The Dallas Cowboys may learn that veteran contributions to help rookies reduce the steep NFL learning curve can’t be undervalued in free agency.
The NFL is a business. We, the fans, are told that repeatedly during free agency. Players that have become family by wearing – The Star – are pulled away. Dallas Cowboys Nation stands helpless as players transfer to new teams in other cities.
They are pulled away after bidding wars involving quantities of money most of us can only fantasize about. Contrary to popular opinion, I’m a fan of the youth movement, but it has to be done strategically.
They say that things captured by the internet never die. Like rapper Yo Gotti said, “Don’t you hate when you get screenshot? That DM wasn’t for everybody!” I don’t have to worry about screenshots, my words and thoughts are captured here in print. I can’t be anti-rookie when a quick search will quickly reveal my YSF philosophy. For newer readers, YSF means – Younger, Stronger, Faster – I love it for every position on the field except quarterback.
As I campaigned for our Cowboys to draft running back Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick last year, YSF was a huge factor in my decision. Still, I knew that Elliott would become a better player thanks to veteran mentorship on the roster. Veteran running back Darren McFadden would be missing in action due to an injured elbow, but much advice was passed to Elliott by four year veteran Alfred Morris.
The other rookie phenom – quarterback Dak Prescott – benefited greatly from veteran quarterback Kellen Moore – the genius behind the scenes that knows Scott Linehan’s playbook inside and out and passed for 435 yards in a single game. Dare I mention that Prescott came close, but didn’t break the 300 yard mark during the 2016 season.
Of course, there was the most prolific passer in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, Tony Romo – the guy with 34,183 passing yards and 248 touchdowns. Romo was also credited by Prescott for helping him during the season. Romo being the epitome of veteran leadership and a “team first player”.
That brings me to this season’s free agent moves as the Cowboys have watched the secondary lose veteran cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr along with safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox. These veteran players helped rookie nickel cornerback Anthony Brown develop last year.
This is why I trust safety Jeff Heath. He began as an undrafted rookie free agent that has studied our system for four years until he became a hungry component. I no longer feel that Heath is a liability while on the field. I’m not sure if anyone helped Heath understand our defensive system.
The thing that often goes unconsidered is the contributions of veterans to help rookies conquer and reduce the steep NFL learning curve. I’m not sure if it’s possible to put a numeric value on a veteran’s development factor.
With so many pieces of our secondary departing, one can only hope that our most experienced members: Heath and cornerback Orlando Scandrick are ready to develop Nolan Carroll and the secondary’s future youth movement.