Building a Dallas Cowboys Roster that will Contend in 2012, Part 1: Offense

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Returning:  Miles Austin (WR1), Dez Bryant (WR2), Dwayne Harris (WR6), Andre Holmes (WR7)

Losses:  Laurent Robinson (WR3 – Unrestricted FA)

Possible losses:  Kevin Ogletree (WR4 – Restricted FA), Jesse Holley (WR5 – Exclusive Rights FA)

  • POSITION NEED:  #3, #4, and #5 WIDE RECEIVER


Nov 13, 2011; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys receiver Laurent Robinson (81) celerbates a touchdown in the first quarter against the Buffalo Bills in the first quarter at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

Outlook/Analysis – #3 WR:

The importance of re-signing unrestricted free agent Laurent Robinson, and doing so quickly, cannot be overestimated.  He’s an unselfish team player, displays great preparation and attitude, connects very well with Romo, produced big numbers in Jason Garrett’s system, and verbalized publicly his strong desire to play for the Cowboys.  With frequent injuries to both Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, the 3rd wide out in Dallas essentially needs to be a 2A, ready to assume the #2 spot at any moment.  Laurent undoubtedly raised the Cowboys to NFC East contenders in 2011.

On the flip side, Laurent’s lack of any substantial past performance and his history of injury issues prior to 2011 should keep his contract demands reasonable.  IMO, it’s in Robinson’s best interest to sign a short contract.  Something in the neighborhood of 2 years / $8-10 million sounds right.  After one or two more productive years under his belt, dispelling the consistency and injury question marks, Laurent could cash in on a lucrative, long-term contract in Dallas, or elsewhere in 2014.  If he is seeking a long, multi-year deal now his ceiling is probably $5-6 mil per season.  And without a reliable past, it’s doubtful any team would offer past 3 years.  But as the #3 or #2A wide receiver in Dallas it’s a great fit for both parties.  Laurent has more to prove to secure a bulky, multi-year deal, and the Cowboys need him to play with the same effectiveness as last year.

Outlook/Analysis – #4 WR:

Let’s make this simple, Kevin Ogletree is out.  Being a Restricted FA, even offering him at the lowest level ‘original selection’ tender is excessive.   $1.26 mil for a guy who has never caught a TD in three years with the club, never had more than 15 catches in a season, and best receiving total by far of his career was 164 yards in 2011?  Moving on…

As an Exclusive Rights FA, Dallas should re-sign Jesse Holley for the ERFA set amount of $540k to compete for the #4 spot.  I say ‘compete’ as when you get below three on a WR depth chart, the fourth slot should definitely go to the guy who produces best in practice/camp/preseason.  Holley is not only a decent receiver, he gives maximum effort and is also effective on special teams.  His first year getting any significant snaps at wide out, Holley notched a modest 169 total receiving yards.  However, this number surpassed both Kevin Ogletree and Martellus Bennett, while doing so with just over half the catches.   When targeted more at the #4 WR spot, Holley should improve on those numbers and be a viable 4th choice at a very affordable, cap friendly cost in 2012.

Outlook/Analysis – #5 WR:

The fifth and final game day roster spot at wide receiver should come down to a free-for-all between the youngsters already under contract…Andre Holmes, Ramond Radway, and Teddy Williams.  Also a few undrafted free-agents definitely should be added to this competition.  But from what we are hearing from Jerry Jones these days, Andre Holmes may be good enough to be a #3 WR.  Well Jerry, here’s a novel  idea…let him prove he can move up and be a competent #4 WR first before wagering Laurent and the 2012 season on it.

Wide Receiver Position Summary:

Dallas is good to go at wide receiver with the same players from last year, minus Kevin Ogletree.  Maybe a few undrafted rookie free agents get into the mix at the bottom of the depth chart.  To accomplish this status quo, Dallas must re-sign both Laurent Robinson and Jesse Holley.

  • Projected Cost:  $4 to $5 million (Laurent Robinson: $3.5-$4.5 mil, depending on contract structure ; Jesse Holley: $540k)



Returning: Jason Witten (TE1) ; John Phillips (TE3)

Lost:  Martellus Bennett (UFA)


2012 Outlook/Analysis:

Adios Marty-B, nothing personal, but the class clown routine was never amusing when it came time to strap it on.  Great blocker?  Yes.  Receiver?  No real threat.  Word on the street is Martellus is looking for a minimum 2 year deal worth $5 mil.  At $2.5 mil a year, there’s no chance Dallas forks that much cash over.  As I showed in a previous article, the four NFC teams in the Divisional Playoff Round this season all spent under $1 mil on their blocking tight end.  Also, of the top five NFL rushing offenses in 2011, four spent under $1 mil for a blocking tight end.  Translation: Good rushing teams don’t need to spend over $1 mil to secure a very effective blocking tight end, and they rarely do.  Even at $1 mil for a new primary blocking tight end, Dallas would save roughly $1.5 mil in salary cap funds they would have spent on Bennett to use elsewhere.  There are many effective moves a team can make for $1.5 million.  Marty B’s market value highly exceeds that of the open position in Dallas.

Tight End Position Summary:

Martellus Bennett finds a new employer.  Dallas secures a capable primary blocking tight through free agency (up to $800k), a late draft pick, or undrafted free agent.

Move to Make:  Draft a blocking TE in the 7th round.  These specialty players are at a very low premium in the draft as most teams target receiving tight ends.  My choice here is Andrew Szczerba from Penn St.  A large presence at 6’5, 260, Szczerba is a sound blocker with a great work ethic.

  • Projected Cost$715,000 (average amount assigned for each draft pick)
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