15 best free agent signings in Dallas Cowboys history

Deion Sanders, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
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Dec. 4, 2011; Glendale, AZ, USA; Dallas Cowboys linebacker (51) Keith Brooking against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

12. Keith Brooking, LB, 2009

A Georgia-born kid, Keith Brooking ended up starring for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets before being selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the 1998 NFL Draft. The 6-2, 240-pounder then spent the next 11 seasons in Atlanta and was a machine for them.

Brooking had 1,133 tackles, 17 sacks, 12 interceptions, and eight forced fumbles for the Falcons. He also made five Pro Bowls in a row from 2001 through 2005.

However, he and the Dirty Birds were unable to come to terms on a new contract ahead of the 2009 season and the Cowboys came swooping in. Dallas signed Brooking to a three-year contract worth $6 million, which was nothing for a man of his skill level. Of course, the Falcons likely believed since he was 34 that he might be on the decline.

That wasn’t the case as Brooking had 106 tackles and three sacks in his first season with Dallas, playing middle linebacker next to Bradie James in Wade Phillip’s 3-4 system. In 2010, he added another 97 tackles, one sack, and a pick. By 2011, he lost his job to Sean Lee which was completely understandable.

Although he played just three seasons in Dallas, Brooking was an emotional leader who inspired everyone around him. After leaving Dallas, he signed with the Denver Broncos, playing one final campaign at the age of 37.