Dec 13, 2009; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer (9) scrambles away from pressure behind the block of guard Nate Livings (62) during the second half against the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome. The Vikings won 30-10. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE

The Dallas Cowboys' Free Agency Leaves Some Scary Questions

Yesterday, amid all of the fanfare behind the second biggest defensive signing of this free agency fare, and to a lesser extent the signing of the best blocking fullback in the NFL, were two awful signings in Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau.

Combined, they were offered 9 years and thirty million dollars in what has to be the fifth and sixth worst signings of this years off-season (behind Eric Wright, Laurent Robinson, Frostee Rucker and John Carlson.) In six years, Livings has played 52 games, starting 47 and only become a full time starter in 2010-when he was 29. He’s 30 now, and was given a 5 year, 19 million dollar contract, and Bernadeau was given a 4 year, 11 million dollar deal to be (presumably) a starting guard or an expensive backup.

In other news, the Cowboys released longtime guard Kyle Kosier who was the last offensive lineman to experience a winning season in a Cowboys uniform. If two starting guard spots are now filled by “starting caliber” guards, what does that mean if David DeCastro is on the board when the Cowboys pick at 14?

DeCastro by all accounts is a massive upgrade over either of the two new signees but now that 30 million dollars are spent, do they do what they’ve done in the past and reach because in the present there’s no hole? Do they stick to Steven Jones’ plan and draft best-player-available while having either their first round draft pick or high priced (for a mediocre guard) ride the bench?

Most likely, they’ll do neither and go for another position entirely (likely pass rusher or safety for next year) and draft average guards in the mid rounds like they’ve done in basically every draft since Jones bought the team in 1989. The effects of this strategy are debatable (assuming both free agents start, only two players in Tyron Smith and Doug free will have been drafted by the Cowboys) and the results are rather clear-the Cowboys are forced to get new offensive lineman in free agency constantly because they struggle to draft or develop them on their own.

The only two major successes they’ve had over the last 11 drafts have been Andre Gurode and Tyron Smith both (not) coincidentally drafted in the first two rounds. Positions other than guard have also been neglected, if not in the same way.

Linebacker is actually the reverse-of the four starting linebackers projected for 2012 three or four (depending on the outcome of the Dan Connor-Bruce Carter position battle) were drafted by Dallas, all in the first two rounds, while the depth doesn’t feature a player drafted before round six. Dan Connor was a great signing, no doubt, but if he wins the battle than what happens to Bruce Carter?

Will he become the Jacob Rodgers of the 2011 draft, where injuries (in his case suffered in college) keep him from ever getting the opportunity to even compete for a starting job? Now that seemingly every hole is filled, what happens in the draft? They’ll almost certainly choose a pass rusher or a safety in the first, the other in the second, a cornerback in the third and general depth (hopefully at outside linebacker) in the later rounds.

And that should just about do it. Overall, save for two (very) questionable signings, Jerry Jones has shown that he’s actually capable of putting together a roster. While the questions aren’t comfortable to talk about and miserable to think about, there hasn’t been this level of excitement since 2009, when more than just the Cowboys went up in smoke.

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Tags: Bruce Carter Dan Connor David DeCastro Jerry Jones Kyle Kosier

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