IRVING, Texas – Two weeks into free agency, and the Dallas Cowboys moves feel quite similar in nature to last year’s.
If you’ll remember, Dallas parted ways with DeMarcus Ware and allowed Jason Hatcher to re-sign elsewhere – a division rival, in fact – all within the first few days of the league year starting. Concerns about the team’s talent level were not quelled when the Cowboys responded by signing Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain, a pair of journeymen whose abilities were highly criticized.
Two months later, they raised eyebrows when they made a minor trade for a failed top-10 draft pick in Rolando McClain.
That’s got to feel familiar to the news that’s hit since this year’s free agency window opened. Valuable pieces like Bruce Carter and Justin Durant, not to mention Dwayne Harris, have signed with other clubs. Of course, the NFL rushing champion and NFL Offensive Player of the Year DeMarco Murray signed with the rival Philadelphia Eagles.
The Cowboys’ response to all of this hasn’t looked impressive to this point. They filled Murray’s spot on the roster with Darren McFadden, the oft-injured and mostly disappointing No. 4 overall draft pick. In front of him were two less-heralded fullback signings in Jed Collins and Ray Agnew.
Two linebackers have been brought in to offset the loss of Carter and Durant. The Cowboys signed six-year veteran Jasper Brinkley – primarily a middle linebacker – last week, and they brought in special teams ace Andrew Gachkar on Sunday afternoon. Those two moves go along with the decision to sign former first-round draft pick Keith Rivers back before free agency opened.
On top of that, they bolstered their numbers at cornerback by claiming Corey White, who started 19 games and picked off four passes during three seasons with the Saints.
None of these moves are going to make anyone feel great about the fact that Murray is being handsomely paid by one of the Cowboys’ chief rivals for the foreseeable future. In the same way, the decision to sign Mincey last spring didn’t make anyone feel better about losing the franchise’s all-time sack leader to Denver.
Mincey and McClain didn’t exactly light the world on fire in 2014. Mincey was one of the most valuable players on the defensive line, but his team-leading sack total was only six. McClain showed flashes, but he only cracked the starting lineup once and finished with just 19 tackles.
The other McClain, though – Rolando – blossomed into one of the bright spots of the Dallas defense and one of the more interesting stories on the 2014 Cowboys. Despite battling various injuries – not to mention the fact that he sat out of the 2013 season – he was second on the team in tackles and led the defense in tackles for loss. He made a strong enough impact that there is a loud call for the Cowboys to re-sign him as the team’s middle linebacker going forward, moving Sean Lee to an outside spot in the process.
It’s not hard to piece the plan together at this point. The Cowboys have eschewed the drastic, big-money signings and are instead trusting in themselves to squeeze production out of unlikely sources. Even big-name additions, like perhaps Adrian Peterson or Greg Hardy, would be gambles for a variety of reasons – and they’d likely have to come at a discount.
That splashy signing might not ever come, but the Dallas Cowboys have added depth to their roster. Of these signings, four of them – McFadden, Collins, Rivers and Brinkley – will have a chance to grab a starting spot. The others provide value as added depth and specific role players.
On top of that, they can bridge the gap while this team develops draft picks. The most promising pieces on the current defensive line aside from Mincey are homegrown names in DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford. As much as free agent signings might help the linebacker corps, the highest hopes rest on Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens – two Dallas draft picks.
It might not be exciting, but it fits the blueprint. Given how well the blueprint has worked in the last two or three years, it’s a plan that deserves the benefit of the doubt.
TRUE BLUE FAN QUESTION: Rick Anzevino | Youngstown, OH
I can understand not overspending on free agents that are older and will decline soon. However, you have to spend on defense when you let Murray go. Doesn’t it look like the Cowboys will be a 8-8 team again?
Bryan: Who’s to say that they won’t find some free agents that can help? Greg Hardy is still out there. Don’t let inactivity lead you to believe that nothing is getting done. Just because they didn’t give $100 million to Suh doesn’t mean they don’t have a plan. I would much rather see this team draft than I would overpay a player. Draft picks in my opinion are just as good as cap dollars.
David: The first week of free agency is when teams sign the big-money, franchise-altering deals – and we’ve known for a while now that the Dallas Cowboys aren’t particularly interested in that strategy. That doesn’t mean they’re done adding pieces, though. In fact, I’d say it’s a guarantee they find a few more pieces in the next month or so, not to mention the value of the upcoming draft. The first week of free agency is not the cut-off date for adding valuable players to your roster.
Former Saints DB Corey White claimed by Dallas Cowboys
Defensive back Corey White, waived by the New Orleans Saints, became a member of the Dallas Cowboys on March 14th.
White, 24, played in 41 games and started 19 for the Saints over the last three seasons.
He joined the team as a fifth-round draft pick out of Samford in 2012.
White became expandable because of his $1.574 million salary in 2015. His fourth-year salary rose automatically because of the league’s Proven Performance Escalator.
White, 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, played both cornerback and safety for the Saints during his tenure.
White said after 2014 season that he felt in limbo.
“We go into the offseason, and there’s so many questions about Rob (Ryan) being back, the defense being awful,” he said. “I don’t know what position I’m playing, there’s all this going on, but you can only control what you can control.”
Scouting Report: Slot CB Corey White could allow Scandrick to shift outside
Name: Corey White | Position: CB/Safety | Height/Weight: 5-11/206 | Age: 24
Games Studied: New Orleans 2014 against Dallas, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh
White lines up on both side of the field. There are games where you see him flip throughout to match the receiver. Made starts in the Dallas and Tampa Bay games and played only as the slot corner against the Steelers, but he lined up in that spot for more than 70 snaps.
He’s best when he can play as a press man corner and out of the slot. His reaction quickness is better than his overall playing speed – he can be explosive for short bursts. Did a really nice job of cutting off Dez Bryant out of the slot when Bryant tried to get him with the out. Didn’t allow Bryant to get the position to receive the ball. In these three games, he showed good reactions with short area foot and lateral quickness. I thought he needed to be more consistent in his ball reactions.
White was much better playing Bryant than he was Terrance Williams, and that was mainly on the outside when covering routes. Buccaneers receiver Vincent Jackson turned him around for a catch and Louis Murphy hit him over the top on a corner route that resulted in a touchdown. But in the Steelers game, he matched up well with Antonio Brown, Lance Moore and Martavis Bryant. This was all inside work and he appeared to be a far better player in that position. Brown had two receptions while Moore and Bryant had none. He matched very well in regard to their quickness and the size of Bryant.
If there is a negative to his game it would be as a consistent tackler. This is interesting because I saw him make touchdown-saving tackles on DeMarco Murray and Le’Veon Bell in the open field and make other tackles, but there were some snaps where he just flat turned it down.
White should fill the role that Sterling Moore held last season, but with the way he plays in the slot, he could allow Orlando Scandrick to stay on the outside or match up with the opponent’s best receiver.
TRUE BLUE FAN QUESTION: Al Hart | Las Vegas, NV
What’s the knock on Sterling Moore? Why not re-sign? When Claiborne went down, when Scandrick was suspended, the defense relied on him and he was solid.
Bryan: These coaches live with the players the entire season. They are in meetings, on the practice field and dealing with them during games, which is totally different from what the fan sees. You might feel that Sterling Moore was outstanding at his job and at times I would agree with you that he was, but there is so much more that goes into building these teams. It appears that way they feel about Moore as a complete player doesn’t line up with what they want from the position which is why they feel the way they do about him.
David: On paper, Moore certainly seems like a guy that I’d consider re-signing. There could be any number of reasons for why they don’t – he wants more money than they’re willing to pay, or they want to go in a different direction at the position. I’m of the opinion that this team needs some serious help at cornerback, but losing Moore isn’t the end of the world – so long as they address the position. Nabbing Corey White is a decent start, and then we can see what the coming weeks and the draft have in store.
Dallas Cowboys sign LB Andrew Gachkar
IRVING – 03/15/2015 – The Dallas Cowboys added depth to their linebacker corps, agreeing to a two-year deal with Andrew Gachkar.
Gachkar, 26, has spent his first four professional seasons with the Chargers, joining them as a seventh-round pick in 2011 out of Missouri.
Gachkar announced his signing on Twitter, saying: “Proud to announce I’m going to be signing with the Dallas Cowboys!!! A dream come true and an amazing opportunity for my family and I!!!!”
His two-year deal is worth up to $5.5 million.
Gachkar has made his mark mostly as a special teams player. Cowboys special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia was with the Chargers during Gachkar’s first two seasons — 2011 and 2012. Gachkar also played under Cowboys linebackers coach Matt Eberflus his first two years at Missouri. In Gachkar’s final two seasons with the Missouri Tigers, he recorded four sacks, 13 tackles for losses, two interceptions, and three forced fumbles.
“Both are equally exciting,” Gachkar said. “Rich kind of drafted me and bring me into the NFL. Eberflus brought me up and is kind of like a dad to me. Coach Eberflus, he was with me at Mizzou, and I love the way he coaches and his intensity and everything like that. So, honestly, equally, they’re very important people in my decision coming to Dallas.”
Gachkar finished last season with 14 tackles on special teams. He also made five starts at linebacker, and was credited by the coaches with 47 tackles, one sack, seven tackles for loss and returned a fumble for a touchdown.
Certainly for Gachkar the prospect of getting back together with past coaches and playing where his wife grew up was enough to kindle the excitement, despite a three-hour delay at Boston Logan International Airport on Sunday night.
“I was excited to get here, and I was texting my wife the whole time on the plane. Talking about the excitement of being in Dallas where she’s from. So, it’s awesome.”
The Cowboys have already seen two linebackers depart via free agency. Justin Durant signed with Atlanta, and Bruce Carter went to Tampa Bay. Middle linebacker Rolando McClain is also a free agent, and remains on the market.
Gachkar is the third free agent linebacker to reach terms with the Cowboys this off-season, along with Keith Rivers and Jasper Brinkley.
Veteran MLB Jasper Brinkley agrees to deal
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have reached an agreement with linebacker Jasper Brinkley on a two-year deal.
Brinkley joins the roster with Keith Rivers, who played for the Buffalo Bills last season.
Brinkley, who turns 30 in July, started 11 of 16 games for the Minnesota Vikings in 2014 and had 54 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble. The 2009 fifth-round draft pick, Brinkley has 33 career starts – all at middle linebacker. After a three-year run with the Vikings from 2009-12, he played for the Arizona Cardinals in 2012.
As a middle linebacker and two-down player, Brinkley could allow the Cowboys to use Sean Lee at the weak-side linebacker position as he returns from a torn ACL. The Cowboys have considered using Lee on the weak side in case Rolando McClain returned in 2015.
McClain, who the coaches credited with 108 tackles in 12 games in 2014, is a free agent and the team has had discussions about him returning. He is facing a four-game fine for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
Dallas Cowboys agree to two-year deal with FB Ray Agnew
The Dallas Cowboys have added one more fullback to their roster by agreeing to a two-year deal with Ray Agnew III.
This news comes only a day after the Cowboys signed Jed Collins to a one-year contract for the veteran minimum salary benefit.
Agnew, 24, started nine games for Cleveland last season, touching the ball five times and accumulating 17 yards from scrimmage. Before he was cut by the Browns in December, he was on the field for 29 percent of the team’s offensive plays.
Known as “underrated_fb” on Twitter, Agnew tweeted:
I’m blessed to be the newest member of the Dallas Cowboys! My best is yet to come.
The Dallas Cowboys also recently signed veteran fullback Jed Collins. By the look of it, Collins will compete as the starter in 2015 and Agnew may initially find a role on special teams.