And it’s not an oncoming train!
To those advocating that the Cowboys sign tackle Eric Winston, released by the Kansas City Chiefs, I say drop it. First, the Cowboys have been reloading and getting younger the past few years and it’s not in their best interests to sign an almost thirty year old offensive tackle, no matter how badly they need to upgrade the right side. Second, why is he not a Chief anyway? Was his performance no longer matching his pay? If that’s the case, the Cowboys don’t need to further handcuff their future with another large contract to gamble on a short term solution.
As I said before in previous columns, big contract free agent signings are an admission of past failures in the draft and are an expensive way to correct those mistakes. You need look no further than the $50 Million signing of Brandon Carr as evidence of that. It became necessary to go out and find a high quality corner because Terrance Newman got old and less productive, and the Cowboys had not planned ahead for his eventual departure by drafting a quality corner to eventually take his place.
Quality players that are drafted are much less expensive than the accomplished free agent and concentrating on getting quality players from the draft is the only way the Cowboys will get out of the salary cap jail they find themselves in. And this is the best time in a long time for the Cowboys to be able to go into the draft and address their needs. I don’t recall another time when there were so many quality offensive lineman available. Dallas also needs help at safety and on the defensive line. This draft is also pretty heavy with quality players to fill those positions too.
The Cowboys have done very well in the draft the past few years, ending up with quality players such as, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, DeMarco Murray, James Hanna, Dwayne Harris, Tyron Smith and Morris Claiborne. I feel that Danny Coale and Matt Johnson are quality players too but, unfortunately so far, they have not been able to stay on the field and show us what they can do. The Cowboys need to continue this success in the draft and add six more quality players this year. And, of course, they must continue their success with signing quality players that were not drafted. That’s how they landed Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Cole Beasley and Lance Dunbar.
This youth movement is preparing Dallas for the long haul, but there are aging veterans that are still key to the team’s success that necessitate more of a win now philosophy. Veterans that are thirty, or above, with windows that are rapidly closing, are Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher and DeMarcus Ware. But again, going back to the last few drafts that have been so successful, I believe young recently drafted players are ready to help the Cowboys win now and just need a little more help in this year’s draft to put them over the top.
One area of concern, at least to me, that does not seem to be on anyone else’s radar, is fullback. Cutting Tony Fiametta and signing Lawrence Vickers was a big mistake. I know there were concerns about Fiametta’s health, but Murray’s best games as the Cowboys running back were with Fiametta leading the way and Vickers has shown us absolutely nothing. One way to resolve this problem is more running plays from a three receiver one tight end set.
In that set there is no fullback and the defense has to be prepared for what looks like a passing play. Another resolution is to select a fullback late in the draft, or sign an undrafted free agent. Either one would likely be an upgrade to the status quo. Best case scenario would be finding a fullback that is not only great at leading the way for the tailback, but also good as a receiver out of the backfield and one that can be trusted to get a yard or two carrying the ball in short yardage situations.
Now on to my draft predictions:
December 28, 2011; San Diego, CA, USA; Texas Longhorns safety Kenny Vaccaro (4) and teammates celebrate following a 21-10 win against the California Golden Bears in the Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
First round: Kenny Vaccaro-Safety, Texas
Second round: Larry Warford-Guard, Kentucky
Third round: Barrett Jones-Center, Alabama
Fourth round: Ricky Wagner-Offensive Tackle, Wisconsin
Fifth round: Rex Burkhead-Running Back, Nebraska
Sixth round: Reid Fragel-Offensive Tackle, Ohio State
We’re almost there folks. I believe the philosophy for success on both sides of the ball are in place with the coaching changes that have taken place and I believe Jerry Jones is listening to his coaches and scouts on draft day. So, all we need is for the Cowboys to add to their recent success in the draft and grab a few more guys that can play, to begin a string of success on the field that has been so elusive these past many years.