Former Cowboys receiver Jesse Holley has found a new home. The New England Patriots announced Monday that they have signed the North Carolina product.
The Cowboys allowed Holley to become an unrestricted free agent this off-season by not tendering him a deal as an exclusive rights free agent.
Holley recently participated in a Cowboys charity basketball game at Carrollton R.L. Turner, playing on the team that featured current Cowboys player and Terrell Owens.
Holley, 28, is a veteran of two NFL seasons with the Cowboys (2010-11) and has played in 28 NFL games with seven receptions for 169 yards. Holley (6-2, 200) originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with Cincinnati out North Carolina in 2007 and spent two weeks on the Bengals’ practice squad before being released.
After being out of football in 2008, he was awarded the final spot on the 2009 Cowboys training camp roster after finishing as the winning contestant on former Cowboy receiver Michael Irvin’s national broadcast reality television show, “4th and Long.” Holley spent the entire 2009 season and the first part of the 2010 season on the Cowboys’ practice squad before being signed to the 53-man roster.
Receiver Jesse Holley said he is still talking to the Dallas Cowboys and hopes to come back. But if not, he’s thankful for the chance the Cowboys gave him and hopes he’s established enough of a body of work to get another NFL job.
“I’m pretty confident that some way, somehow, a team will like me enough to bring me in and give me a fair shot,” he said Wednesday at a charity event in Grapevine. “So I’ll go with that and work my way up the ranks again like I have before. I’ve never been a stranger to hard work or having the odds set against me.”
Holley, an exclusive rights free agent, did not get a contract offer from the Cowboys. That leaves him open to signing with another team or signing a new contract with the Cowboys, who probably did not want to pay him the going rate for an exclusive rights tender.
“I expected for them to at least sign me back,” Holley said. “So it was a blow. But it’s nothing personal. It’s a business. So you go with that.”
Holley has spent three years with the Cowboys since landing a spot in training camp in 2009 by winning a reality show, Michael Irvin’s "4th and Long." The show pitted 12 receivers and cornerbacks in a competition for the 80th spot in the Cowboys’ training camp that year.
Holley won the show, stuck through camp and was signed to the practice squad. In 2010, he was active for 14 games and was the Cowboys’ third-leading tackler on special teams.
Last year, he caught seven passes for 169 yards, including a 77-yard catch to set up a winning field goal in overtime at San Francisco. Six of his seven catches went for first downs. He also played special teams again.
Holley, who said he has been in contact with five other teams, said he would like to come back to the Cowboys and has high hopes for the team this year.
“This team is going to be a good team,” he said. “I’m still a Cowboy at heart. Coach Garrett has really got these guys going in the right direction. He’s brought in a bunch of top-notch free agents. He’s really shored up a lot of holes we had last season. I’m confident that Coach Garrett and Jerry really have this team going in the right direction. Once those guys get here and in the minicamps and get jelled in, I think it will definitely be a team to reckon with next year.”
Holley said right now, he has to remain patient, stay in shape and be ready for his next chance, wherever it is.
“No matter what happens, I’ll always have a play in Cowboys history,” he said, thinking about his Week 2 catch in San Francisco. He laughed and said, “Hopefully, I’ll be around for a third and fourth play.”
Then he added, “I thank the Cowboys for everything they’ve done for me. It’s been an honor to play for such a great franchise. I hope I can continue to play for them.”
LAST HURRAH: Do or die for some Dallas Cowboys, possibly Spencer, Martellus Bennett, Bradie James and Terence Newman
Sunday’s winner take all match up against the Giants has been billed as a do or die game for Cowboys.
A win puts them in the playoffs. A loss ends their season.
What’s also true is that the game could possibly be the last one in a Cowboys uniform for a number of players.
That includes 20 Cowboys who are in the final year of their contracts, including linebacker Bradie James, safety Abe Elam and tight end Martellus Bennett.
The case could be the same for a few others like Terence Newman, who is signed through 2014 but could be salary cap casualty because age, injury and declining production.
Bradie James has seen the writing on the wall since the beginning of the season when his role was diminished because of the emergence of Sean Lee. James ranks eighth in tackles with 51, ending a club record streak of leading the team in tackles the last six years.
The nine-year veteran would like to continue his career with the Cowboys but he knows nothing is guaranteed. He acknowledges that a loss on Sunday could possibly usher in wholesale changes to more than just the players who are no under contract for next season.
"It could all just change around," James said. "That is just the reality of it."
Anthony Spencer, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent, is of the same mindset after what has been a disappointing season for him. The Cowboys have not engaged in talks of a contracts with the former 2006 first round pick.
"It could be that," said Spencer was asked if this could be his last game with the Cowboys. "Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. So I’m not worried about it. I’m just trying to get through the season."
Spencer and the Cowboys had huge expectations come into the season that he would thrive under new coordinator Rob Ryan and provide legitimate pass rushing threat opposite Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware. But after getting three sacks in the first thee games, he has just three over the last 12. His six sacks on the season are a huge disappointment for him and certainly weren’t enough to prompt the Cowboys into signing him to a long-term contract extension.
"I started fast," Spencer said. " I had high hopes for more sacks. It didn’t end up that way. (Playing more coverage) had something to do with it. You can’t get sacks when you are not rushing. I want to be here. I like it here. But I got to do what’s best for my family."
Other Cowboys whose contracts expire at the end of the season are cornerback Alan Ball, guard Derrick Dockery, fullback Tony Fiammetta, defensive end Clifton Geathers, guard Montrae Holland, receivers Jesse Holley, Laurent Robinson and Kevin Ogletree, quarterback Jon Kitna, guard Daniel Loper, punter Mat McBriar, running back Sammy Morris, tackle Jeremy Parnell, cornerback Frank Walker and running back Chauncey Washington.
A Tony Romo pass to Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Jesse Holley (16) in front of Arizona Cardinals cornerback A.J. Jefferson (20) is good for 13 yards and a first down in the fourth quarter.
IRVING, Texas – If things go as planned, Jesse Holley won’t run a pass route the rest of the Cowboys’ season. That’s life as the fifth receiver on the roster.
However, all Holley has done is take advantage of every opportunity when injuries have pushed him into the receiver rotation.
Tony Romo has thrown Holley seven passes this season. The reality show winner has seven receptions for 169 yards. The highlight was his land-of-opportunity 77-yard overtime catch to set up the game-winning field goal in San Francisco, but Holley has also made a couple of difficult catches on balls thrown behind him in tight coverage the last few weeks.
“As a guy who’s a fourth wide receiver, that’s what you have to do,” Holley said. “Don’t get any opportunities in practice, don’t get any opportunities in the game. The only way to show the coach that you’re able and willing to do the things they need you to do is when your number is called, whenever it’s called, to go in there and make a play.”
Don’t count on Jason Garrett calling Holley’s number Sunday against the Giants. With Miles Austin back in the mix, Holley drops down to the fifth receiver, essentially meaning he’s solely a special teamer.
All Holley can guarantee is that he’ll be ready if the Cowboys need him again.
“My confidence to catch the ball is at an all-time high,” Holley said. “I want to keep it that way. When you go out there and show them, hey, no matter what time of the game, no matter how big or small the game is, you can make a play, that’s the biggest thing.”
DALLAS — No Cowboy has had a quicker rise to prominence this year than DeMarco Murray.
The rookie running back received the loudest ovation after Pro Bowlers Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware as the players handed out early Thanksgiving Day meals at The Salvation Army’s Carr P. Collins Social Services Center in Dallas on Tuesday.
That’s what rushing for 601 yards in the last four games will do for a runner.
“I’m just happy to be here and see all the people are happy,” Murray said. “There’s nothing like giving back.”
Murray, Ware and Witten were part of a dozen players to attend Tuesday’s function. They were joined by Jesse Holley, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Robert Callaway, Orlando Scandrick, Derrick Dockery, Phillip Tanner, Mat McBriar, Felix Jones and Jason Hatcher. Gene Jones and Charlotte Anderson, as well as a number of players’ wives and girlfriends, including Jason Garrett’s wife, Brill, were also in attendance.
Players and wives dished out meals to roughly 200 men and women for more than an hour as part of the team’s early holiday tradition.
“This is a special thing to come out to, putting smiles on these peoples’ faces,” Hatcher said. “I’m just a small fish in a big pond when it comes to DeMarcus Ware and Jason Witten but the effect I have on these lives puts joy in my heart. I’m glad I’m out here. I should’ve been doing it five years ago … I won’t miss another year. As long as I’m part of the Cowboys I will be here. This is a special day.”
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Photo courtesy: Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Jesse Holley (16) hangs on to the ball … and his position with the ‘boys special teams.
IRVING, Texas — Following Sunday’s victory over the Buffalo Bills, Cowboys wide receiver/special teamer Jesse Holley was asked about his status with the team. For weeks the Cowboys needed to juggle their roster due to injuries and it appeared Holley might get released.
After catching a 77-yard pass in overtime in the Week 3 victory over San Francisco, Holley has disappeared. He has a total of four catches, including a 25-yarder in the first quarter on Sunday, on the season.
Holley doesn’t worry about the lack of offensive snaps. He’s a punt protector and is among the team leaders on special teams.
“It’s part of the game and you just … I don’t control that,” Holley said. “I can control what I can control and I can keep coming out there with my head down working hard every day in practice doing everything I got to do. They keep trying to find a way to cut me and it ain’t happened yet.”
The Cowboys still value Holley in some fashion or he wouldn’t be here. He can’t return kicks yet has improved as a receiver but not enough where the Cowboys use him on a regular basis.
Special teams is where he makes his living. Holley said he’s inspired by Bill Bates, a long-time special teams ace for the Cowboys in the 1980s and ’90s.
“Bill Bates, 15 years, that’s all I got to say about that,” Holley said. “They tried to cut Bill Bates for 10 years, 12 years. What the hell? Bill Bates 15 years. I can play 10.”
IRVING, Texas — The Cowboys could sign a receiver for depth this week with Miles Austin (right hamstring injury) possibly out through Thanksgiving, but team owner/GM Jerry Jones doesn’t expect to pursue a veteran. That means any move would come in-house.
“We’ve got (Dwayne) Harris on the practice squad,” Jones said on KRLD-FM. “That’ll be where we limit it to. It won’t be away from the roster.”
Harris, the team’s sixth-round pick, was active for the first five games as the primary punt returner, returning 11 for 73 yards (6.6 avg) along with three kickoff returns for 74 yards (24.7 avg). The Cowboys waived him Oct. 18 and placed him on the practice squad.
Elevating Harris would make sense if Austin’s injury forced the Cowboys to re-think using Diamond Dez Bryant on punt returns. With Austin likely out at least a couple of weeks, they can’t afford to lose another starting receiver.
Laurent Robinson is expected to start opposite Bryant. Behind them are Kevin Ogletree and Jesse Holley.
The Cowboys have four receivers on the practice squad: Harris, Andre Holmes, Teddy Williams and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah.
No move has to be made immediately. If a receiver is elevated, the logical swap would be rookie punter Chris Jones, who replaced injured Pro Bowler Mat McBriar (foot) against the Seahawks. But the Cowboys likely must see how McBriar’s injury responds this week before making a decision on his status for Buffalo this Sunday.
Jason Witten called it a “top offense” over the last few years. QB coach Wade Wilson referred to it as an “attacking-style.”
The Cowboys rank eighth in the NFL in total offense and seventh in the passing game. Yet, there haven’t been many big plays in recent weeks, and just six plays of 40 yards or more this year.
Last week, in the middle of a disastrous game in Philly, Tony Romo hooked up with Laurent Robinson on a 70-yard bomb for the team’s only touchdown.
It was the longest pass play from scrimmage in nearly a month and since Miles Austin’s 53-yard touchdown against the 49ers in Week Two, the Cowboys have just three passing plays of 50 yards or more. The players catching those passes . . . that’d be Jesse Holley and two to Robinson, who wasn’t even on the roster to start the season.
It’s obvious the Cowboys are having problems not only getting the ball down the field, but into the hands of Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. In Sunday’s game in Philly, the two starting receivers didn’t just go without a catch in the first half, but not a single pass was thrown in their direction.
When asked about the team’s inability to stretch the field lately, a few different reasons have surfaced. One of them has been the nature of the games. The Cowboys played a tight, more-conservative approach in New England, followed by a game with the Rams in which the running game did all the work.
“We still want to be an attacking style of offense, but these last couple weeks . . . “ Wilson said. “St. Louis we really didn’t have to throw the ball down the field and then this past week we got behind so far and they were taking deep throws away. It’s something that kind of goes in cycles throughout the season.”
When asked about not taking as many down-the-field shots, Romo called the notion “silly” and said it’s always in the game plan.
“It’s the opponents you’re going against,” Romo said. (If) you have more time, you’re able to take shots down field. When you have less…that’s part of it. When you’re running the ball well you’re able to take more. There’s a lot that goes into it. We’re always pushing the ball down the field. From week to week, that will vary here and there.”