Category Archives: NFL Dallas Cowboys Free Agent

CLEARING OUT THE WEEDS: New Cowboys QB Brandon Weeden appreciates the fresh start from Believeland to Big D

QUARTERBACK CLEARING THE WEEDS - New QB Brandon Weeden appreciates the fresh start from Believeland to Big D - Dallas Cowboys QB Brandon Weeden

IRVING, Texas — Growing up in nearby Oklahoma City, Brandon Weeden was a fan of the Dallas Cowboys. He remembers sitting at his grandparents’ house watching Thanksgiving games with Emmitt Smith running all over the place.

Now Weeden is a Dallas Cowboy, having signed a two-year deal with the team this week after his release from the Cleveland Browns.

“This is the best thing for me,” Weeden said. “I’ve talked to several coaches I’ve had and players I’ve been fortunate to play with and they all agree this is what I needed — a fresh start, change of scenery. I think this is exactly what I needed now. When you’re a rookie first-round pick, the expectation is that you play right away, be the guy. I think in Cleveland it was a tough situation. I wasn’t able to go in and play as I needed to. I know that. Now I can learn from two great quarterbacks and a good offensive staff and try to become better.”

Weeden will work behind Tony Romo and Kyle Orton (provided he continues to play in 2014) and work with Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, and Wade Wilson

CLEARING OUT THE WEEDS - New Cowboys QB Brandon Weeden appreciates the fresh start from Believeland to Big D - Tony Romo

He went 5-15 in two years as a starter with the Browns and had 23 touchdown passes and 26 interceptions.

“I don’t want to be negative on Cleveland,” Weeden said. “I think my rookie year we were a very young football team. I think we had six or seven rookies starting on the offensive side of the ball and we just kind of had our ups and downs. Several things went into it but I don’t want to get too much into it. I think worrying about myself is the main thing. I wasn’t consistent enough. At times I played well, at times I made mistakes that were crucial. At this level in this league you can’t do that. You’ve got to be smart and take care of the ball and that wasn’t the case for me at times.”

Weeden comes to the Dallas Cowboys with no pressure.

CLEARING OUT THE WEEDS - New Cowboys QB Brandon Weeden appreciates the fresh start from Believeland to Big D - Anthony Spencer

The Cowboys liked him coming into the 2012 draft, which is something Garrett mentioned to Weeden when they spoke during his visit to Valley Ranch. He is not the typical third-year pro because of his age but he does not view himself as a 30-year-old quarterback either.

“I’ve been battling that since the draft and all that,” said Weeden, who spent five years playing professional baseball. “The number is a little bit misconceived. I’ve played really four years of football so it’s not like I’ve taken a beating the last 10 years as if I’ve been in the league eight, nine, 10 years. I’ve got a lot to learn a lot of growing and a lot of football ahead of me. I think the better times are ahead of me. It was a good learning experience from Cleveland.”

Editors note: For our loyal fans that also support the AFC’s Cleveland Browns … check out this site to become a citizen of BelieveLand.

MEET YOUR NEW DEFENSIVE TACKLE: Pro scouting report on DT Henry Melton | Tuning up Marinelli’s Motor | Dallas Cowboys free agency 2014

MEET YOUR NEW DEFENSIVE TACKLE - Professional scouting report on DT Henry Melton - The motor that will drive Marinelli’s defense - Dallas Cowboys free agency 2014

Henry Melton | Defensive Tackle | Texas | Height/Weight: 6-3, 295

Drafted: Fourth round, No. 101 overall, 2009 NFL Draft by Chicago

Games Studied: 2013: Cincinnati, Minnesota 2012: Dallas, Houston, San Francisco

Melton was a much better player in his 2012 film than he was in 2013. He didn’t show the same explosive quickness and get-off that he did two seasons ago. Under Rod Marinelli as the defensive coordinator, he was on the move more, and this is where Melton thrives. When he can get on the outside shoulder of the guard and attack the gap, he can be difficult to block. Before his knee injury against the Steelers in 2013, you didn’t see this type of use in the scheme. He played slow and sluggish.

Simply put, he didn’t even look like the same player. There were too many snaps where he didn’t come off the ball, and where he put that pressure on the blocker. There were times where he was washed out of the play, knocked to the ground and was a non-factor.

When Melton is really on a roll, you can see blockers have to reach for him to try and block. He can put them in bad positions with just his first step. He’ll make blockers overextend and lose their balance. He has a feel for how to make himself small when he is on the move in the pass rush.

He’s one of those players you want to play line games with because of this ability. The second you get him a little space, he is tight to pick and around the edge. In 2012, he had a sack against the Dallas Cowboys in that exact situation.

This is one of those defensive tackles that can throw pass-rush moves as he is going up the field. He makes a quick arm-over move and then he is gone. He’s slippery when working toward and through the hole. He’s also a really nice space player, and he can change directions with the best of them.

The tape also shows that Melton’s lateral movement and quickness are outstanding. If the ball goes away from him, can really flatten down the line and chase after it. He makes it hard for blockers to keep up with him, and he shows the ability to beat the reach block with his quickness. In that sense, he does a nice job of reading blocks on the move.

If there’s one big problem to his game, it’s when he gets caught rushing down the middle of the blocker and he gets stuck. Where blockers have success against him is when they can get him to stop his feet –then he gets in a bind. Movement is such a big part of his game, it’s hard for him to get going again once he stops.

This happened to him more in 2013 than 2012. He’s not the type of player who plays with the power to beat double team blocks. He will extend his hands, but he’s not going to be able to stand in there toe-to-toe with blockers and slug it out.

Where he might get in trouble is when he tries to jump around blocks and he will leave holes.  

It was amazing how different Melton’s film was between the two seasons. In talking with him on Wednesday, he spoke about Rod Marinelli working with him to get himself right again, so even in his own mind, he knows that he was a better player and that is the level he needs to play at for this to all work. 

Henry Melton eager to become the motor that drives Marinelli’s defense - Dallas Cowboys free agent signing DT Henry Melton 2014


RELATED: Henry Melton eager to become the motor that drives Marinelli’s defense

Henry Melton eager to become the motor that drives Marinelli’s defense - Dallas Cowboys free agent signing DT Henry Melton 2014 sidelines

IRVING, Texas – From the time it became clear the Dallas Cowboys might need a new three-technique defensive tackle, Henry Melton seemed like a logical option.

The Chicago Bears Pro Bowler was a free agent, was coming off an ACL injury and he was from the Dallas area – it made sense. But perhaps Melton’s most-discussed tie to the Cowboys was his relationship with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Melton enjoyed the best seasons of his career under Marinelli’s watch in Chicago, posting a combined 13 sacks in 2011 and 2012 and earning his only trip to the Pro Bowl.

It’s one thing to suppose the Dallas-area native would want to reunite with his old coach – it’s another thing to hear it from the man himself.

“Once I reconnected with Rod – he did some good recruiting. It was a pretty easy decision,” Melton said.

One need only look at the Cowboys’ roster to see why Marinelli was so set on reuniting with his former star. Jason Hatcher signed a free agent deal that left the Cowboys without those 11 sacks and it left them without a true three-technique defensive tackle.

In Marinelli’s system, the three-technique is referred to by many as the motor that drives the defense – a crucial element of the pass rush. Melton’s familiar with the role, and he said he’s ready to take it on once again.

“I’m familiar with the system, I know what it demands and they want me to be the guy. I’m accepting the position,” he said.

Who Melton will line up with is still a matter of some speculation. The Cowboys have now replaced one Pro Bowl defensive tackle with another, but there’s still the absence of All-Pro defensive end DeMarcus Ware to consider.

Dallas signed journeymen Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain to free agent deals last week, and Tyrone Crawford and Ben Bass are set to return from injury in 2014. Two of last season’s starters, Nick Hayden and George Selvie, also return. But it remains to be seen how all of those pieces, including potential draft picks, will translate to a productive defensive line.

That didn’t seem to faze Melton, however, who said he’s eager to embrace the challenge – starting with a return to his Pro Bowl form from 2012.

“I think if I’m dominant and playing the way I know I can, and Rod gets me right and the defense is flying around, this team is really close to doing something special,” Melton said.

If there was any doubt about Melton’s excitement about the reunion, his conversation gives it away. The University of Texas standout mentioned Marinelli at nearly every turn, even allowing that he went to dinner with Marinelli on Monday night, the day before he and the Cowboys agreed to terms.

“He’s tough on you, but the thing about Rod is he cares about you as a person,” Melton said. “He wants to see you succeed, and you can sense that about him. I’m just happy to be here and work with him.”

The expectation is Melton will be healthy and ready to go when the Dallas Cowboys report to training camp in Oxnard, Calif. Having Marinelli alongside to push him can only raise those expectations higher.

“It gives me great confidence,” Melton said. “I know what the position demands, I know what the schemes are and I know Rod – how demanding he is. It’s going to be fun.”

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: 1-on-1 interview with DT Henry Melton, your newest Dallas Cowboy | NFL Free Agency 2014

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL - 1-on-1 interview with DT Henry Melton, your newest Dallas Cowboy - NFL Free Agency 2014

Meet Henry Melton | “This Was The Best Fit For Me” | 3:41

Insider Mickey Spagnola caught up with the Dallas Cowboys newest defensive lineman Henry Melton right after he signed his contract at Valley Ranch. (Watch Video | Play Audio)


UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL - 1-on-1 interview with DT Henry Melton, your newest Dallas Cowboy - NFL Free Agency 2014 - Melton signing contract with Dallas Cowboys

IRVING, Texas – Henry Melton officially signed his one-year contract with a three-year team option today in Dallas at Valley Ranch.

The Dallas Cowboys new three-technique defensive tackle, who agreed to terms with the Cowboys on Tuesday, believes he should be ready to roll fully by training camp after an ACL injury ended his 2013 season early.

“Anybody that checks me out and looks at my knee, they’re all saying training camp is a good day,” Melton said.

That’s good news for the Cowboys, who just picked up the defensive tackle widely regarded as the best player left in free agency at his position.

The Cowboys signed Melton believing he can get back to being the player who accumulated seven sacks in 2011 and six sacks in 2012, but the unique contract Melton signed gives the team some protection. Melton, who’s from the Dallas area and went to high school in nearby Grapevine, Texas, will only count $2.75 million against the cap with a $1.25 base salary in 2014 and can earn up to $5 million this year.

If Melton proves himself worthy by getting back to his Pro Bowl level of play and is on the roster by the start of the 2015 season, the team can exercise their three-year option. That’ll raise Melton’s price tag, give him reportedly $9 million in guaranteed money and allow him to get paid on par with some of the top defensive tackles in the league.

Melton knows he has to earn that three-year option or risk returning to free agency, and that doesn’t bother him. He said this year in Dallas is a proving ground, and pairing back up with Rod Marinelli, his former defensive coordinator during his best years in Chicago, adds to his faith he can return to form.

“It’s like you’re betting on yourself,” Melton said. “I feel like with me and my rehab and coming back with Rod and the good defense that’s here, I can get back to that form. I believe in that, and obviously they believe in me to get it done.”

Melton had surgery on his knee in October, but he’s already sprinting and lifting and gradually working his way back into shape. He’s five and a half months removed from the surgery, and he said every team he visited, including the doctors in Dallas, said he’s on track with where he needs to be to return for training camp.

Despite the injury, Melton still garnered significant interest in free agency and made visits to the Vikings and the Seahawks before coming to Dallas. He said he didn’t know what to expect in terms of offers from teams when he entered free agency off the knee injury, but he wasn’t worried about it.

“God has a plan for everybody,” Melton said. “It was all out of my hands. My agent really didn’t know what the market value was. We were just going to visit some teams, see where everyone’s heads were at. I came here and pretty much fell in love, so that was the end of that story.”

Melton also had a visit set up with the Rams after leaving Dallas with no deal, but he said he knew when he visited the Cowboys that he wanted to be in Dallas.

“They really wanted me to come,” Melton said. “I looked at what I can do here and what they’re trying to build here.”

Melton said Dallas felt familiar, from the actual surroundings to the defensive system he’ll be playing in. After losing DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher in free agency, the Cowboys need to rely on Melton as the primary disruptive force in the middle.

The Dallas Cowboys saw at home, in first person, what Melton was capable of doing to an offensive line. Melton began his Pro Bowl 2012 season with four sacks in the first three games, including one on Tony Romo at AT&T Stadium.

“I had about 30 people there,” Melton recalled. “The atmosphere there is just crazy. I was back home and everything was just clicking. It was a great game.”

At only 27, The Dallas Cowboys hope he’s still got many more of those left in the tank.

ROD MARINELLI WANTS YOU: Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator helps land free agent Henry Melton

ROD MARINELLI WANTS YOU - Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator helps land free agent Henry Melton - Uncle Sam Wants You

IRVING, Texas – In Rod Marinelli, the Dallas Cowboys believe they have one of the best coaches in the NFL.

It appears he might be a pretty good recruiter, too.

The Cowboys’ ability to land free-agent defensive tackle Henry Melton was a lot about the contract, a lot about Melton possibly wanting to play at home, and a lot about Marinelli.

“I’m excited to come back home and work with Rod [Marinelli] and get back to my Pro Bowl form,” Melton told Calvin Watkins.

Melton developed into a Pro Bowl defensive tackle under Marinelli with the Chicago Bears from 2010-12. Melton had 15.5 sacks and was named to the Pro Bowl after a six-sack season in 2012. He also had 71 tackles and nine tackles for loss with Marinelli as his mentor.

He might talk softly, but Marinelli has a way of forging relationships with defensive linemen. He did it with Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He did it with Melton and Julius Peppers with the Bears. He did it with Jason Hatcher and DeMarcus Ware with the Cowboys.

ROD MARINELLI WANTS YOU - Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator helps land free agent Henry Melton - Walking off football field

The Cowboys were forced to use 20 defensive linemen in 2013 and were one game away from making the playoffs. Marinelli was able to make it work to a certain degree with guys such as George Selvie, Nick Hayden, Jarius Wynn, Corvey Irvin, and Frank Kearse

He never had Jay Ratliff or Tyrone Crawford. He had Anthony Spencer for 34 snaps in one game. He was without Ware for three games and Hatcher for one.

Melton becomes the third defensive linemen to join the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent. Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain signed with the Cowboys last week.

Mincey was coached with the Jacksonville Jaguars by Joe Cullen, who coached under Marinelli with the Detroit Lions.

“Genuine and a believer,” Mincey said last week. “He believes in what I believe: Going out there and giving your all and trusting the process and seeing what happens. You never know what’s going to happen, especially with a bunch of guys who are hungry, who are dedicated and motivated for a larger purpose.”

The job is not over. The Dallas Cowboys concluded a visit with Jared Allen today and the veteran could be the next one added to the Marinelli mix.

MELTON REUNITES WITH MARINELLI: Dallas Cowboys add defensive tackle Henry Melton | NFL Free Agency 2014

MELTON REUNITES WITH MARINELLI - Dallas Cowboys add defensive tackle Henry Melton - Dallas Cowboys Free Agency 2014

IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys agreed to terms with defensive tackle Henry Melton late tonight.

The contract is reportedly a one-year deal with a club option for three more, depending on Melton’s performance in 2014. The price figures to be a bit lower than expected for one of the league’s top defensive tackles, as Melton missed the majority of 2013 with an ACL injury. Financial details have not been disclosed, but Melton’s price tag would increase if he is brought back.

The deal brings Melton to Dallas from the Chicago Bears, who drafted him No. 101 overall in 2009.

chicago bears defensive tackle henry melton (69) celebrates after sacking dallas cowboys quarterback tony romo - the boys are back blog

The news makes Melton the Cowboys’ first big acquisition of free agency, after a tumultuous week saw the team part ways with Pro Bowlers DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, and Miles Austin at the outset of free agency.

The move means Melton, who is from nearby Grapevine, Texas, and is a University of Texas product, is not just returning to his home state, but is reuniting with former coach Rod Marinelli. The Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator held the same position with the Chicago Bears, where he oversaw Melton’s lone Pro Bowl season in 2012.

Melton will take Hatcher’s place as the three-technique defensive tackle in Marinelli’s 4-3 defensive front. The five-year veteran enjoyed the best years of his career from that spot, compiling a total of 68 tackles and 13 sacks in 2012 and 2013.

The injury ended Melton’s 2013 season in Week 3, as he was carted off the field during Chicago’s 40-23 win against Pittsburgh on Sept. 22.

The three-technique is the motor of Marinelli’s pass rush, to paraphrase the man himself. His purpose is to collapse the pocket and get to the quarterback, as evidenced by Hatcher in his first season playing for Marinelli and then-defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.

With Hatcher entering free agency, it was widely speculated the Cowboys would pursue Marinelli’s old player, who many thought could be added for a lower price because of the injury. When the Cowboys released Ware and Hatcher signed a four-year, $27 million contract with Washington, the pressure to secure a pass rusher increased.

It remains to be seen how the addition of Melton affects the team’s pursuit of All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen, who visited Valley Ranch today. The Cowboys have roughly $7 million in salary cap room to work with, so signing both could be feasible given the right deals.

Allen returned to Minnesota on Tuesday to be with his family, as his wife is expecting the couple’s second child.


RELATED: Dallas Cowboys agree to one-year deal with DT Henry Melton

Dallas Cowboys agree to one-year deal with NFL Free Agent DT Henry Melton - Dallas Cowboys free agency 2014

The Dallas Cowboys and Henry Melton have agreed to a one-year deal with an option. Melton’s signing will ease the sting of losing Jason Hatcher last week.

The Grapevine product arrived for a visit yesterday. He had dinner with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli last night. Though he left for St. Louis today without a contract, it didn’t take the Dallas Cowboys long to get him in the fold.

Melton revealed his choice on Twitter, “Thank you Chicago for the best 5 years of my life!…. I can’t wait to begin the next chapter of my life… With a star on my helmet.”

Melton, 27, played only three games last season after undergoing reconstructive surgery on his left knee in October. But in four seasons, he has 15.5 sacks.

Melton replaces Hatcher, who signed with the Redskins last week, having played the three-technique for Marinelli when Marinelli was defensive coordinator of the Bears. Melton earned Pro Bowl honors in 2012 playing for Marinelli, and the Bears used the franchise tag on Melton in 2013, paying him $8.45 million.

The former UT product’s signing is good news for the Cowboys.

Jarod Allen left Valley Ranch without a contract and returned home to discuss his options with his wife. But with Melton on the defensive line, the Dallas Cowboys chances of improving their pass rush, and their defense, have improved.

HURRY UP AND WAIT BIG D: Dallas Cowboys (and fans) awaiting decisions from NFL free agents Jared Allen and Henry Melton

HURRY UP AND WAIT - Dallas Cowboys (and fans) awaiting decisions from NFL free agents Jared Allen and Henry Melton - The Boys Are Back website 2014

IRVING, Texas – The visits are finished for the time being, and now the Dallas Cowboys will wait for further news from free agent targets Henry Melton and Jared Allen.

Allen commanded headlines today with a scheduled visit of Valley Ranch. The five-time Pro Bowler arrived in Dallas last night and spent today at the facility with Dallas Cowboys coaches and executives.

Familial obligations with his wife, who is expecting the couple’s second child, called Allen back to Minnesota, where he played six seasons with the Vikings. The visit reportedly went well, however.

Melton made his visit with the Cowboys, including his old defensive coordinator in Chicago, Rod Marinelli, yesterday. The 2012 Pro Bowler has been the most widely-discussed possibility to replace Jason Hatcher as the Cowboys’ three-technique defensive tackle since Hatcher signed a four-year deal with Washington last Thursday.

The former Bears defensive tackle moved on to a meeting with the St. Louis Rams today after spending Monday at Valley Ranch. All indications are that the visit went well, but it remains to be seen where or when Melton – widely considered the best defensive tackle left on the market – will decide to sign.

It’s expected that Melton’s availability would be one of the storylines of the offseason for a Cowboys defensive line that has been ravaged by injuries and departures. Melton tore his ACL in October of last season and has been preparing for free agency ever since. His connection to Marinelli’s time in Chicago, combined with the potential for a lower price tag because of the injury, made him a no-brainer for free agency speculation.

The courtship of Allen comes as a bit of a more surprising development – at least up until the past week. The 2004 fourth-round draft pick is one of the bigger names on the free agent market, and reports indicate he has been in contact with several teams. Given Allen’s pedigree, it seemed like too high of a price tag when the Cowboys already had an All-Pro in DeMarcus Ware.

Ware’s release and subsequent signing with the Broncos added even greater need for pass rushers on an already-thin defensive line, bringing Allen into the forefront.

The Cowboys have roughly $7 million in salary cap room following Ware’s release, which should give them the space to strike a deal with one or potentially both Pro Bowlers. The team has only added three free agents to this point in 2014 – journeymen defensive linemen Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain, as well as quarterback Brandon Weeden, who was a first-round pick by Cleveland in 2012 before being released last week.


RELATED: Dallas Cowboys remain in play for Jared Allen and Henry Melton

Dallas Cowboys remain in play for Jared Allen and Henry Melton - Dallas Cowboys free agency 2014

Two days ago, this was considered a big week for the Dallas Cowboys.

With visits on tap with defensive tackle Henry Melton and defensive end Jared Allen, it was considered a golden opportunity for the Dallas Cowboys to gain some off-season momentum and an improve their team for next year with free agents at key need positions. 

Now that the visits are over, Melton and Allen both left without deals. The Cowboys remain unfulfilled though still clinging to a hard line they established last week when they cut defensive end DeMarcus Ware and let Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jason Hatcher bolt in free agency.

Signing guys at their price would come first and foremost over being fiscally irresponsible and possibly costing them against the cap in future years.

The visits went well, with Melton and Allen, and the Cowboys remain in play for both players.

Melton left his visit with the Cowboys and flew to St. Louis for a visit with the Rams. He visited the Vikings and Seahawks before coming to Dallas and is weighing offers from several teams.

Allen returned home to discuss the decision over with his wife. He visited the Seahawks before coming to Dallas. He must decide if he will take an offer with Dallas or Seattle, visit other teams or continue to wait.

The Cowboys remain interested in both players and made pitches how each would fit in defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli’s scheme.

The remaining question is at what price.

Melton, a Pro Bowler in 2012 with the Bears, is coming off season-ending knee surgery. His knee checked out fine with the Cowboys and he will be ready for the start of the season but not the start of training camp in late July. The latter is not considered something that would preclude the Cowboys from signing him, but it is something to consider when talking contracts.

Allen, an 11-year veteran, has averaged 14.5 sacks over the past seven seasons. But he will be 32 next season and is reportedly looking for a contract similar to the three-year, $30 million deal the Ware signed with Denver after being cut from the Dallas Cowboys last week.

IT’S PAYDAY FOR DANNY MCCRAY: Now former Dallas Cowboys special teams ace signs one-year deal with Bears

IT’S PAYDAY FOR Danny MCCRAY - Now former Dallas Cowboys special teams ace signs one-year deal with Bears - Dallas Cowboys free agency agent

IRVING, Texas – Former Dallas Cowboys safety and special teams ace Danny McCray has agreed to a deal with the Chicago Bears.

McCray was an unrestricted free agent this year after being with the Cowboys since 2010. McCray and Barry Church both made the team as undrafted safeties that season, and McCray would go on to be one of the Dallas Cowboys top special teams stars.

IT’S PAYDAY FOR MCCRAY - Now former Dallas Cowboys special teams ace signs one-year deal with Bears - Dallas Cowboys free agent agency 2014

He’ll rejoin former Cowboys special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis in Chicago. DeCamillis quickly had an affinity for McCray after watching the safety’s special teams abilities at LSU and seeing them translate to the field in Dallas. 

McCray didn’t waste any time demonstrating his skills as a special teams player with the Cowboys. He finished his rookie season with a team-high 28 tackles on special teams, which marked the third-most in a season for the Dallas Cowboys since the club began recording special teams tackles in 1988.

He also led the Cowboys in special teams tackles with 19 in 2011. McCray’s the first player since Bill Bates in 1989-90 to lead the Cowboys in special teams tackles in consecutive years.

McCray still managed to finish second on the team with 18 special teams stops in 2012, despite his increased role as a safety after Church went out for the season with an Achilles injury.  McCray started the first and only 10 games of his career in 2012, notching 87 tackles and an interception.

His production lessened in 2013, particularly with the rise of Dwayne Harris as both a returner and cover player, along with Jeff Heath’s emergence on special teams. Heath led the team with 13 total special teams tackles, while Harris, Cameron Lawrence and Kyle Bosworth each had 12.

MEET YOUR NEW QUARTERBACK: Scouting report on new Dallas Cowboys QB Brandon Weeden | Dallas Cowboys free agency 2014

MEET YOUR NEW QUARTERBACK - Scouting report on new Dallas Cowboys QB Brandon Weeden - Dallas Cowboys free agency 2014 - Weeden in Cleveland

Brandon Weeden | Quarterback, Oklahoma State | Height/Weight: 6-4/220

Drafted: First round, No. 22 overall, 2012 NFL Draft by Cleveland

Games Studied: 2013 Miami, Baltimore, Green Bay, Jacksonville.

As a scout you always try and go into a situation with an open mind when you are studying a player — regardless of what people tell you about his body of work — and come to your own conclusions about his fit on your roster.

When Brandon Weeden was released by the Browns, I knew there was a chance a team might take this opportunity to bring him in for a low risk, low money deal and get an idea why he failed. Scouts are always curious about what happens to these high draft picks, especially at quarterback, when they don’t make it initially

For Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones, Weeden sat on the Cowboys draft board near the bottom of the second round, so I understand their curiosity. Though you might not have seen the talent with the Browns, here is an opportunity for a free look. There is no pressure for Weeden to have to start or even be the backup as he comes into camp. He is not young in his age, but he is young in his football experience — two years as a starter at Oklahoma State and two more with the Browns.

There is a possibility that he could develop some of those traits that you believed he could be a bridge as the backup, or, like I have seen plenty of times in my career, he could be a trade possibility if a club needs a quarterback in the preseason.

In the games I was able to study with Weeden, I was surprised how up and down that he played. When he could take the snap and throw the ball without having to read the defense, he was a much better quarterback. There were times where Norv Turner had him do just that. Whether it was the slant or quick out, if he didn’t have to think much about it, there was no problem. It was when the ball didn’t leave his hand on time when he struggled the most, and this is where, mechanically, he would break down.

As a defense, if you make him hold the ball, you have a chance to get him on the ground because he is not the most mobile player. But there was one common theme in the tape that I observed: the Browns were terrible at guard with Shawn Lauvao and John Greco. The majority of the pressure Weeden faced came from the inside over those two players, and anyone that knows football knows the best way to cause a quarterback problems is to attack him in the middle of the pocket.

There were plays where Lauvao completely whiffed on the block and Weeden was down before he hit his fifth step. Against the Packers, Greco was driven so far into the backfield Weeden had no place to even plant his front foot to make the throw. I am not putting all the blame on these guards, because Weeden tends to be slow footed, but if you are getting sacked 27 times in eight games, there are issues that need to be addressed.

To Weeden’s credit, he was more than willing to stand in middle of that pocket and deliver the ball with everything breaking down around him. But he also made some throws where you have to cover your eyes — again, it’s the clock in his head. The longer than ball is in his hand, the more likely he is going to panic and try to horse the ball into a crowd of defenders instead of taking the check down and fighting another day. 

He was all over the place against the Packers in poor weather conditions and missed several open receivers. When he gets in a situation where things become tough, you can see him start to aim the ball instead of making a good confident throw.  He really struggles with his decision-making as things begin to fall apart.  When he can play pitch and catch, he looks very comfortable, but in the Green Bay game, he was far from comfortable.  He was late on his reads and it hurt several of his throws. He missed an open “curl” and was way too high on an “out”. 

Not all his throws are poorly thrown. There are times again, when he can catch the ball and get rid of it like he did at Oklahoma State — with some accuracy. The second snap of the game against the Ravens, he slides to his right and delivers a strike to Jordan Cameron for a 53-yard gain.  There was a crossing route to Greg Little that was on the money, that allowed a run after the catch. He even showed some touch on a red zone fade for a touchdown against Jacksonville, with Josh Gordon out of the slot.

You have heard me say this plenty of times about the job of a scout in this league — it is about trying to find players. At one time, Brandon Weeden, whether it was right or wrong, was a highly though-of player by this organization. This league is filled with players that started on one team, then landed on another to have outstanding careers.

I remember my time in Green Bay where we had Brett Favre, Mark Brunell, Ty Detmer and a quarterback named Kurt Warner on the roster for camp. In that 1993 season, Favre, Brunell and Detmer were all on the roster and we let go of Warner, who made his way to Arena Ball, then later a Hall of Fame career. I am not saying Brandon Weeden is going to have a Hall of Fame career like Warner. But like the St. Louis Rams did, it never hurts to give a player a look.

Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Professional Scout

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DON’T MEET YOUR NEW DALLAS COWBOY: Veteran LB Will Herring brings special teams leadership and depth to defense | Professional Scouting Report | NFL Free Agency 2014 | UPDATED

UPDATE: HERRING AND COWBOYS DEAL IS NOW OFF THE TABLE

DON’T MEET YOUR NEW DALLAS COWBOY - Veteran LB Will Herring brings special teams leadership and depth to defense - Professional Scouting Report - NFL Free Agency 2014 - UPDATED

IRVING, Texas – The deal between the Dallas Cowboys and former Saints linebacker Will Herring is now off.

Herring had announced the agreement with the Cowboys on Thursday on Twitter, stating that he’s “blessed to be playing in Big D this year and to be a part of the Cowboys’ organization,” but the deal fell apart by Friday before Herring had signed.

It was a mutual parting of the ways that had to do with the language of the contract.

The move would have been the third signing for the Dallas Cowboys in free agency, after inking deals with defensive end Jeremy Mincey and defensive tackle Terrell McClain.

Herring’s signing would have also put into question the future of Danny McCray, the Cowboys’ special teams star who’s now an unrestricted free agent. Herring finished second on the Saints with seven special teams tackles last season.

EDITORS NOTE: If you’re a regular reader, you already know The Boys Are Back website goes to extraordinary lengths to make sure information is ‘official’ and “accurate” before it’s posted here. This site is not a rumor mill. We wait for official confirmations and verify stories via multiple inside sources before anything is posted here. Our apologies. The team and Herring’s agent had a verbal agreement that broke down this afternoon regarding language in the contract. Deals off.


INITIAL REPORT FROM THE OFFICIAL DALLAS COWBOYS RESOURCE:

MEET YOUR NEW DALLAS COWBOY - Veteran LB Will Herring brings special teams leadership and depth to defense - Dallas Cowboys free agency roster 2014

IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have now signed a third player in free agency, adding veteran linebacker Will Herring.

The seven-year pro first announced the move on Twitter, saying “blessed to be playing in Big D this year and to be a part of the Cowboys’ organization”

Herring, a fifth-round pick of Auburn in 2007, spent four years in Seattle and the last three in New Orleans, where he played all 16 games each of the last two seasons, registering 13 tackles in each year.

Herring spent the last three seasons with the New Orleans Saints, playing mostly special teams and backup linebacker. He was the Saints’ special teams captain in 2013.

In his three years with the Saints, Herring started three games and had 35 tackles, two interceptions and forced one fumble. He joined the Saints after a four-year run with the Seattle Seahawks. He had three tackles on defense and two on special teams in New Orleans’ win against the Cowboys last season.

This move could signal the end of free agent Danny McCray’s time with the Cowboys. The team’s most productive coverage player since 2010, McCray is an unrestricted free agent.

Herring becomes the third player the Cowboys signed since the start of free agency, along with defensive tackle Terrell McClain and defensive end/tackle Jeremy Mincey.

Editors note: Herring was signed to a one year contract. The financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed by the team at this time.


Scouting Report: Herring Stands Out On Special Teams

MEET YOUR NEW DALLAS COWBOY - Veteran LB Will Herring brings special teams leadership and depth to defense - Professional Scouting Report - NFL Free Agency 2014

Will Herring | Linebacker, Auburn | Height/Weight: 6-3/235

Drafted: Fifth round, No. 161 overall, 2007 Draft by Seattle

Games Studied: 2013 preseason vs. Kansas City, Oakland, Houston; regular season vs. Dallas

Herring was mainly used as a special teams player during his three seasons with the New Orleans Saints — my look at him as a linebacker was from preseason film. He’s 6-3, 235 pounds and can play all three positions, but he’s most likely better suited to play as a weak side linebacker in this scheme (Editors note: That would put him in as Bruce Carter’s backup if the positions remain the same as 2013).

In Rob Ryan’s 3-4 scheme, Herring played as a weak inside linebacker for the Saints last season. He has a nose for the ball, and an easy flow and drop in coverage. He’s aware of the back out of the backfield and assignment to pick up — able to see the ball, than drive on it to make a wrap up tackle.

In the preseason tape against the Chiefs, he was a little too aggressive when it came to their waggle packages and defending them. He went hard after the fakes but while reading was reacting in a hurry. Herring isn’t the biggest player weight-wise, so he has to keep himself active to avoid blocks. Works with his hands and feet to keep himself free. Herring is aware to take his hands, jam the blocker, then move to the ball — you see him do this in his special teams as well.

He plays on the edge of the blocker more than square, but he’s effective in the way he does this. When he sees the ball, he will go get it. There were several times where he beat the blockers to the spot and was able to either make the tackle or be near the ball.

If he has an issue as a tackler, it’s not the physical side of wrapping up, but he will over-shoot the ball carrier with his angle because of his aggressive play. There were a couple of snaps where he freed himself but just overran the play. He moves well in coverage and appears to have an understanding of where he needs to be — whether that is in zone or man. He’s aware of crossers in zone and doesn’t labor in his movements — plays with a burst. Judging from the tape, he knows how to work through the traffic, doesn’t get hung up or slowed down.

All of that said, where Herring makes his living is as a special teamer. He plays as the center in the kickoff return, punt return blocker, L3, L4, L5 on the kick off team. He’s the left guard on punt team and field goal rush. On special teams, he showed the same traits he had on defensive snaps — nose for the ball, the use of hands and the wrap up tackle.

He runs well on the cover teams and keeps his eyes open and aware of blockers. Has a plan when he covers. I’d like for him to better a little better on his sustain as a blocker when he becomes engaged. He hustled down the field on the kickoff coverage. In the Dallas game, he was able to control James Hanna at the point, then make the tackle inside the 20 on Dwayne Harris.

With the Cowboys, he will be asked here to be a backup linebacker most likely as a Will but more importantly as a core special teamer in all phases of the kicking game. There are plenty more positives to his game than negatives.

Special Thanks: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Professional Scout

MEET YOUR NEWEST DALLAS COWBOYS: Scouting Reports on both new defensive linemen | McClain is a mountain | Mincey is versatile | Free Agents signed

Meet Dallas Cowboys DT Terrell McClain - The Boys Are Back 2014

Terrell McClain | Defensive Tackle, South Florida | Height/Weight: 6-2/291

Drafted: Third round, No. 65 overall, 2011 NFL Draft by Carolina

Games Studied: 2013 Seattle, San Francisco, New England and Denver

McClain lined up as a nose tackle in the Texans’ 3-4 defensive scheme last season, but I think he is a much better fit to play as a one-technique in a 4-3. He played some defensive end in the 49ers game as a reduced end, which allowed him to line up as a three-technique.

The first thing you notice about the player is his ability to sit down at the point of attack. He’s a hard guy to move, knows how to fire his hands inside and control the blocker — really quick hands. This guy plays with some lower body power, as well.

He’s able to control the down blocks from the guard, or deal with the center one-on-one. I like how he is able to fire those hands, then you see him quickly look for the ball carrier — active. Another thing is that he’s always working to get to the ball. He will play down the line and outside the tackle box. For the limited amount of snaps he got, it was rare that you saw him on the ground or stuck on a block. He makes a big effort and hustle plays.

McClain gets away with playing upright at times because of his leverage and upper body strength, but there are also snaps where you see his pad level down and he’s dealing with the blockers. I really like the way he sees the play develop and gets over to the ball.

Against the Broncos, he was able to run down a middle screen because he read the play. The only game where he played a little late off the ball was against the Patriots, and they were able to get on him. He plays with balance to handle the low block. I could see his work as a pass rusher in the Broncos game when Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips played his nickel package the majority of the game. He’s quick off the ball to rush and when he becomes engaged, will use a spin move to try and free himself as he is going up the field.

He showed some athletic ability coming around the edge on the twist stunt — didn’t have a sack against Peyton Manning but did pressure him into throwing the ball away. If you look at his career, McClain has been with two teams that play outstanding defense in Houston and New England, so that tells me that at some point, coaches liked what they saw in his potential value.  


Meet Dallas Cowboys DE DT Jeremy Mincey - The Boys Are Back website 2014

Jeremy Mincey | Defensive End, Florida | Height/Weight: 6-4/265

Drafted: Sixth round, No. 191 overall, 2006 NFL Draft by New England

Games Studied: 2013 Denver vs. San Diego, New England (Playoff); 2013 Jacksonville vs. Seattle, Indianapolis.

Mincey was drafted by the Patriots in the 2006 NFL Draft out of Florida and made stops in San Francisco, Jacksonville and Denver. The Broncos used him as a defensive end and three-technique tackle in nickel situations. He played mainly as an end for the Jaguars on either side with some snaps at tackle as well, and that’s where he started the season. 

I thought his tape for the Jaguars was a much better indicator of the type of player he is than what he showed in Denver. He did have a sack in the Chargers game with a quick swim move that beat tackle D.J. Fluker to the inside and Philip Rivers had no chance to escape. That was the best quickness that he showed in those playoff games.

He was outstanding in the Jaguars’ game against the Colts that was played in Jacksonville. He was disruptive at end with some quickness off the edge, attacking the up field shoulder of both Anthony Castonzo and Cherilus Gosder at tackle, then moving inside and going to work on guard Donald Thomas.

Bottom line: Mincey showed more consistent pass rush moves while he was with the Jaguars than with the Broncos — rip moves with power and was able to beat the double team. He has some stiffness when he has to come around the corner or adjust in the pocket, when Andrew Luck stepped up in the pocket. Other than the sack against the Chargers, he was a down the middle rusher, that tried to use power instead of quick moves for the Broncos — he had a better combination in Jacksonville.

I thought there was some power in his hands. He snatched Seattle guard J.R. Sweezy out of his stance on a rush, which put Sweezy in a terrible blocking position. I thought he played with better awareness against the run while with the Jaguars, as well. He was more assignment-sure in what his role and responsibilities were.

Mincey struggled when he was on the edge, then the ball went inside of him. In Jacksonville, he played better with his eyes — especially against the Seahawks — when it came to defending the read-option and Russell Wilson.

I liked him chasing the ball earlier in the season; he looked sluggish and lacking a burst when he was trying to run Philip Rivers down to the sideline. It’s not that he didn’t give the effort, but it was like he was running in sand.

To Mincey’s credit, he plays all over the place and my feeling is he will do the same in Dallas. I can see him as a left defensive end, strong against the run with some pass rush traits and kicking inside as that three-technique in the nickel and working from there. He appears to be that wave (rotation) type of player that they are looking for on their front.     

Special Thanks: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Professional Scout


Related:

DALLAS COWBOYS ROSTER 2014: Dallas Cowboys sign free-agents DT Terrell McClain | Veteran DE Jeremy Mincey

BACK TO THE 3-4 DEFENSE: Jason Hatcher departs 4-3 system; signs 4-year deal with rival Redskins | Dallas Cowboys Free Agency 2014

BACK TO THE 3-4 DEFENSE - Jason Hatcher departs 4-3 system; signs 4-year deal with rival Redskins - Dallas Cowboys Free Agency 2014

IRVING, Texas – A third Pro Bowl player has now departed Valley Ranch in as many days, as defensive tackle Jason Hatcher signed with the Washington Redskins on Thursday afternoon.

Hatcher, who was the NFL’s sack leader among defensive tackles with 11 last season, signed a four-year deal worth roughly $27.5 million with the Washington Redskins – the Dallas Cowboys oldest rival.

The news ends days (actually months) of speculation about the veteran’s future, as Hatcher made several visits around the NFL to potential suitors. Hatcher visited with the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders earlier in the week, and he reportedly had visits with the Redskins and the Tennessee Titans lined up.

“My hard work paid off. I just left a great organization and now I’m with a great organization,” Hatcher said. “Things change. I just have to take it all in stride.”

Hatcher said he didn’t close the door on returning to the Dallas Cowboys, but said it was clear to him he wouldn’t be returning.

“Once me and my agent met and they didn’t show no signs they wanted me back,” Hatcher told 105.3 The Fan Thursday afternoon. “So I know the fans are upset, they should be. But I made the right decision for me. If we could’ve made it work out, we could’ve, but I’m in a great place with the Redskins, a great organization.”

Hatcher was a third round pick by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2006 NFL Draft, going No. 92 overall out of Grambling State. He played in at least 13 games in every year of his career, from 2006 to 2013. He didn’t start his first game until 2010, and he didn’t become a regular starter until 2011.

In 2012 and 2013, Hatcher became a full-time starter for the Cowboys, starting in 31 of a possible 32 games.  He featured primarily as a 3-4 defensive end in the final year of Rob Ryan’s tenure as defensive coordinator. Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli made Hatcher the three-technique defensive tackle in their 4-3 scheme upon arriving in Dallas last spring.

It’s safe to say Hatcher flourished in that role.

Prior to 2013, Hatcher had 16 career sacks with his career highs being 4.5 in 2011 and 4.0 in 2012. He nearly tripled that during the 2013 campaign, earning his first-ever Pro Bowl selection in the process. He posted two-sack performances in three different divisional games – Oct. 13 against Washington, Nov. 24 against New York, and Dec. 29 against Philadelphia.

Hatcher said during the season he planned to test the market when the NFL’s free agency window opened in March. He played the final years of his Cowboys career on a three-year $6 million contract he signed following the 2011 NFL lockout.

“I’m going to test the market – I’m going to test the market. But you guys just leave me alone about my contract. I just once to focus on – I’m a Cowboy,” Hatcher said in December. “I’ve got a star on my helmet. I’m not trying to think about that. I’ll let it take care of itself when it happens. I’ve got four games to play, to be the best three-technique in the league and help my team go to the playoffs. That’s my approach.”

That clearly won’t be the case going forward, as the Dallas Cowboys have now parted ways with their all-time sack leader in DeMarcus Ware and their 2013 sack leader in Hatcher. New free agent acquisition Jeremy Mincey is now the team’s sack leader with 20 career sacks. George Selvie is behind him with 10 career sacks, seven of those coming last season.


RELATED: Career stats for former Dallas Cowboys DE Jason Hatcher

DEFENSIVE
Tackles Interceptions
Year Team G Comb Total Ast Sck SFTY PDef Int TDs Yds Avg Lng
2013 Dallas Cowboys 15 41 34 7 11.0 3 0.0
2012 Dallas Cowboys 16 51 27 24 4.0 0 1 0.0
2011 Dallas Cowboys 13 28 20 8 4.5 2 1 0 16 16.0 16
2010 Dallas Cowboys 13 13 9 4 1.0 0 0.0
2009 Dallas Cowboys 16 13 9 4 1.0 1 0.0
2008 Dallas Cowboys 16 17 11 6 1.0 0 0.0
2007 Dallas Cowboys 16 27 22 5 2.0 0 0 0.0
2006 Dallas Cowboys 14 15 11 4 2.5 0 0.0
TOTAL 119 205 143 62 27.0 0 7 1 0 16 16

SILVER LINING IN SIGNING: Former Dallas Cowboy DeMarcus Ware to saddle up with Broncos

SILVER LINING IN SIGNING - Former Dallas Cowboy DeMarcus Ware to saddle up with Broncos - The Boys Are Back website 2014

IRVING, Texas – Recently released Dallas Cowboys sack leader DeMarcus Ware agreed to a three-year contract with the Denver Broncos today.

The Cowboys released Ware, who was set to make $12.25 million, on Tuesday afternoon following a discussion about renegotiating his existing contract. Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones expressed hope the seven-time Pro Bowler would consider a return to the team if he couldn’t find a better deal as a free agent.

“DeMarcus and I agreed on an understanding that would allow him to explore the options he will have for the 2014 season and beyond,” Jones said in a statement Tuesday. “We were also in very strong agreement that playing for the Dallas Cowboys would be one of the options we would both be exploring.”

Those hopes were dashed decisively less than 24 hours later, as the Broncos’ reported deal with Ware is for $30 million over three years, with a $20 million guarantee. The contract will pay Ware $13 million in his first season – more than he was slated to make with the Cowboys.

Ware becomes the latest big-name free agent to sign up with Denver, last year’s league runner-up, in the past two days. The Broncos signed Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward on Tuesday afternoon, and they added Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib on Tuesday night.

The Cowboys saved $7.4 million in cap space with the decision to release Ware.

Ware jumped out to a fast start with four sacks and an interception in the Cowboys’ first three games last year, before he was hampered by injuries. Ware played through stinger issues and a nagging elbow issue, but a quadriceps injury suffered Oct. 13 against the Redskins forced him to miss the first three games of his career.

Among Ware’s many accomplishments and accolades with the Cowboys are a 20-sack season in 2008, when he was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Year, and a 19.5-sack year just three seasons ago in 2011. Ware and Mark Gastineau are the only two players in league history with two seasons of 19 or more sacks.

One silver lining for Dallas Cowboys fans is that Ware appears likely to finish his NFL career outside the division, and outside NFC altogether. Dallas just played Denver during the 2013 season, which means the Broncos won’t show up on the schedule until 2017 at the earliest – barring a Super Bowl matchup. There was speculation that Philadelphia would attempt to sign the seven-time All-Pro within the NFC East.

DALLAS COWBOYS ROSTER 2014: Dallas Cowboys sign free-agents DT Terrell McClain | Veteran DE Jeremy Mincey

DALLAS COWBOYS ROSTER 2014 - Dallas Cowboys sign free-agents DT Terrell McClain

IRVING, Texas – Last year, the Dallas Cowboys picked up a former standout at South Florida who had yet to blossom as an NFL player. But by the end of the season, George Selvie was one of the team’s most consistent and productive players.

Now, the Cowboys are trying their luck again with a similar scenario.

The Cowboys have signed their first free agent of the offseason, picking up defensive tackle Terrell McClain, who played in all 16 last year for the Texans.

Listed 6-2, 300, McClain played the nose tackle last year in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme but is a likely fit for the 1-technique.

He could’ve been a restricted free agent but the Texans opted not to issue him a tender, making him unrestricted.

In 16 games last year as a backup player, McClain was credited with just 10 tackles.

The Cowboys used Nick Hayden  as a starter at the 1-spot last year but had little depth behind him, rotating a slew of players the club signed off the street.

A third-round pick (65th overall) of the Panthers in 2011, McClain started 12 games as a rookie, with 19 tackles and one sack. He played four games in 2012 with the Panthers, before he signed with the Patriots for a week and then Houston.

This signing likely won’t affect the team’s decision to sign either Jason Hatcher or possibly Henry Melton, a free agent from the Bears who played under Rod Marinelli. .


DALLAS COWBOYS ROSTER 2014 - Dallas Cowboys sign free-agents Veteran DE Jeremy Mincey

IRVING, Texas– The Dallas Cowboys have agreed to terms on a two-year deal with free agent defensive end Jeremy Mincey, pending a physical.

Mincey’s registered 20 sacks in 66 games since joining the league in 2006, playing seven seasons with the Jaguars and also making brief stops with the 49ers and Broncos.

The defensive end’s most productive season occurred in 2011, when he registered eight sacks in Jacksonville while starting all 16 games. He started all 16 games again the following year with three sacks.

Mincey was originally drafted in the sixth round by the Patriots in 2006 and later joined the 49ers and the Jaguars that year but didn’t make a regular season appearance with any club his rookie year. He spent the next seven years, including a missed 2009 season from an injury, in Jacksonville.

The 30-year-old’s compiled two seasons with at least five sacks and had two sacks in eight games with Jacksonville in 2013 before getting cut by the Jaguars in December. He joined the Broncos less than a week later and appeared in two games.

Oddly enough, that’s also the team that scooped up former star Dallas pass rusher DeMarcus Ware. Mincey won’t be looked at to specifically replace Ware, but rather to provide depth at a defensive end position of need for the Cowboys.

Mincey played in just 10 games total in 2013 as a backup and missed a game after a violation of team rules, but had played in 47 of 48 games with 40 starts his previous three seasons in Jacksonville.

VALLEY RANCH TRIAL SEPARATION: Despite his release, it’s still possible that the Dallas Cowboys could re-sign DeMarcus Ware

DeMarcus Ware is convinced he can make more money in free agency than the Dallas Cowboys are willing to pay, but is open to returning to the club if the market doesn’t support his stance.

Call it a trial separation.

Will that scenario unfold? It appears unlikely. There are quality teams with enough room under the salary cap to believe at least one of them will come up with the money that Ware seeks. Philadelphia is one potential suitor.

But today’s parting was described as amicable and no doors have been shut.

Ware and owner Jerry Jones met this afternoon at Valley Ranch in an attempt to avoid the player’s release. That didn’t happen. But the two men parted with this understanding:

Ware knows to get the sort of contract he expects the offer will likely come in the first few days of free agency. If that offer doesn’t come he has told the Dallas Cowboys he would be willing to return. The source said Ware also indicated that before he signs with another team he will inform the Cowboys of the offer.

The club has told the seven-time Pro Bowler they want him on the roster in 2014 but at a base salary significantly less than the $12.25 million he was scheduled to receive.

Neither side has ruled out that they will be able to find an acceptable middle ground. Jones acknowledged as much in the release the club issued this afternoon announcing Ware’s release.

“DeMarcus and I agreed on an understanding that would allow him to explore the options he will have for the 2014 season and beyond,’’ Jones said. “We were also in very strong agreement that playing for the Dallas Cowboys would be one of the options we would both be exploring.’’

It will not be a prolonged exploration. Both sides recognize the need to move swiftly. If Ware doesn’t return, the Dallas Cowboys must use the $7.4 million freed up by Ware’s release and the $1.1 million it already had to find his replacements at defensive end.

The relationship may continue. But for now, the two have parted ways.

FUTURE OF THE FRANCHISE: Debating the 2014-2015 Dallas Cowboys needs position-by-position | NFL Free Agency vs. NFL Draft

FUTURE OF THE FRANCHISE - Debating the 2014-2015 Dallas Cowboys needs position-by-position - NFL Free Agents vs. NFL Draft

We’re conditioned to believe that the Dallas Cowboys won’t be major players when the NFL Free Agency period begins on March 11, 2014 Well, this article may not make you feel any better, but hopefully more informed. With the little bit of cap space they will likely have, here’s were the Dallas Cowboys could spend their money in free agency:

Positions likely to be addressed in free agency:

Defensive tackle Henry Melton #69 of the Chicago Bears

1.) Defensive tackle. The entire defensive line is basically tied for No. 1 on this ranking scale. Both need to be addressed badly. But with Jason Hatcher likely gone via free agency, Nick Hayden is the only returnee who received major playing time in 2013. A healthy Ben Bass and Tyrone Crawford should help here, but another starting caliber player and depth needs to be acquired through free agency and the draft. (Defensive tackle Henry Melton #69 of the Chicago Bears pictured above)

2.) Defensive end. If DeMarcus Ware agrees to a restructure, this group at least has a leg to stand on. If he leaves the Dallas Cowboys, George Selvie and Crawford are the only significant pieces remaining. This is obviously not ideal in a system that is predicated on its front four constantly causing problems for the opposing quarterback. Like tackle, end needs to be addressed in both free agency and the draft.

3.) Safety. This has been a problem area for a long time (for some). Jerry Jones said at the scouting combine last month that he likes where the team is at safety. Barry Church is a solid player when healthy, but there isn’t much proven talent at the position after him. J.J. Wilcox was drafted in the third round last year, but he struggled to establish himself during his rookie season. The jump from Georgia Southern is obviously a big one. Jeff Heath and Matt Johnson would be next in line, but neither should be expected to be a full-time starter this year. The Cowboys could add a veteran safety like they did last season with Will Allen.

4.) Linebacker. If the season started tomorrow, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, and DeVonte Holloman would likely be the starters. And the Cowboys have reason to be concerned about all three. Bruce Carter never seemed comfortable in Monte Kiffin’s scheme last season. Holloman is a sixth round pick who doesn’t have much experience. Lee is the best of the bunch – and one of the best in the league – but he can’t stay healthy. Could that mean the Cowboys add a middle linebacker and move Lee to the weakside spot where he could remain a tackling machine but sustain fewer hits? Possibly. The depth at all three positions is thin as well.

5.) Wide receiver. If Miles Austin is cut, adding a veteran through free agency seems like a good idea. There should be some relatively cheap options out there. If not, the good news for the Cowboys is this draft is considered to be very deep at the position. (Editors comment: If the team ultimately decides to cut Miles Austin, it might be worthwhile to consider giving Jason Hatcher those salary dollars and keep him around Marinelli for a few more years.)

6.) Quarterback. If Kyle Orton retires, a veteran backup is critical. Tony Romo will be 34 next month and he has had two back surgeries in the last two years. The Dallas Cowboys need someone that can step in right away if Romo goes down and Orton isn’t on the roster. Even if Orton does play another season in Dallas, adding a cheap third arm through free agency is a possibility as well.

Positions unlikely to be addressed in free agency:

Interior offensive line. Upgrading these positions would likely come through the draft. Travis Frederick is a very solid piece at center and should be starting at that position for a long time. Mackenzy Bernadeau and Ronald Leary will likely be the starters again at guard. The position could certainly use some young depth, though.

Tight end. Jason Witten turns 32 in May, but there’s still tread on his tires. He caught 73 passes for 851 yards and eight touchdowns last season. The Cowboys spent a second-round pick on Gavin Escobar last year and a sixth round pick on James Hanna in 2011. Both should have a significant role this season.

Running back. DeMarco Murray, Lance Dunbar, and Joseph Randle should all get carries in 2014. Phillip Tanner has been the No. 4 back but the Dallas Cowboys chose not to tender a contract to him, which means he will be a free agent. A replacement for Tanner could be added in the later rounds of the draft or immediately after, via an undrafted rookie free agent.

Cornerback. Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Orlando Scandrick, and B.W. Webb will likely be the top four corners entering camp. It wouldn’t be a complete surprise to see the Dallas Cowboys draft a corner in May, because like pitchers in baseball, you really can’t have too many quality defensive backs in the NFL. Adding an expensive veteran corner through free agency doesn’t make sense.

Special Teams. Kicker Dan Bailey signed a long-term contract extension in January, so he’s not going anywhere. Punter Chris Jones is a restricted free agent and should return. Dwayne Harris has performed well returning kicks and punts, and he should continue to have that role. Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley could also help in that area. The biggest upgrade would likely come by adding a defensive back or linebacker in the draft who can also contribute on special teams coverage.

Ten NFL Free Agents that could be a good fit for the 2014-2015 Dallas Cowboys:

Anthony Spencer 93 of the Dallas Cowboys

It’s well documented that the Dallas Cowboys won’t be major players in free agency. They recently found enough salary cap space for the current players on their roster. With DeMarcus Ware, Miles Austin, and other potential restructures still in play, they could clear up some room to sign a couple of the lower priced options.

Willie Young 79 of the Detroit Lions

Here are 10 free agents that could be productive (per DMN staff) for the Dallas Cowboys if they can be obtained at a low price:

Recuperating defensive end Anthony Spencer (pictured above) #93 of the Dallas Cowboys

Defensive End Willie Young #79 of the Detroit Lions (pictured)

Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald #69 of the Seattle Seahawks

Defensive tackle Henry Melton #69 of the Chicago Bears

Wide receiver Kenny Britt #18 of the the Tennessee Titans

Wide receiver Robert Meachem #17 of the New Orleans Saints

Wide receiver Nate Burleson #13 of the Detroit Lions

Outside linebacker Antwan Barnes #95 of the New York Jets

Quarterback Colt McCoy #2 of the San Francisco 49ers

Quarterback Jimmy Clausen #2 of the Carolina Panthers

NFL FREE AGENCY DOLLARS AND SENSE: Ask yourself … if they’re so good, why are they Free Agents? | Special Feature

THREE AND OUT - Dallas Cowboys WR Miles Austin unlikely vs. San Diego Chargers - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys injury update

IRVING, Texas – Every year around this time of year there seems to be four constants:

  • The dining room table is cluttered with piles and piles of tax return material.
  • Time springs forward over the weekend.
  • Local and national hysteria over what’s portrayed as the Dallas Cowboys untenable salary cap situation is muted when the team swiftly and efficiently ducks under the cap, just as they will have by Tuesday’s March 11 start to the NFL’s new league year.
  • NFL teams are preparing to obnoxiously overspend in free agency, that too commencing on March 11.

When it comes to NFL free agency my yearly mantra staunchly remains:

If these players available in free agency are so good, why are their current teams setting them free?

Makes perfect sense. That team should know everything there is to know about a guy, and if they don’t want to re-sign the player for whatever the going rate might be on the open market then what makes you think you’re so smart looking in from afar that you should take the gamble?

Dallas Cowboys lost one bona-fide player they should have kept, Ken Norton Jr. in first year of NFL free agency Stopping Thurman Thomas in Super Bowl - The Boys Are Back website 2014

See, if you look back over the history of the Dallas Cowboys, you can make an argument that since the start of free agency in 1994, the Cowboys really have lost only one bona-fide player they should have kept, that being Ken Norton Jr. in that first year of free agency. OK, maybe two, cornerback Ryan McNeil after the 2000 season when saddled in cap hell at the time.

But in general terms, the Cowboys mostly have managed to keep their own until they determined the player no longer was worth the free-agent expense.

Oh, you can pick and peck in free agency, do some bottom feeding and find serviceable help, maybe find an exception now and then to my rule, but usually you grossly overpay signing one of the considered top players in free agency.

Dallas Cowboys CB Deion Sanders - The Boys Are Back blog

See, looking back, most fans will say Deion Sanders was the best free agent the Dallas Cowboys ever signed. I disagree. They paid way too much for Sanders, even if they won Super Bowl XXX with him that first year. Hmmm, over the next four, they won only one more playoff game, and had only two more winning seasons to show for what turned out to be a five-year, $35 million contract that included a $12.999999 million signing bonus.

To me, the best free agent the Cowboys have ever signed, considering bang for their buck, has been defensive tackle La’Roi Glover (pictured) back in 2002. For five years, $22.5 million and just a $6 million signing bonus, they found themselves a four-time Pro Bowler – each year he was with the Cowboys before they released him in 2006.

Dallas Cowboys La’Roi Glover - The Boys Are Back website 2014

Man, for an average of $4.5 million, these days you can barely find yourself a starter.

So here we go on Tuesday, NFL Free Agency 2014. And yes, the Dallas Cowboys will be under the now official $133 million NFL salary cap. In fact, after the moves this week, the latest being officially releasing offensive lineman Phil Costa ($1.5 million) and reducing the scheduled $2.75 million base salary of Mackenzy Bernadeau on Friday, the Cowboys will be well under their official cap of $134.4 million. Maybe by as much as $2 million.

Certainly the near $7 million jump in the salary cap helped the Cowboys eliminate what began as roughly $24 million in cap excess. Then the foresight to roll over the $1.3 million of unspent 2013 cap space into this year helped increase theirs to the $134.4 million.

Still not a whole lot to go out speculating with in free agency.

Now that’s where Miles Austin and DeMarcus Ware come in. If the Cowboys decide to make Miles Austin a June 1 cut, they will recoup his $5.5 million base salary on June 1 and will be able to spread his unaccounted prorated bonus money over two seasons, $2.8 million this year and the rest, $3.9 million of dead money in 2015. So the savings this year would just about fund their draft, a projected rookie pool of $5.3 million … but push the dead money against the cap to just more than $15 million, nearly half ($6.9 million) caused by Jay Ratliff’s release.

As for Ware, a stare down appears headed our way, since the Cowboys do not want to do as they did with Tony Romo, Sean Lee and Orlando Scandrick by turning 2014 base salary into signing bonus to reduce their 2014 cap hits and spread that total over the remaining years of the contract.

demarcus ware teamed up with jason hatcher to take down cleveland qb brandon weeden - the boys are back blog

Appears as if the Cowboys want Ware, coming off another injury-riddled season, leading to a career-low six sacks, to take a pay cut on his $12.25 million scheduled base salary. At this point, Ware told me two weeks ago, un-uh on the pay cut, though his agent must find out quickly what the going rate on the open market might be if the Dallas Cowboys simply release him. Although doing so comes at a cap cost, $8.5 million in dead money this year, meaning that total, including Costa ($225,000) and if we include Austin, will now rise to nearly $24 million for nothing.

Oh, and remember, too, the Cowboys would have to spend money in some form or fashion to replace Ware since I don’t see a ready replacement on the roster to date.

Now then, what do the Cowboys know about Ware that would cause them to consider this hardline move? All they would need to know over a nine-year career. So if you were, say, Cleveland, would that not give you pause if you were considering paying him even $10 million this year when the team that likely will one day induct him into the Ring of Honor and likely attend his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction is choosing not to?

Which brings us back to the beginning of this discussion: If that other team doesn’t think their own guy is worth that much money, why would I think he is?

And need I remind you of some of this:

The St. Louis Rams are releasing cornerback Courtland Finnegan, who just two years ago in free agency signed a five-year, $50 million deal that was to include another $3 million roster bonus on March 13. Wasn’t worth the money, evidently.

The Atlanta Falcons, after signing defensive end Osi Umenyiora last year to a two-year, $8.5 million contract, with $5 million of it guaranteed and due a $1 million roster bonus this year, are asking him to take a pay cut or else …

I see also where the Falcons, after trading for cornerback Asante Samuel and signing him to a three-year, $14.7 million deal in 2012, are cutting him after two years and with but a $3.5 million base in the final year of his deal.

Oh, and how close did this come to being a nightmare for the Cowboys? At training camp in 2011 the Cowboys were all set to sign cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha for like five years, $50 million until at the last minute the Eagles came in with a five-year, $60 million offer for the ninth-year veteran, with $25 million of that guaranteed. He was cut by the Eagles after two seasons, played three games with the Niners this past year and now is retiring. Ouch.

Laughing about any of that now?

Certainly you can find exceptions to my rule, but to me, the percentages of hitting home runs in free agency are low. That’s not the way to build a team. You do that through the draft, and stop your howling, we’ve got two months to continue that discussion.

But let’s just look over the past three years. The Dallas Cowboys have signed 10 players considered unrestricted free agents. Only four of those guys are still with the team, although linebacker Justin Durant is in a tenuous situation and Kyle Orton appears to be threatening retirement.

And only two of the remaining four are considered starters, Bernadeau and corner Brandon Carr, a guy many fans are now screaming over the $50 million he was signed to just two years ago.

Simply put, you just overpay in free agency, same as a live auction when you start competing against other bidders. Like do you really think Muhammad Ali’s gloves he wore to beat Sonny Liston the first time, back 50 years ago on Feb. 25, 1964, while dad and I were listening on the radio, are worth the $836,500 they fetched two weeks ago? Please.

So here we go, same time next year again, and the Dallas Cowboys are insisting they will not be big players in free agency, at least from the start when the cost of doing business is greatly inflated.

And for that, you should hope they are men of their word.

Courtesy: Mickey Spagnola | Dallas Cowboys columnist

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