The big news yesterday wasn’t about free agency. The long arm of the NFL law came down hard on the New Orleans Saints and on their former Defensive Coordinator, Gregg Williams, now with the St. Louis Rams. For anyone out of the country, Commissioner Goodell suspended Sean Payton, the Head Coach of the Saints for an entire year without pay.
That means Payton will forfeit nearly $8MM in base salary. He also fined the Saints organization $500,000 and took away their 2nd round picks this year and in the 2013 draft. Their GM Mickey Loomis was suspended as well for the first 8 games of the 2012 season as was Assistant Coach Joe Vitt for the first 6 games. Gregg Williams, the admitted architect of “bounty gate”, has been suspended indefinitely. He will have to reapply for admission to the league but cannot do that until after next season. The NFL sent a very clear message that a bounty system of any sort will not be tolerated. The Saints were basically caught lying and paid a heavy price but many players have implied that other teams have had the same type of system. I would bet those teams are busy shredding documents tonight and will avoid any talk of that kind of incentive in the future.
With that being the major focus and in light of the fact that the Cowboys have been very active so far in free agency, I thought it would be helpful to catch all our fans up on just where we stand to date. Here is a complete list of players and their current status.
|Brandon Carr||CB||Starting CB, replacing T. Newman|
|Kyle Orton||QB||Backup QB, replaces J. Kitna|
|Lawrence Vickers||FB||Starting FB, replaces T. Fiammetta|
|Brodney Pool||SS||Starting SS, replaces A. Elam|
|Nate Livings||OG||O-Line depth, possible starter|
|Mackenzy Bernadeau||OG||O-Line depth, possible starter|
|Dan Connor||ILB||Starting LB, replaces K. Brooking|
|Isaiah Greenhouse||FB/LB||Not Sure – special teamer?|
|Anthony Spencer||OLB||Franchise Tag|
|Kevin Ogletree||WR||Another chance to be 3rd WR|
|Terence Newman||CB||possible interest from Bengals|
|Signed W/Other Team|
|Laurent Robinson||WR||Signed w/Jacksonville|
|Martellus Bennett||TE||Signed w/NY GIants|
|Mat McBriar||P||If healthy, need to re-sign|
There is still opportunity out there among free agents and some of these players may end up still being Cowboys so they can provide depth once the dust settles. And, we still have the draft in April to add to the mix – pretty exciting times for Cowboys fans!
One signing that hasn’t occurred yet likely because the team has not had a chance to assess his health is punter Mat McBriar. If he can regain his previous form, he definitely needs to be re-signed. If not, the team likes Chris Dixon and will likely go with him this coming season. Or, they will look around for who else is out there and available.
Other areas of opportunity that still exist are:
1. Solid #3 Receiver to replace Robinson – they re-signed Ogletree but that doesn’t feel like a win for anyone except Ogletree. Hopefully, he will learn the playbook this time around and can actually contribute. There is a lot of optimism about young receivers like Raymond Radway, Dwayne Harris, and Andre Holmes but they are totally unproven commodities at this stage. If there is a more veteran receiver they can get for a bargain as free agency drags on, they should give it a shot. Names like Jerheme Urban, Devin Aromashodu, Donnie Avery, or Arnaz Battle come to mind among others. I think there will be Laurent Robinson caliber players left if they decide none of the young players are going to fill that void.
2. Pass rush – the Cowboys locked up Anthony Spencer who is every bit of a solid player. But, he hasn’t proven to be the presence off the corner we need to complement DeMarcus Ware’s sacks. Signing Brandon Carr feels like a big upgrade over Terence Newman – but without the ability to put any pressure on the QB, any corner will struggle. We have to find a way to create more pressure or the younger Carr and Mike Jenkins will still like pretty ordinary. That’s most likely going to come from the draft but those players take a while to get acclimated to the pro game and to learn Rob Ryan’s complicated system. If the Cowboys have a chance to get a true nose tackle and can move Jay Ratliff out to defensive end, that could help a ton.
3. Offensive line – releasing Kyle Kosier and signing 2 free agent guards to go with solid tackles Tyron Smith and Doug Free feels like a positive move. But, Livings and Bernadeau are not exactly household names. It remains to be seen if either or both will be able to win the starters jobs and keep them. One thing is for sure – the line got bigger as Livings is listed at over 330 lbs while Bernadeau is listed at 308 but is believed to be closer to 320. I don’t expect the Cowboys to add any more free agents here but drafting a lineman or two in April is still a strong possibility. As Tyron Smith proved, a lineman picked high enough in the draft can come in and contribute right away. The Cowboys have taken far too many chances on late round longshots and have been repeatedly burned in the past.
4. Linebacker – the Cowboys signed Dan Connor as a viable replacement for either Bradie James or Keith Brooking to play along side future pro bowler Sean Lee. But, depth here is still a concern. Bruce Carter, Victor Butler, and others need to step up in a big way this season. The Cowboys likely shore up this position in the draft versus free agency at this point and that player is going to take a while to develop.
5. Safety – replacing Abram Elam with Brodney Pool is likely a positive move (if nothing else, Pool is 2 years younger than Elam which is a big deal at this position) but it isn’t the real long-term answer at safety. They will likely add a player via the draft here as the free agent pickings are fairly slim at this point and they would like to see Danny McCray and Barry Church develop into more than just special teams players.
Overall, fans have to feel like the team has done a good job of upgrading. How much they’ve improved will only be measured on the field. Is this another 8-8 team or do they go 9-7 or 10-6 and make the playoffs? Or, is 11-5 or better realistic if this group of players really gels and performs? Time will tell, but it will sure be fun imagining the possibilities and following the inevitable ups and downs. As disappointing as the end of last season was, I for one am excited again about this coming season. Go Cowboys!
Tags: Anthony Spencer Bradie James Brandon Carr Brodney Pool Bruce Carter Cowboys Dallas Cowboys Dan Connor DeMarcus Ware Doug Free Gerald Sensabaugh Jay Ratliff Keith Brooking Kyle Orton Laurent Robinson Lawrence Vickers Mackenzy Bernadeau Martellus Bennett Mat McBriar Mike Jenkins Nate Livings NFL NFL Draft Rob Ryan Sean Lee Terence Newman Tyron Smith Victor Butler