Coach Jason Garrett has indicated that he will seek to improve the Cowboys on offense and defense with a combination of the draft and free agency. We are already hearing FA names floating around of players that the Cowboys may be interested in acquiring to address specific position needs. But when it comes to free agency, I say proceed with caution.
Think of NFL players as stocks. The objective is to buy low and sell high. Not buy high and then get nothing at all like we saw Jerry do with the acquisition of WR Roy Williams from the Lions in 2008. Roy was signed for to a $54 million dollar contract and Jerry threw in three draft picks to the Lions including a first rounder.
I can’t help but wonder how the Cowboys may have helped their team with those picks he gave up for some mediocre WR? Available in the 2009 draft and still on the board after 20, where the Cowboys would have picked, were OLB Clay Mathews (Packers), All Pro center Alex Mack (Browns), OT Michael “Blind Side Movie” Oher (Ravens) and none other than WR Hakeem Nicks (Giants) who had a very good game in the Super Bowl. But the Cowboys got Roy Williams.
Later Roy was released to the Bears where he has done very little so far other than continue to drop passes like Patriot receivers in the Super Bowl. Roy better hope Cutler’s future wife Kristin Cavallari doesn’t go off on him like Brady’s super model.
So the point is things don’t always work out with a big time free agent signing and they can be very costly. When applied against the salary cap, these players can eat up a lot of money and hinder you from addressing other weak positions. The Cowboys dug themselves into a bit of a hole in recent years and that’s why you found them going very young and inexperienced on the offensive line which made things pretty tough for their QB Romo last season.
At times a free agent player can come in and make a huge difference to a team by filling a major need and getting the team over the hump by making them a contender quickly. However one must realize that free agents are often players at their peak and you are paying them more for what they did in the past than what they will do for you in the future. A key point. That means you pay top dollar but their play usually has nowhere to go but down hill from there.
Generally speaking, most successful teams are built through the draft and while there are no guarantees there either, it usually requires less investment. The better managed teams seem to know when they have gotten the best years from a player and then wisely trade him before his ability takes an obvious decline. The teams that can’t seem to recognize that, pay a price by resigning players to huge contracts then wish they hadn’t later. In case you have never noticed, the Cowboys tend to do that and it shows.
FA Guard- One free agent player that we hear about is Saints Guard Carl Nicks. A good fit for the Cowboys and a fairly young player at 26 so he certainly still has some tread. Nicks would certainly help a young offensive line immediately. He made the Pro Bowl the last 2 seasons and Nicks is looking to get paid by someone in a big way. Based on a teammate’s contract, he is thinking in the $56 million area at least. Interested teams could bid that up and make him become very pricey for a guard.
Draft a Guard- David Decastro of Stanford is a highly ranked guard that could be a pro bowl type player for many years to come. Then when he wants his big pay-day for his declining years, you could just let him go and draft another one. That’s business in the NFL. Decastro is an almost can’t miss pick in the draft.
FA CBs- A couple of names pop up which are Finnegan (Titans) and Grimes (Falcons). Both would offer an upgrade over Newman’s play last season. Both of the corners are relatively young (28) but are also on the small side at 5-9. It is expected that they will be offered top dollar in free agency. That means you pay a lot for a 5-9 corner whose play will likely decline in a couple of years. Getting a step slower at this position is critical as the WRs you face are not getting slower. I think you will get good play from them for a couple of years then be looking again. Don’t over pay.
Draft a CB (Kirkpatrick or Jenkins) If Dre Kirkpatrick falls to #14 then I think he would represent a pretty solid option for Dallas. He is 6-2 and played on a great college defense. However he does come with character red flags that should be looked into. Janoris Jenkins has a similar profile and would come with some risk as well. Both of these guys could be signed for less than the free agents no doubt and may be very good CBs for several years to come. However they do not come completely risk free.
Tough decisions to be made for Jason and crew regarding free agency and the draft. Beware of becoming obsessed with any free agent as you may pay a very high price for not so great play. Last year the Eagles signed CB Asomugha (who the Cowboys went after as well) to a very big contract and his play was not outstanding in 2011 and neither were the Eagles who did not make the playoffs.
Buy low and sell high. Less regrets.