptions and 33 receiving yards. In 2016, Olawale had 12 receptions for 227 yards and a 75-yard touchdown. He’s shown he can be a deceptive athlete that is capable of hurting the defense if used properly. The likely thinking for this signing is trying to add another receiving threat in the backfield but also a solid pass blocker. There are even some whispers about him playing a little tight end if needed.

LB Joe Thomas

Joe Thomas
Total Snaps Run Defense Grade Pass Defense Grade PFF Grade Pos. Rank
104 45.9 73.8 52.2 N/A

Speaking of familiar faces, Thomas spent the 2015 offseason with the Cowboys before going on to play the last three seasons with the Packers. Thomas also didn’t play enough snaps to be ranked among PFF’s list of linebackers. However, he’s played in 42 of a possible 48 career games. In 2016, Thomas was forced to start seven games due to attrition but he didn’t disappoint with 70 tackles, five passes defensed, and an interception. According to PFF, he graded far better as a run defender than anywhere else. The scheme in Dallas often deploys only two linebackers, making it fiscally hard for the Cowboys to have kept Anthony Hitchens. Thomas has value as a core special teams player and backup to all three linebacker spots.

WR Deonte Thompson

Deonte Thompson
Total Snaps Run Blocking Grade Receiving Grade PFF Grade Pos. Rank
540 75.5 53 51.4 82

Thompson had 38 receptions, 555 receiving yards, a 14.6 average, and two touchdowns for the Bills last season. Thompson is a journeyman who has been on three teams in six seasons but didn’t play much in his first three. He started 2017 with the Bears but was released in October, catching on with the Bills for his second stint in Buffalo. His calling card is his speed but PFF fancies him a solid run-blocking receiver, too.

Thompson was PFF’s second rated UFA receiver in drop rate at 0.0, having caught all 27 catchable passes on 49 total targets. He was also PFF’s top-rated UFA receiver in deep passing catch rate at 43.8, catching 7 of 16 deep targets for over 200 yards and a touchdown. At worst, he’s a veteran player who can be competition at the tail end of the roster.

WR Allen Hurns

Allen Hurns
Total Snaps Run Blocking Grade Receiving Grade PFF Grade Pos. Rank
629 72.3 80.5 80.7 23

Hurns is the big fish of the free agency haul after he was released by the Jaguars last week due to a crowded receiver room and financial considerations. PFF loves this signing by the Cowboys as it has sky-high potential. Terrance Williams and Dez Bryant are the only receivers on the Cowboys that played more snaps than Hurns did last season for Jacksonville. Hurns’ grades were higher than both of them as Bryant was ranked 47th and Williams was 73rd.

Hurns has missed 11 games in the last two seasons which isn’t ideal but you can’t argue against his talent level when he’s out there. Dallas really needed to do some work with their receiving corps and they were able to get Hurns on a cap-friendly deal. This is still a position they may draft but they have at least upgraded the talent at Dak Prescott’s disposal.

OT Cameron Fleming

Cameron Fleming
Total Snaps Run Blocking Grade Pass Blocking Grade PFF Grade Pos. Rank
543 74.1 80.2 78.3 24

Fleming is another signing that PFF is high on as he was the highest rated tackle on the Patriots last season. He’s seen a steady climb over his last three years and his PFF grades have improved each season. Despite allowing four sacks last season, Fleming was PFF’s top-rated UFA tackle in pass blocking efficiency at 95.5. Fleming’s run blocking success rate, per PFF, was 91.3%, ranking him ninth among tackles.

Fleming is more than capable of starting for the Cowboys but if plans are to keep him at the swing tackle position, Dallas will have one of the better tackle situations in the NFL.

OG Marcus Martin

Marcus Martin
Season PFF Grade
2014 40.6
2015 30.7
2016 39.2

Without any context available, the above chart just notes his last three seasons before 2017. Unfortunately, Martin didn’t play in a single game for the Browns last season but he has started 24 of 26 career games with the 49ers. PFF did not have anything else to offer up on Martin but Bryan Broaddus seems to be on the optimistic side:

Martin was drafted to a 49ers line that had Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Daniel Kilgore, Anthony Davis, and Alex Boone. Behind them was more depth with Jonathan Martin and Cowboy favorite, “Jumbo” Joe Looney. Martin started eight games as a rookie then 14 his next season before the 49ers drafted two tackles and a guard in 2016. Though he hasn’t played since December of that season, the Cowboys are willing to let him compete. He plays both center and guard which is another added bonus to what they have with Looney, who just re-signed as well.

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