IRVING, Texas – Former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin is now a member of the Cleveland Browns.
Austin agreed to terms today with the Browns, who are in need of receiver help, considering the looming suspension of top receiver Josh Gordon.
Cleveland also passed on taking a receiver in the 2014 NFL Draft. The Browns added Nate Burleson and Andrew Hawkins, but many believed they needed more help at the position, and Cleveland hopes Austin can provide that.
Austin’s success will largely be determined by his health, which was the issue in Dallas. The Cowboys designated Austin a post-June 1 cut to free $5.5 million from the salary cap this year, after he was limited to just 11 games and 244 receiving yards in 2013.
The receiver’s recurring hamstring issues limited what Austin, who was a 1,000-yard receiver in 2009 and 2010, could do the rest of his tenure in Dallas. Austin caught 81 passes for 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2009 and 69 passes for 1,041 yards and seven touchdowns in 2010.
He played in every game in 2012, but the Cowboys admitted he was not 100 percent in all of them.
He signed a six-year, $54 million deal with the Cowboys in 2010, but he never reached the 1,000-yard mark again after that 2010 season.
Despite the decline the last few years, Austin, 29, will go down as one of the best undrafted free agents in Dallas Cowboys history. He ranks ninth in team history with 301 catches, seventh with 4,481 yards and 10th with 34 touchdowns. He also had a kickoff return for a touchdown in a playoff game at Seattle as a rookie.
He made the Pro Bowl in 2009 and 2010.
Prior to signing with the Browns, head coach Jason Garrett wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Austin returning to the Cowboys, but it was certainly not a given after the selection of fifth-round pick Devin Street. The Cowboys appeared ready to turn the page after watching the receiver fight through injuries every year toward the end of his time in Dallas.
“The economics of his situation really factored into the decision we made with him, coupled with his injuries,” Garrett said after the draft. “We’ll look at the landscape when we get done. Miles is a guy that we have great respect for as a person and as a player.”
In Cleveland, Austin will be the most experienced of the receivers available for Manziel, the celebrated Texas A&M quarterback drafted by the Browns in the first round last week.
IN CAREER RELAUNCHING MODE: Dallas Cowboys re-sign DE Anthony Spencer to one-year contract | NFL Free Agency 2014
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys answered one of their final lingering questions of this offseason this afternoon.
It would have been too easy and too boring for the Dallas Cowboys if DeSean Jackson had disappeared off to Oakland or Cleveland.
Instead, he’ll turn the spotlight back on Washington — which is precisely where it was for much of 2013, if you’ll remember. Jackson agreed to terms with the Redskins last night.
DeSean Jackson has never been a fan of the Cowboys. The receiver once famously declared “we gonna sting they ass’’ when he played for Philadelphia.
Jackson didn’t do a lot of stinging against the Cowboys the last three seasons. Will he have a better chance now that he’s with Washington?
It almost seemed like the inevitable conclusion to Jackson’s release from Philadelphia last week. In keeping with the NFC East’s penchant for drama, the move not only keeps him within the same division as his old team, the Eagles, but also his old nemesis, the Cowboys.
The news brings a strange story to an end, as it had only been five days since the Eagles released Jackson for no definitive reason. It was widely speculated the three-time Pro Bowler would find a new home relatively quickly, and Washington wasted no time after visiting with Jackson on Monday night.
As if the storied Cowboys-Redskins rivalry needed any more juice, it certainly has picked up a bit this offseason. Washington signed lifelong Cowboys and 2013 Pro Bowler Jason Hatcher just three days into free agency, and now the Redskins have added Jackson — a favorite target of Dallas fans during his career in Philadelphia.
In truth, Jackson’s success against the Cowboys has been lacking when compared to his impressive six-year career. He has played 11 games against Dallas, tallying 39 catches for 688 yards and just two touchdowns. That’s an average of 3.5 catches for 62.5 yards per game.
There are two obvious outliers there: Jackson torched the Cowboys for 210 yards and a touchdown on four catches in 2010, and he was also limited to just six catches for 49 yards in two games last year.
That said, the addition of one of the league’s best deep threats is an undeniable boon for Washington. The Redskins have been lacking explosiveness in the passing game for what feels like ages. In fact, Pierre Garcon’s 1,346-yard effort in 2013 was the team’s first 1,000-yard season by a receiver since 2010, and it was just the team’s fourth 1,000-yard receiving season since 2004.
Combining Garcon and Jackson is undoubtedly going to open up the passing game for Robert Griffin III, who hasn’t had a true No. 1 receiver during his brief NFL career. It should also decrease the focus on Alfred Morris and Washington’s vaunted ground game, which was already plenty successful when the Redskins didn’t have a deep threat like Jackson.
On paper, at least, this is Washington’s most intimidating offense in some time. If Griffin returns to his 2012 form, and the offensive line can keep him on his feet, the Redskins should have no problems scoring points.
Of course, the offense scored plenty last season. The bigger problem was a leaky defense — something every team in the NFC East can likely relate to. The Redskins have taken some steps toward fixing that, headlined by the addition of Hatcher.
But there’s no doubt that adding Jackson is the first truly blockbuster move an NFC East team has made this offseason. The Cowboys and Redskins had both already added Pro Bowlers to this point — but Hatcher is turning 32 and Henry Melton is coming off ACL surgery.
The Eagles made waves by trading for Darren Sproles, but he is more of a complimentary piece. The Giants have added several good-not-great players, but no bonafide stars.
The Jackson deal is sure to put the Redskins in the limelight during Jay Gruden’s first season as coach. It’s hard to imagine high expectations for a team that finished 3-13 and doesn’t possess a first-round draft pick, but that’s what it’s looking like.
Signing an All-Pro, hot button target can do that for you — especially in this division.
CLEARING OUT THE WEEDS: New Cowboys QB Brandon Weeden appreciates the fresh start from Believeland to Big D
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.”
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.
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
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.
RELATED: Henry Melton eager to become the motor that drives Marinelli’s defense
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.”
THIS WEEKS FREE AGENCY FRENZY: The dollars n’ sense of the Dallas Cowboys NFL Salary Cap | 2014 NFL Free Agent Review
IRVING, Texas – First the good news.
As expected the Dallas Cowboys successfully ducked under the NFL salary cap last week despite all the consternation being made out there.
By this afternoon they still had roughly $7 million of cap space, and by June 1 they will add another $5.5 million when the release of Miles Austin takes effect, basically a savings fund to absorb this year’s rookie pool, projected to cost them roughly $5.3 million for their eight draft choices.
Oh, and this may be a reach, but the current Dallas Cowboys Top 51 cap figure for 2015 is only $108 million, but then that doesn’t account for Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith’s option ($10.5 million), Doug Free, DeMarco Murray, Bruce Carter, Ronald Leary, and Miles Austin’s $5 million more of dead money that rolls over into next year. But still, that’s better than this year right, when the Cowboys were projected to be nearly $25 million over the cap heading toward March 11 before the cap increased nearly $7 million (to $133 million).
Now the bad news, and be forewarned, you might not have the stomach for all this.
As you know, after the Dallas Cowboys released DeMarcus Ware the Broncos signed him in the blink of an eye to a three-year deal too rich for the Cowboys’ cap blood to match. Then it took Washington all of two full days to sign unrestricted free agent Jason Hatcher to a four-year deal, another one too rich for the Cowboys’ salary cap constitution, and the Redskins seem to also be flirting with Cowboys unrestricted free agent Anthony Spencer, although with his knee condition there should be a buyer-beware tag on him. And the Cowboys no longer own the rights to wide receiver Miles Austin, designating him a June 1 release.
Now the Cowboys did ink a couple of guys, defensive end Jeremy Mincey and defensive tackle Terrell McClain, but remember, Denver didn’t even attempt to re-sign Mincey and the Texans didn’t even offer McClain a minimum restricted free-agent tender ($1.4 million). At least the Dallas Cowboys didn’t commit a lot of cap dough to them.
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
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:
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.
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
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
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.
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
NFL FREE AGENCY DOLLARS AND SENSE: Ask yourself … if they’re so good, why are they Free Agents? | Special Feature
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?
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.
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.
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.
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