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Cowboys news: Dallas linebacker room just got a nice veteran boost

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Pittsburgh Steelers v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Cowboys sign ex-Vikings LB Anthony Barr to one-year contract worth up to $3 million - Nick Shook, NFL.com

The Cowboys have added another good player to an already good defense.

Anthony Barr has agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Cowboys, the team announced.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport later reported Barr’s contract is worth up to $3 million.

Barr has spent the entirety of his career in Minnesota, where the Vikings made him the ninth-overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft and watched him become a Pro Bowl linebacker on an annual basis from 2015-2018. Barr nearly left the Vikings in 2019, agreeing to a lucrative deal to join the Jets before second thoughts drove him back to Minnesota.

Since his decision, Barr has played in just 27 of 49 possible games. He’s declined from a problem-causing linebacker in Minnesota to a veteran who waited until early August to find an employer for the 2022 season.

That doesn’t mean Barr doesn’t still carry value. At his best, Barr was a perennial Pro Bowl linebacker who averaged nearly 70 tackles per season. He’ll join a Dan Quinn-directed defense headlined by a linebacking duo of 2021 AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons and Leighton Vander Esch, and will provide depth to the group, which is welcoming back 2021 rookie Jabril Cox to the second level of the unit.

Barr will provide insurance and security for the Cowboys over the course of 2022. He’ll also anticipate playing for a contending team that is looking to defend its NFC East crown and aiming for greater heights.

4 standout players from Week 1 of Dallas Cowboys training camp - Randy Gurzi, The Landry Hat

One week in and four players are looking strong in camp.

4. Sean McKeon, TE

With Dallas moving on from Blake Jarwin after another injury this offseason, the No. 2 spot behind Dalton Schultz is wide open. Third-year player Sean McKeon is taking full advantage of this.

McKeon has been showing great footwork and has made the most of every opportunity he’s received thus far. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 246 pounds, he’s showing very quick feet and even pulled down a few impressive contested catches, including a touchdown pass thrown by Dak Prescott.

2. Anthony Brown, CB

Since joining the Cowboys in 2016, Anthony Brown has been an undervalued player. He started nine games as a rookie while appearing in all 16 and had 55 tackles with eight pass defenses and one pick. From there, he continued to put up similar numbers while also playing in the slot — which is a tough ask for any corner.

Then in 2021, he found himself as a full-time starter for the first time. He responded to the challenge by recording career highs in every major statistical category including tackles (71), pass defenses (17), and interceptions (three). He also scored his first career touchdown in their Week 4 blowout against the New York Giants.

1. T.J. Vasher, WR

The injury bug has been a problem for Dallas early in camp. James Washington, who missed time with a foot injury during minicamp, was carted off the field on Monday with another injury to his foot. It was later announced he fractured his right foot and will be out as long as 10 weeks.

That means Dallas is now without Washington and Michael Gallup, severely limiting their receiving corps. Without many experienced options, some of the younger names are getting a chance to shine — including rookie Jalen Tolbert who has been delivering when called upon.

As good as he’s been, however, the player who has really been stealing the spotlight is T.J. Vasher. A product of Texas Tech, Vasher signed as an undrafted free agent in 2021 but didn’t play as a rookie after being put on the non-football injury list in August.

Cowboys DC Dan Quinn plans to unleash Micah Parsons even more this season - Jori Epstein, USA Today

Parsons feasting on opposing offenses is always a recipe for success.

The Cowboys defensive coordinator had known rookie Micah Parsons brought coverage and blitz abilities to Dallas, Parsons’ college tape demonstrating how he could leverage size and speed effectively across downs.

But pass-rushing? Parsons’ COVID-shortened college career didn’t scream edge talent. So Quinn experimented.

“That started, I’d say, in minicamp,” Quinn told USA TODAY Sports. “‘OK, I’m going to add more, add more, add more.’

“It was really during training camp (last year) that I figured we had something as a pass rusher. ... I wasn’t planning to go into the season using him as a defensive end.”

“That started, I’d say, in minicamp,” Quinn told USA TODAY Sports. “‘OK, I’m going to add more, add more, add more.’

“It was really during training camp (last year) that I figured we had something as a pass rusher. ... I wasn’t planning to go into the season using him as a defensive end.”

Mike McCarthy, Dallas Cowboys have an urgent problem at kicker, they don’t have one - Clarence E. Hill Jr.

There is plenty of work to do to rectify the major question marks at the position before the season starts.

Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy plans to remain patient with his unproven and inconsistent kickers. But he admits that it will only last so long. Both veteran Lirim Hajrullahu and undrafted rookie Jonathan Garibay have struggled since the start of training camp and both had horrible days with the wind and poor snaps on Tuesday.

“These two are competing for a job,” McCarthy said. “At some point they got to start getting comfortable and making kicks more consistently. That is just stating the facts. At the end of the day, the rope is here. Someone has to grab it.”

Hajrullahu was 3-of-8 with four straight misses from 43, 48, 48 and 52 yards during the special teams work on Tuesday. Garibay went 6-of-8 with misses in two of his final three tries from 48 and 52 yards. And when the team worked on end-game situations, it was even worse. Hajrullahu was 1-of-3 on potential long game-winning attempts. Garibay went 0-of-3.

Owner Jerry Jones expressed patience and desire for them to try shorter kicks. “I was kidding somebody, I just want to see them make extra points and kicks from the 20 and the 30,” he said. “We’ll worry about that far out stuff later, I just don’t want to head into the year missing extra points and short field goals.”

Confident Jerry Jones content to ‘give these young guys the incentive’ to take spots in Dallas Cowboys’ depleted receiver unit - Todd Archer, ESPN.com

This approach could actually work in the Cowboys favor if players continue to step up.

In the aftermath of losing James Washington to a fractured right foot, the Dallas Cowboys will not pursue any veteran wide receivers available in free agency, like Odell Beckham Jr. or Emmanuel Sanders, or look to add one through a potential trade.

“Let’s give these young guys the incentive, our young receivers,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “We thought highly of them when we came out. We’ll get [Washington] rehabbed ... But it doesn’t create an urgency for us to add a veteran receiver. We like these young guys.”

The lack of urgency in adding a more proven receiver than the ones already in camp is somewhat reminiscent of 2016, when the Cowboys lost then-backup quarterback Kellen Moore to a broken ankle one week into camp. Instead of adding a veteran, the Cowboys went with fourth-round pick Prescott and Jameill Showers behind Tony Romo. After Romo suffered a back injury in a preseason game, Prescott became the starter, and he has held the job ever since.

“We like these young guys,” Jones said. “We’d already been looking ahead, and we were going to have some trouble cutting our numbers at receiver because we’ve liked the way some of these guys are starting to show. But we’ve got a lot of work still to do.”

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