It certainly has been an interesting off-season for the Cowboys. We have already discussed the coaching changes and wondered how those changes will affect the defense. The Cowboys have done little to upgrade the defense but are counting on the injuries that ravaged the D last year not to happen again. Not the best plan in the world but one that could bear fruit if it comes to fruition. Franchising LB/DE Anthony Spencer looks to have been a mistake. First you have the issue of having no idea how he will perform as a DE in a 4-3 defense. Second, the Cowboys misread the market and grossly overpaid Spencer, even if it is for one year. This may make signing Spencer to a long term deal problematic. He has 10+ million guaranteed this season, seems unlikely to take less annually.
The offense however seems to be a revolving storyline. First there was QB Tony Romo’s contract extension. Yeah, he has $55 million coming to him in guaranteed money and could make as much as $108 million over the life of the contract. Not sure where all the hatred is coming from. Is he worth that contract? No, of course not, but almost no quarterback is, but that is what the market will pay, and you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think anyone of a dozen other organizations would be watering at the mouth to sign Romo had the Cowboys let him play out his deal. Plus, Romo had all the leverage, the Cowboys were up against the cap and needed to sign him to a long term deal in order to not only get under the cap, but sign a free agent or two. Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones didn’t help matters any by stating that because of the amount of the contract that Romo will need to spend more time helping with the game plan. Problem is Jones made it sound like Romo wasn’t studying enough, wasn’t helping the team enough before the contract. Of course this isn’t true but the media ran with it, there looking for any story at this time of year and Jones should’ve known better. Romo is a lightning rod for criticism and Jones pretty much served him up on a silver platter. Would be nice if he just kept his mouth shut for once.
The other headache has been what to do with RT Doug Free. Any way you slice it Free has been terrible the past two seasons. Now maybe you can give him a pass because he switched from LT to RT but that should have helped him as theoretically he is facing a lesser player. Didn’t really seem to work out that way last year as Free was pushed around like he was a blocking sled. Just like Jones however, he didn’t want to admit he made a huge mistake when he signed Free to a four-year $32 million contract. Listen, Jones can’t be criticized for that contract, Free once again had leverage, came off a good year, and played that into a good contract. He just went belly up, that happens, time to move on. Problem is they let the saga of whether to cut him or re-negotiate his contract go on for months. This cost them any chance at signing an upgrade at RT. Someone who won’t get Romo killed, and let’s face it, without a good OL, it doesn’t matter how potent your skill players are. Free agreed to a cut his salary in half, that may save room against the cap, but it won’t protect Romo any better or open up holes in the running game. They should have cut him and moved on to Tyson Clabo or Eric Winston, either one of which would be an upgrade and would’ve cost the same.
As for the draft. Plenty of controversy there as well. Everything went the wrong way for the Cowboys in the first round. Every player they really wanted at #18 was taken before they were on the clock. They decided to trade down, no shock, Jones loves to do this. They passed up on taking DT Sharrif Floyd, someone who could’ve given them immediate help at DT. Floyd was a consensus top 10 pick by most pundits and fell to #23 so Dallas was far from the only team that seemed to have their doubts. The trade they made with San Francisco netted them an extra third-round pick. Depending upon which chart you go by, Dallas probably didn’t get enough in return, and the trade looked even worse later when Minnesota gave up a boatload to get back into the first-round. As for their picks, they chose to surround Romo with even more talent but probably needed to pick another OL to make sure he stays upright this season. Here is a look at the Cowboys draft.
Round 1 (31) C Travis Frederick: The worst kept secret was that Dallas would take an offensive lineman in the first round. Frederick may have been a reach to be taken here, but he was the consensus top C in the draft. Should be a day one starter.
Round 2 (47) TE Gavin Escobar: Seems to be a luxury pick as Dallas already has a possible future Hall of Famer in Jason Witten and James Hanna also looked promising last season. Dallas seems to want to copycat the New England offense and go with at two TE formation the majority of the time.
Round 3 (74) WR Terrance Williams: Could be a steal and if he can pick up the offense right away, yet another day one starter. He will more than likely start on the outside, allowing Miles Austin to line up in the slot.
Round 3 (80) S J.J. Wilcox: They do like to gamble on safeties in the middle of the draft. Jury is still out on Matt Johnson who missed all of last season. Wilcox is as raw as they come, but does have upside. Best case scenario is he can watch and learn for most of this season.
Round 4 (114) CB B.W. Webb: With this being a passing league you can never have enough cover corners and Webb looks like he could be a replacement for Orlando Scandrick at some point this year.
Round 5 (151) RB Joseph Randle: Insurance in case DeMarco Murray gets hurt again. Also a good back in his own right that could carve out some playing time for himself.
Round 6 (185) OLB Devonte Holloman: Depth signing who could provide help on special teams.
The last bit of news would be the schedule. Finally looks like Dallas received a favorable one and I’m not talking about who they play. There really is no way to determine how good or bad a team will be until sometime in August. The reason the schedule is good, they both open and close the season at home. Critics love to point out that Dallas has lost make or break games in Week 17 in three of past four seasons, but what they don’t say is that all of those games came on the round (at Philadelphia, at Giants, at Washington). So this is good news. There bye week is also after Week 10. Teams generally prefer a bye later in the season because this is when injuries build up. They also only play two road games in a row, once, the bad news however is that they may have to play in three cold weather games, at Giants 11/24, at Chicago 12/9, and at Washington 12/22. All in all not bad though.
Feel free to follow me on twitter, @georgeKurtz