Mike Zimmer is to thank for yet another Cowboys' free-agent signing

Mike Zimmer is responsible for almost all of the Cowboys' free agency moves.
Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings
Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings / David Berding/GettyImages

The Dallas Cowboys' offseason has not been one of a team that suffered arguably the most embarrassing playoff loss in franchise history five months ago. The offseason's perception will change once (if) Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb sign new deals, but it speaks volumes that the hire of Mike Zimmer as defensive coordinator is the move that has generated the most excitement.

Training camp is less than a month away, which means the Cowboys are approaching a potential deadline to extend Prescott and Lamb. It also means Zimmer is one step closer to imposing his scheme and fierce style of coaching on a defense that could use some tough love.

While Zimmer has had success throughout his coaching career as a defensive play-caller, the Cowboys haven't necessarily set him up for success. Their DT group is arguably the worst in the league, and they would have major questions at linebacker if Zimmer didn't convince vet Eric Kendricks to spurn the 49ers at the eleventh hour for Dallas.

It would appear Zimmer has to do all the work himself as far as recruiting free agents. Last week, the Cowboys signed UFL linebacker Willie Harvey Jr. Speaking to 105.3 The Fan, Harvey revealed that Zimmer's system played a big role in his decision to join Dallas.

Mike Zimmer played huge role in Cowboys signing LB Willie Harvey Jr.

"They run a similar defense and I want the transition to be easy," said Harvey. "I got along well with the guys, the coaches, and I have some camaraderie with special teams [coordinator John "Bones" Fassel] and it was an easy decision... It's a linebacker-driven defense — keeping the linebackers free to make plays."

The Zimmer effect is real, folks. Bones Fassel deserves credit as well, but it's clear Harvey relished the thought of playing for Zimmer. The 68-year-old's defenses historically have produced high-end linebacker play. Kendricks was a perennial stud in Minnesota under Zimmer. Meanwhile, Anthony Barr made four straight Pro Bowls with the Vikings from 2015-18.

Though Harvey hails from the UFL, he has previous NFL experience. A former undrafted free agent out of Iowa State in 2019, Harvey signed with the Browns and appeared in four games in three years with the team. It's not the playing time Harvey hoped for, but it says a lot that he managed to stick around a talented Cleveland roster for three seasons.

That experience could prove crucial in training camp, where Harvey will compete for snaps with Damone Clark, DeMarvion Overshown and third-round pick Marist Liufau. While Harvey doesn't have the draft pedigree of his teammates and will have to claw his way from the bottom of the depth chart to earn playing time, all four players will be learning Zimmer's scheme for the first time.

A former NFL castaway and forced to take his talents to the spring league, Harvey might have the biggest chip on his shoulder of those players. If he shines in Oxnard, just remember Zimmer is the reason he's here in the first place.

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